AdCenter Syndicated Search Partners- The Content Network of 2006

I’m sure someone in branding at Google had a reason for trying to rename the Content Network the Display Network, if only to help us all forget about those awful lists of sites and thousands of impressions where clicks went to die, were unmanageable and never made a cent. Welcome to 2010, where as usual, adCenter is playing catch up and leaving the advertisers in their wake to decipher and untangle the mess that is their “syndicated search partners” and “content” networks. Operating under a guise of the “unified marketplace” this clusterf*&k of a distribution network is a joke.

So here’s the skinny- and how to save yourself a lot of trouble with what the heck is what in your “unified marketplace” account in MSN adCenter.

Starting from the beginning- network preferences are set at the AD GROUP level, not the campaign. (*Tip- You can use the adCenter Desktop tool to copy and paste settings like the ones we’re about to make here. You don’t have to go through every ad group and do this.)

Here are the options:


Here’s what adCenter says they mean:

  • Content-only: Distribute only on content pages
  • Search-only: Distribute only on search pages
  • Hybrid: Distribute ad groups on both search pages and content pages

Content Ads and Search Ads may be syndicated to the same partner sites.

  • Search syndication ads are triggered by a keyword search on the partner site and served in a similar fashion as ads on You can reach the partner audience through your existing search campaigns.

Content syndication ads can be triggered in two ways:

  • Through keywords that are crawled on a publisher’s page and identified as being highly relevant.
  • Through site targeting, which allows you to forgo the use of keywords and instead select and bid on participating publisher sites.
  • Keyword and site bids are thrown together into the auction mix to determine the placement of ads on each site.

Please note something here- content AND search ads MAY be syndicated to the same partner sites. This means that some sites are considered both syndicated search and content.

And this is where the trouble starts and here’s what this actually means:

By default the button for “All Bing and Yahoo! search networks and syndicated search partners” is selected. Your ads will show on, and sites like:


That’s a lot of garbage for an ad group that is supposedly enabled not into the content network and does not sell laptops, eco friendly anything, trips to Costa Rice, lodge homes or sports cars. This also means that- I don’t know about you- but I can’t really tell what the difference between the “Content Network” and “Only Bing and Yahoo! syndicated search partners” is other than you can do managed sites with the content network (meaning you select which sites your ads are showing on.)

What you should do:

Go through all of your ad groups and select “Only Bing and Yahoo! websites” if you want as close to a search only ad group as you can get. Note that while and are the primary ad serving spaces and while you can’t target one over the other, this option also includes other properties. Sites like:,,,, which were listed as *

I got this screenshot a couple of weeks ago and now I can’t replicate it as the reports are lumping everything together as “Bing and Yahoo! Search Properties Only.”


If you want to serve ads on parked pages, specific sites etc; create a new ad group (or campaign) to serve ads to any “syndicated search partners” or the Content network. Run website placement performance reports to see how the Content network is doing and publisher placement performance reports for syndication search partners. However, you can only add excluded sites for the Content network, not the syndicated search.

To help you get started with that, here’s a list of 100+ sites from Search Engine Watch you can exclude right now:


(Unless you’re selling a “bro” or “manzere”- then you might want to keep “”)

This unified marketplace is a hazy mess of parked domains, articles sites, search engines that serve nothing by ads as results and once in awhile an actually relevant site with good content. Unfortunately the bulk appears to be about man boobs.


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  1. Excellent post Elizabeth.
    I’ve worked through this exact scenario with all my clients to ensure not only that clicks (money) isn’t wasted, but that conversions aren’t over reported.

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