When running ads on the AdWords network, one of the first decisions you will need to make is on which network or networks your ads will run. You can run your ads on either the Google "search network" (Google, Earthlink, AOL, AskJeeves, etc), the Google "content network" (About.com, New York Times, Lycos, Business.com, Infovillage, etc) or both. There are plusses and minuses to both that you will need to weigh before you decide.
What's the Difference?
Google's "bread and butter" is their search network and the ads running on those sites (Google, Earthlink, AOL, AskJeeves, etc). Customers who are viewing pages on those search engines are looking for information or products. Your ads in front of their eyes seems like a good fit, and in many instances, it is. In my experience, ads running on the search network have a much higher click-through ratio than those on the "content" network. Conversion percentages (the percentage of clicks that turn into sales) is roughly the same, though there may also be a slight edge to the search network there as well.
Google's "content" network is somewhat more complicated. People viewing the New York Times or Business.com may not necessarily be looking for a product to buy. Often times, they're simply looking for information or entertainment. The ads I've run on the content network have had lower click-through rates, usually as much as 50% to 75% as high as those on the search network. You can find quality, converting customers, but it seems to take more money to do so (i.e. more clicks).
It Might be Worth a Shot
Google states that a lower click-through rate for your ads running on Google's content network sites will not penalize or otherwise harm the rankings of your ads running on the Google search network. Basically, running your ads on both the search and content networks cannot "hurt" your ads rankings and therefore your sales.
If you have a little extra budget, you might want to give the content network a try, especially if you're trying to target readers of the New York Times or Business.com. It might be a great fit. If you have a smaller budget and you're looking for more steady traffic, go with just the search network.
Chris Burgess is a Marketing Expert with BuyItSellIt.com Online Stores (http://www.buyitsellit.com). He has established and maintained successful pay per click campaigns for BuyItSellIt.com and many of its customers. To build an online store for your small business quickly and easily, sign up for your own free 30-day trial online store at BuyItSellIt.com.