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Why Are Engines Still Pushing The Content Network?

Why is the content network still allowed to exist these days, especially with the emergence of Web Analytics and constant metric specific monitoring and optimization. How is it that the search engines continue to "push" their content networks, regardless of it’s poor track record. From a historical search marketers perspective, content networks only provide high levels of unqualified traffic that convert poorly and provide no conversion benefit, other than driving up costs.

So why haven’t Google & Yahoo listened to us search marketers? Or, maybe we haven’t made enough noise in the industry to deserve a response.  While Google emphasizes their "powerful targeting technology" Yahoo plays the "sales pitch game"  where they portray the content network as this amazing sales machine that will generate targeted sales leads at the right time, etc… Both of these ideologies just make me want to vomit.  Below you will see how Google and Yahoo position the benefits of their own Content Networks.

How the engines perceive the content network:

  • Google Content Network: The Google content network is the simplest way to reach millions of high-quality news pages, topic-specific websites, and blogs that web users visit each day. From global media outlets like The New York Times to niche publishers like, these sites partner with Google to give their readers useful and relevant advertising. There is no larger network for contextual advertising in the world.
  • AdWords advertisers have the ability to hand-pick either one site or multiple sites from this network of partners. Or, they can let Google use its powerful targeting technology to pick for them, and place their ads on the pages most relevant to the products and services they sell.
  • Yahoo Content Match: Content Match®, a feature of Sponsored Search, enables you to broaden your reach beyond search results and attract more customers who are interested in what you offer. Target interested prospects at the right time: when they are ready to buy or make an impulse purchase. Drive additional targeted sales leads to your site.

Now the here’s the "Real World"
Ok, so here’s my problem. If the performance is so great due to their powerful targeting technology, why is it that every search marketer I have spoken to, along with the 8+ years in this industry has Contextual search failed miserably. Has anyone ever really posed the question to these engines?
Here are some key areas that I see still happening today:

  • When setting up a new campaign, Content networks (both engines) are set to "ON" by default. You have to manually turn them off every damn time.
  • Excluded Sites option is only valid way to filter out bad sites. However, in order to do this,  you need to have analytics running with referring sources to try and identify which sites could be the major culprits of bad traffic.
  • Adsense is still running ramped and people are making lots of money. Not to mention Click-fraud is still a major player here with Google Adsense.

To conclude, I am not the only one thinking the same things. Here’s a great post on SearchEngineRoundtable entitled: Are Google Advertisers Opting Out of Content Network: Dropping AdSense which talked about as more and more people turn off content network, Adsense customers are seeing major slumps in their earnings. This has the makings of a major ethics problems that needs to be address. Google keeps pushing the Content Network (as far as setting it to "On" by default) because even though marketers are more likely to turn them off because of poor performance, they still have to keep their Adsense business and customers happy.

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7 Responses to "Why Are Engines Still Pushing The Content Network?"

  1. Dave says:

    I agree heartily. Another thing I find particularly slimy is how the search engines make broad the default match type. Yahoo, and now Microsoft, display your ads on their sponsored search networks without the option to opt out.

  2. Is Content Match Dead…Not yet for the Savy Marketer

    I saw another post on that caught my attention, it is declaring the impending doom of content match because of its poor performance and advertisers wising up to its pitfalls.  While I completely agree that content match can be very

  3. Micha says:

    The content network is tricky but I have actually had a lot of success with it, several accounts I manage have a higher ROAS through Google’s content network than search.

  4. SearchCap: The Day In Search, May 7, 2007

    Below is what happened in search today, as reported on Search Engine Land and from other places across the web:…

  5. John says:

    While I respect your opinion, I must agree with Micha’s comment. Despite the “track record” of the content networks, with some clients – it truly does pay off. Additionally, Google’s recent efforts to make their content network more transparent is making it easier to effectively manage these campaigns (i.e. Site Targeting w/ reach & frequency reporting, the new site reporting beta, etc.).
    IMHO, this is an instance where a decision should be made on a case by case (or client by client) basis.

  6. dominic says:

    Thanks for your striking article
    Can you provide data that shows average performance between paid search and content network.
    I’m currently using placement targeting with performance that are close to the one of paid search.
    So sounds like their are at least 3 people for which it makes sense to keep it open. I wish yahoo would provide site targeting capabilities as well.

  7. christine says:

    What I don’t understand is if Google is trying to encourage users to use the content network as well as search, why do they make it so damn hard for users to copy their existing search campaigns into new, content specific campaigns. Search Audience Vs. Content Audience require two different keyword lists (according to Google) and therefore different campaigns within ones’ Adwords account. I have to manually copy and paste everything from my search campaign into my newly set-up content campaign.

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