I recently came across an interesting find: Target.com is serving Google Search Network ads. Now as you and I know, Target.com is NOT a search engine. For that matter, I was surprised that Target would even have Google ads on its site — what would stop a competitor from advertising on a product and luring visitors away from Target.com?
So how did I find out that Target.com is serving Search Network ads and not Content network ads? I tested a search for “706 software”, a rather obscure term used only by a very niche, accounting-based audience and a keyword for one of my PPC clients. The settings for this campaign and ad group are set to search network only, yet low and behold, their ad appears on Target.com:
Curious, I began to look into other sites that I know serve Google ads. Next up, Discovery Channel (Discovery.com)., where I also did a search for “706 software”. Again, this client’s ad appeared, meaning that Discovery’s website is ALSO considered a search network partner, even though they, too, are NOT a search engine:
How about The Washington Post? Check — search network partner:
Amazon.com. Check — search network partner because the ads are redirected via A9, Amazon’s version of a search engine.
CNN. Check — search network partner.
By now, you get my point. Many leading websites that are content or ecommerce sites are serving Google ads as part of the Search Network. So why is that bad?
In the past, sites like CNN, Discovery and The Washington Post were part of the Content Network. Even today, I can access many of these sites through Placement Targeting with the Content Network in AdWords. However, my expectation is that many advertisers expect the Search Network to be primarily “search engine” focused, placing ads on other search engine partner sites, like Ask.com, but I expect that many advertisers participating in the Search Network don’t expect to see their ads on Target.com and the like.
In fairness, Google does leave the door open about which sites are considered Search Network partners:
“Your ads may appear alongside or above search results, as part of a results page as a user navigates through a site’s directory, or on other relevant search pages. Our global Search Network includes Google Maps, Google Product Search and Google Groups along with entities such as Virgin Media and Amazon.com.”
Why That’s Bad
There are two main reasons why Google’s current Search Network offering isn’t optimal for advertisers.
How to Get Around the Problem
Really the only way to get around the problem effectively is to advertise on the individual search engines directly. However, many of the smaller engines may not draw the impressions that Google will. So I wouldn’t spread myself too thin. Look in your analytics and see which engines drive the most traffic — focus on those first and advertise with them directly, if possible.
Join over 4,000 marketers who receive actionable digital marketing insights.