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7 Quick Tips On Optimizing Google Search Partners Campaigns

Sean Martin
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For starters, when we speak of Google Search Partners we aren’t talking about any advertiser who decides to team up with Google as their PPC platform. Not everyone advertising on Google is a Google Search Partner.

Essentially, Google Search Partners constitutes a network of different pages, companies, and search engines on which Google is allowed to show its ads. And by its, I mean yours.

And now you see why this post matters to you. If the Google advertising platform extends beyond the Google Search Network and the average SERP on Google’s search engine platform, how in control of your paid campaigns are you, really?

Well, it’s high time you find out.  

What Are Google Search Partners

Google’s whole network is divided into two parts: the Google Search Network and the Google Display Network … Within the search network, the traffic and advertisement placements are further broken down into searches on Google’s own search engine and then searches on Search Partners sites. The searches performed on the actual Google search engine produce the SERPs (search engine results pages) that we’re all so used to. This is the meat and bones of any PPC advertiser’s primary campaigns.

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The classic Google search ads show at the top of the SERP -image source

On the other hand, searches that happen on non-Google search sites fall into the “search partner” category. Sites like YouTube and Amazon.com embed ads from Google after a visitor searches for a video or product.

These types of ads can vary in type and appearance, but are still considered search partner ads. You might recognize them from the screenshot below:

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A classic example of a Google Search Partners ad - image source

Be sure you don’t mix these up with GDN (google display network) ads, as Google Search Network campaigns are quite different from the GDN, which already strays away from ordinary GSN campaigns quite a bit.

To think that these nuances aren’t enough already, Google also allows larger members of the Google Search Partners network to use the Google Custom Search Engine (Google CSE) to make their own sites more easily navigated and searched. These CSE searches are where the real power of the Google Search Partners network explodes.

Large sites like The New York Times, The Guardian, and  W3Schools use Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) to power their site searches. CSE allows publishers to embed Google’s search engine onto their website to help visitors find pages within their site easier.

And, get ready for this, here’s the kicker: There are nearly 506,000 live websites currently using Google Custom Search.

How To Identify Strong Search Partner Sites

Depending on how liberal Google wants to be with “other pages related to the person’s search,” you really can’t control much of your search partner traffic. Search Partners can refer to search engine pages that decided to use Google’s algorithm for a share of the advertising profits, but the scope of the Search Partner network is actually much broader.

Both internal search results and product pages on sites like eBay, Amazon, Walmart or Target can be part of the network.

So what actually distinguishes a strong Google Search Partner site from a weak one? And how can you improve your search partner performance if you can’t identify which search results page to target in the first place? Well it all depends on the search query itself.

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that we - the masters of applied simplicity (see below) - would propose that it’s all a matter of understanding your audience to the best of your ability.

“Complexity is the enemy of execution. On one side of the spectrum you have chaos, and on the other side you have simplicity, and usually our campaigns land somewhere in between. But if we have a higher likelihood of success when building in simplified themes (which is true), why don’t we just shift the scale all the way to the left and maximize simplicity?” - Johnathan Dane, CEO @ KlientBoost

The better you know where your audience is browsing and what they’re looking for, the more holistically you’ll be able to craft your all around campaigns to “pin them in” and engage on all fronts to win that ever-elusive conversion.

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Sorry - might've gotten a bit triggered there…

Why PPC Advertisers Should Care About Search Partner Optimization

The default setting for Google Ad campaigns is to include Search Partners. However, some PPC campaigns will perform better with Google Search, and others will do better (or the same) with Search Partners included. Now, it may be true that your Google Search Partner campaigns aren’t (or at least shouldn’t) be the number one generating of clicks and conversions for you product/service. However, that doesn’t mean that you can afford to be throwing away valuable impressions, engagement, and brand awareness either.

So it’s worth the time to dive into your GSN campaigns ad start playing around a bit with your Google Search Partner settings. You may be surprised what you find.

7 Tips On Optimizing Your Google Search Partner Campaigns

If you can find opportunities in your PPC performance to optimize ads for Search Partners, you can lower your cost per click and reach your audience in new and effective locations. And, as any solid PPC manager worth her salt would know that lowering your CPC without costing your campaigns traffic is never something you pass up on. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at a few quick tips that can help you cut costs using Google Search Partners to boost your ROAS.

Do The Legwork To Find Where Your Audience Browses

Real talk: optimizing Search Partner settings can take a great deal of effort and patience that might not even be worth it.

However, if you do have the time, you could categorically go through your search term report and start spinning queries with lots of impressions out into their own Search Partner ad groups. Through some tireless checking of pages, you can separate out these strange terms by the site they appear on and start to learn more about CPAs by Search Partner.

