Google AdWords Best Practices – Avoid The Content Network

UPDATE NOTE 12/16/08 –  I still feel strongly about the negative issues discussed below, however they’ve been someone tempered due to recent changes at Google. As such, I’ve recently reconsidered the position I take in this article and have written about it in a more recent Content Network article.

Google is a great place to allocate a portion of your online advertising budget.  They’re the #1 search engine, and they do a great job at helping site owners get exposure to people who would otherwise never learn about a site.  Paid listings (Google AdWords) can help bring you high quality new business prospects.  But let’s be real – Google is in the business of making money, and if you’re not using AdWords best practices, you could very well be throwing good money out the window…

One of the ways Google makes a lion’s share of it’s revenue is that by default when you set up a Google AdWords account, there’s a default setting to include your ads in their “Content Network”.

If your account is set up this way, your ads will show up both in Google’s search results on the Google site itself, and they will be displayed in hundreds or thousands of other web sites.  You DO want your ads to show up at Google itself.  That’s the whole idea – to get your paid (sponsored) listings coming up when someone does a search.

What you most definitely do NOT want, is for your ads to show up in the Content Network.

What the Content Network is:
As you surf the web, I am sure you’ve seen many web sites where somewhere on a web page, there’s a box labeled “Ads by Google”.  In that box, you’ll see one, three or several text ads that may or may not be related to the actual content on that page.  For example – go to – scroll down –  on the right side, about 3/4 of the way down, you’ll see that “Ads by Google” box.

While having an ad show up on the CNN home page might seem like a great marketing strategy, the fact is that 90% of the sites in the Content Network are essentially web sites that have nothing to do with your specific market focus, and there is no way for you to specify the type of sites you want to be on.

In my years of experience with managing both Google AdWords and Yahoo Search Marketing accounts, I have consistently seen where clients who are in the Content Network have expended on average 50 – 80% of their ad dollars for clicks that come through that network.  From a sales conversion perspective, I have also observed that on average, Content Network generated clicks result in less than 5% of actual conversions.  So it’s literally like throwing money out the window.

If you have ever heard of AdSense, it’s Google’s program that allows anyone with a web site to display Google’s ads on their site – and that’s the “Ads by Google” box.  There are literally millions of people who have web sites with the AdSense program running – and many of those have web sites that are completely created for the sake of displaying dozens of Ads by Google.  They do this because every time someone clicks on one of those ads, that site owner gets a small slice of the AdWords click fee.

It’s a terribly inefficient place to advertise and I urge you to opt OUT of the Content Network.  Doing so will ensure a much higher quality click-rate for your ad dollars.


  1. Log into your AdWords account
  2. Click into the “Campaign Summary” link.
  3. Click the title of an individual campaign
  4. Click “Edit Campaign Settings”
  5. The third section down on that page is “Networks and Bidding”
  6. UnCheck the box next to “The Content Network”

Repeat this for each campaign you are running.

If you are maintaining a Yahoo Search Marketing account the same issue exists and you’ll want to take the same action, because every dollar you spend on advertising needs to be put to use in the most cost-efficient way possible.

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

Read more from