Why You Can't Get Impressions On The Content Sites You Target with Adwords

Stuck Waiting For Content Traffic?

Everyone's heard Google extol the virtues of their Adsense content network to advertisers, particularly how it allows you to 'hand-pick' the sites you'd like to run your ads on.

That's all well and good, but many Adwords advertisers notice that after they create new content network campaigns, they just sit there with no impressions or clicks.

Why does this happen?  What can you do about it?

Big Hint: It's Your Bids...

Once you've created a placement-targeted content campaign using either text or image ads, you're required to pick a CPC (cost-per-click) or CPM (cost-per-thousand-impressions) bid amount.

Let's just get this out of the way first:  You want to bid CPC (not CPM) at the start.  CPC is the standard bid method for most of your competitors and is the easiest way to measure your progress.

Secondly, it's important to understand that the display ad server at Google runs on an 'auction' basis, similar to to the way their search ads work.

This means that if you and a competitor(s) are bidding for placement on the same website, you're going to run into the auction system.

If you're new with trying to run ads on that particular site (or sites), you're going to have to break into the auction, or kind of 'kick the door in', so to speak.

Here's why...

Yet Another Quality Score

Google determines whose ads get to run on a given publisher site based on Content Network Quality Score (yes, that's yet ANOTHER type of Quality Score):

From the horses' mouth:

"Quality Score is used to rank your ads on Content Network placements. The better your Quality Score, the higher your ad position.

Quality Score also affects your eligibility to enter the ad auction. Lower-quality ads may require a higher bid to compete in the auction. 

Fewer impressions on the Content Network may mean your Quality Score isn't high enough for your ads to be shown at your current maximum CPC or CPM bid."

And what are the major factors your "Content Network Quality Score" based on?

  1. The relevance of the ad and keywords to the placement --->If it's an image ad, they can't exactly determine the 'relevance' of your ad to the site's content
  2. Your ad's performance history on that and similar placement --->If your ad is new, you don't have any historical advantage or data at all

All of this means that if you just launch your ad and toss in a bid, you're likely NOT going to get much play.  Google may run your ad for a couple thousand impressions to see if it gets a good CTR, but chances are you're going to wallow in 'no-traffic-land'.

Time to kick the door in!

As Google themselves say in the quote above, you've got to bid up.  Wayyyyy up. Still not getting any impressions?  Bid up again, and again, until you start getting impressions. 

Once you're allowed into the auction with ads that have long been camping out in their current ad spots, hopefully your ad will be good enough to beat their click-through-rates, allowing you to bump them out of the way.

Once those impressions are really flowing, you'll notice something:  You're clicks are REALLY expensive.  More than your competitor is likely paying, and more than you're likely able to afford long-term.

Yup, that's what's supposed to happen.  You're not stuck here however, this is where the second part of your strategy comes in:  Managing to profitability.

Finding The Ad Pricing Floor

With your ads finally in rotation, you're in and you can start gradually winding down your bid (probably once a day depending on click volume), reducing it by a moderate percentage each day.  

For example, if you had to bid $4.00 CPC to get your foot in the door and impressions finally came in, you could reduce your bid by .30 each day, closely watching to see if your impression traffic holds.  If it does, crank down another .30.

The strategy here is to find the 'basement', how low you can actually bid and still keep the traffic flowing.

Once you've managed to find it, you'll next have to determine if you're making a profit at that bid amount.  If not, time to find some new sites and start the process again.  This time hopefully your ads themselves will have some history and make the whole process quicker.

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