When you create a PPC campaign, be it in the AdWords interface or in the AdWords editor, you have this option. Search or Display?
Search is going to Google, typing in what you want. Display is being on a website and being presented an advert and clicking on it.
If you choose ‘Search’ then you get another option. Search network (partners) and Google? or just Google? You would select None if you were just having a display campaign. Annoyingly you can’t just choose the Search Network.
But what is the Search Network? These are networks, well search engines that Google have brought and developed into their empire. It could be the likes of Ask Jeeves, AOL and other smaller engines. When you search on these, it’s Google SERP results which are normally coming through but these results may include your PPC adverts.
Only with more advanced tracking can you see which search partners your adverts are appearing on. Generally the traffic is cheaper – as not everyone on AdWords will be opted into the search partner auction. Impression share is also pretty high – I often question the quality of this traffic though. People use Google because they trust it to be relevant. If i ever use another engine it’s generally to just search for Google. Lazy I know.
Another point is that on the search network, your adverts can be quite hard to distinguish aganist the natural listings. I only click on PPC when I know I will convert but this network has caught me out a few times – but again this could work in picking up people who ‘Oh I never click on those adverts’ mentality.
AdWords tell us to test. How can we test a platform though which we can’t properly track? The option there should be just Google, Google & it’s search network fwends or just the network.
The results from the partners is not always bad and it can be a catch 22. Including the partners allows you to have cheaper traffic but is it as high a quality? Would you rather save the pennies for decent Google goodness?
To decide on this, I would start your campaigns on Google & it’s partners. It’s not fair to say it’s a poor performer. Once you have enough data, log into Adwords and click on Networks. Then assess. If it’s working – to your business goals, not in terms of CTR, CPC impression share – leave it on. If not – can it.
I realise why Google don’t let you just test the partners – it’s a massive revenue stream for them but as a professional PPC’er we are taught to always test and evaluate, then test some more. Not being able to test this as the seperate network it is seems rather archaic – Even breaking it down by partners so you can block certain networks would be a start!