I just set up a quick campaign on Google Ad Words for one of my new affiliate sites, and nowhere along the way was I offered the option of being in the content network, nor was I shown this usual checkbox that says I’m going to be included. Doesn’t that seem wrong?

In my experience the content network is the fastest way possible to blow the largest amount of money in the shortest amount of time, while still getting the lowest amount of conversions. if somebody wants to show me any figures that say otherwise I’ll gladly look at them, but I’ll argue till I’m blue in the face that it’s pretty low value.

Here’s the box that we used to see upon sign-up –


Instead of being given the option, it was only after my campaign was actually live, that I remembered I had to go back into the campaign settings and find that box to turn off the content network. The only reason I even know to do that is because I lost so much money in the content network at one point in the past, and it’s one of the first things I lookout when evaluating a clients Adwords account.

(For those that don’t know, not only does the content network include Google’s well-respected partners like the New York Times, About.com and others, but it also includes their “little partners” which is anyone with an Adsense account)

I understand the reason that the default settings was “content network on” (that would be money 😉 but at least users were shown the choice right there, and if they KNEW what the content network was, they were able to turn it off.

If they didn’t know what the content network was, then at least there was that question mark to see what it meant right there.

Before writing this I went back through and did it again just to make sure, and the closest thing I can see, that might offer users a clue, would be this text link on the right, that says “where will my ads appear?”

This is AFTER choosing the campaign name, AFTER choosing the ad group name, AFTER choosing the countries and territories, and only once you’re already into the ad creation fields themselves, then, and only then, is there a “common questions” section off to the right.


However, even following that link forces you to scroll to the middle of the page before you even see a definition of the content network, and absolutely no indication of how to turn that off.

Basically, as far as I can tell, it’s now completely impossible to add a new campaign without being automatically added to the content network. Am I seeing this correctly? When did this change?

11 thoughts on “Google AdWords Forcing Users into Content Network?

  1. Totally agree with you here. Pure and simply, it’s about Google taking advantage of advertisers who have no concept of how poor the Content Network is. I’ve lost count of the number of clients I’ve got that had originally set up their own campaigns, gained little, and the ‘quick fix’ was to take the content network option off before then doing other work on the campaigns.

    Unfortunately, Google are too dominant and their complacency will not change until other players start to innovate. The answers that will make the likes of Yahoo or Microsoft grow significantly overnight are so obvious to us who work in SEM but unfortunately both those organisations have their heads in the sand and so the ultimate losers are their shareholders, advertisers, and the people doing the searching.

  2. I’m am not sure what has changed, since I have been using AdWords Editor for quite awhile, where the choices are much clearer, I may not have noticed a change. But seems to me I remember, “having to remember”, to go back and turn off content targeting in the campaign settings once the campaign was set up. The point, irregardless of specific recent changes, Google has been heavy handed with content targeting for a long time. Shame on’em.

    Many prospects/clients that come to me not only have content targeting turned on, they also don’t know the difference between search and content targeting.

    Is content targeting bad? Something to be cautious with for sure. But I have been proven wrong enough times after pontificating on the evils of content targeting that I do not make such generalizations any longer. Especially if the primary conversion is non-monetary, like a sign-up, download, etc. Plus the new reporting and exclusion tools provide transparency and control that increase your odds of making content targeting profitable. That being said, use with caution nonetheless.


  3. Another piece of BS is that if you’re even want to SEE what you’ve spent in the Content Network, they are no longer displaying that separation in the campaign summaries.

    Instead you have to go into EACH individual Ad Group and look, then to the settings to turn them off.

    That just took me nearly half an hour the other day reviewing an AdWords account for a company with dozens of ad groups in a couple of campaigns. What crap…

    PS – What’s wrong with that website? yikes! Tell your friend to fix it and he’ll get a much better response! 😉

  4. Opting into, or out of, the content network is done at the campaign level. Shouldn’t have to check each ad group unless you are looking for actual numbers.


  5. Right – I was trying to tally all the spending.

    If they aren’t trying to avoid having people ask the question, “what is the content network, and why is it such a large portion of my spending?” then why would they bury it?

  6. 2 weeks ago I did set up some new campaignes and I was searching like an idiot for the checkbox of the contentnetwork.

    And like you mentioned , it isn’t possible anymore when setting up. Only when editing your campaign, you will be able to turn it off.

    Indeed a very sneaky trick if you’re not familiar with Adwords..


  7. Usually at this point I jump in some where and try and take a different view of Google, AdWords, and the Content Network.

    Something more positive than “sneaky trick” or “BS”.

    Not this time, I am not going to take issue with either.

    But I am going to try and keep my own views on this subject on the conservative side, less charged language; and simply say Google should change the distribution options from default to opt-in.

    That is the right thing to do. They know the Cardinal Rule – Quality over Quantity.

    Before I scoot I will drop a mention of MY pet peeve with Google. The broader view that I find most troubling.

    They make it seem so simple, this immense worldwide real time auction called AdWords. Step right up, for $5 you too can start buying advertising in a way never before possible. No problem. Piece of cake.

    So I guess that’s the nexus of my peeve and one of Scott’s favs. AdWords does not need to be made simpler. It isn’t simple. That’s the broader problem.

    Having to choose your distribution options during the campaign creation process does not make the process simpler for the uninitiated. Some would presumably then actually take the time to educate themselves about their options.

    And that would be a good thing.


    Tom Hale
    AdWords Specialist – Internet Strategist

  8. The recent change of Google Adwords ads to actually be links only in the title and URL of the ad, instead of the entire square being “hot” goes a long way towards making the “accidental” clicks a lot less likely, and the value for advertisers a whole lot better.

    It’s definitely a step in the right direction, and LONG overdue, as far as giving advertisers a better ROI.

  9. I’d say its the other way round.

    If you want lots of conversions, target your search words really carefully and use the lowest possible click cost.

    That means you wont get many search clicks or conversions.

    If your targetting is really good, you will hit the right content network sites with a resonable click cost and get the best conversion rate.

    Forget about search clicks, aim for content clicks and relevence.

    Sounds counter-intuitive, but it works.


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