How to Choose a PPC Advertising Network in AdWords & Bing


Choosing a Network: AdWords and Bing

When planning your AdWords and Bing advertising campaigns, you will need to identify and select the specific “networks,” or combination of networks, that your paid ads will be shown in.

Both Google AdWords and Bing Ads have a couple networks to choose from, each offering its own unique marketing opportunities, advantages and disadvantages. In this post, I’ll define each PPC advertising network that is available to you when using Google AdWords and Bing Ads.

Google AdWords PPC Advertising Networks

Google allows you to advertise on two types of paid-advertising networks that they have labelled as the “Google Search Network” and the “Google Display Network.” As an AdWords advertiser, you have the option to run PPC campaigns in one of these networks, both, and even a combination of the two. Which networks you choose to target with your campaigns depend on your marketing goals and campaign strategy, as well as how much you are willing to spend.

Google Search Network

The Google Search Network is the group of search-related sites, including Google Search and search properties like Google Shopping and Google Maps, where your ads can appear. The Google Search Network also consists of Google Search Partners, which includes websites like AOL than can also display your ads.

You can select what network your campaign will be targeting during the campaign setup phase (as shown here), or by clicking the “settings” tab with your campaign selected and editing the network “type” found underneath the “campaign name.”

AdWords Search Network

If you select “Search Network Only,” your campaign will only show ads on the Google Search Network. As you can see, you have the option to exclude “Search Partners” from your Search Network-targeted campaign if you would like.

One thing to note about Search Partner sites that are included in the Google Search Network is that those sites don’t necessarily need to be search-oriented sites. Meaning, some Search Partner websites only show your ads during an internal site search.

At times, opting out of Search Partner sites can help reduce spend and filter out unwanted clicks. Always seek out more information particular to your account before opting out or into a particular network.

Google Display Network

The Google Display Network is the second advertising network available in Google AdWords. The Display Network (formerly known as the Content Network) is a collection of websites and Google properties (Gmail, Blogger, YouTube, Google Finance, etc.) that show text, image, video, and rich media ad formats. The network also includes mobile sites and applications.

When you are creating a display campaign in AdWords you will be met with a few campaign types to choose from. It is best to select “all features” so that you can always come back and enable a new display network targeting option if you would like.

Google AdWords Display Network Settings

On the display network, you have the option to run a variety of different ad formats using a variety of different targeting options. Each targeting option has its own advantages and limitations.

The display network also allows you to run the following types of advertising campaigns:

  1. Mobile App Campaigns
  2. Remarketing Campaigns
  3. Engagement Campaigns

Google Search Network with Display Select

Google no longer allows users to create new AdWords campaigns that target both the Google search network and the display network at the same time. Users can now opt-in to “Google Search Network with Display Select” if they desire to show ads on both the Google search network and the Google display network simultaneously.

Search Network with Display Select

The search network with display select option allows your ads to appear in Google’s search engine results page (SERP) as well as on relevant webpages that belong to Google’s display network. When your ads are shown on the display network using the Google search network with display select campaign type, bidding is automated and your ads are shown selectively by Google based on the search criteria and search context.

According to Google, the search network with display select campaign type uses an improved algorithm to predict at what time and on which websites your ads will perform their best. Ads will be shown to a smaller group of users who will likely be better qualified to click and convert on your offer.

Bing Networks

Bing allows you to advertise on two networks. Bing’s two advertising networks are called the “Bing Search Network” and the “Bing Content Network.” As a Bing advertiser, you have the option to run paid-advertising campaigns in one of these networks, both, and even a combination of the two. Which networks you choose to target with your campaigns depend on your marketing goals and campaign strategy, as well as how much you are willing to spend.

In Bing, you are only able to select your campaign type during the campaign setup phase, after you have named your campaign, set a budget, created an ad, chosen some keywords, and clicked “save.”

Bing Ads Campaign Settings

Once you have done all of that, you will be taken to the next campaign setup screen where you can input your campaign network type and respective budgets. To select an individual or combination of networks to target in Bing, click “ad distribution” and select the network(s) that you would like your campaign to target:

Bing PPC Advertising Network

Bing will automatically enroll your campaign in both the search and content networks. Be sure to adjust your network targeting before you finalize creating your campaign to make sure you are not advertising on a network that you would prefer not to target.

If at any point you would like to change the network targeting of a particular campaign that you’ve already created, you will not be able to modify that setting for the entire campaign after you have finalized creating that campaign. You can only adjust your network targeting after creating a campaign by changing the network targeting for individual ad groups in your campaign.

To change the network targeting of an ad group in Bing, select the ad group that you would like to modify and click “settings”:

PPC Advertising Network Targeting

In the “settings” menu, click “ad distribution” and modify your network targeting from here:

Bing PPC Advertising Settings

It’s important to take time to review each of the Bing networks and make a clear decision about which networks you would like to advertise on.

Bing Search Network

The Bing Search Network includes all properties and all properties. These properties include websites that are owned and operated by Microsoft’s and Yahoo’s search partners, an almost identical setup to that of Google’s search partner network. When you are selecting your campaign network targeting in Bing, you will have the option to opt-out of the search partner network, just as you would in Google AdWords.

You need to select the Bing search network during the campaign setup phase:

Bing Advanced Settings

Bing Content Network

The Bing Content Network includes Bing and Yahoo owned-and-operated sites as well as syndicated partner sites that are typically focused on specific interest categories like sports, finance, or technology. Your ads will display based on the keywords that you are bidding on and whether or not those keywords are featured on the page(s) of websites within the content network. Currently, Bing only supports the ability to display text ads on the content network.

You need to select the Bing content network during the campaign setup phase (the second option in the above shot).

Remember, to adjust your network targeting after previously creating a campaign you must make the network change on the ad group level.

Next Steps

Now that you know the process for selecting your network targeting in both AdWords and Bing, the next step is to assess the opportunities that each network can provide and to determine if it makes sense to run differentiated campaigns based on different network types. Typically, it is recommended to target a single network per campaign. In some cases, it can be beneficial to target both the display/content and search networks at the same time, but the results can be mixed, hence Google’s new campaign type, Search Network with Display Select (more on this to come in future posts).

It is important to understand each network type and the advertising opportunities that they present to your business. Each network has many layers to discover in terms of more refined targeting options and optimization techniques. I highly recommend advertisers spend some extra time understanding the features of both the Bing and AdWords networks so that your advertising dollars see maximum return while generating qualified business opportunities.

Here are some great resources to tap into if you would like to learn more about these network types and their applications:


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Sarmista Aun
Jan 15, 2014

Thanks Jeff for showing how to choose the display and search network in Google AdWords. Once again thanks for this awesome post. 

Times of Africa
Apr 24, 2014

Great Post! I personally like the details your shared about Bing. Not many advertiser know it! Thanks for sharing this.

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