Have you ever tried something once, failed, and ditched it entirely because of that bad experience? Few of us would ever learn to ride a bike or do much of anything else following that model. Yet, that’s exactly the approach many B2B marketers have taken with content networks. But ruling them out could be a mistake.
Understanding the value
It is understandable that B2B marketers might abandon a content network after their campaigns suffered from poor performance. However, when properly managed, content network campaigns can help B2B marketers address two of their most common challenges: generating qualified leads and overcoming lengthy conversion cycles.
For those unfamiliar with content networks, they are syndicated networks of Web sites which provide content for visitors and allow advertisers to display ads alongside that content in the form of text, videos, images, etc. As such, content network campaigns can help with lead generation by enabling B2B marketers to reach their target audience at an early stage in the conversion cycle when they are seeking information.
As an added bonus, this early-stage targeting often enables marketers to introduce their brand into the consideration set while simultaneously capitalizing on competitors’ publicity efforts. Ultimately, content networks allow B2B marketers to tap into a pool of qualified leads and potential customers.
Seeing it in action
Consider B2B Software Company X, for example. Their conversion point is to get users to trial their software, and afterwards, engage in a one year contract. For them, the ideal qualified lead is someone like Paul. President of a small accounting firm, Paul has a business problem that he knows he needs to fix, and is in the midst of researching potential solutions. During his due diligence process, he comes across a review of a product by one of Software Company X’s competitors.
At the same time, he sees an ad for Software Company X’s offering alongside the review. Intrigued, Paul clicks through the ad, is taken to Software Company X’s informative and well optimized landing page, and signs up for the trial. If Software Company X had not been testing a campaign in a content network, they would have missed out on this opportunity to engage with Paul while he was researching a solution for his problem.
Making it work
Clearly, content networks hold value for B2B marketers; however, there is a key to making them work. Many marketers think they can just copy their search campaigns and merely change the targeting settings, but that’s where they often go wrong. In fact, that approach may lead to the poor performance that actually causes B2B marketers to nix their content efforts entirely.
Instead, marketers need to treat their content network campaigns as separate entities from their search campaigns, and structure and optimize them accordingly. In addition, because content campaigns are theme based and not strictly keyword based, they often require more testing to find out what works best. This element is absolutely essential to achieving success in a content network. If a marketer is open to testing, tweaking, and making necessary adjustments along the way, they could stand to benefit a great deal from content networks. Below are four tips to help you get started:
1. Use many ad groups and build themes. In a successful content campaign, the organization of ad groups and keywords is almost as important as the keywords you’re targeting themselves. For that reason, it’s important to begin with ad groups. To start, identify themes which define your product or service, along with those that your target audience may be researching as they begin their journey. Each theme should be organized as an ad group, keeping one theme per ad group.
In addition, don’t be afraid to create many ad groups as it will help the network’s algorithms identify the most relevant placements for your ad. However, don’t mix themes in ad groups as it will confuse the algorithms. If you get stuck, there are tools available to help. For instance, Google’s Wonder Wheel tool can assist you in identifying themes for content ad groups.
2. Create specific keywords. Once you have identified your ad group themes, it’s time to start creating keywords. Again, the search engines have multiple tools to help you build out keywords but feel free to leverage the keywords from your search campaigns by fitting them into your new themed content ad groups. However, keep in mind that while broader keywords can be important and help you capture more impressions and clicks, you also might want to consider using specific keywords in your content campaign.
Doing so will help you avoid ambiguity when the network’s algorithm works to identify the most relevant placements for getting your ad in front of potential customers. In addition, there is no need to include misspellings. While they can be an important way to capture demand in your search campaigns, they aren’t necessary for content campaigns as they won’t help the algorithm figure out what your theme is.
3. Implement tracking to better optimize performance. While tracking is an integral part in the successful measurement and optimization of search campaigns, many marketers often ignore it for content campaigns, or some merely track overall conversions, but not on a site by site basis. However, placement level tracking is key for a content campaign. In short, it is important because it will allow you to see the volume of leads you’re receiving from each placement so you can optimize effectively. By understanding the conversion rates by placement, a B2B marketer can refine their placement strategy in an effort to improve CTRs, conversion rates, and lower their CPA by spending only on those sites which perform well.
4. Cast a net wide, then refine. Now that you’ve completed your ad group structure, keyword generation, and have implemented tracking, you’re ready to start targeting. But where do you begin? Many B2B marketers question whether they should start their content network testing by targeting certain sites on a content network (often referred to as Managed Placements) or whether they should start wide and target all sites or certain categories of sites.
Ultimately, many B2B marketers experience content network success after finding those niche sites where they can reach their specific target audience. To find those sites, you should cast your net wide, and then narrow your placement targeting based on what is relevant to your business and what is converting well. Running on a larger number of sites will give you more data to determine what sites work and which ones don’t. Exclude the sites which are not ideal for your brand or those which perform poorly.
Try, try again
If you’ve tried content networks in the past without much success, perhaps it is time to give them another try. B2B marketers who are open to testing will find that content networks are an effective channel for reaching their target audience, and that they can deliver a pool of qualified leads and potential customers.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.