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Customers NowProfiting From the New Frontier of Content-Based Internet Advertising
By David Szetela
iUniverse, Inc.Copyright © 2009 ContextWeb, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe Future Is Content
Legendary adman Jay Chiat once described a round of golf as "very fascinating, very addictive, and incredibly challenging. You're never satisfied. It's kind of like advertising." Chiat didn't live to see the advent of search engine marketing, but his observations fit with what search engine marketing is today. Search engine marketing has come close to satisfying its users with its ability to be measured, analyzed, and optimized. The growth of SEM certainly shows a continued attraction, as advertisers continuously search for that magic keyword that will drive clicks and revenues.
There is still much more ahead for internet marketers. Even if you're a Google AdWords pay-per-click advertiser, one who's getting spectacular results, there's another level. It's very likely that you can increase your profitable sales significantly - by up to 75-100 percent - while at the same time, create more customer demand for your products or services. This not-so-well kept secret comes in the form of learning to mount successful campaigns using a little-understood capability built into Google AdWords, which is advertising on the Google Content Network. It also comes in the form of a new ad exchange that'smaking it easier for advertisers to mount and manage campaigns: ContextWeb's ADSDAQ Exchange.
AdWords is hardly a secret. Campaigns display ads on search results pages, at the top and right side of the page, when a search is performed on Google and on Google search engine partners (like AOL) - collectively known as the Search Network. The ads displayed are relevant to the person who typed in the search term. Such as this example below, using the term "red sneakers."
Less well-understood is the fact that, by default, ads also appear on web site pages - sites that have chosen to participate in Google's AdSense program to "monetize" their content. When a site visitor clicks on an AdSense ad, the advertiser pays for the click, and Google shares some of the click revenue with the site owner. Google calls this network of sites its Content Network. Here's one example of what an AdSense ad looks like:
Advertising on content networks allows advertisers to reach a huge proportion of internet users - many times the number of people who use search services to find specific sites covering specific topics. Even better, advertisers can reach potential customers before they're likely to conduct searches - avoiding crowded ad competition on the search pages. But tapping into this huge network requires specific best practices and techniques that aren't widely known. This book will expose them. Those techniques are often counter-intuitive to PPC advertisers who are accustomed to think in terms of ads displayed as the result of search engine searches, and the best measure of success.
Many AdWords advertisers have tried advertising on Google's AdWords Content Network, only to watch click costs soar while revenues and profits failed to keep pace. Others have shied away from advertising on the Content Network because they've heard that it delivers "poor-quality traffic." But that thinking needs to be re-examined. The truth is that Content Network advertisers can get excellent results: better-than-acceptable conversions (sales or leads) that deliver profitable revenue to the bottom line. The key lies in understanding how Content Networks operate, and adopting best practices in controlling ad placement to attract potential high-quality site visitors (perspective customers).
As mentioned, content-based campaigns display ads on the web pages of site owners who participate in a search engine's ad serving program. Google has AdSense, while Yahoo has Yahoo Publisher Network. Microsoft will soon roll out a similar program. We will spend a fair amount of time in this book detailing the strategies and tactics for successfully using ContextWeb's content based ADSDAQ Exchange.
First let's take a look behind the scenes. How does Google "decide" which ads should be served? Google's ad-matching software examines the words (content) on the web site's pages, and then examines its ad inventory - PPC ads and associated keywords - and displays ads that best match the content of the site pages. ADSDAQ's matching software works differently. It matches advertiser-specified Categories with pages within its content network, freeing the advertiser from trying to intuitively decide on keywords that describe such pages. The advertiser gets matched with site visitors who are interested in the relevant ads. The potential customer sees ads that relate to the interests that drew them to the site in the first place. Site owners earn revenue that supports their ability to continue to publish valuable content.
Then why the perception problem with content-based advertising performance? The first is the "last click attribution" obsession. Advertisers place undue importance on the last click before purchase and that obsession often unfairly credits search engine keywords. Compare it to driving down a busy highway filled with billboards. A billboard for a steak restaurant at the beginning of the trip may start the attraction toward the restaurant. A billboard in the middle may push a customer to want to learn more about its menu. Another one may close the deal in the customer's mind. The last one may rate a call for a reservation. All the ads are valuable, but the last one gets the credit.
