Quantity Over Quality? Fighting Google’s Display Network Behemoth
I recently wrote an article advocating testing networks outside of Google AdWords to find other viable options for my clients’ spend. The argument was that online advertisers have begun to rely too heavily on Google, and so we need to discover other avenues to success. My goal is to move 20% of my client’s budget to networks that outperform AdWords. My first major attempts to migrate budgets away from Google showed mixed results.
Quantity Over Quality
Working with a diaper company, we decided to test a mom display network. After reviewing the top mom networks, we chose BabyCenter because they had a large audience, multiple targeting options, and an existing relationship with my client. We then allocated our monthly AdWords Display budget to BabyCenter with the hopes the ads would outperform contextual AdWords targeting.
The numbers below are not actual results but representative of actual performance.
No sales. Even from branding campaigns, when you make no sales whatsoever, it becomes very difficult to justify the expenditure. It becomes even harder when the network you are trying to displace drove sales.
Looking at the quality of visitor from AdWords v. BabyCenter, we don’t see that much of a difference in quality of traffic. The two networks performed similarly in terms of bounce rate, time on site, pages per visit, & micro-conversion completions. Sure, I could maybe argue visitors from BabyCenter are more qualified because they are more likely to locate a store, but AdWords drove over ten times as much traffic. Google’s Display Network wins by sheer volume.
Search Traffic v. Audience Targeting
My other attempt to dislodge budget from the Google machine went much better.
Email marketing is an expensive keyword to target in AdWords. There are quite a few service providers (ESPs), and they all are willing to bid the heck out of email marketing terms. Targeting exact match email marketing queries consistently costs over $40 per click in ad position #4. We needed to find a better way to target folks interested in email marketing.
Enter Yahoo Plus.
Over drinks with a Yahoo rep, he mentioned domain targeting in Yahoo Mail. Simple concept: advertisers target emails from specific domains; when a user opens an email from a targeted domain, the advertiser’s ad appears alongside the email. Essentially, domain targeting allows advertisers to target competitor email newsletters and email correspondence.
I immediately wanted to test. We decided to target multiple ESPs. We also decided to test search retargeting. For search retargeting, we targeted users who previously search for email marketing keywords (e.g. email marketing, email marketing software) on Yahoo. Again, the numbers are not exact but representative:
I highlighted the search retargeting campaign. Whereas, before we paid over $40 per click to reach users who searched for email marketing, we now got them to visit our email marketing landing page for less than $2.50. Furthermore, we cut cost per qualified lead from over $800 down to less than $200.
So mission partly accomplished. I have effectively funneled some of budget spent on Google to a different network and remained profitable for my client. You can too. I plan on continuing to test domain targeting and search retargeting going forward as well as email retargeting, which I discuss here, but my appetite for niche display networks has certainly waned.