PPC Content Advertising: The Latest Tips and Best Practices

The 33rd and final installment of my Search Engine Watch "Content Advertising" column was published in June 2008. Since then, great progress has been made in the capabilities of the search engines' offerings, and in my understanding of best practices in contextual advertising.

So let's revisit some of the main principles I discussed in the 33 weeks of Content Advertising, and look at some new functionality and techniques.

The Content Networks of the big three PPC services (Google, Yahoo and Microsoft) have grown fast and big in the last few years, and I've seen data that says the available click inventory, for most advertisers, is bigger, and growing faster, than that available through the search networks.

This means that many advertisers, who have watched their competition and click prices grow over the past few years, could be tapping into a source of clicks where there's less competition and lower click prices.

Before we get started, I suggest you read the first installment of that column. The main reasons that advertisers lose money on the Content Networks are:

  1. They don't realize that Search and Content advertising should never be grouped in the same campaigns and ad groups -- despite the fact that this is the default state when an advertiser creates a new campaign.
  2. They don't understand that keywords in Content campaigns must be very different than the ones included in search campaigns.

Here's what the advertiser is instructing Google to do for each different type of Content ad groups:

Keyword-targeted: "Google, please place my ad on web site pages anywhere in your content network when those pages include all or most of these keywords." (Content campaigns on Yahoo and Microsoft operate similarly to this.)

Placement-targeted: "Google, please place my ad on all available web site pages of the sites (or sub-section of sites) I've listed here."

Enhanced campaigns: (Google rolled this relatively new feature out just a few months ago) "Google, please place my ad on web site pages of the sites (or sub-section of sites) I've listed here, but only when those pages include all or most of the keywords I've listed in the same ad group."

The last campaign type allows you to target only a subset of a target site's pages. This is very useful when the site's content is relatively varied, and placing ads on pages unrelated to your ad's message or your target audience would be wasteful.

For example, if you were advertising travel insurance you might target the travel sections of major newspapers by including this combination of keywords and sites ("placements") in the same ad group:

Vacation travel
Holiday destinations
Tourist attractions
Family vacations
franklincountytimes.com
newportnewstimes.com
nytimes.com
pawtuckettimes.com
pellachronicle.com
post-journal.com
thepilotnews.com
washingtonpost.com
wsj.com

You can see that advertising travel insurance only on pages of news sites that are devoted to travel will likely gain the advertiser much higher CTRs and conversion rates than if the ads appeared in the sports, obituary and cooking pages.