Making Sense of Google Adsense

Tapping into a steady, reliable stream of visitor traffic is usually the first goal when optimising a website. The Google AdWords advertising system is usually up for this job. Once set up properly, it will faithfully divert those searching for products like yours to the right pages of your website. All you have to do is add four lines of advertising text next to the search results displayed in Google.

However, sometimes you need alternatives to Google’s search advertising. For instance, you may have exhausted all the search traffic you can find. Or perhaps the opposite is true, and you just can’t get the search advertising system to perform. This could well motivate you enough to start looking into Google’s other advertising option – its content placement solution.

With the content network your adverts are displayed on websites rather than next to search results. Website owners who participate in the Google Adsense system allow Google to place its content advertising on their website. For this they receive a cut of the advertising fees charged to advertisers whose ads they host. Needless to say, there are thousands of websites participating.

For those new to content advertising it’s important to realise that it’s a completely different advertising ‘beast’ to manage compared with its larger search cousin. Strategies that worked well with search advertising could well bomb with content advertising. When dealing with an advertising engine that can suck up as much budget as you give it – with possibly limited returns – it pays to understand what these differences are before you start parting with your hard-earned money.

To help out here’s a list of five of the most common questions I’m asked about Google’s content advertising system, and their respective answers. These should fill any knowledge gaps you may have. Just knowing answers to a few questions could save you a fair chunk of time and money in your advertising endeavours.

Question 1: What’s the core difference in the types of prospects this network delivers?

Think of search advertising as a tool to locate prospects who are in the early stages of their quest for information whereas content advertising attracts those further down their path of research. For instance, aprospect just starting out may type into the Google search engine the term ’employment law advice’ and be presented with a list of results that lead to all manner of websites.

As they work through this list they may come across a forum on the exact subject area they are interested in. The publisher of this forum could be using Google’s Adsense system to display content advertising to support the ongoing costs of running the site. Therefore, somewhere near a forum post your prospect reads, they could also come across your content ad. Thankfully this includes copy that appeals, prompting them to click further and arrive on your website.

The terms ‘come across’ and ‘stumble upon’ may help you build a picture of the state of mind your prospect is in when they see your content advertising. It’s a much more passive experience than searchers viewing search ads.

Question 2: How should I set up my Google campaigns for this type of advertising?

It’s best to set up a separate campaign to manage your content advertising. The stark differences in the type of prospects you attract with content campaigns and the unique ways in which the campaign needs to be set up make it too hard to run a campaign that mixes both content and search advertising together. Be aware also that, when setting up any new campaign, Google turns on both content and search advertising by default, so please ensure you de-select one or the other, depending on what you want your campaign to do.

Question 3: How are my content ads matched to the web pages that display them?

There are two ways Google achieves this. The first is by matching your chosen keywords against any content found on the advertiser’s web page. This is very similar to the search network; however, it’s a few levels up in smartness.

For example, unlike search advertising, where if you bid on the term ‘java’ your ad will be shown to both those seeking coffee AND the similarly named programming language, with content advertising your ‘java’ driven coffee bean advert is only shown on website pages talking about coffee.

The other way to pick where your content ads are shown is by selecting the exact website and web page you want your ad to be seen on. For instance, the Google advertising engine will display a category-driven list of websites (sport, business, health – there are a lot of options) for you to pick and choose where you want your ad displayed. This process can be quite granular and allows you to specify an exact web page for your ad to show on any site you choose.

Question 4 – What types of ads can I use?

Google’s content advertising allows you to break free of the text-only options that limit the search advertising network. And, while text is still an option, you can also place image ads (of varying sizes) and even flash and video ads within the content network. However, more sites support text advertising than images, and if images are supported at all then sometimes only a few sizes are available.

That said, if you can use images on a site you want to advertise on, I suggest you give it a go. All this extra space to tell your compelling story can make a large difference in your click-through rates when compared with a text alternative.

Question 5: How can I track the sales and leads that I get from my content advertising?

Google’s regular conversion tracking tools, which are so handy with search advertising, are fortunately also supported in the content network. These allow you to track sales or leads and see which website was responsible for each event, even down to the web page the prospect was on when they clicked your ad.

While this is the last question on the list, setting up your conversion events is likely to be the first task you complete when setting up any content campaign. Being unable to fine tune your advertising because you haven’t set up this part of the system is one sure way to waste a lot of time and money with any paid advertising network.

Bonus Question: How much does all this cost?

Unlike search advertising, where the only model is cost per click, content advertising provides two options – cost per click and cost per impression. The cost per click pricing model is very similar to search advertising, so no further explanation is required here. Cost per impression pricing, however, can work against you if not set up properly, so requires some further comment.

An impression is a unique page load your prospect makes on any page your content ad is presented. So, if after 1000 page loads your ad is clicked 100 times, and you pay $2.00 per 1000 page loads, then your cost per click is $2.00/100 = 2 cents – a click cost so low that you may struggle to improve on this with search advertising.

So far so good. However, if your ad is placed so far down the page that it is not seen each time the page is loaded and the site is very busy, then the story is quite different. For instance, from 10,000 page loads you may only achieve 10 clicks, and at $2.00 per 1000 page loads, your click cost is now $20/10 = $2.00 – a cost you could well better with search advertising.

Hence, purchasing your content advertising on a cost per impression basis needs some careful consideration. Remember that throughout all this, a click cost of $2.00 from your content campaign could be fine if those clicks go on to provide a 50% conversion rate on your landing page – leaving you with a very attractive cost per lead.

So there you have it, six snapshots to introduce you to the content advertising network and go some way to explain the differences between it and its much larger search advertising cousin. In some lead generation cases, traffic from this network is the only traffic that generates leads, while others successfully use a mix of both content and search advertising.

Why not give it a try and see how you fare or, failing that, ask the team at Permission to help you out?