Google Search Partners uses contextual advertising to place your products with relevant content on the Google search network. Does it work?
Contextual advertising is an established strategy with search engine marketing (SEM). It uses the search algorithm’s ability to understand the context of a webpage to place relevant advertisements on the page.
For example, if I do a search on how to steady my putting stroke, the article I read will have advertisements from ecommerce merchants selling putters. Better yet, it will have a putter specifically designed to make it easier to steady your stroke.
The impetus for contextual advertising is to catch consumers in the information seeking phase of the buying cycle. With online marketing, we know that the first step towards an eventual purchase is researching the problem. The internet makes doing this type of research easy. When you can place a product that’s a solution to an active problem in front of the targeted consumer, you have a good chance to get them into your sales funnel.
In reality, contextual advertising removes one of the most advantageous elements of inbound marketing: specified intent.
When someone does a search on “new putters” or “best putters for balance”, they show a specified buying intent. The search strongly indicates the person wants to purchase a new putter. Product listing ads for these searches are vital.
Contextual advertising, on the other hand, is not really inbound. The intent to purchase may or may not be present. I may be happy with my putter, I’m just looking for ways to improve my stance.
There is a caveat here. These ads will also show-up on other retailer sites selling products. So if someone is shopping for putters on Walmart, you can have a competing ad showing along side their products.
But overall, contextual advertising on the display/search networks is not as targeted as a direct search result. Furthermore, the placement of ads based on context is not always very targeted. My putter ad might show up on any webpage related to golf, including some that are not likely to motivate buyers.
You also have no control over the sites your ads are displayed on, though you can exclude specific sites.
So should you run these ads?
The short answer is yes – but don’t expect much.
Recent data shows us that with the Google Search Network, only about 1% of sales come off the search network. Clicks and budget use are similarly minimal.
You can get some exposure here, maybe some sales, and it won’t cost you much. But for smaller brands, this type of advertising sounds better in theory that in tends to work in reality.