Search Network or Content Network?

content-v-searchHow exactly does the content network work?  Should I be using it for my business or strictly stick with the search engine side of ppc?  Is it worth the effort involved?  Will I receive enough traffic compared to search engine ppc to justify the time do work with the content network?  These are all very valid questions when it comes to deciding to stick with strictly search engine ppc traffic or move to the content network as well.  Believe it or not, most affiliates tend to stick with the search engine side of ppc, don’t believe me, look at the results in the sidebar on traffic methods people are using to get traffic to their affiliate sites!

What’s the Difference?

One of the first questions I get all the time is what is the difference between the search network and the content network, so real quick, the difference between the two is that when you are strictly bidding on the search network, your ads show up only on search pages, which could also include search results of partners that the search engine may have.  When you are bidding on the content network, you ads may show up for any site that is signed up for their ad program and have ads on their websites.  If you are bidding on an ad for car parts, your ad may show up on a website about cars.  If you are bidding on the search network, you ads would only show up for keywords done about cars on the search engine.

Search Network

When running your ads on the search network, which is the most talked about method on this site, you are bidding on groups of keywords and when those keywords are typed into let’s say Google, your ads show up in the results.

So with the search network you are dealing with keywords, bid prices, and figuring out which keywords convert well.

Content Network

When you are running your ads on the content network, you are bidding on keywords that are related to your niche, but your ads will show up on websites that pertain to those keywords as per the example I gave above.  If you are bidding on keywords about car parts, your ad may show up on a website about cars.

With the content network, you are still dealing with keywords, but you’re also dealing with finding out which websites are converting really well and which ones aren’t, then excluding the websites that aren’t.  So it takes a bit more work, and you have no control where the ads are shown, so if the owner of the website changes these ads around, it could make a site that does great, go really bad.

Running Both?

Most affiliates start off running one or the other, but eventually, most affiliates start using both methods as a way of getting traffic to their affiliates sites, especially once they get a campaign that is doing well and their trying to scale it out.  They may get stuck on one or the other so try out the other in order to increase their traffic.

Personally, I recommend using both as both can be extremely profitable if done right, and both can drive huge amounts of traffic to your affiliates sites.  I know the search network is favored more, but honestly, I’ve seen the content network perform pretty consistently for me as well and sometimes even better in certain niches.  So by running just one or the other, you jeopardize your earning potential.

One Important Note:

This article isn’t really an article detailing exactly how to go about doing the content network, although if enough interest is expressed in the comments, I may write an entire article detailing how to use the content network, however, there is one very important point that I want to make to those that may be thinking about running both the search network and the content network.

The important point is that if you choose to run both, you need to make sure you create two separate campaigns.  One campaign that only runs on the search network, and one campaign that only runs on the content network.  These two networks are completely different and require totally different things in order for them to work.

In fact, most of the times, I even run separate domains and landing pages for my content network stuff and search network stuff.

Bottom Line:

If you’re not using both methods to drive traffic you’re really losing out!  They are both excellent methods of driving traffic, and I honestly don’t think you should only pick one, sure it’s more work working with both the search and content network, but it’s so worth it!


  1. Yeah, put my name down too. I would love a follow-up post on more fully using the content network… especially if you could also cover geo targeting.

  2. Carl Coddington says:

    I hope you write an article explaining the content network. I just subscribed to your blog looking out for this info in the future. Good luck.

  3. Hey Derek,

    Great 101 explanation of the difference. It would be cool to see a write up on how to master the content network. Thanks

  4. Thank you, I love this! I’m looking forward to hearing more regarding content network. One thing I noticed is when I did a starting bid on the content network, nothing happened. Is that because I need to have a separate campaign for content and a separate one for search as you have indicated in this article?

    Take care,

  5. Jerrel Pickens says:

    It makes sense that campaigns are set up differently between each network but I don’t know what the difference would be between them yet, as of right now I’m just trying to master the search network..

    I also hear that if done correctly, a well set up campaign on the content network has more profit potential than on the search network?

  6. Can you write some posts about how to optimize the campaign on the content network?
    Thank you!

  7. James M. Dean says:

    Yeah, I’d love to see the next article. The Content Network has never worked for me and Search is getting out of my league.

  8. That’s not necessarily true, I mean sometimes your content network campaign will do better, however, sometimes your search campaign will. It all depends on the niche, and how well you set each one up.

  9. You definitely need to have a separate campaign for each, but it could also be that your bids are too low, or that your quality score is too low.

  10. Wow, sounds like a lot of people would love some info on the content network, I’ll get busy! 😀

  11. Yes quality score was okay,but it says nothing on the bid, so I’ll work on adjusting that and see how that works. Thank you so much for the article. I’m thoroughly enjoying my subscription.

  12. I personally choose to avoid the content network. Over the years there have simply been too many problems with click fraud. There are a lot of low quality MFA sites too. So it can be a battle to not get ripped off on the content network. Still if you find the right niche & the right websites to advertise on, it can be very profitable.

  13. Is anyone finding that ctr can be adversely affected by search partners? One of my clients has ctr of 2.76%, however, when he adds in the Search partners at .88%, his ctr goes down to 1.73%. How is Google calculating that? Wouldn’t the ctr increase due to showing the ads across multiple search partners?

  14. Hey thanks for the informative article. I always recommend my clients start witht he Search Network. I find its a good way for them to learn about PPC and them branch into the content network once they feel more comfortable.

  15. I don’t really target the content network, but I am sure there are plenty of good advertising deals there. I just couldn’t be bothered to keep monitoring which sites my ads show up on and which ones are not converting. I don’t want to pay someone for clicks during this testing phase.

  16. Love Graphics says:

    Only in rare cases would I recommend someone to use the Content Network. I think the only reason most people use it is because they don’t know how to select just Search Network.

  17. Good point. By default you are advertising on both the search network and content network. So I am sure there are a lot of people who have no idea that their ads are not just on

  18. Thanks for information about search network and content network. I thought content network is not good for running ads.

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