In the best cases, advertisers have traditionally had to settle for the fact ad response rates - click-through-rates (CTRs), or the ratio of clicks to impressions - have usually been much lower than those they get from search advertising. Even worse, conversion rates for content advertising, the percentage of content-ad-generated site visitors who buy or submit a lead form, are traditionally lower. There are three main reasons for this difference.
First, since content ads are ancillary to web site content, the ads are not actively read as frequently as search ads. At worst, they're considered to be annoying distractions. Second, the software that matches Google keyword/ad group combinations to web site page content is difficult to control - meaning it sometimes does a poor job of putting together ads with related content. Third, by default, search and content campaigns are "lumped together" in the Web interface advertisers use to control and manage ad campaigns. Advertisers must take extra steps to separate the two. So the default campaign settings force advertisers to use a common interface to manage and report on the two very different campaign types, making it difficult to see and control what's working and what's not. The net result: Many companies pour money into advertising that, in aggregate, results in relatively poor results - especially in terms of ROI. Some advertisers even conclude PPC simply can't work for them, never realizing that search advertising may work well for them, but their content advertising is bleeding so much money in click charges that they deem the whole effort is unprofitable. That's why content campaigns should be run separately from search campaign. And the truth is that if it is properly understood and managed, content advertising can deliver excellent results. It can be close or equal to the CTRs and conversion rates obtainable via search advertising.
There's another under-appreciated but significantly positive effect of advertising on content networks. Even though a smaller proportion of content network impressions and clicks may turn into sales, those impressions helps introduce and reinforce the advertiser's brand. In effect content network advertising can increase the number of people who click on search ads, since they're familiar with the brand name via content ads. Site visitors that arrive via clicking on a content ad may not convert on the first visit, but some come back to the site later and convert.
Smart marketers who employ multiple off-line and online advertising tactics know that the whole effort should be viewed as a "portfolio approach." In other words, no single tactic should be viewed in isolation of the others. For example, an email campaign results in a visitor to a site who doesn't convert on the first visit - but converts later after viewing a content ad that reinforce the positive impression of the original visit.
Unfortunately, few tools exist for detecting this effect and, at least as importantly, apportioning a value to the pre-conversion actions. It's not tracked and reported by almost all of the web site analytics packages and conversion-tracking software, including the tracking mechanisms used by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft in their PPC systems. It's one of the secrets of search engine marketing, which we'll explore further in the next chapter.
Chapter TwoThe Secrets of Content
Content-based advertising is the future of internet advertising as evidenced by Google's data, which shows advertisers continue to spend on search and contextual advertising and untargeted vendors are seeing a downward trend. Google claims its content network consists of several hundred thousand sites, whose aggregate site visitors comprise nearly 75 percent of all internet users in the U.S. The proportion is even higher outside the U.S. For example Google claims that its content network in Germany reaches 89% of all German internet users. The ADSDAQ Exchange launched in 2005. As of May 2008, the ADSDAQ Exchange ranked among the top 20 ad supported properties, according to comScore Media Metrix, and reached more than 115 million monthly unique visitors each month. To give you some idea of how big that number is, consider that Google (with YouTube and Blogger.com) counted 149 million unique visitors in December 2008, according to comScore. The ADSDAQ Exchange serves impressions from more than 400 advertisers, including 9 out of the top 10 marketing organizations, and more than 9,000 publishers.
The infrastructure is also clearly laid out by each company. According to Google's site "the technology that drives AdWords contextual advertising comes from Google's award-winning search and page ranking technology. Google continually scans the millions of pages from the content network to look for relevant matches with your keywords and other campaign data. When we find a match, your ad becomes eligible to run on that page. Google's extensive web search and linguistic processing technology can decipher the meaning of virtually any content network page to ensure we're showing the most relevant ads. Then, we match ads that are precisely targeted to the content page based on the associated keywords. For example, if someone visits a web page on astronomy he/she would be served Google AdWords ads for telescopes. Contextual Advertising benefits Web users by linking content with relevant products and services. This is great for Google advertisers like you, because you can now reach more prospective customers on more places on the Web."
Sounds great, right? You supply the keywords, and Google places your ads on just the pages where your target audience "hangs out," waiting and eager to visit your web site. But in reality, targeting ads to the right site pages requires techniques and best practices that aren't intuitively obvious to advertisers used to targeting ads to search results pages. Fortunately for you, this book details the methods for controlling the content-matching algorithms to laser-target the placement of your ads.
