Google’s content network is the biggest advertising network worldwide, reaching over 80% of the internet using population across the globe.

The advertising platform generates in excess of six million impressions every day, across hundreds of thousands of websites across the internet.

Many online advertisers, however, challenge how cost-effective the content network is when compared to Google’s ‘normal’ search network due to the different environments for the two networks.

Google has conducted an evaluation of over 25,000 global accounts for a 12 month period, which ended November 2008, in which they have analysed the conversion metrics from these 25,000 accounts across both networks.

In their analysis, they have chosen to concentrate on cost-per-acquisition (CPA) as the main metric due to the fact that this is one of the best indicators of success and is closely related to return-on-investment (ROI).

From their investigations this is what they have uncovered:

  • Half of advertiser’s content network CPA was at least 2.6% lower than the CPA of the search network.
  • 51.6% of the advertising accounts that were analysed had an average CPA on the content network that was equal or better than the CPA of the search network.
  • One fifth of the conversion volume from the median advertiser’s account were generated by the content network, which implies that there may be limitations on conversion volumes depending on target CPAs.
  • The median percentage for conversions generated by the content network were 19.6% of the total in November 2008 globally.
  • Results varied by both region and total ad spend level, but the overall average across all regions and levels of ad spend analysed, had a median percentage of 9.3% or higher.
  • In the cases where advertiser’s had used Google campaign management tools: the conversion optimiser and site exclusion tool, conversion rates were often higher.

Their evaluation indicates that whilst the content network may not generate the same level of conversion volume as the search network, the cost-per-acquisition is very similar making it as or more cost-effective.

This would indicate that advertising on the content network is a worth while investment, especially if managed correctly using the tools provided by Google, such as the Conversion Optimiser and the Site Exclusion tool.

Clearly, Google have a vested interest in these figures and we would like to see more details before handing over more budget to the content network as we have not typically achieved comparable performance with the content network.

To see the full report see Google’s whitepaper.