Optimizing adwords search and content keywords: Two different mindsets

August 19, 2009

When deciding to use Google's Adwords, there are two main areas where you can place your ads, either in

  • The search network: the sidebar of the several hundred million searches Google receives each day, or 
  • The content network: the sidebars, headers, footers and text of hundreds of thousands of websites that use Google Ads on their web pages to generate revenue.

While both of these networks are within the Adwords realm, choosing your keywords appropriately to get your ads in front of the right audiences requires a very different mindset.

Most people are more familiar (and comfortable) with the search network because we all use it everyday. When you're searching for the new features on the iPhone 3G S, you might type in something like 'New iPhone Features' into Google and then search. And as expected, in the right sidebar of your search results, you'll see ads from places like Best Buy and AT&T trying to sell you an iPhone.

So when placing ads in Google's search network, you would think of keywords (probably with the help of Google's Keyword Tool) that someone would search for when they're looking for your product, and put your ads next to those search terms.

Placing ads on Google's content network however, requires thinking of site 'themes', not specific keywords. 

You can place your ads on specific sites by adding URLs to your Managed Placements. Or, Google will displayed your ads automatically.

The way that Google places your automatic content ads is by first crawling through each site on their network and giving that site a theme based on its keywords, links, etc. Then it looks at your keywords and ad text and establishes a theme. Finally, Google plays matchmaker and pairs a site's theme to your ad keywords' theme.

So instead of thinking about which keywords someone would use to search for your product, think of what kinds of sites someone would look at when searching or thinking about your product. 

For example, if you were selling a Texas Hold'em Poker iPhone app, you would want to identify the site-themes your target would go to such as:

  • Gambling
  • Poker
  • Technology
  • iPhone Apps

Once you've determined the kinds of sites where you want you ad to appear, the next step is listing keywords that suggest those themes. You'll want to have a separate ad for each keyword theme.

So you would have one ad with keywords for poker:

and one for iPhone Apps keywords:

After your content network ads are placed, you need to monitor the sites on which they are displayed.

Give your ads a chance to accumulate impressions and once you have some data to work with, start making changes based on their performance. As is the case with most online ads, when evaluating the list of sites where your ad is displayed, the main statistic you'll want to look at is the Click Through Rate (CTR)

Remove sites with incredibly low CTRs by adding them to the site exclusions list. This will prevent paying for bogus clicks from sites like MySpace that may have matching content but isn't the target you're looking for. 

Sites that are getting high CTRs should be moved to your Managed Placements. That way, you'll have more control over how much of your budget you want to devote to those better performing sites.

Once you've finished adjusting your ad's content network, wait a few days so your ads can get more impressions and then go back to making performance-based changes.

Have you tried using Google's content network for placing your ads? Have you had success using any of the above techniques? How about any other methods?


Steve Dafnis's avatar
Steve Dafnis

Helpful article


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