Google links content to products and services. ADSDAQ advertisers target their ads by choosing categories of web pages where they want ads to appear. It has developed and implemented "next generation" algorithms that result in connections between content, advertising and users (potential customers). The system assigns a definition to each web page in the exchange in real time. Then, it matches that definition to a category selected by an advertiser.
For both advertisers and publishers, it's essential to make the most accurate match. It uses ad page context to identify the most accurate category and derive the most relevant match between web page and advertiser. With content, it is not about a single keyword, it's about the category of all the keywords on a targeted web page. Let's illustrate this with the following example, viewed from both sides of the content-based advertising approach. A new resort in St. Lucia has an international budget that needs to stretch across North America, the EU, and Asia. It decides to spend the bulk of the budget on Internet advertising. If it buys the keywords, "St. Lucia," "Caribbean vacation," and "tropical resorts" its ad and link to its website will come up only if those keywords are entered. And the only reason they would be entered is if a potential customer is gathering information for a trip. That customer has already traveled a long way down the sales funnel.
If the St. Lucia resort uses the ADSDAQ approach it will start by choosing the categories it wants to appear in, not the keywords. If it decides it can generate the highest volume of valuable customers from travel content pages, that category is easy to find and the proper ad pages will be selected. The resort can then show ads on all travel pages including business sites that have travel pages, and even investment advice sites that list time shares at resorts. The category approach, connecting to relevant ad pages, can catch customers earlier in the sales funnel.
With this approach, the system can learn to categorize automatically with no human management. The algorithms open up billions of pages of ad inventory in highly targeted, niche categories. This guarantees that ads will appear in appropriate context and on brand-safe content that supports the brand message. As seen in the chart below, valuable customers will share information about key issues, products and services, and they are influenced by many sources of information as well as many categories of information. Content sources are expanding exponentially. For performance advertisers, getting their offers in front of the right audience allows them to meet their performance metrics. Among those performance metrics: Creating customer demand and acquisition.
Chapter ThreeSomething Old; Something New: Merging Keywords and Content
Call it the Britney Spearsissue. Especially when she was synonymous with ambulances, psych wards and bad judgment, it seemed like any search phrase a consumer typed in would bring up a Britney Spears gossip story somewhere on the page. If a company sold broccoli spears, and used the word "spears" in its content keyword list, the company's ads could appear on sites with content that described Britney Spears ringtones, or worse. A lot worse.
Keywords will not go away in the new content frontier. But the keywords advertisers use in content ad groups will play a different role than they do for search ads. This is often a tough point for search advertisers to grasp. In search ad groups, keywords are intended to match search queries that are usually related to the advertiser's products and services. Hence, spears will be interpreted as a literal product and never distinguished from a pop star or even long sharp stick. By contrast, the keywords in a content ad group should describe the types of pages and sites where you want your ads to appear. So the keyword list for an advertiser's content campaigns should be very different than the keyword lists for search campaigns. Example: A company that sells digital cameras, would use "digital cameras" for a traditional search campaign. It would use, "new mothers, scrapbook sites, parenting advice," and "storing digital photos."
This illustrates one of the main reasons content campaigns garner comparatively low CTRs. Many ads are displayed on irrelevant sites that get heavy traffic. Ad impressions go sky-high while the number of clicks is proportionately very low. But the clicks generated represent new customers, not just buyers at the end of the sales funnel.
Four Best Practices For Creating Content Keyword Lists
1. Always run content campaigns separately from your search campaigns - i.e., don't simply run one campaign that displays ads on the search and content networks, even though that's the default option when you set up a new campaign. Search engines allow separate content bids in such hybrid campaigns - don't do it. Create separate search and content campaigns instead.
2. Separate content campaigns into small ad groups - each with, ideally, 5-15 keywords - never more than 50.
3. Don't use different match types, such as Google's phrase and exact match. Match type is ignored by the content matching algorithms.
4. Don't separate bid prices for each keyword - these too are ignored, and Google operates based on the ad group's default bid.
Excerpted from Customers Now by David Szetela Copyright © 2009 by ContextWeb, Inc.. Excerpted by permission.
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