Why Is My Content Network Cost Per Click So High? 3 Mistakes New Advertisers Make


Sometimes the controls inside of an AdWords account can be pretty overwhelming and confusing. AdWords is constantly adding new features, and it sometimes becomes difficult – particularly for new to intermediate-level advertisers – to quickly diagnose certain specific issues in their account. I think this is particularly the case on the content network, as many advertisers with a limited knowledge of AdWords will have had most of their experience working with search campaigns.

One seemingly simple issue that often frustrates unfamiliar advertisers is how to control cost per click (CPC) on the content network. Today we’ll talk about why your content network CPCs might be higher than they need to be, and how you can correct the issue.

Mistake #1: Failure to Split Out Content and Search

This is a relatively well-known best practice now, but not splitting out your content network campaigns from your search network campaigns is still a frequently made mistake. This drives up your content network CPCs (and subsequently your costs per conversion as well) because search traffic is more expensive and more valuable than content network traffic.

Search traffic is highly targeted and represents a response to a very specific question being asked by a searcher. This means that search traffic, in general, converts better than display or content network traffic, which in turn means you can profitably pay more for it per click. By leaving content and search targeting in the same campaign you’re agreeing to pay the same per click for two very different levels of quality traffic-wise.

Correcting this issue is a very simple tweak within the settings tab at the campaign level:

AdWords Content Campaigns

Mistake #2: Failure to Split Out Mobile/Tablet and Desktop and Laptop Traffic

Another slightly less well-known best practice is creating separate campaigns for mobile and desktop traffic. This is for similar reasons: frequently, mobile and tablet traffic will perform differently (often worse, but not always – it depends on the offer) than desktop and laptop traffic. Some offerings (and landing pages) still don’t convert as well on mobile devices, so paying the same per click for traffic from these devices as you would for traffic from desktop and laptop traffic can drive up your CPCs unnecessarily and make your campaigns unprofitable. If you’re already running a campaign, you can find out if this is adversely impacting your account’s performance by first using the segment reporting functionality and segmenting by device:

Device Segment

Then analyzing the performance of each campaign at the device level:

Cost per Click by Device

As you can see the cost-per conversion for mobile traffic in this campaign is a multiple of what we get from computers, so we’ll likely want to split out that traffic and make sure we’re bidding significantly less per click on it. We can do that easily within the settings tab at the campaign level as well:

Content Network Settings

Mistake #3: You Have Keyword or Managed Placement Level Bids that Are Too High

So you’ve split out your content network traffic into its own campaign, and then you’ve spun off your mobile traffic into its own campaign, and you’ve set your bids at the ad group level to $.50 a click (which you know based on historical conversion rates is about what you can afford) but you pull a report for content network traffic and you’re still paying almost $2 a click for content network traffic!

What’s likely at play here is that you have bids at either the keyword or managed placement level (maybe set up by an old agency or account manager) that are overriding your ad group level bids. You can quickly check this within your campaign by looking at your list of keywords:

Content Network Keyword Bids

Similarly, you can navigate to the networks tab and drill down to the show details link next to managed placements to see the list of managed placements and your bids there:

Content Network Managed Placements

Ultimately, lowering your cost per click on the content network can be really powerful, because there are a lot of clicks to be had at a profitable price: it’s just a matter of making sure you’re paying the right price for the right types of traffic.

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Gargoyle Consulting
Sep 16, 2011

Ok, I just found this blog/company yesterday, and already I have found it to be more unique/valuable than any single other SEM blog out there.Props on the good work. Keep it up. 

May 24, 2012

I'm actually running my first campaign and am grateful for this information.  I'll go have a look at my account to make sure I'm not making any of these mistakes.
Thank you!

quality used putters guy
May 24, 2012

Love it all man. I am just getting to set up a campaign on msn and your email just hit my inbox the right time. Thank you so much

Jul 02, 2012

Great advice! Can I make some additions?

  • Focus on a high Quality Score (QS). The higher your QS, the less Google will ask for your cost-per-click.
  • Start AB-testing by adding multiple ads to each ad group. This will allow you to continuously improve the effectieness of your ads.
  • Set up granular campaigns, with very few related keywords in an ad group. This way you can write ads that are highly related to your keywords.
  • Add your keywords in the ad: this will boost your QS and impove your click-through-rate.
Good luck from Searchify!

Jul 21, 2014

The first advice for: Networks and devices" does not exist - I have "Bid Strategies" instead and not the same content. Therefore, can't do what you suggest right off the top. Is there an update? thanks.

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