Search Network 101

By Troy Blanchard, Manager, Advertising Solutions

When we think about searches on Google and Yahoo, we tend to think about searches initiated on the or homepages. However, did you know that around 50% of search volume on each engine is actually from a partner site? Both Google and Yahoo have large networks of partner sites that have their own unique search results pages that can differ greatly in format from the search results page on and This is the search network (also called partner sites). For example,, one of the leading search network sites for Google, does not display ads on the side of the results page, ads below a #3 rank are shown below the fold at the bottom of the natural search results. One of Yahoo’s top partner sites,, displays the top 3 ads horizontally at the top of its search results page.

There are hundreds if not thousands of sites in the search network. Many of the sites in the search network are internal search engines that companies are trying to monetize. For example, runs Yahoo search ads on its search engine that people use to find articles on particular subjects. They host the site and Yahoo manages the ads and they split the revenue. Ads are still triggered by the keyword, just as on the engines themselves. This is why it is important to remember that although you might have a sudden desire to appear on,, or any other popular sites you may already be appearing through the search network.

Both search engines allow different levels of visibility into how and where your ads perform on the search network. The ad distribution column in any Google report will show performance on ‘Google Search’ versus ‘Partner search’. You can also use the filter tab in the new Adwords interface and select ‘Segment by>Network’. This will breakdown performance between and search network sites to the ad group level. On Yahoo, you don’t get this level of granularity to compare Yahoo and its partner sites, but instead actually see which sites you are getting impressions and clicks from and can opt out of a site if it is underperforming for the account as a whole. This report can be found in the on the Reports tab under Traffic Quality Reports on the left hand column. If you want to see which sites are generating clicks on the Google search networks, Google Analytics has a featured that will allow you to see the referring sites.

What can you do with this information to improve performance? As stated, with Yahoo you can opt out of a particular site if you find that there is poor CTR or conversion rates, allowing you to cut down on unwanted impressions or clicks and boost ROI. While you cannot opt out of particular sites with Google, you can opt for a campaign within an account to not run on the search network if you find performance to be poor. Performance metrics can vary widely between the main sites and the network sites. It may be worth pointing out that on, performance may be much stronger than on the search network. It should be noted that performance on network sites does not affect your quality score, but if you find you are not converting as strongly on particular campaigns, opting out of the search network may be a good way to boost ROI and find better ways to spend ad dollars. The Yahoo Ad Delivery report may be useful for finding new opportunities for digital advertising if a particular site boasts high clicks and/or conversions.


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