The New Year is a great time to dive into some lesser-known Google tactics, and Search Partners definitely fall into this category. In fact if you’re like me, it may have even fallen out of this category, got lost into the unknown world of things marketers don’t bother with, and are now in the category of “things you never knew existed.” Regardless, 2014 is a great time to learn how they work and whether or not they’ll work well for your company.

The Search Partners feature has been around for quite some time, so it’s certainly nothing new. It’s something easy to use, so the question isn’t so much about how to make it happen, but whether or not it’s something that works for you specifically. It’s about understanding what it is, why it matters, and whether or not it’s something that should be brought into your 2014 strategy.

How Google Search Partners Work and the Benefits

Search Partners is essentially a network of different pages and companies that work with Google to show ads. From Google AdWords you can buy clicks through the Search Partners network, and then your ads will appear on these pages that are a part of the network. Some of these pages include:

  • Google search sites such as Google Shopping, Maps, Images, and Groups.
  • Site directory pages.
  • Search results pages.
  • Internal search results and product pages on sites like eBay, Amazon, Walmart, Target.

When working with AdWords, you can choose not to include search partners by unclicking the button that says “include search partners” that you find on your campaign settings page, which is shown below:

partners

 

 

According to Paid Search/Display Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing Sam Owen in his Search Engine land article, it’s a good idea to use the segment button in your “all campaigns” menu and then segment by “Network (with search partners)” to see if it’s a worthwhile feature for you to use. Ask yourself a few questions:

  • Is your account on a tight budget? If so, it might be a good idea to turn them off because they often have a higher cost per conversion.
  • Are you getting at least 20 percent more clicks with Search Partners? This is a good number; so if you have enough data to make an analysis, use this as a benchmark.
  • Are Search Partners underperforming on only certain campaigns? If yes, you can go back and pause your Search Partners by going to your settings.

Optimizing your campaigns for Search Partners is tough and many (including Owen) agree that it might be more trouble than it’s worth. Bing makes it easy to optimize because you can setup Search Partner-only campaigns and even section off your campaign to certain search partners, so you may want to try and use that data to help you understand how it’s working on your Google campaigns (flashbacks to advice about the encrypted data announcement, anyone?).

Any Negatives to Google Search Partners?

This is one topic where users seem to be very much divided on their thoughts. You’ll see negatives to Search Parnters all over the Internet, so it’s tough to know what to believe. People disagree with Search Partners because sites where consumers filter down through categories to come up with a search are included. In other words, Search Partners counts clicks for those who didn’t type in a search directly. When this happens you will see your number of clicks skyrocket (along with your bill) while not seeing many more sales.

Founder of Richman SEO Training Danny Richman posted about this on Moz where he explains that Google needs to make advertisers more aware. A slew of comments shows that he wasn’t the only one dealing with this huge negative, not to mention it’s proof that Search Partners, no matter how long they’ve been around, are not explained well by Google and therefore not understood well by marketers.

The Verdict: Is Search Partners Worth it for Your AdWords Campaigns This Year?

In my opinion, they are going to be worth it for most companies because it is another way to put your ad in front of relevant users. Of course, it’s always important to use your own data and analysis to make sure it is working for you, not to mention to be aware of some of the negatives out there surrounding this feature.

Have you tried Search Partners in the past? Did you find it to be successful? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.