December 28, 2009, 12:00 AM

Search marketers are ignoring an important Google opportunity, expert says

There is money to be made by advertising on the Google Content Network, which places ads on information and entertainment sites, says Clix Marketing CEO David Szetela. But it’s important to craft the copy properly, he says.

Online retailers spend a lot of money on ads that appear next to Google search results. But many of them are missing an opportunity by ignoring the Google Content Network, which places ads on information and entertainment sites, says Clix Marketing CEO David Szetela.

Many marketers have lost money advertising on the Google Content Network, and Szetela says his firm did some research to figure out why. The reason: “The best practices for advertising on the Google Content Network are completely different from the best practices used to optimize on the search network,” Szetela says.

He identified two common errors. First, marketers were placing ads on sites that were irrelevant to their target customers. For example, one of his clients that sells municipal bonds found its ads being placed on web sites related to James Bond.

Second, they were running the same ads on content sites they ran on search results pages. That’s a mistake because an ad responding to a search request for information should be different from ads trying to generate demand from individuals viewing content, Szetela says.

The starting point for a successful ad campaign on the Google Content Network is understanding the target audience, then figuring out the terms that will put an ad on the sites those individuals visit, Szetela says. That means the keywords for that ad campaign might be completely unrelated to the retailer’s product.

“For example, if a cigar manufacturer decides that some of his best customers are bodybuilders, he would want his ads to appear on bodybuilding sites,” Szetela says. “The important keywords might be ‘fitness,’ ‘workout,’ ‘steroids’ and ‘bodybuilding,’ because those words appear on the pages that bodybuilders want to read. The list doesn’t include the word ‘cigar.’”

Szetela says Clix Marketing has applied this approach for the past two years. “We get no fewer than 30% of conversions from the content network, and sometimes as high as 60%,” he says. “For some advertisers we’re getting more conversions from the content network than the search network, and at an acceptable ROI.”

Among the Clix clients that use this method successfully is Heaney Energy Corp., operator of the Heat USA heating oil buying cooperative that serves some 50,000 residential customers in a dozen Northeastern states. Heaney’s goal in search advertising is to generate leads by identifying-and engaging-consumers who use heating oil, versus natural gas, electricity or propane, says Andrew Heaney, president of Heaney Energy.

Heaney notes that the copy Clix is writing for the Google Content Network ads is different from the copy that appears on Google search results pages. “It’s a little more intended to grab your attention, it’s almost yelling out from the side of the page as opposed to the search messaging, which is a little more tame,” he says. Heaney says the ads on the content network work about as well as those on Google search pages.

Szetela says the Google Content Network will be a more important advertising in the future because Google is adding 100,000 new sites to that network each month. There are currently more than 1 million web site operators participating in the network, Google says. Meanwhile, growth in the volume of searches on Google is slowing down as the Internet matures, which means clicks from traditional pay-per-click advertising on search pages will not grow as fast as in the past.

Marketers should be aware, however, that they may have to bid higher than they would like at first for placement on the Google Content Network, because Google gives new ads low ratings until they show that they can generate the clicks that produce revenue for Google. “Often it makes sense to bid relatively high at first,” Szetela says, “then once you accumulate enough clicks to prove to Google that your click-through rate is good to superior you can back off your bids and bid in line with your ROI goals.”

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