Google Content Network – Opinion Update

I previously wrote a blog post on my opinion of the Google AdWords Content network.  In that post last July, I made an unequivocal statement position that anyone managing a Google AdWords account should avoid the content network at all costs.  At the time, my experience managing client accounts with budgets upwards of a few hundred thousand dollars a year, showed that it was a waste of valuable client money…

Since then, Google has taken major steps to provide refinement tools within the Content Network system.  Apparently enough people had complained about the poor quality of the system.   This was at a point when there was little control over what sites your ads showed up on.  For those of you unfamiliar with the Content Network, it’s essentially any site where you see those “Ads by Google” boxes.  Not search engines or news sites that have a “search the web” feature.  But actual web sites that ostensibly provide content for it’s own sake, and where that site owner participates in the Google AdSense program.

AdSense Program Refresher

The AdSense program was designed to allow AdWords account owners to have their ads reach more people.  And to allow site owners to monetize various pages on their sites.  Every time a visitor clicks on one of those Ads by Google links, that site owner makes a few cents.  And Google charges you for the click-through.

Content Network Clicks – worth the cost?

While the cost per click of an AdSense displayed ad has always been a small fraction of the cost of a Search network sponsored ad, the vast majority of sites where these appear have essentially been sites where people just want to make money from people clicking on those ads.  So the quality of those sites by that nature, tends statistically, to be low as well.

Granular Control

Fortunately, Google has implemented a host of ways by which you can now control, to the granular site-specific level and beyond, what sites you want your ads to appear on within the content network.  We’re talking about choosing individual sites, narrowing the display down by a number of criteria, even designating that you want your ads to only appear for visitors whose demographic fits your target market.

Of course, none of this is ideal – you’re still limited to sites within the AdSense system.  And the demographics are only valid to the point where that site owner captures and retains such information.

Yet it’s a much better way of at least having some modicum of control over the quality of clicks.  Since I only reluctantly allowed my team to start having certain clients ad show up within the content network I haven’t yet come to any conclusion as to whether it’s now a good place to expend marketing dollars.  And there are so many factors to consider that it’s just making an evaluation of our work that much more of a challenge.

However it may help under some specific circumstances.  So I’m willing to see where this goes…

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.

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2 Comments

  1. digital says:

    I’m curious to know what you think of this now that it has been 2 years since you wrote this? Have you found the Content Network to be profitable or worth-while for your clients now? If so, what has been the average click-through rate?

    • David,

      I no longer have direct interaction with PPC implementation, however I do believe, based on the stats clients systems show, and the discussions I’ve had with front line people, that the content network has evolved enough over the past couple years that if it’s managed properly and consistently, there can be benefits to it’s use. The key factor though is that you can’t use a scatter-shot approach, that you need to pick and choose the distribution path wisely for each unique situation.

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