Advertising on Google is arguably one of the most effective ways to market your business.
And if you’re not using the Google Display Network, you’re missing out on a valuable way to expose your brand.
In this article, I’ll go over the basics of the Display Network and how you can take full advantage of all it has to offer.
What is the Google Display Network?
In a nutshell, the Google Display Network is a set of websites that your ad can appear on. Millions of websites – this is Google, after all.
All in all, the network is comprised of over 2 million websites and 90% of internet users. When you use the Display Network for advertising, you have the chance to get your ad right in front of that 90%.
How Does the Google Display Network Work?
You’ve likely encountered these – far more often than you think.
Display ads pop up on websites, YouTube videos, even your Gmail inbox. Often, they’re from sites you’ve recently visited or products you’ve recently searched for.
For advertisers, they’re designed to target buyers early in the sales cycle as they research different products and possible solutions.
You can even target ads to people before they even know they need your product, or remind them of your product after a recent search.
Naturally, that means you won’t necessarily want to advertise to everyone across Google’s 2 million sites. Which is why you have the control to choose where or which kind of site you would like your site to run on, and what kind of audience you’d like to target.
We’ll cover all of that very soon.
Google Display Network Vs. Search Network
When you think Google AdWords, you likely envision search ads.
But Google has two options when it comes to advertising: search and display.
Using search ads lets you actively target prospects searching for something your company can offer, based on the keywords you select for your ads.
The ads appear directly on Google’s organic search results and have the potential to reach an extremely large audience.
They’re used primarily for top of the funnel sales, which means buyers are already actively searching for the product or service you offer when they come across your ad.
On the other hand, Display Ads appear on websites based on potential buyer’s interests, previous search history, demographics, etc.
The simply show up, whether users are searching for their services or not.
As I mentioned, this makes them ideal for the beginning stages of attracting leads and promoting brand awareness.
Ultimately, which ad type you choose will depend on the goals you set for that particular campaign.
Strategies for Success on the Google Display Network
First, Get Familiar With the Targeting Options
Your success on the Display Network will likely come down to how well you can target your audience.
The methods include:
- Keyword Targeting – you choose broad keywords (often long-tail); your ads will then appear by content that matches that keyword
- Placement Targeting – the advertiser selects the domain names they wish for their ads to appear on. So if you run a business in the wedding industry, you could include any domains related to wedding planning, wedding photography, wedding catering, etc. Keep in mind that choosing a particular domain name does not guarantee that your ad will run there.
- Interest Targeting – select an interest group based on predefined groups from Google. Users are placed into groups based on their browsing behavior, and is broken down into “in-market” and “affinity” groups. In-market groups are considered “in the market” and therefore closer to an actual purchase; you can choose which audience and interest best fits your goals
- Audience Targeting – This will be based on pre-built audiences you’ve built in Google – generally those that have visited your site in the past (remarketing, which we’ll cover in-depth shortly)
- Topic Targeting – this allows advertisers to select a group of websites based on particular topics. Rather than individual users interests (as seen in interest targeting), this targets websites based on their overall theme.
- Demographic Targeting – This one is perhaps the most straightforward; it allows you to target users based on age, gender, marital status, etc.
The number of options can easily become overwhelming, which is why Google created the display planner to help you determine which best fits your business’s needs.
Remember, the first step in any successful campaign is determining what you ultimately want to achieve.
So, if you run a local shop and want to promote your brand for more foot traffic, demographic targeting is likely your best bet.
On the other hand, if you operate in a very particular niche like old record resales, interest targeting may be better suited.
The best way to determine which targeting method is right for you is to experiment. Try them all if you can to determine which best suits your business.
Run Remarketing Ads on the Google Display Network
If you’ve been using the internet, you’ve been a target of a remarketing ad. It’s that simple.
Remarketing ads are the ones that pop up on seemingly every site you visit, advertising a website you’ve recently visited.
I’ll be honest, users aren’t always excited to see them. But that’s ok, because whether they know it or not, remarketing ads are extremely effective.
They’re so effective that website visitors who are retargeted with display ads are 70%(!) more likely to convert on your site.
Pretty good odds, I’d say. Which is why I recommend starting with them if you’re new to the display network.
They work because the people you’re showing them to an audience that already has an interest in your brand, so much so that they’ve visited your website.
