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When setting up a new campaign within AdWords we are faced with several options as to where we would like to display our ads. Within the campaign settings of AdWords there are several options in terms of where we choose to display ad text for each and every ad in that particular campaign. These include the following:

Campaign Targetting Options

To select ‘Search partners’ requires that we also select ‘Google Search’ but exactly what are the search partners? The search partner network includes the following:

* AOL
* Ask.com
* Netscape Netcenter
* Earthlink
* Compuserve
* Shopping.com
* AT&T Worldnet

The problem with many accounts that we have reviewed recently is that there appears to have been little if any attention/analysis paid to the performance of these two search options. This is in spite of the use of AdWords conversion tracking to help track performance by network, as well as by campaign, ad group, ad and keyword.

A quick look at the ‘Networks’ tab in for any particular ad group will display a breakdown of performance by Google search and by search partners. The screenshot below shows that performance between the two search options for this particular ad group is very similar with the search partner’s delivering over 20% of the total sales, at a conversion rate of 0.34% compared to Google searches conversion rate of 0.31%

Search Network Performance Comparison

In the above instance, the case for running search partner activity is a ‘no-brainer’ as it is clearly delivering. If we look at another ad group within the same account though, (below) we can see that the conversion rate for the Search partner network stands at 1.64% while Google search is delivering conversions at a rate of 3.39%.

Search Network Performance Comparison II

In many cases we found ad groups with vast amounts of impression share available on Google search yet the search network was continuing to be used. If we were looking to maximise exposure and we were already achieving maximum exposure for an ad group on Google search we of course might tolerate sales at a conversion rate of 1.64% on the Search partners but certainly not ahead of Google search when the conversion rate is 107% higher!

Several reports within AdWords also allow for comparative search performance data to be shown if the ‘Ad distribution: with search partners’ option is checked under the ‘Add or remove columns’ of the reports ‘Advanced Settings’.

Advanced Reporting Options

This will then display report data as below:

Ad Group Report- Performance Breakdown by Search

Given that the search partners display Google results yet place much more emphasis and devote more space to PPC ads, we would strongly recommend at least trialling this if you’re not already. If you’re using search partners but do not have AdWords conversion tracking installed, it will likely be a worthwhile exercise to set this up in order to track performance more effectively within AdWords and through the reports available. It is also worth noting that the click-through rate of the search partners doesn’t affect quality scores on Google search minimising the risk of any trial yet further.

Search Partner Results Example

Happy hunting!