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How To Control Google’s Largest Search Partner: AOL Search

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aol-sign-onFor the longest time, SEM managers have had to lump their Google search targeted campaigns together with campaigns that targeted Google’s search partners. These partners have been made up of the likes of AOL, ASK.com, CNN and others. Google keep’s the full list under wraps similar to how an ad network does not broadcast their entire publisher list to the public.

With the demographic profile differing drastically on each search partner, not to mention the layout of the SERPs containing different amounts of ads, performance between traditional Google Search and the Search Partners can be quite different. Having as much control as possible of the Search Partner Network can prove SEM managers with an extra level of detail to manage campaigns more efficiently. The SEM community, specifically the #ppcchat community, have been champions of more control of the Search Partner Network for quite some time.

Of the major traffic drivers included in the Search Partner Network, AOL has been working on creating a legitimate self-service platform. Today, AOL can be managed through a white label version of AdWords. This can provide an extra level of management that cannot be accessed through AdWords.

How Can This Help?

  • Directly manage campaigns that occur on AOL
  • Manage campaigns solely on performance data that occurs on AOL
  • Allocate budget specifically to AOL based on performance
  • Utilize ad text targeted to AOL user demographics

Why Should You Manage AOL Separately?

By managing campaigns on AOL directly, it allows you to manage the campaigns based on AOL performance only. When managed through AdWords, AOL data is tied together with other search partners.

As you can imagine the user base for AOL is a different demographic than those searching on Google and other search providers. Their user base tends to skew toward an older demographic with a higher household income. These users will respond to your advertisements differently than the masses and should be treated differently than the masses.

By managing the account through AOL’s interface you will be able to adjust bids based on performance as well as create ad text that specifically caters to the market on AOL. Think about it, would you use the same ad to sell a Ford Mustang to an 18 year old as you would a 65 year old?

One of the other major factors of managing Search Partners separately from Google Search is the layout of SERPs. Different search partners contain different amounts of ads slot. While traditional Google SERPs contain 10-11 ads, a search partner may contain 6, 8 or any combination of ads. When grouped together, metrics like top position and side vs. top are skewed.

A great example of how AOL’s SERPs differ from Google is shown in the screenshot below. For the term ‘car insurance’, AOL is showing four ads above organic listing opposed to Google which normally shows three advertisements. This makes position four much more attractive on AOL than Google.

aol-car-insurance-serp

What’s The Catch?

With Google, you know the most important thing is making money. So there are a few things that must occur to have control within AOL’s interface.

  1. Your bids in AOL must be $0.01 higher in AOL’s interface than in AdWords
  2. If you budget runs out on AOL, your AdWords campaigns will take over and run on AOL’s network
  3. If there are keywords that appear in your Google account and not in your AOL account, they will still appear on AOL through Google’s search partner network
  4. Campaigns can only be launched two days a week (Tuesday and Thursday)

Essentially, you can control your campaigns in AOL as long as their bid is one cent higher, and all the keywords/campaigns that run in AdWords are active on AOL as well. If not, your AdWords campaigns will trump your AOL campaigns. While this can be confusing, the extra level of granularity you receive by setting up these campaigns outweighs the trouble.

Now only if Google would let you create separate Search Partner campaigns…


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