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Friday, Dec. 18, 2009 at 8:07 am

Content Targeting: Helpful Tool or Money Pit?

By Natalie Hart
December 18th, 2009

throwing-away-money1.jpg (JPEG Image, 400x400 pixels)_1260892139315 Yesterday, Brendan Regan and myself were looking into a client’s marketing efforts in Google Analytics and found something extremely disturbing–they were using Google’s AdWords content targeting as their primary means of paid traffic. Nearly half of their traffic was coming through paid search, and of that half, around 80% was content targeting. In comparison to the rest of the site, page visits were down 37%, time on site was down 20%, and their bounce rate was up 40% .  There’s no easy way to say this, but they were throwing money away.

This isn’t to say that content targeting is the worst thing to ever happen to paid advertising online, rather, a cautionary tale to those who use it as a primary means of driving traffic to their site.

Content targeting can actually be quite helpful if used properly and optimized, especially if you’re in the early stages of building your business and you’re not ready to jump into the more complicated paid search campaigns. If you’re looking to build brand awareness, for example, the “reach” of the Content Network is staggering. The moral of this story is that you don’t have to just let unqualified traffic bounce in and out of your site costing you money while you sit by idly. You have the ability to say, “No thanks, I don’t want traffic coming from this site anymore.” Still unsure what sites to say this to? As a starting point, exclude any sites from the campaign where the bounce rate is above 80%.

More Tips for optimizing ad spend on the Content Network

1. If you’re spending lots of money for no conversions, opt out of the Content Network until you’ve done some research and have a strategy in place.

2. Audit your reports to weed out the sites that don’t meet performance KPIs for bounce rate, conversion rate, or Cost Per Conversion.  You can select sites or topics to exclude from your campaign.

3. Separate your Search and Content Network efforts into 2 campaigns.  Adjust budgets accordingly, as you may not want to spend as much on Content Network until the campaign is optimized.

4. Use a separate batch of keywords in your Content Network campaign.  Hint: they may be words you’d never dream of bidding on for Search ads.

[Editor's Note: FutureNow is NOT an SEM agency, nor do we claim to be the industry experts on PPC advertising.  We are, however, good at optimizing online marketing and conversions, and PPC definitely gets a lot of our attention these days.]

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Comments (52)

  1. Thank you for letting people know about this before they find out the hard way.

    It did not take me long to realize that the great content targeting system was,well, way off target!

    You suggest using it a little bit if you are a beginner. I say don’t use it at all! There are so many more profitable ppc methods that I think that content targeting is simply useless.

    Thanks for the great information.

  2. I agree! Content Targeting is just a waste of money… there are other ways to get PPC that don’t cost you your arm and your leg. Do some serious research if you are a beginner.. and you are new to it all..

  3. You are right about doing some research first and that keywords used for the content network are very different from those used in search (as are negatives, position strategies, ad strategies and more). Content targeting is an art…that takes a little to master but I work every day with people in a variety of B2B and B2C markets who are successful with both content and placement targeting. Some great tools coming out now and a conference (Content Revenue Strategies) that focuses entirely on this type of marketing.

  4. Like you remind us -’Always be testing.’ New tricks might not work, but knowing your target market and how they search and what they do when they get to your site – essential. Thanks.

  5. Google’s Content Network is a total money pit for most businesses unless their offering is very specific and they are very selective of what content sites the market on. Either way, it’s still amazing how much money people spend on PPC vs effective site optimization. You would think people would be wiser about online marketing by now.

  6. This seems to be one of the biggest mistakes people make with ppc. They look at how many clicks they receive not realizing most are from content targeting. I advise clients who do want content targeting to either examine where the content is, or to lower dramatically the maximum bid for content.

  7. Great article thanks for sharing

  8. Nice tips, thanks for sharing!

  9. It’s more likely for paid advertisements like google adword…if we are going for organic traffic, much effort on SEO and others need to be done…

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  10. Thanks dear

  11. You’ve said many interesting things here. Sometimes we see something as an occasion but it occurs to be and endless pit of expenses bigger than incomes. I’m really glad that you noticed this mistake and showed other people that there are some things that they need to be careful with.

  12. Very nice…

    Thanks for sharing…

  13. Very nice…

  14. Attributed to Benjamin Franklin, Poor Richard’s Almanac

  15. thanks for your thoughts on the content targeting issue..some people may not see this as one of priority in having continuous good traffic..rgds

  16. I’ve found the same thing. Content targeting wastes a lot of money.

  17. Me too, I was wronged before. and I experienced wasting my money as well my time for a wrong desicion

  18. I got creamed in content advertising in Yahoo. It seems like they let a whole bunch of websites which they call partners and which contain nothing but Yahoo ads you paid for to list your ads and for you to spend money when some hired people or maybe even a program click on your ads.

