When Google Adwords first launched the Content Network (now known as the Display Network), it was like the Wild West.
Advertisers had little control over where ads appeared; there was no transparency in terms of reporting; the Placement Performance Report didn't exist; and the only way to find out where your ads were running was to pore over your web analytics referral data and try to guess. There wasn't even an option to run separate search and content campaigns in the beginning.
The Display Network has come a long way since those early days. Advertisers now have total control and transparency, including the ability to control the websites and web pages on which their ads will appear.
Here are some tips for setting up a Google AdWords placement targeted campaign (also known as Managed Placements).
Specify Which Websites Ads Will Appear On
Advertisers can use the AdWords Placement Tool to choose which websites you want your ads to appear on. Simply enter parameters such as demographics and subject matter, and the tool will offer suggestions.
Set up AdWords Conversion Tracking
While conversion tracking is important for any campaign, it's especially critical for Display Network campaigns. Without tracking, the Display Network is still the Wild West -- you'll see which sites are generating traffic, but you won't have any idea which sites are converting at a good cost.
One key fact to remember: placement targeted ads must "win" in the auction in order to display ahead of the other ads from the Display Network, even non-placement targeted ads. In other words, you need to outbid all the other competitors for ad space in order to even appear on the sites you've chosen.
This may seem counter-intuitive: if I've stated that I want my ads to appear on a given site, it seems logical that my ad should get preference over ads without this stated preference. However, Google assumes that advertisers may not make logical choices in terms of the sites chosen, while their Display Network algorithm discovers the most relevant ads and serves them automatically.
You'll need to bid very high at first. You can always adjust things later once you've established some history.
Key tip: If you're running any other display network campaigns, make sure to exclude the sites you're targeting in the placement campaign from your other campaigns. Otherwise, you're essentially competing against yourself - and you may find that your placement campaign gets very few impressions as a result.
To do this, use the Exclusions tab in the AdWords interface, or the "Negatives" tab in AdWords Editor. AdWords Editor is preferable because you can paste a list of multiple sites into the tool quickly.
The Placement Performance report is your best friend when it comes to Placement Targeted campaigns.
Running the report is easier than ever with the new AdWords interface. Just click on the Networks tab, and then click "show" next to the Automatic Placements data. You'll be able to see performance statistics broken out by site, and you can sort and filter the data any way you wish.
While you can review data over any date range you like, I recommend the All Time setting. This is probably the one and only time I use this setting.
In general, this setting contains too much information that isn't very meaningful, as it doesn't take into account seasonality, optimization, or other changes made to the account over time. But when reviewing a placement targeted campaign, the All Time view will provide the biggest data set, and thereby the most statistically significant information.
Review the information in the placement performance report carefully. It may help to export the data to Excel so you can sort and filter with ease.
A general rule of thumb is that any site with 100 or more clicks and no conversions should be excluded -- just check the box next to the site and click "Exclude." Sites that convert at a better-than-average cost can have site-specific bids.
Again, though, make sure there's enough data for a statistically significant result. A site with only 10 clicks and two conversions may look like a big winner, but you may get another 90 clicks with no conversions. Be careful to make sure there's enough data to support your assumptions.
Test Ad Copy
As with any PPC campaign, ad copy testing is important. You should always be testing at least two ad variations in every ad group. Review the tests often, roll out the winners, rinse and repeat.
For more great tips on successful content network campaigns, check out David Szetela's free e-book, "Customers Now."