There are a lot of factors an advertiser needs to consider before deciding on contextual versus keyword-based pay-per-click options.
However, the best way to quickly discover which factors may work in your favor, with either model, is to investigate the contextual marketplace by experimenting with your ongoing ad campaigns.
Before you begin any contextual search ad campaign, ensure that your keyword-based search ad setup is working at its optimal capacity.
The first step is to ensure that the content tracking option is turned off, if you use Google or Yahoo in your basic setup.
When you first open an account with these two search engines, “content search” is automatically set to the “on” position.
However, if you are only interested in pay-per-click search ads, or you are going to test contextual advertising, you need to adjust these settings to your preferences. You can find this setting on the basic setup page of your account.
Once you have turned content matching off, take some time and look at your keywords.
Then track and analyze your data from the search network to ensure that you have your keywords positioned where you want them to be and that you arc happy with the results you are getting from your PPC search campaign(s).
Add negative keywords where appropriate, and remove any keywords that aren’t performing to your expectations.
In effect, get your search-based pay-per-click ad campaign as close to perfection as possible, so that you will be able to make an accurate comparison between it and the contextual search version you will set up.
As an example of how to test contextual advertising against the other means that visitors use to find your site, let’s use a situation based on a Google account.
You will need to set up to three separate campaigns-one that will reveal your natural or organic search results, one that will show your pay-per-click ad campaign search results, and a Final one that will show results from a pay-per-click contextual results ad campaign.
Using your base campaign, make two copies of the entire campaign, and then change the settings for “where to show my ad” to:
• One with neither box checked (this can be left out if you are not concerned about your natural ranking in search engines)
• One with “search network” only checked
Ensure that you have individual tracking set up for every keyword in each of the three campaigns, with appropriate identifiers set up in the tracking URLs, so that you can analyze the data completely.
Set the campaigns to run at the same time and let them run for a reasonable amount of time-anywhere from a week to as long as a month-so that you can collect enough impressions on each separate campaign to have adequate data to analyze.
Once the ads have run long enough to generate sufficient data, stop the campaigns and then reactivate your original campaign.
At this point, you must analyze the data from the separate campaigns in order to determine whether PPC search ads resulted in more positive results than did the PPC contextual ads.
Although you can use the tracking tools available in Google to analyze the data, we recommend that you also use a third-party tool to compare the different analyses.
If you do not own a third-party tool, some of the more popular ones do have trial periods available that would allow you to download the software and analyze the data from the test period.
Be aware that trial software often does not have the full features of the program enabled.
Finally, look at the data yourself. Invest as much time as necessary to fully understand the different results you most likely received from the different ad campaigns, concentrating particularly on clickthrough rates and conversions.
If you discover that the campaigns received a lot of impressions, but not as many clickthroughs as you had expected, you may need to revise your keywords and ads a little more.
If this is the case, re-run the trials and see if the results come out any clearer.
Most analysts say that contextual ads lead to fewer conversions than PPC search engine ads, due to the timing of when the visitor sees the ad, in terms of his or her stage in the buying cycle.
Those who reach your website via PPC search tend to be further along the sales cycle. This means that they arc drilling down with more specific keywords and actively looking for businesses that sell the product they are searching for, in order to make the final decision.
Given this, many advertisers at first see contextual advertising as a poor choice if their sole intent is to sell products online.
However, there are some distinct advantages to be gained via contextual search advertising, as long as the advertiser realizes that conversions will likely be smaller.
One of the main advantages is that keywords in contextual advertising tend to cost less than keywords used in PPC search.
Therefore, an ad campaign based on content can cost less, so fewer conversions can still result in a decent ROI.
As well, one cannot discount the exposure of your product and website in any format online, but particularly in content-rich pages.
Typically, visitors who are reading such content online already have a high degree of interest in the topic.
Therefore, they may be more likely to notice your ad or at least make note of your website as a possible avenue to explore when they arc closer to the end of the sales cycle and ready to purchase.
This can be particularly beneficial to smaller websites, who face a great deal of difficulty in building brand recognition in the Internet marketplace.
By attracting the attention of a reader who is already interested in the product, it may give a small business owner a leg up on larger competitors, who rely on their brand name to bring shoppers directly to their websites.
Another advantage of contextual advertising is that it may have more appeal to those Internet users who find the search process difficult and frustrating.
If a user has tried to find the product lie is looking for by placing keywords in a search engine’s search box and has repeatedly been unable to find relevant results frustration will set in.
Some may instead click on the contextual results that come up, such as links to online magazines or review sites.
If your ad shows up when they are investigating those secondary sites, their frustration at the whole process may lead them to click onto your ad and propel them further into the sales cycle on that basis alone.
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