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How Advertisers Can Take Advantage of Google's Shift Toward Content

Aug 15, 2008
Google is pushing harder and harder into the content arena, as evidenced by its recent business activities and changes to the AdWords interface. This shift in focus to content as an equal to search engine results pages is probably due in large part to Google's acquisition of DoubleClick, a massive advertising network. Our discussion here will focus on Google's changes to the AdWords interface that make it easier to set up and manage content network-based advertising campaigns.

After logging into your Google AdWords account, there is a new link on the bar labeled "Online Campaigns". The link says "New online campaign" and clicking it displays a dropdown list with three options: Start with keywords, Start with placements, and Help me choose. Keywords and "placements" (which used to be called "sites") are now on equal footing. Google seems to be agnostic as to which method of advertising the customer uses.

When setting up a content campaign, you have all of the same options you have with a search campaign and more. Clicking the link to change targeting displays an interactive map that you can use to precisely target your campaign to specific geographic areas. In addition, you have the ability to target by demographic profile. Certainly, the system isn't perfect, and demographic profiling works based on information voluntarily provided by the content network web sites. But using AdWords' demographic profiling options will at least increase the odds that your marketing message will be displayed in front of the right audience.

Another advantage that content network ads have over search results page ads is that content ads can be graphical and dynamic in nature. Flash ads that display smooth animation and even interact with the web site visitor are now common. But you can't pull that off on search results pages (at least not Google). Google insists on maintaining a clean search results interface, free from distracting ads. When you look at the success of the company it's hard to argue with their decision to keep their bread and butter product the way it is.

Another interesting feature of Google's network ad setup process is the way available web sites are displayed on the page at which you specify your placements. If you mouse over the icons in the Ad Formats list, a popup will be displayed for each site showing the size of ads the site accepts and other relevant information. If you already have ads created in a specific size, this can save you some time by only selecting web sites already configured to accept your ad size. You can also filter the list to only bring back sites that conform to your ad size.

Historically, Google required content network advertisers to bid on a cost per thousand impressions basis, but Google now allows advertisers to bid on a per click basis. This is good news for advertisers who are careful in using performance data to manage bids or who are just more comfortable biding on a per click basis. You can even set your campaigns to use preferred cost per click and let Google automatically manage your bids for you.

If you have eschewed content ads because of lack of control and poor performance in the past, you should give it another try. Google is constantly improving its content advertising platform, making it easier for advertisers to fine-tune their campaigns and improve performance. If you are in a very competitive category, you may find content network ads to be much more cost effective.
About the Author
Jerry Work is president of Work Media, LLC, http://workmedia.net, a search engine marketing firm based in Nashville, and author of Scientific Search Engine Marketing: Maximizing Your Pay per Click Return on Investment.
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