Content networks have evolved into a major source of advertising opportunities. The Google Content Network alone reaches 80 percent of all global Internet users. Content networks like Google's reach users on hundreds of thousands of Web sites and are continuously expanding.
Major content networks associated with search engines include Google AdWords, Yahoo's Publisher Network and Microsoft Content Advertising. There also are several independent ad networks worth testing, such as Advertising.com, AOL's Platform-A, ContextWeb's ADSDAQ and 24/7 Real Media, all of which reach millions of unique Internet users monthly.
The big difference between pay-per-click text ad campaigns and content network campaigns: What most online advertising professionals who have been managing text PPC campaigns fail to realize is the idea that content advertising reaches potential customers much earlier in the purchasing process and the best practices for display content advertising are very different from the best practices in PPC text ad campaigns. Successful marketing can depend on where in the sales funnel a user sees an ad. For example, if a resort in St. Lucia buys the keywords "St. Lucia," "tropical vacation" and "Caribbean resort," only users who search these terms will see the ad (i.e., those who have already decided to go on vacation). Content networks use a much more complex targeting system, using an immense network of categorized pages. AdWords targets demographics to be the "kind of person" most likely to vacation at a resort. These targets are reached much earlier in the sales funnel. This way to target ads can reach a much larger, but still relevant, audience than selling keywords.
Some tips for developing successful content network advertising campaigns:
- First, create a keyword strategy that is appropriate for awareness-building content network campaigns. The role of keywords in a content network ad campaign is much different from those in a search ad campaign. The advertiser has to tell Google to show an ad on pages that contain most or all of these keywords.
- Second, keep in mind that your ads need to yell and pop off the screen. The last thing you want is for your ad to blend into the background.
- Third, you have to make very competitive offers to draw attention to your ads and your product, for example, free shipping or 20 percent off all purchases.
- Finally, make sure to test a wide variety of ads and offers to see what works. The ads that happen to work the best may be counterintuitive. It will take a few tries to decide which approach works the best with your particular products.
David Szetela is the founder and CEO of Clix Marketing, a pay-per-click advertising agency. Szetela can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.