Content Is King: Q&A With David Szetela


szetela_small.jpgADOTAS – David Szetela is a leading proponent of pay-per-performance advertising programs. He recently launched a new book “Customers Now: Profiting from the New Frontier of Content-Based Internet Advertising” at ad:tech New York.

In this spotlight, David describes the growing opportunity with content network advertising and how important it is to understand the best practices for content ad campaigns versus search ad campaigns.

1) In your book, you describe major opportunities in content network advertising. Content advertising on AdWords seems to have a bad reputation among search advertisers – why is that?

Many Google AdWords advertisers have tried expanding to the Google content network, only to watch their costs soar, while revenue/profits failed to keep pace. Other advertisers shied away from the AdWords content network because they heard it delivered poor quality traffic. Nothing could be further from the truth; the quality of the traffic is just fine.

Content advertisers can get excellent results—better than acceptable conversions (sales or leads) that deliver profitable revenue to the bottom line. The key is for search advertisers to understand that they need to use very different tactics and best practices to control ad placement and attract high-quality site visitors.

2) So why should advertisers appropriate budget in 2010 to test and build content advertising?

There are a number of reasons covered in my book. The top reasons include:

  • Content network click prices are usually less expensive, with fewer competitors in nearly every category
  • Content network “click inventory” – the number of available impressions and clicks – is growing much more quickly than search inventory – through search engine content networks operated by Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, as well as independent networks like ContextWeb’s ADSDAQ Exchange
  • Advertisers can learn to tightly target customers they would not be able to reach deploying only search advertising
  • Content advertising can target niche demographic and behavioral segments
  • Advertisers can use high-impact static and animated graphic ad media

3) In your book, you’re also a proponent for content network advertising as a starting point for test campaigns aimed at new target audiences.

Yes, absolutely. It’s much less expensive to test messages and ads on a content network than on search. For example, you can test new ads on a high-quality content site at the category level (i.e., food section). Or all the way down to the article-content level (i.e., the best imported chocolate). Content networks are also great opportunities for inexpensively testing dynamic media like flash or video for response rate and conversions.

4) Why have advertisers traditionally fared so poorly at content network advertising?

Some of the top reasons are:

  • Ads may appear on irrelevant sites because the advertiser doesn’t understand how to hyper-target relevant sites
  • Advertisers run the same ads on both the search and content networks – not realizing content network ad copy and design must be very different
  • Advertisers either forget or not realize content advertising reaches new prospects earlier in the consideration process, so a “hard offer” (e.g. for an immediate sale) might not work as well as a “soft offer” (e.g. a newsletter signup).

5) You stress in your book that intent of site visitors who have clicked on a content network ad is not the same as visitors who have clicked on a search ad. Explain how they are different.

It’s all about where the viewer/reader is in the buying process. When a visitor clicks on a banner ad, they are not in the buying phase – they usually have not even begun to do active research. The ad has merely convinced the visitor that there might be something worthwhile on the site.

In contrast, when a viewer/reader clicks on an ad on a search results page, they are closer to the buying phase – they’re doing active research and are likely to make a decision.

6) You focus on the best practices of content advertising vs. search advertising; what are some of the unique practices for content ad campaigns?

To start with, the role and function of keywords in a content network ad group is much different than those in a search ad group. Content ad group keywords describe the kinds of pages where the advertiser wants their ads to appear. The advertiser is literally telling Google, “Show my ad on pages that contain most or all of these words.” For example, a vendor of vacation insurance might target holiday-goers by using a keyword list that contains the words ”Vacation Holiday Cruise Tours.”

Another big difference: content network ad copy must be very different from those used in search advertising. Objective number one of a content network ad is to distract the reader’s attention away from the page’s content. Ads need to yell, not whisper, and pop off the page, rather than blend into the surroundings.

In addition, I recommend advertisers make very competitive offers in order to attract prospective new buyers – for example, free shipping or 20% discount for first-time purchases.

Finally, advertisers have a lot of latitude with ad copy and design, since there’s no penalty if the ad copy doesn’t match the keyword list. So it’s a good practice to test a wide variety of ads and offers.

7) Describe a good image ad versus a bad image ad.

A good image ad must be eye-catching enough to stand out from the content on the page. This can be a big challenge these days, with site visitors so accustomed to skipping right past banner ads, so a great banner ad needs to telegraph several concepts in rapid succession: “I’m worth looking at”; “I have something – a benefit – that you might be interested in”; “It’s clear what action you should take to find out more.” The benefit must be clear and immediately compelling, like “Save $300 per Year on Home Heating Oil – Starting Now!”

For more information about Clix Marketing, or if you have additional questions for David, please visit:

David Szetela, CEO and Founder, Clix Marketing:Online Advertising guru David Szetela founded Clix Marketing in 2003, following a 25-year career in technology sales and marketing as an executive at Apple Computer and Ziff-Davis Publishing. He is active in the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) and is the PPC expert faculty member for certification company Market Motive. He is a regular speaker at ad:tech, Search Engine Strategies, SMX and PPC Summit, and he hosts a weekly radio show, PPC Rockstars.


  1. Good article. It should be viewed as a sign that high-quality written content is extremely valuable.

    In the near future, only those affiliate networks who employ skilled writers will have a chance to profit. All others will perish.

    Therefore, it’s not enough to have PHP programmers and affiliate sales reps.

  2. The content network on Google and Yahoo has traditionally been poor converting. Yahoo it has been just awful in the past with massive amounts of click fraud. Google has gotten better, but I still personally feel that straight search traffic is better converting then content network traffic…

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