10 Ways to Cast a Wider Net with Google Content Network

As Google celebrated its 11th birthday this week, it is apparent to me how many product improvements have been made to Google content network in the past 2-3 years.  When I began buying PPC in 2005, you could basically turn Content “on” or “off” for your search campaigns, and you really had to know your way around Report Center to even try to “optimize” content network.

Now with greater transparency and control (thanks Google), you can truly optimize contextual targeting for your Adwords account.  For one of our clients we have been able to grow content network into consistently generating 30% of our leads. AND Google reports that the CPA on Google content network is on average 4% less than Search.  (I’ve seen relative content CPAs even better than that.) So…it can be worth the optimization and research time required. But it does take time and results don’t happen overnight.

Once you know content network can work and generate leads or sales for your company, how do you grow it and expand it in a smart way? Here are 10 ways you can begin casting a wider net using Google content network.

1. Develop Separate content campaigns from your search campaigns.

Sure, Google makes it easy and you can still just turn content on for all your search campaigns.  Good luck with that. Developing separate content campaigns is key to being able to optimize and keep tabs on your performance metrics. Doing this will enable you to manipulate various campaign settings so that you can control things like budgets, geo targeting, or ad scheduling, which can make a huge difference on your success. A little trick – I append a “CN” to all my content campaigns and ad groups so I can use advanced saved filters in Adwords Editor to optimize ad group level content max bids quickly or pause/resume ad groups as needed to meet budget or lead objectives.

2. Think of content ad groups as search keywords.

Don’t dump all your best search keywords into a few content ad groups and think you are done. You may be able to get a few conversions this way, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Think of each content ad group as a search keyword or as a page type of where your best prospects are online.

3. Use only a few keywords in each content ad group.

Keep the ad groups comprised of small and tight keyword lists.  Target 3-7 keywords per group. Really. You will have MANY ad groups.  That is the point. The tighter theme and more relevant to your business and landing page, the better. The better you can tailor your ad copy too. Start with a few tight groups and try it, you’ll soon see that this strategy can work.

4.  Yes, test even just ONE keyword in a content ad group.

A year or so ago, I asked one of my Google reps what was the minimum number of keywords she would put in a content ad group.  Her answer was “one.”  At the time, my jaw dropped. But now after testing this, I happily agree with her answer. Don’t be afraid to test a minimal number of keywords in your content ad groups.  In fact I have several ad groups that have ONE keyword in them, and they convert.  BUT I have spent time developing negative keyword lists and negative sites for these groups and testing ad copy.

5. Use Google’s KW tool to come up with ad group themes based on SERP URLs.

Start with your best search keywords and query them on Google.com. Copy the actual Google SERP URL into the Google keyword tool to come up with keyword themes (content ad groups). You can use the keyword tool to sort the keywords by relevance and come up with ad group ideas.


6. Use the Additional keyword ideas in Google KW tool to come up with other ad group themes.

Again start with your best search keywords and then use the Google keyword tool to look at the “additional” keyword (ad group) themes to consider.  This will help you cast a wider net and come up with theme variations that are somewhat different than your tried and true core keywords.

7. Try Google’s Wonder Wheel to expand themes.

Use Google’s Wonder Wheel to identify other related themes, and include the ones that are relevant to your business.  From Google.com, do a query, and then click on <Show Options>. Under Standard View Nav link, you’ll see Wonder Wheel. Play around with it; have fun; visually it’s pretty cool. I have several WW ad groups created from wonder wheel spokes that convert extremely well.

Wonder Wheel

8. Use Google KW Tool to select the keywords.

Once you have your ad group themes, use Google keyword tool to select those with the highest number of global monthly searches.  Again, keep them tightly related and only choose a few keywords for each ad group.

9.  If you have had poor performance in the past, start over.

Don’t knowingly face an uphill battle if you have had an unsuccessful content campaign in the past.  Don’t try to fix an old jalopy that didn’t work. History is important.  Sometimes it is best to just start over.  Try, try again.

10. Bids matter.  Don’t be a wimp.

Last but not least, you have to pay to play. When you launch a new content network campaign, go out strong/aggressive then cut back bids if your CPA is high.  Bidding determines 1) the types and quality of the site on which your ad appears, 2) your reach  and 3) your position on the publisher page.  If you find a few sites that convert well, own them and increase your bids by using placement bids. If you find some sites that don’t work, decrease your placement bids on those or exclude them.

Hope this helps you cast a wider net and get more leads and customers from Google Content network. In my experience, it’s worth the effort.

Lisa Sanner About the author
  • I will immediately grab your rss feed to stay informed of any updates.

    March 8, 2012 at 8:16 am
    • Lisa Sanner

      Great to hear it’s valuable to you. Thanks for following us Rebecca!

      March 8, 2012 at 10:59 am

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