It’s especially helpful on the Google Display Network (GDN).
One of the biggest drawbacks of the GDN is the worry that you’re showing ads to people who aren’t technically looking for them, and could therefore be put off by “pushy” advertiser behavior.
But using remarketing, you’re showing them to people who already know you. And oftentimes, that goes over much better with visitors.
3. Exclude Sites That Are Off Topic in the Google Display Network
The last thing you want is to advertise your product or service on a completely unrelated website.
Luckily, with the GDN you don’t have to.
Remember placement targeting? While it lets you choose specific domains you’d like to display your ad on, it also works in reverse.
Google allows you to exclude certain sites or pages that you feel are inappropriate for your product.
Or, if you find that your ads aren’t performing well on a certain page, you can then exclude it from appearing there again.
The process is simple, and Google walks you through it here.
4. Use the Managed Placements Option
If you want the most control over where your ad is placed, use the Managed Placements targeting option.
The other methods – topics, keyword, etc. – give Google the power to choose which sites are best for your ad.
While you control which specific interests or topics to target, Google then decides – based on predetermined lists and algorithms – the sites which best fit those particular topics.
That isn’t always ideal, and even Google makes mistakes.
If you’re more comfortable taking the guesswork out, you can manage the placements yourself by choosing which websites you would like your ad to appear on.
If you need ideas about which sites to add, think of it in terms of your target audience. What kind of websites are they most likely to visit?
For example, if your target audience is new moms, you’d want to add a list of the top mommy blogs to your network.
5. Use the Similar Audience Feature on the Google Display Network
Using the Similar Audience feature is another way to hone in on those most likely to show interest in your ad.
It’s based on your remarketing audience (so if you haven’t already, you’ll want to enable remarketing ads).
Based on that list, the feature helps find and target people who share characteristics with those who have visited your site.
To make it work, Google AdWords uses the browsing history over the last 30 days to match shared interests. When Google finds visitors who have visited sites similar to those on your remarketing list, it automatically ads them to your Similar Audience.
You can set up Similar Audiences independent of your remarketing ads.
6. Use Display Select Keyword Targeting
If you’re at all familiar with advertising on Google, or SEO in general, you’re familiar with the importance of keywords.
You may be less familiar with Google’s latest Display Select Keywords.
Normally, keywords target sites that your audience visits. But Display Select Keywords (which were formerly known as Search Companion Marketing) will show up on sites that offer complementary or related products and services.
The overall aim is to target users based on search intent. Google will match the keywords in your display ad campaign to highly relevant pages with proven high conversion rates (based on Google’s algorithms and analytics).
Because they are currently searching for related items, searchers will find ads more relevant and be more likely to convert.
This can be beneficial to your campaign for many reasons. First of all, by targeting indirectly your still reaching those that are interested in similar content and services, meaning they will likely be interested in your service as well.
Beyond that, it exposes you to a whole new audience, relevant audience.
7. Make Your Google Display Network Ads Visual and Appealing
One of the GDN’s biggest advantages over search ads is its ability to incorporate visuals into your ad.
Some the ad types available are:
- Responsive ads – these automatically adjust to fit size, appearance and format to fit different ad spaces (and are required over plain text ads as of February 2017)
- Upload image ads – you can upload your own image ads to the network
- Engagement – visually rich, immersive ad experience
- Gmail ads – show ads on the top tabs of people’s inbox
Ad sizes range from small to large banners, so you can choose how much real estate you want to work with.
Generally speaking, images attract more attention, so choose an ad size that works for your brand while still able to incorporate some visual appeal.
Also pay attention to your messaging. Keep it short and simple (especially if using a visual ad; it’s often best to let the images do the talking).
8. Adjust Your Google Display Network Ad For Time of Day
This is an easy yet often overlooked feature.
With all Google ads, you have the option to set schedules (specific days, time of day, etc.)
The most obvious target to keep in mind is time zone. Specifically, if you have a local or regional audience, you’ll want to set your time parameters around your particular time zone. Otherwise, you’re simply wasting money running an ad that your audience won’t see.
Google also allows you to monitor how your ad performs throughout the day so you can hone in on your best-performing times.
Then, you can increase your bid on certain keywords during those times or schedule them to appear more on certain days based on ad performance.
