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.
Follow these 11 strategies to get started – and read to the end for a quick Google Display Network FAQ.
What You’ll Learn:
- What the Google Display Network is
- How it differs from the Google Search Network
- 11 strategies for success on the Google Display Network:
- Get familiar with targeting options
- Run remarketing ads
- Exclude off-topic sites
- Use the managed placements options
- Use Similar Audiences
- Use Display Select keyword targeting
- Make your ads visual
- Adjust your ads for time of day
- Use Gmail Sponsored Promotions
- Use Google’s Contextual Targeting tool
- Monitor and test your ad’s performance
First Things First: 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, 650,000 apps, 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 the Google Display Network – far more often than you think.
Display ads pop up on websites, YouTube videos, within mobile apps, and even in 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 target ads to people before they even know they need your product, or remind them of your product after a recent search. This is what makes the Google Display Network so powerful: you can target your ads to the right person, at exactly the right moment, in exactly the right place.
So, you won’t necessarily want to advertise to everyone across Google’s 2 million sites. You just want to reach your potential customers, 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 – those sidebar ads and sponsored results that pop up when you search online.
But Google actually has two options when it comes to advertising: search and display.
Search ads 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.
They simply show up, whether users are searching for their services or not. Display Ads are used to anticipate people’s needs and wants, and get their customers before they even start researching a purchase.
As I mentioned, this makes the Google Display Network ideal for the beginning stages of attracting leads and promoting brand awareness.
First, Get Familiar With the Targeting Options
Your success on the Display Network will likely come down to how effectively you can target your audience.
We can divide all the ways to target ads into two groups.
Firstly, you can target ads based on the content of the ad itself, so that it appears next to similar content. For example, if someone visits a website about wedding cakes, they might see an ad for your wedding cake business. Google calls this “contextual targeting”, and there are several ways to do it:
- Keyword Targeting. Choose broad keywords related to your business. It’s a good idea to use long-tail keywords or phrases, as more and more people search for content on mobile or with voice. Your ads will appear next to content that matches that keyword.
- Topic Targeting. Pick a group of websites that are related to your industry. This is a good way to reach a more general audience, because instead of targeting a specific web domain or specific users, your ads will appear across the group of themed websites.
The second way to target ads is based on the viewer. For example, a dog food manufacturer could set up ads which only appear to older people who like dogs. Those methods include:
- Remarketing. You can target ads to people who previously visited your website, or interacted with you in other ways (for example, watching a video on your YouTube channel). This is available for desktop and mobile users, and it’s closely related to Similar Audience targeting, which we’ll discuss later.
- Audience Targeting. – Google places users in different “interest groups” based on the things they search and read online. You can select a particular audience to see your ads. Choose between “in-market audiences”, with people who are ready to make a purchase; or “affinity audiences”, with people who are interested but will need a little push to purchase.
- Demographic Targeting. – This method is perhaps the most straightforward, but can be controversial; it allows you to target users based on age, gender, marital status, etc. Be aware that different countries may have different laws about which demographics you can target.
- Automatic Targeting: With this option, you don’t choose who sees your ads – you let Google decide for you. This is a good choice if your inexperienced or don’t have much time to monitor ads, but it might not be as effective as tailoring your own ads.
You can also choose different ad formats, based on where your targeted ads appear and the result you want to achieve. There are different options for ads that appear on desktop or mobile.
If you’re a new user, you’ll manage all your ads from Google Ads – even the ones which appear on Google Display Network. Check out this list to see all the formats available
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.
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 is 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).
Some advertisers worry that because running ads on the Google Display Network could be classified as “pushy” advertiser behavior since you’re showing ads to people who aren’t technically searching for them.
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 Google Display Network 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.
You can also block sites where your ads don’t perform well.
You can prevent your ads from appearing in certain locations, based on:
- devices: computer, tablet, or mobile
- app category
You can also ban specific apps, websites, and content.
In 2019, more people are worried about brand risk and brand safety. You’ve probably heard some horror stories about ads appearing in inappropriate places, like an ad for carpentry tools next to a news article about an ax murderer.
Fortunately, Google now offers tools to avoid this kind of mix-up. You can create a list of negative keywords, so that your ads never appear on any page which contains those words.
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). And when you combine Similar Audience targeting with remarketing, you can increase conversions by up to 41%.
Based on your list of existing customers, 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 adds them to your Similar Audience.
6. Use Search Network with Display Expansion
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 Display Expansion feature. (That’s what it’s called for people using the updated Google Ads service. If you’re a legacy user, then this feature is called Display Select Keywords).
Normally, keywords target sites that your audience visits. But Display Expansion Ads will show up on sites that offer complementary or related products and services.
The overall aim is to target users based on search intent. So your ads will show up in search results for your keyword on Google and its partner sites, as well as other websites with related content. Think of it as tripling your audience.
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, relevant audience. Just be aware that this type of campaign can eat up your budget, because it covers both Search Network and Display Network ads. Make sure that a combo campaign is actually relevant to your marketing goals – and worth the spend.
7. Make Your Google Display Network Ads Visual and Appealing
One of the Google Display Network’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.
And don’t forget to 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). And always, always include a clear call to action so that people know what to do next.
8. Adjust Your Google Display Network Ad For Time of Day
This is an important, yet often overlooked feature.
With all Google ads, you have the option to set schedules (specific days, time of day, etc.) This allows you to arrange for your Google Display Network ads to appear on (specific days, at a particular time of day, and so onetc.)
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.
9. Use Gmail Sponsored Promotions on the Google Display Network
When you get to work each day, what’s the first thing you do?
For most of us, we start by checking our email. And we stay in touch with our inbox all day, via mobile. That’s what makes Gmail ads so powerful. 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 a user clicks on the “email”, the full ad appears.
To make your Gmail Sponsored Promotions 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. Which means you don’t pay for the ad until someone opens up the promoted email. And you can target the ad based on keywords, topics, or remarketing, just like any other Display Network ad campaign.
10. 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 Google Display Network. As we mentioned earlier, contextual targeting is based on keywords and topics.
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.
11. 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 the ad matching the goals you outlined in beginning? Whether you wanted improved ROI, more website traffic or anything in between, you should be able to see clear results.
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 kind of targeting is most effective?
Google Display Network FAQ
1. Should I Be Using Display Select For My Google Display Network And Search Campaigns?
As we discussed earlier, both search and display ads can be effective.. However, they should be kept separate for best results, better data and more economical budgeting.
Display Expansion 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 how big Google Display Network is, you should definitely be targeting. Remember, the network covers 90% of the internet’s users! You want to find your niche, target audience to make the most of your ad spend
That said, you want to be careful not to overdo it. If you add too many targeting restrictions, then your ad reach will be tiny, and not enough people will see your ads.
If you have a bunch of targeting options you want to try, do some testing to see which combinations will yield the best results. Over time, that will be more effective than adding a hundred different targeting options at once.
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, oftentimes 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.