Google AdWords Targeting: Expect More, Pay Less

My column on Google AdWords placement-targeted campaigns stirred up some great reader interest and questions in the past week. The answers peel back the onion even more.

In last week’s column I introduced and described a relatively new Google AdWords content network targeting capability: placement-targeted campaigns (formerly known as site-targeted campaigns).

The column generated some great questions and comments, as well as posts in the Content Advertising forum I’m moderating in the Search Engine Watch Forums. A few readers said they tried to run placement-targeted campaigns, but found many sites carrying AdWords content ads (sometimes called Adsense Publisher sites) don’t seem to be available to carry placement-targeted ads.

A Google representative confirmed that AdSense publishers can instruct Google not to display ads from placement-targeted campaigns. The catch? At this time there’s no “self-serve” mechanism for publishers to opt out of displaying such ads. It appears to be in the works.

SEW Expert Frank Watson reported Google’s announcement and how placement targeting would work. The Inside Adsense blog notes:

“When it has been enabled for your account, you’ll see a green notification box at the top of your ‘Competitive Ad Filter’ page, located under the ‘AdSense Setup’ tab. By default, the Ad Review Center will let you review all placement-targeted ads after they have run on your site. However, if you have a strong need to manually review ads before they appear on your site, you may do so by clicking on the ‘update settings’ link in the Ad Review Center. You’ll then have 24 hours to review ads before they are automatically allowed to run on your site. Please note that you can also return to the Ad Review Center and allow a previously blocked ad, or block a previously allowed ad.”

That may explain why some publisher sites are unavailable for placement targeting. A few readers reported big numbers who seem to be opted out. One reader said he identified 40 sites that carry Adsense ads, and only five are available for placement targeting. That seems to indicate there’s a bigger phenomenon going on than just the odd publisher opting out of the program.

Why would publishers opt out of displaying placement-targeted ads? Well, they could assume some advertisers are out to “game” the system by placing ads that are irrelevant to site content — perhaps in order to get free impressions (and therefore free branding) branding via their CPC-based placement-targeted campaigns.

The previous scenario seems unlikely. I think most Adsense publishers would welcome placement-targeted ads, assuming their relevance to site content would be at least as good as the ads delivered by the rather inefficient AdWords content-targeting software — and hence more likely to result in revenue-producing clicks.

So maybe something else is going on — for example, the placement tool may be failing to identify sites that really should be listed as “eligible placements” when the “List URLs” option is used. The placement tool has its flaws, as I described in last week’s column.

I’ll follow up on this issue and report on it next week. Seems it’s in the best of interest of advertisers and Google to make sure every possible site gets the ads advertisers want to place there.

Several readers reported their placement-targeted campaigns received lower impressions and clicks than expected. This is probably due to the fact that bid prices may need to be set higher than for “plain-vanilla” content campaigns. Remember the ads — whether text or graphical — compete with two to five other ads for the entire ad unit space (see my last column or this explanation of expanded text ads).

Thanks again for your questions and comments, and keep ’em coming, here or in the Content Advertising thread.

Join us for SES London February 19-21 and for training classes on February 22.

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