But the account structure and low volume of traffic will probably not be cost-effective in the long term. So you can either use negative keywords to remove poor performing search partner pages or turn search partners off if the CPA/ROAS is bad.

Low Hanging Fruit: Branded & RLSA Campaigns

If you want to test search partners first - or if you just have an irrational fear of trying new things - the best place for you to start with high-intent targets and test search partners there first.

The first place to try is your brand campaign.

Many advertisers max out their brand campaigns if they have the budget. Why is this? Because when it comes to high-intent level search queries, it’s hard to get more conversion-ready than someone typing your actual brand name into the search bar when looking for a product or service. And the search partner network can drive additional volume for those searches. RLSA campaigns also qualify as reaching low-hanging fruit because these people have already been to your site.

Reviewing Your Keywords & Match Types

Google Ads advertisers can’t adjust bids for search partners, even though the value of this traffic is often very different from that of clicks that come from search network users. At the very least, it would be helpful if Google would allow advertisers to exclude specific search partners (as Bing Ads does).

However, you can review keywords and match types in the campaigns that include search partners, which helps with relevance. As is the case with the “complexity is the enemy of execution” quote from earlier: we like to think that simple and well-segmented campaigns provide the optimal format for relevance and highly targeted campaigns.

And our Single Keyword Ad Group method does the same thing for Search Partner campaigns as it does for ordinary GSN campaigns and SPAGs as well (for our eCommerce friends).

Segmenting Your Campaigns By…

Campaign segmentation goes beyond just the keyword and ad group level.

Segmenting your device data by search partners lets you zero in. You might find that one device performs much better than the other.

Also, performance might be skewed across match types. A segmented keyword report allows you to easily pivot the data and see how each of the match types perform across the networks. Often, but not always, search partners tend not to perform as well on broad match keywords.

Consider The Differences Between Search & Display Partners

Advertisers can segment performance by network to see how their clicks perform on Google Search versus Search Partners. To do this, click on the Segment icon (three horizontal lines next to the Filter icon which is a funnel) and select Network (with search partners). You will then have multiple rows of data for each campaign.

Test New Offers And Functionality With Search Partners Ads

It’s worth mentioning that even if Search Partners didn’t work for you in a previous campaign, they might still have a positive payoff with a different offer. The different tactics (above and below) might work better on a different audience niche, for example.

Also, since Google Ads is constantly changing, it’s worth testing – and retesting – different features. For example, Google didn’t roll out smart bidding to the search partners until the end of 2018. This change could make it worth another test if your campaigns have excluded search partners until now.

Duplicate Ordinary Campaigns Over To Google Search Partners

Another hack attempt is duplicating campaigns - one with both Google & Search Partners and one with just Google. By setting the first to slightly higher bids, the Google-only campaign tends to win the auction, which leaves just Search Partner traffic for the campaign with both.

This method kind of defeats the point of optimizing search partners on a keyword basis, however, and any CPC changes have to be meticulously recreated for both campaigns, as accidentally bidding up the Search Partner-only one would break everything.

But, if you’re looking for a quick way to scale your already successful GSN campaigns by using the partners networks, this might just be it. Duplicating from wins is a great way to increase the targeted reach of your successful ads without having to double down to heavily on budget.

Quick Pros & Cons of The Google Search Partners Network

There are some clear benefits to advertising on search partner sites, such as a lower average CPC. And depending on what you’re advertising, you might receive a high click conversion rate.

Including search partners, however, also requires keeping a close eye on the performance of Keywords in your campaign that are shown on search partner sites. Unprofitable clicks can drain your budget if your ads appear on search partner sites that generate a low conversion rate.

If your campaigns are generating poor conversion rates, splitting out search partner data is a good place to start. It’s important to keep a close eye on converted clicks and the CTRs of ads shown on search partner sites.

Google says that ads on search partner sites will not affect your keyword Quality Score, which means that your average CPC will not be affected by low search partner CTRs. But poor CTRs from search partner ads will still skew your campaign’s overall performance data.

Wrapping Up Google Search Partners

So we’ve completed our brief journey through the Google Search Partner Network. We’ve covered some light pros and cons regarding using, leaning on, and optimizing your Google Search Partner campaigns. And we’ve even ran through a few quick tips on how to make the most of your Search Partner performance to make sure that you aren’t left alone in the dark if you run up this blind alley or down that dead end.

Now what’s left? Well that’s up to you. Now it’s time for you to go and start making the most of your Google Search Partner appearances. And if not - hey - there’s always some folks who are willing to partner up with you in the classic PPC sense just by clicking the button below.