Google AdWords Placement Targeting: Tools for Success

Managed placement targeting on the Google AdWords content network is one of the most accurate and potentially profitable weapons in the PPC arsenal. Because this tactic is based solely on the content network, it’s often disregarded or ignored due to misplaced skepticism and widely accepted misinformation about the content network as a whole.

While I could wax poetic about the content network, today I’ll simply focus on tools and strategies for placement targeting that will lead you to greater PPC success!

What is Placement Targeting?

Google’s content network version 1.0 was a system that placed your ads on websites based on the theme of your keyword lists and your ad copy. There was no way to dictate specific sites you wanted to target, you could only block those sites that were not working. This system is still employed today, but now it’s called “Automatic Placements” in AdWords, and many advertisers refer to this as “keyword targeting” for content.

Content network 2.0 brought about placement targeting — labeled as “managed placements” in AdWords. This system allows you to pick specific websites that are a part of the content network and individually bid on those sites for placement. Because you’re hand-selecting the sites to place your ads on, you don’t use keywords for targeting purposes.

If managed properly, placement targeting is an effective way of leveraging the content network for pinpoint targeted traffic and conversions.

Fit Placement Targeting Into Your AdWords Strategy

Finding success with placement targeting requires a shift in strategy from traditional content network targeting. The first step to doing this is to literally fit placement targeting into your AdWords strategy:

  1. If you haven’t done so already, create separate campaigns for search network and content network targeting. This is PPC 101, but I’m offering up this reminder just in case.
  2. Now take it one step farther — separate your content network efforts into unique campaigns for “managed” (placement targeting) and “automatic” (keyword targeting). You can alter these settings at the campaign level using the check boxes seen here:

Networks and devices

Tools for Finding Relevant Sites to Target

  • Placement Performance Reports: The first place to look for finding websites for your placement targeting campaign is already in your AdWords account! If you’ve been running automatic, keyword-targeted content campaigns, you have a goldmine of performance data. Run the placement performance report and create a list of those sites that are performing best and add those to your new placement targeting campaign.
  • Google AdWords Placement Tool: Google provide a powerful tool to search their internal database of available Content Network sites in AdWords under the Opportunities tab (see image below). You can search either by keyword(s) or by entering a website that Google will crawl and use to find relevant sites. When performing keyword searches, limit your search to a single keyword if possible. Multiple-keyword searches with this tool tends to confuse Google and generates muddled results. No matter how you search, make sure you review the sites you choose to target to ensure they are relevant (yes, Google is not perfect).
  • Auxiliary Tools: Placement targeting has generated a cottage industry of tools to find sites to target. Some of my favorites are Shoemoney Tools’ AdSense Crawler, The Placement Locator, and Content Bully.

Find placements

No matter how you find websites for content network placement targeting, play it smart. Set reasonable CPC bids and monitor your performance. Ultimately, by taking the power of the content network into your own hands, you stand the chance to boost click traffic and increase relevant, affordable conversions.

Originally posted May 28, 2010 on

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