5 Mistakes Advertisers Make in the Google Content Network

Posted by Adam Geiger, Account Manager

As my colleague mentioned in a previous post, the Google Content Network (GCN) is a powerful tool for advertisers to increase distribution and drive conversions.  However, many advertisers have been unable to leverage the content network successfully due to lack of experience and general unfamiliarity with the network.  Here are a couple of pitfalls many fall into when opting into the GCN for the first time:

1)      Mirroring paid search campaign structure – The technology used to determine ad serving on the content network is fundamentally different than that of the search network.   AdWords Help states “all the terms in the advertiser’s keyword list within an ad group are taken into consideration to determine a theme for the ad group.”  Therefore, it does not necessarily make sense to organize your ad group structure the same in content as in search.  For example, many advertisers bid on misspellings of keywords; this is unnecessary in the content network and may end up confusing the matching technology.  Because of this, it often makes sense to create a separate AdWords account for your search and content campaigns since they are so inherently different.  Ad groups should be structured around tight themes and keywords should be based around Web content one perceives to be relevant to that theme.


2)      Wading into the GCN without conversion tracking – While metrics for CTR are certainly helpful, in the end it’s the bottom line that matters for online advertisers: conversions.  Without conversion data, one really limits the amount of optimization possible within content.  Site exclusion is an incredibly powerful tool that enables you to stop serving on domains that aren’t meeting your ROI metrics.  And with the new Networks tab in AdWords, all it takes is one click to exclude poor performing site placements.  It’s no surprise that conversion rates are higher for advertisers that opt into conversion tracking.  The other benefit to conversion tracking is that advertisers can better inform their bid strategies, raising bids for ad groups that convert well and dropping bids for those that don’t convert.  Few realize how important a bid is in determining whether you reach the prime inventory with the content network.

3)      Relying only on text ads – Unlike search, advertisers are allowed to utilize image as well as video creative in the GCN.  Every good marketer knows the importance of testing different creative to find out which one converts the best.  If you have the assets, test them! Furthermore, utilizing CPC bidding for display ads is oftentimes cheaper than the rates advertisers will pay with other CPM networks.


4)      Stuffing too many keywords into each ad group – Performics internal data, as well as recommendations from Google representatives, confirm that 5-15 keywords per ad group is the sweet spot.  Any more than that risks confusing the matching technology.  You’ll most likely see better performance from many tightly-focused ad groups than a couple of large ones.


5)      Having unrealistic expectations for content – The content network is completely different than search.  Ads served through the GCN are reaching consumers at a totally different stage of the buying cycle, and an entirely different state of mind.  Advertisers may see drastically different metrics in content than in search (or very similar ones, it depends on the advertiser!).   Just make sure expectations are managed properly, and if necessary, secure a separate budget and unique goals for content.

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