There are many things to love about Google; measurability, tightly focused targeting and all that traffic.
But there’s a little-known element that’s really beginning to annoy me and a lot of the other search community: the Search Network.
You’ll be familiar with the two primary networks; Google Search – essentially, the Google you know and love, and then there’s the content network where your ads are showing alongside some forum or blog that contains the keywords on which you’re bidding.
The Search Network is somewhere in the middle of these two and relates to sites that technically are search engines like Google, and merely send the visitor’s search query off to Google, and then get Google’s data back. And your paid for ads too. And yes, you’re still paying per click the same way you do on Google Search.
However, this is where it starts to get a little concerning. Google doesn’t publish a list of its “Search Partners”, so there’s no way of knowing in advance which sites will be carrying your ads, and where your money is being spent.
Depending on your market and your product, for example, you might not really want your ads to show on www.ebay.co.uk, or Amazon.co.uk. Or perhaps you do? Either way, you really want to be able to measure the effectiveness of each of these sites carrying your ads and the clicks that come from them – how many Amazon clicks does it take for you to achieve a sale?
Right now, the only way of knowing this is to use Google Analytics or similar software to check the source of visitors to your site, how they behave, and if they convert to a sale or not.
It isn’t currently possible to run a campaign only on the Search Network, or to see where your ads are showing, or which site individual clicks are originating from. You can’t currently calculate your Cost Per Aquisition, the average ad positions or the average cost per click. All of these stats are rolled up in the stats for Google Search in your campaign.
So what happens if you don’t want your ads showing on a particular property like www.FreeIndex.co.uk or www.DoorOne.co.uk? A nice simple site exclusion tool like the one provided on the Content Network? No, I’m afraid not – you have to actually call Google and request that they manually exclude your ads from showing on those sites.
Maybe some of these sites perform really well and have a great CTR and awesome CPA figures. And maybe they don’t. But without the ability to individually target ads for the audience, without the ability to measure it’s effectiveness, it’s difficult to make a case one way or the other.
You could always opt out of the Search Network, of course, but there’s definitely some good quality traffic in there you’d be missing out on.
If only we could tell which traffic it was.