Archive for November, 2007

How to run great content targeting campaigns

November 29th, 2007 No comments

When I talk to account managers or other marketing managers it surprises me how many accounts they say still don’t opt into content targeting. Those advertisers are leaving a mighty big slice of pie on the table, and a lot of free branding. I didn’t immediately jump on the content bandwagon for a variety of reasons – lack of tracking and reporting capabilities and optimization difficulties kept me very wary. In the course of the last two years enough enhancements have been made in AdWords and Yahoo! tools that it became very tenable to run a smart, ROI efficient content targeting campaign. If you’re not opted into contenting targeting, its a quick win to increase your online revenues substantially, so go for it, but be smart about it!

First off, track everything separately from search. Content targeted ads and search ads are totally different, don’t make the mistake of treating them the same. Separate tracking can be easily generated by adding separate content tracking parameters to destination URLs – I added them en masse via Excel using handy find/replace and concatenate functions and re-uploaded all the URLs to my accounts. For example, in Google a URL that was (where aid=g1234 is my tracking tag)

is now{ifsearch:g1234}{ifcontent:gc1234}

Google will fill in the appropriate tracking id for a search or content referral. In your third party tracking system you now can differentiate all the performance metrics based on their unique ids. Yahoo! has similar URL parameters, but I’d recommend starting off with Google and seeing how things go before jumping in with Yahoo!, the volume and quality of their content network is not as good.

In terms of bids, I generally start with a bid that is $0.10 lower than my search bid, and then monitor performance like a hawk to see if any adjustments need to be made. Besides adjusting bids, you should be running placement reports to see which sites are showing your ads, and blocking any via the Site Exclusion tool that are objectionable from a brand perspective, or producing a lot of non-sales generating traffic. There are many sketchy players in the content targeting universe, I’ve blocked hundreds of sites. I also use our third party reporting to look at content referrers and their traffic sources, sometimes a site immediately generates a ton of traffic, should you wait and see if sales roll in or block it? If its all from Vietnam and your site is only in English and not remotely related to Vietnam, maybe blocking is a good idea. When the campaigns are first up and running this will be a big exercise, then just some routine check ups on referring sites once or twice a month are generally all that is needed.

I am a fan of testing one campaign at a time because most of the work is in the initial setup – making sure the tracking is all working well, adjusting initial bids and blocking sites. Once an initial round of that is complete for one campaign, add another, but doing them all at once is a lot of work upfront and likely you’ll end up with some inefficient spend as you try to catch up with reports and optimization. Also, some campaigns may just not work out, and you’ll want to opt them out entirely.

While it is handy to have everything in one place, I wish that content targeting was just a totally separate part of my AdWords account unrelated to search. Now that there are separate bids and reports we’re only a step away from having separate ads (which is probably a good idea for optimization). Also it is a pain to find that most adgroups in a campaign are doing well opted in, but maybe just a few aren’t, and they can’t individually be opted out. They can be moved to another campaign or have a bid to $0.01, which should stop most traffic, but it could be easier to manage more granularly. Content and search are totally different animals, they shouldn’t be treated the same, and a good advertiser won’t be optimizing them the same. I separately report and forecast content campaigns in our business analytics, in part to keep our search numbers from being skewed, but also because we get a better understanding of our business drivers when we think about them separately.

Besides an additional revenue stream, one of the major benefits of content targeting is the massive amount of free branding available. Content targeting traditionally has quite low click-through rates (one reason we report everything separate, our click-through rates would be very skewed if we included content data). Since an advertiser only pays per click, the millions of impressions served are just free bonus branding.

Additionally, I’d encourage testing some Site Targeting campaigns as well, while the volume of traffic is variable, and it can be difficult to determine what is needed for your ad to display (a different ad? higher CPC? the site just won’t run it?), the ability to handpick top quality sites is a definite plus.

Once the campaigns are optimized and the results are looking good, examine the top sites that are driving revenue. Can you directly work with these sites as affiliate partners, or in a more advantageous direct advertising relationship? Perhaps the sites have other advertising opportunities (email, featured placements) that are not open to AdWords, but would be a good fit. Exploit it for all its worth!

It never hurts to test something, and I think if advertisers are smart about it, most could (and should) run successful content targeting campaigns.

Categories: Tip of My Hat Tags:

Oh Let Google Buy DoubleClick Already

November 26th, 2007 No comments

I am getting really annoyed at all the governments who didn’t say word one about Microsoft acquiring aQuantive who are now persistently giving Google a hard time about their DoubleClick acquisition. Double standards like this make me crazy, but worse I think is how poorly educated all these governments are about technology, in this case specifically online advertising. It is very apparent that they just don’t know what they are talking about, and yet, they are persistent in bumbling along to try to investigate, interview, and generally just make a nuisance of themselves around this acquisition. They should fly in Danny Sullivan, or anyone with basic competency really (me?), to do a one day seminar on what online marketing is and how it works. Clearly they don’t understand the information Google already collects, or their current reach on the internet via all their products and services. They don’t understand the competitive environment for online advertising, or who the major players are in the space. As usual bureaucracy is wasting a lot of time and tax dollars on something that is going to have no positive impact for consumers, as opposed to say, doing something useful. Mark my words the acquisition will go through, so all of this is for naught. Go make me some national health care, or at this point, I’d even settle for an airline passenger bill of rights. Sad.

Unfortunately the ineptness at any government to understand technology is nothing new. Ted Stevens famous pronouncement that the internet was a “series of tubes” (hilarously remixed here) floored me at the level of incompetence being openly flouted. We should be embarrassed. Say what you will about the Clinton administration, but at least they had some basic understanding of the internet and wanted to foster it. The United States should be blanketed in free high speed wifi by now, but of course, the telecommunications industry being what it is, and our government being what they are, that just isn’t happening. Not even San Francisco has free wifi as yet, which is fairly awful given what a tech savvy city we are, and how many offers we’ve gotten from companies like Google and Earthlink who are willing to provide it. Think about how much innovation could come out into the economy if everyone had free internet access.

Shame on us really for electing such fools (not that are choices are all that great), but really our leadership needs to step it up when it comes to understanding online technology and its role in our economy and lives.

Categories: Industry, Wag of My Finger Tags: