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Content Network Ads - A Good Choice for Many Online Advertisers

Aug 19, 2008
Most beginning online advertisers are very confused about the difference between SERP ("search engine results page") ads and content network ads. The major search engines blend the two together so well that they seem to be the same thing, unless you really pay attention.

Search engine results pages are what most people think of when talking about pay per click marketing. Ads are displayed based on the search terms used by searchers. When users search for terms that are the same or very similar to keywords you have specified in your account, they appear on the page. Content network sites are non-search engine web sites that display ads either based on the content of the pages or by advertisers that have specifically requesting advertising on the sites.

Web sites join content networks in order to monetize their traffic. They receive a portion of the revenue generated by users clicking on the ads. The amount that can be earned for each click is dependent on advertiser bids, so content network clicks can be just as expensive as SERP clicks for some industries. Clicks in more competitive industries will cost much more to the advertiser, so those clicks will be worth much more to the web site hosting the ad. There is good money to be made in online advertising if you can drive enough traffic to your web site.

It has been my experience that ads on content sites generate far fewer clicks and conversions than ads on search engine results pages. No matter how relevant a web site is to the advertiser, viewers of the site will not be nearly as targeted as a SERP showing search results related to a specific keyword. However, there are some very good reasons for choosing to advertise on a content network:

1. Branding is an important consideration, so you need to get your name as much exposure as possible.

2. You are in a very expensive industry.

3. There is not much search activity for your industry. If noon is searching for what you have, then you need to place your message in front of people who might be interested based on their visitation of a particular web site.

There are usually two ways to get your ads placed on sites in a content network: based on the content of all of the sites in the network, or by specifying particular sites. If you have time to research particular sites, then that might be the best route. However, you can also get good results letting the advertising platform place your ads for you based on site content.

Content network ads may work well for your business, or they may not. The only way to know if content network advertising is a good option for your business is to give it a try. Go conservative at first and carefully monitor your conversions. Content network is generally cheaper than search advertising, so you should be able to stretch your budget out. As with all things, calculate your return on ad spend or cost per conversion for both search and content and go with the one that provides the best performance.
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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