Google AdWords is probably the most widely used platforms for internet marketing. AdWords supports multiple devices where your ads can be displayed and you can optimize your ads for each of them. There are two distinct contexts or networks for your ads to be displayed in to the users …
Search Network and Search partners: This includes all the Google search sites and also Google search partners. In addition to Google Search other related Google sites include Shopping, Maps, Image Search etc. Many websites partner with Google to provide search functionality and are thus part of the Search Network.
Display Network: This is also mostly related to the Google Adsense network. The Display network thus consists of content websites which are part of the Google’s Ad network or Adsense. This is sometimes also referred to as the Content Network.
Content targeting allows you specifically target the content of the website on the Display Network. So, this is mostly related to how your Adwords campaign performs within the Adsense network. Your Adwords campaign can consist of both text ads as well as image ads and both of these ad type are displayed within the display network.
There are several different ways that your ad will be matched and then displayed on the display network. The main methods that are used by Google are:
Interest based: The Ads are chosen based on the known preferences and interest of the user. This involves some level of user identification as well as some profiling of the user based on the user history. These ads may or may not have a relation to the content of the webpage itself.
Placement: It is possible for the advertisers to specify or contend for a particular slot in a specific website. The again has nothing to do with the content of the webpage, but usually advertisers target pages that have some relevance to the ads.
Contextual: The ads shown are based on the content of the website or the web page. This can be a close match with the keywords specified by the advertisers or be generic match based on the theme and niche of the web page content.
Content targeting is mainly relevant only to the third method described above, the Contextual ads. In this type of matching, the keywords in your ad groups are matched against the content on the web page. Google maintains a “profile” or an index of the webpage when it indexes it. This index basically is a semantic and syntactic representation of what the webpage is about and what “topic” the content of the webpage is.
This indexed information is then matched against the Adwords keywords across all the advertisers. If your keywords match against this contextual information, then your ad is eligible to be displayed on one of the ad slots on the web page. All the eligible ads then go through an “auction” process where in you bid to be placed in the slot. If you win the auction, depending on your max bid and quality score, then your ad will be displayed on the page.
In order to perform well in the display network and increase your display impressions, you will need to fine tune your ads towards how the display networks work. Just as with the search network (SERP) ads, many of the factors are equally relevant in display network as well. Display network matches are more broadly matched than the search queries in search network are.
So, the process of Content targeting in Adwords can be defined as the general process of fine-tuning your Adwords campaign to perform better on display network. The changes might involve different keywords, ad text and bid amount (max CPC) which are more geared towards the content of web pages.
Thus increasing the impressions in display network is very much dependent on the following factors:
# of web pages: There should be enough pages in the display network with content that matches your keywords.
Quality of web pages: It also helps if the pages your ads show up have enough web traffic to drive traffic to your website.
Competition: If there are many competitors advertising in your niche then there is more competition for a limited number of slots.
One of the main differences between the search and content network is the perceived interest of the user in your product at the time of display. In the search network, the user is more likely to be actively looking and searching for the product or services you are advertising for but in the content network, the user is more interested in the content of the webpage. Even though the user might be reading related content, you still will need to compete for user attention and clicks. This difference can be seen in the click-thru rate (CTR) of the display network when compared to the search network. The CTR of the Display network is much lower than the search network.
Because of this difference in user engagement, it is a good idea to have different marketing strategies for each network. As a general rule of thumb, think of display network and content targeting as a brand building or product awareness campaign. The search network marketing can be more geared towards product retail and more of a revenue based campaign. Of course depending on the product, service or the content that you are advertising this will vary.
As an example of content targeting, think of a campaign by any of the large auto manufacturers like Ford or Toyota. It is highly unlikely that you will click on a web ad link for an automobile and immediately buy the product on the website, but you might down the line in the future. It is more of a product and the brand building process.
Given the difference in marketing strategies between the two networks, consider creating separate campaigns for each of them. That will give you greater flexibility in fine tuning your keywords and bid amounts as well as providing you with greater transparency and legibility while looking at the Adwords data. Using the same campaign for both is probably the easiest to setup and run and you will still be able to bid separately for search and display network.