There’s a little checkbox in your AdWords campaign settings that has the potential to make or break your campaigns. Right next to where you select the Google Search Network for your network selection, there is an option for “Include search partners” that is selected by default.
Take a second to think about this option and you may be wondering
WHAT ARE GOOGLE SEARCH PARTNERS?
Google Search Partners include non-Google websites that use Google’s search bar and results. There are hundreds of these sites – sites like aol.com, ask.com, excite.com, and many other smaller sites.
The other main Search Partners are Google Maps and YouTube. This is important to note if you are advertising a local business. Most local businesses will want their ads to show up when people are searching on Google Maps. The only way to allow this is to enable Google Search Partners.
Unfortunately, there is no way to specify which Search Partners you want your ads to run on. It is all or nothing. You also cannot create a campaign that targets the Search Partner Network exclusively.
Luckily, it is easy to determine whether or not you should include the Partner Network in your Search campaign.
HOW TO VIEW SEARCH PARTNER NETWORK DATA
When logged into AdWords and on any of the main campaign tabs (Campaigns, Ad groups, Ads, Keywords, Ad extensions), there is a Segment dropdown button where you can select “Network (with search partners)”:
After you select this option, you will be able to see separate “Google search” and “Search Partners” data. What you find may surprise you.
Here are some actual results I have seen. In this first example, the standard Google search traffic converted 436% better than the Search Partner traffic. The Search Partner network also had a much lower click-through rate.
In the next example, the Search Partner traffic is converting much better. Better than the standard Google search traffic, in fact. Combine that with a lower cost per click, and you can see that the cost per converted click is almost half as much on the Search Partner network.
You may notice that the CTR is also much lower for the Search Partner traffic. While CTR is important (and will impact your quality scores), it is always trumped by conversions. Clicks don’t put money in your pocket, but conversions do. In this second example, it is clearly beneficial to include the Search Partner network in the campaign. The CTR for the Search Partner network can likely be improved by adding negative keywords.
The question of whether or not to include the Search Partner network in your campaigns does not have a definitive answer. For brick & mortar businesses, I always include it because it is important for those ads to show up on Google Maps.
For all other types of sites, you just have to test it. Include Search Partners for a while and look at the data. If the cost per conversion is acceptable, leave it in. If the cost per conversion is not acceptable (and is worse than Google Search), take it out. If you do remove Search Partners from the campaign, be sure to test this option again in the future. Things change. Once you are able to optimize and improve your campaign in other ways, you may find that the Search Partner network starts to produce more favorable results.