Last week Google rolled out new AdWords metrics that provided advertisers a look at performance on Google versus Google Search Partners. These search partners include AOL and Ask but also a group of anonymous others of varying size and quality.
Many search engine marketers have been concerned that the performance on Google's search partners might be substantially less than those on Google itself. The mentality is understandable since Google's Content Network has such comparably poor performance. Yes, that can be explained by the difference between passive and active searches but you can't blame folks for being skeptical. Could Google be hiding poor performing partners by combining Google and Google Search Partners together?
The verdict? Among the accounts that I monitor and manage the results from the Search Network seem solid, which is likely why Google agreed to this level of transparency. A few campaigns index above 'The Google', a few index below. Perhaps it's always been this way, or perhaps Google has quietly gone about optimizing the Search Partner Network. I'm guessing this is in response to a rising trend of advertisers who were avoiding the Search Network.
Savvy search engine marketers will turn off poorly performing Search Network campaigns, but will also opt-in to the Search Network more readily now that they have this level of detail. Since this setting is at the campaign level it may force advertisers to split or divide their campaigns to toggle appropriate ad groups in or out of the Partner Network based on performance.
The net result of this change will be more advertisers participating on the Search Network but doing so when it makes economic sense. Another potential side effect will be greater competition within the Search Partner Network which could increase CPCs and decrease volume.
The thing is, there's still a lot we don't know. We don't know which partners/sites are contributing to these metrics. Sure, we get to see the aggregate data, but we don't get anything more. So you won't be able to selectively block ads from appearing on certain partners based on performance, whether real or perceived.
As an aside, I find it interesting that they chose to feature an account which showed a low CPC (under ten cents), but also a very low CTR (under 1%). It seems like a not-so-subtle way to show that AdWords can be inexpensive. Never mind that a low CTR contributes negatively to your ad quality score.
While I would prefer more detail, it's a step in the right direction and gives advertisers a new way to target and optimize their programs.