Is it time to revisit the Content Network?

Bob Dumouchel

The Content Network isn’t always the best neighborhood to play in. It isn’t uncommon for novice Adwords advertisers to not even realize that they’re getting a huge percentage of their traffic from the Content Network until they look down and notice their watch is missing and their wallet is empty. Not to say that the Content Network can’t convert, it just has to be handled as a separate entity from regular Search.

Chem Suits

As most people, know we have not been fans of the content network and for good reason. We had several new clients that came to us because of the damage that was being done by the content network. While we appreciated the business that this brought to us, we can think of much better ways to gain a client. Several clients saved thousands of dollars each month simply by turning off the Content Network with little impact on their revenue. There were conversions in the Content Network but the decision was either turn it off or try to guess where the abuse was coming from. Our decision was to turn it off if it did not meet the conversion cost goals of the client. We knew we were leaving potential conversions on the table but we also knew it was better for our client to not make those conversions.

Then in June 2007 Google responded to market pressure by releasing the “Placement Report” and professionals in the field immediately went to work using this new tool. The Placement Report allowed for the first time the ability to see where the traffic was coming from by using the site exclusion tool we could finally manage this traffic. In the first several months of the release of this we used this report to isolate and document some horrible things that were going on but we were not recommending a return to the content network for clients that had problems.

Our friends at Google are masters at the art of partial information and they did not disappoint us with this report. It tracks many clicks back to the specific URL your ad showed on but it also contains entries like “Domain Name” and “Error Pages,” and these are largely unmanageable. We find it interesting that these common entries are missing from the examples and documentation but this just comes with the territory. There is a substantial delay between the time the data is reported in Adwords and when it is available to this report so you have to wait for your data.

Because of this new information we have slowly begun to revisit the content network, especially for clients that lost a number of conversions when this was turned off in the account. Some clients lost lots of unprofitable conversions are showing some good early results but this has to be done slowly and carefully. The Content Network and the Search Network operate very differently and mixing the campaigns is a huge mistake. Bringing a content network campaign online is done differently than a search campaign.

If you would like to discuss how this might impact your Adwords strategy please contact us.