Advertising on the Content Network vs. Search Network

In the last few years Google AdWords has gotten increasingly popular. One of the biggest reasons for this surge in popularity is the wide reach AdWords can help companies achieve. The extensive network of Google-related sites and the lack of a minimum ad spend makes it so that even companies with the most minimal ad budget can advertise online with AdWords and know that their ads can be seen by thousands overnight.

When setting up an ad campaign with Google AdWords one important decision that you will need to make is whether to advertise on the Content Network, the Search Network, or both. Google’s Content Network places ads on sites based on the content of the sites and how well it aligns with your ad. The Search Network places ads on Search Engines where potential customers are looking for information and products.

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Content Network
When an advertiser utilizes the Content Network the ad he/she creates will be placed on sites that have similar themes to the keywords that are chosen for that ad. So for instance say you are using “gourmet coffee beans” as a keyword, using the Content Network your ad will be featured on coffee review sites, sites selling coffee makers, and perhaps coffeehouse blogs. With your ad on these related sites you can choose to pay each time that ad is clicked on, or each time it appears for someone to see. Content Network advertising is mostly used to create brand awareness. The thought behind this style of advertising is that when someone is searching for a coffeemaker and sees your ad they may or may not click on it, but due to the brand loyalty that can developed with a well structured ad, perhaps after they order their coffee maker they will need some coffee beans and go to your site.

Search Network
When an advertiser utilizes the Search Network the ad he/she creates will be placed on Google search engines and when a customer types in a keyword you are using your ad will be pulled up on the right-hand side or top area of the search results page. In the same example from above, when a potential customer goes on Google and types in “gourmet coffee beans” your ad can appear. Customers then click on the ad and are taken to your site where they can find the item or items they are seeking. With the Search Network you only pay each time you ad is clicked, not each time it appears. The benefit to this style of advertising is that you find the consumer at the very moment they intend to purchase “gourmet coffee beans.”

The question of advertising on the Content Network versus the Search Network is a divisive one.

Criticizers of the Content Network say that while it can reach more people the traffic it creates is not qualified in any way. Based on our coffee example, a click on your ad on the Content Network may be a person who, after searching for a coffee maker, is interested in seeing how much the coffee beans will run them if they buy the maker, thereby helping them make a decision on the coffee maker purchase. Or perhaps someone clicks on your ad after seeing that their local coffee house has started offering a new blend and wants to see if you have any customers who reviewed that product so they can decide if it is worth it to go down to the coffee shop and try it.  Additionally, if an internet user is trying to find song lyrics that contain the phrase “coffee beans” or a movie with “coffee” in the title or even a celebrity with the last name “Bean” your ad may appear even though it is of no use to the searcher. While Google offers the ability to filter out sites that you do not think are relevant on the content network, it can tend to get tedious and is a hassle for the more general keywords.

On the other hand, criticizers of the Search Network say that many times consumers go online to search engines to do a lot of research before buying and you could just be throwing your money away if you are paying every time someone comparison shops from site to site looking for low priced gourmet coffee beans.

Picking A Direction
Some advertisers split their budget between the Search Network and the Content Network, whereas others just stick to one approach. When deciding what is best for your business you should decide on the goals you hope to accomplish with your online advertising and then pick your approach from there. Keep in mind that if you try one approach and do not get the results you were hoping for, there is enough flexibility in the AdWords system to change your approach at any time.

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-Kate Pierce eCommerce Specialist

7 Responses to “Advertising on the Content Network vs. Search Network”

  1. Karunakar

    Excellent info. and never mix the two.

  2. Gustavo the keylogger guy

    Clear explication, i will add it: don’t mix search network and content network inside one campain. Using adwords is a bit complex, for weeks my ads are not being displayed.

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  4. Linus

    Great Info. Well explained. Thanks…


  5. Ed

    Fantastic, your points are informative. Thanks

  6. marilee knapik

    Great article I am so new to this and had no idea how any of this worked before I read this Thank you


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