9. Run Google Display Network Ads in Conjunction With Search Ads
As we covered earlier, search and display ads achieve different goals.
Yet the compliment each other by targeting different users.
Users response to your ad will have a lot to do with where they are in the sales funnel.
So if you have the resources, why not cover all your bases? Run both campaigns to achieve the most widespread results.
10. Use the Gmail Sponsored Promotions on the Google Display Network
These hit users where they’re most likely to be – their email inbox.
Gmail ads look just like normal emails and are delivered only to personal inboxes. When clicked on, will pull up your ad.
To make them most effective, you should approach them like you would any other email marketing campaign. That means catchy, curiosity-inducing subject lines.
Your “subject line” is the teaser text (which is limited to 25 characters). It will appear as any other email would in an inbox, and a click on the teaser will take them to what appears to be a normal email with your ad inside.
Like other AdWords formats, advertisers are charged per click, not per impression. If someone opens your ad, you’ll the incur a charge.
As with the other ad options available, Gmail Sponsored Promotions target inboxes based on selected keywords, topics, remarketing lists, etc.
Keep in mind this format requires two ad version – one full, expandable ad and the collapsed version that will appear in inboxes.
11. Use Google’s Contextual Targeting Tool For the Google Display Network
This particular tool allows you to quickly create relevant keyword lists to run on the GDN.
The more targeted keywords you have, the better your targeting will ultimately be in your ads. Which means building relevant keyword lists is crucial to a successful campaign.
It can also be time-consuming. Which is why Google introduced the Contextual Targeting Tool, which does a majority of the work for you by pulling its own list of keywords related to your ad.
You can use it on existing campaigns or brand new ones. Simply enter in a keyword that describes what you’re advertising (the more specific the better).
Google will then pull up a list of relevant keywords to add to your ad groups. It will sort the keywords into groups and even suggest max CPC bids.
From there, you can edit the ad group ad you would like based on Google’s recommendations.
12. Monitor and Test Your Ad’s Performance
The only way to really know how well your ad works is to monitor and test it over time.
Monitor its performance – is it reaching the goals you outlined in beginning? Whether you wanted improved ROI, more website traffic or anything in between, your ad isn’t doing you any favors if it isn’t achieving what you set out to do.
If you find your campaign isn’t performing as you had hoped, test different features.
Start with your targeting options – run different ad groups based on topics, keywords, etc. to see which performs best.
Try out remarketing ads vs. similar audiences. Which is producing the best return?
Google Display Network FAQ
1. Should I Be Using Display Select For My Google Display Network And Search Campaigns?
As we discussed earlier, it is good to utilize both search and display ads. However, they should be kept separate for best results, better data and more economical budgeting.
Display Select gives Google the power to determine what’s best for your campaigns, which isn’t really a great idea. More often than not, your budget gets eaten up by search and any leftover is put towards display.
Being in control of your campaigns, from targeting to budget, is always going to be in your business’ best interest.
2. How Granular Should I Get With My Google Display Network Targeting?
Given the vastness that is the GDN, it is definitely important to drill down and get granular with your targeting.
That said, you want to be careful not to over-layer. Over-layering can cause limited reach, tracking issues and can give inaccurate results.
If you have a bunch of targeting options you want to try, do some testing to see which combinations will yield the best results.
3. Is There Anywhere On The Google Display Network I Should Avoid Having My Ads Placed?
Typically this will depend on the nature of your business and which sites you may want to exclude due to relevancy issues.
However, many advertisers have reported hemorrhaging budgets due to mobile game placements.
While in theory ads being showcased in mobile game seems like a good idea, the opposite is true.
Mobile games ad placements have a reputation for getting a multitude of erroneous clicks. Not only are those playing the games more likely to accidentally click ads in haste or due to game concentration but, often times parents will let their children play mobile games on their devices and…well…you can imagine the number of accidental clicks that could cause.
If you want to give mobile game ad placements a shot, be sure to keep an eye on your analytics for anything that doesn’t add up.
If you don’t want to take a chance of wasting away your budget, you can easily exclude your ad from mobile games in your dashboard.
Get Started With the Google Display Network
The Display Network can be a valuable addition to your marketing efforts – if you use it correctly.
Following the strategies and tips above will set you up for success and big return.
So what are you waiting for? Get started today.