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I use Google search and the search network. I use the search network for access to searchers from AOL, Earthlink, and other ISPs because I look at them as the same quality clicks as Google search. To get those ISP searchers, I also have to put up with all the crappy parked domain and price comparison stuff. It's too hard to tell how much profits a lot of these sites either contribute or suck out of my overall income. Looking at some of the sites my ads are running on today, it looks like MFA sites are now part of Google search network. I see my ads running on site that are almost nothing but ads, or tons of ads followed by scraped directory listings.
Maybe it's time to opt out of the search network and just go with Google search. I wonder what the criteria is to become part of the search network. It doesn't look difficult to get in. Anyone know a link to request addition to the search network? I'd love to see what Google has to say about it.
I reported these sites and have heard that they are, in fact, legitimate. I've begun the process of opting-out of these sites... we'll see how this goes.
We haven't run a lot of testing on it because the amount of traffic from these sites is very small in proportion to the overall amount of traffic from search partners. I monitor it just closely enough to know that we get a little traffic rather than a lot and that it occasionally converts. Out of our a $60-80k/year campaign, I would be shocked it we received more than $100-$200 of clicks from these type of sites.
From the first part of your posting, you said that the ROI from content wasn't there for you, but at the same time you said that you shut off the content network once you saw the quality of sites that were sending traffic. Was your ROI decision based on data or on your opinion of the sites?
We've had excellent ROI from content though it converts at a much lower rate than search. We just work the bids down until we get a cost-per-acquisition price that we like. But, that's no different than we do with any of our campaigns - all which have somewhat different converion rates.
Personally, our sites are on search network only, although for some accounts I manage I question the validity of even that network. Many of the impressions from those sites are from search queries hard wired into links. People aren't actually searching for the phrase, they are just following a link, which accounts for the low CTR.
Some sectors do very well on the content network, others anything but. Site targeting helps a little but I seem to think the content network either converts for you or it doesn't. Nothing much you can do to change that situation. It relies heavily on the product your selling.
Although I don't think that Google has publicly posted the entire list of public search network partners (since they do phase in and out a lot) I have a pretty current version. Sticky me if you want a copy.