Close the Gaps in Your Christmas Campaigns with GCN

Friday, October 16, 2009 | 12:03 PM

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With only three pay days left till Christmas and the economic recovery still at a fledgling stage, shoppers have already started to think about what to fill their Christmas stockings with. Christmas search queries tend to start early and with bargain hunting also driving interest this year, their frequency has started growing as early as September.

Retailers looking to get ahead of the curve and roll out their Christmas campaigns early shouldn’t overlook the opportunity presented by the Google Content Network (GCN). Using the Content Network can supplement your search campaigns and stimulate extra demand and awareness. Many of the thousands of shopping sites available on the network have CPCs lower than search, which can drive your conversions at a more desirable CPA.

GCN serves more than 6 billion impressions a day globally which provides fantastic volume for advertisers, but the key questions are how does GCN convert and how cost effective is it? Google’s study [1] indicates that the median content/search CPA ratio for advertisers in all sectors was 97.4% and for average advertiser, GCN clicks are 28% cheaper than search. The discount CPC effect is due to Smart Pricing which automatically reduces CPC bids for certain pages depending on how likely they are to convert.

Conversions and volumes in retail subcategories differ. These metrics, however, are often augmented as shoppers start to browse for gifts and visit sites devoted to key Christmas product areas such as toys, games, music and jewellery.
With GCN’s targeting modus operandi being fundamentally different to search, and with GCN awareness being lower than that of search, here are our top tips for advertising on the Google Content Network - an opportunity to expose your brand to 29 million unique UK users:

1. Build a common theme in each ad group. With contextual targeting, we analyse all of your keywords and ad text in an ad group, then match the ad to sites in our network. Having very specific keyword lists in your ad groups avoids targeting ambiguity. You should also ensure that your ad text closely matches the theme that you have outlined in your keyword list.

2. Create direct and complementary ad groups. If you are selling glasses your direct ad group could contain keywords such as glasses or frames while your complementary ad groups could target related sites about glasses cases or other accessories. Many ad groups ensure that you target larger pools of potential buyers.

When brainstorming for complementary ad groups the new Wonder Wheel tool can help you discover other related themes. This tool is available in the left sidebar on Google Search.

3. Include negative keywords at set up to ensure that your ads are not showing on irrelevant sites. This will ensure high quality of traffic and good CTR, which is critical for achieving good performance history and building your GCN Quality score.

4. Exclude sites and categories that you do not want your ads to appear on.
Categories would be groups of websites with a common theme such as ‘Crime & Emergency’.

5. Bidding is a crucial factor in GCN. In order to enable our system to work out which sites are the most suitable for your ads, set bids relatively high to begin with and then lower them after history has been accrued. Most content sites and products display only two or three contextual ads per page, so monitor your CPC and average position as it has an impact on CTR. If you set bids too low on the Content Network, it will take a long time for your ads to reach the right sites.

6. As a rule of thumb allow at least 2 weeks before checking results as the system needs time to accrue performance data. The first few days of data may not reflect the campaign’s full potential and may provide you with misleading data.

7. After the initial few weeks of your campaign, pull a Placement Performance Report which will give you data on the sites where your ads are appearing. This report can help you to identify sites which are performing well and those which perform poorly or are irrelevant. Exclude sites where you do not want your ads to show with the Site Exclusion tool.

Once you find your high-performing sites, you can control and adjust your bids on them directly. Test if by increasing volume on these sites (i.e. increasing bids), the corresponding increase in conversions justifies a proportionately higher CPC.

8. If you do not use a bid management solution to manage your bids, consider testing Conversion Optimiser, a CPA bid management solution enabling advertisers to maximise their ROI. Although its entry threshold is 15 conversions in 30 days, launch it on a campaign which has accrued a high volume of conversions. Higher volume gives the system more substance and room to manoeuvre.

Whichever retail category is your focus, a GCN campaign can be a cost effective way to drive incremental conversions. GCN targeting is also fundamentally different from that of search. As an auction model, the system requires time to accrue the relevant data needed to optimise your campaign. Implementing these suggestions is the first step to making your GCN campaign a success. Not unlike other digital media outlets, GCN campaigns require testing. We recommend starting your GCN campaign early, so that you can begin testing and have a well-optimised campaign prepared for the peak Christmas season. Starting soon will ensure your brand’s exposure as people are likely to browse and spread their shopping between now and Christmas.

We hope that you found these tips useful. Please email us if you have any questions or feedback.

[1]Google Whitepaper November 2008