  19. I agree that if you don’t do your content targeting properly, you are only throwing away your money. It happens to me before and will not happen again :)

  20. Did you know:
    *You can target specific categories within the Google Content Network (example: allergies).
    *You can easily exclude the most common types of problem sites (games, social networks, sexual, error pages, domain pages, etc.)
    *You can mix keywords with placement targeting (Stars on or crafts on better target.
    *If your position is too high, you are paying too much…but if your position is too low…and your ads get shown on really bad quality sites.
    *If you know and use the tricks before you set up a content targeted or placement targeted campaign, your odds of success are MUCH better. :)

  21. Some better, some worse, still I have my favorite here. Cool.

  22. [...] Source:Content Targeting: Helpful Tool or Money Pit? Share and Enjoy: [...]

  23. I agree about content network in general. However, if you have very low volumes of search traffic and struggle to spend your ppc budget you may want to test the content network as a way of generating traffic for those niche keywords.

  24. Great article. We had a ppc campaign running and we were not seeing the results we wanted and had to stop it. Hopefully we can get it going again and get the results we want.

  25. Google announced a new distribution model for their AdWords keyword-based text advertising: content targeting. For existing Google advertisers this was an unexpected development. Although advertisers’ ads will be triggered by the keywords they’re bidding on, content-targeted ads appear in a venue which is significantly different than search results: namely, next to articles, weblog entries, or newsgroup postings. Advertisers are allowed to opt out of Content Targeting if they wish.

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  26. This article will teach you how to run an effective Google AdWords campaign, which will bring your website increased revenues.
    Thanks for your article!

  27. I like to use managed placements when I find a suitable website for my keywords. Though it takes lot of time, you might find a “gem” :)

  28. Thanks for this email. I have passed on the link to some clients as I really dont believe in the content network.

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  29. I have been throwing money at this. Thanks for your article.

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  30. [...] Does your scent trail leave visitors at a dead end? Look through your analytics data, are you using content targeting that is bringing in the wrong type of visitor? If you’re getting 30,000 visitors a month, but [...]

  31. [...] all your clicks come from the “content network“ with few or no [...]

  32. I’m a regular user of Adword but never came to the content network link of Adword which is extremely essential to know.

    I’d appreciate you & give my heartfelt thanks for adding the link here.

  33. Hmmm… Interesting point of view. Ought to be Dugg.

  34. With the content network you really need to do a better job when creating your ad because you don’t really know why the person is viewing the page like you do with the search network. Your ad should include words that will interrupt the reader to click on your ad like “Free” “Bonus” or “Review”. I have also had some success with image ads that look like text ads but it does take a lot of time to create this kind of campaign.

  35. [...] full post on Conversion Rate Optimization & Marketing Blog | FutureNow, Inc Enjoyed this article?WebsiteWordpress [...]

  36. This is a great post. Ultimately traffic needs to e justified with a conversion goal. Just having traffic is pointless if the traffic does not convert to a paying or whatever the conversion goal is.

  37. Investing in ads with small return of investment it due mostly to bad targeting, not expensive CPC rate

  38. Associative content targeting (also called rule-based optimization or passive targeting). The page content is modified based on information obtained about the visitor’s search criteria, geographic information of source traffic, or other known generic parameters that can be used for explicit non-research-based consumer segmentation.

  39. Another great article again Miss hart, by the way!

  40. People really don’t take the time to think before they leap. I mean if you had a choice wouldn’t you want to spent more time up front, and less time making changes once your site was in play?

  41. Natalie, if you and Brendan were talking, no wonder you had to write about it :)

    Great read as usual. I happen to fall in the camp of money pit on this one.

  42. Great article, it is good to remember to always check your results with any cpc campaign

  43. Nice article. I think most people end up wasting a lot of money trying different campaigns but don’t do enough research to figure out what works. I like your advice of splitting your Search and Content Networks into 2 campaigns. A simple way to help see the data.

  44. People really don’t take the time to think before they leap. I mean if you had a choice wouldn’t you want to spent more time up front, and less time making changes once your site was in play?

  45. It makes a lot of sense to me. I don’t get it why they’re throwing much money for this kind of content when in fact they’re not being compensated for what they have spent. We really need your tips and I must say those were very useful and helpful for us. Thanks.

  46. They look at how many clicks they receive not realizing most are from content targeting. I advise clients who do want content targeting to either examine where the content is, or to lower dramatically the maximum bid for content.

  47. I think if used selectively content targeting can benefit but you need to keep analyzing all the websites that can show your ads in the content network

  48. It’s really easy for someone to lose their money fast because of using Google’s Content Network. And it’s still amazing how much money people spend on PPC vs effective website optimization.

  49. Creating a network is very essential for generating a better sense of brand awareness. Content targeting and networking are the ultimate measures of enhancing the customer base. Moreover the tips mentioned in here will definitely help the new companies and the existing companies as well in terms of creating a customer centric network.

  50. This is when “keyword research” must come as it is always part of planning and taking necessary actions to realize the results later.

  51. Making content as the main target this time is difficult because many competitors, particularly because they use paid campaigns. There must be a way to overcome this. But certainly a more difficult and require more energy, thoughts and our time.

  52. It can be helpful, but it’s up to you to ensure it does not become a money pit.

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Natalie is a Persuasion Analyst with FutureNow.

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