Your No-Nonsense Guide to Google Display Network

Illustration by Meshchihin Mark via Dribbble

If you want to market your product or service to the right audience, Google Display Network (GDN) is the perfect tool for the job. Utilizing Google’s superior network of over 200 million websites helps you bring brand awareness and visibility to potential customers worldwide.

What Is Google Display Network?

Simply put, the Google Display Network consists of websites, apps, and Google properties, like YouTube and Gmail, where display ads appear to a target audience.

A display ad is any visual banner that may contain your brand’s assets, URL, and relevant copy to entice the user to visit your landing page, just like this killer ad from Grammarly.

Grammarly Ad

Because of Google’s broad reach, using GDN for your marketing campaigns helps you reach a lot of customers and puts your ads in front of people who are likely to be interested in them in the first place.

Google Search versus Google Display

Search and Display are Google Ad’s two main networks.

The Search network taps people who are already looking to purchase a product or procure a service. Search ads are text-based, and they show up on search results with an “Ad” tag. Below is an example.

Google Search vs. Google Display

On the other hand, the Display Network is more passive. Display ads are shown to the users while they are browsing online. Display ads can be in various formats, from small, text-infused banner ads (like the Grammarly ad shown above) to more creative and dynamic responsive ads.

When to Use Display Campaigns

Considering whether to use a Search or Display campaign depends on your marketing intent. If your aim is to nudge your in-market audience to convert, Search ads may be the better bang for your buck. But if you’re new to the market and want to get your product out there, putting your money on Display campaigns will do the job better.

Here’s when it makes sense to opt for GDN campaigns:

  • You’re introducing a new product to your target audience (prospecting).
  • Your target audience is very specific.
  • Your customers are still in the early stages of the buying cycle (brand awareness and recall).
  • You’re trying to remarket your product or service or reengage your audience (retargeting).
  • There’s plenty of competition for the keywords you’re bidding for.
  • You want to optimize the number of impressions you get from your limited budget.

Use GDN to Target the Right Audience with the Right Ads

The Google Display Network is an excellent tool to target internet users who are just entering your marketing funnel. If the purpose of your campaign is to gain leads or traffic to your website, here’s a guide to drive traffic to your landing page by GrowMyAds, that can help generate the necessary energy to fuel your conversion efforts later on.

If you have some Google Analytics data to leverage, you can also focus more on remarketing to users who already had, in some way, interacted with your business before. Many marketers opt for this targeting strategy not only because their target audience is already familiar with their product or service offers but also because it delivers better leads and is relatively more cost-effective.

Regardless of whether you use GDN for prospecting, retargeting, or a combination of both, it’s crucial that you know who you should be marketing to.

One of the most common complaints about using GDN is it can drive abundant but low-quality traffic to your target pages. A lot of people may be clicking on your banner ads but are not buying. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For starters, it tells you two important things—that the campaign works and that you have to refine your audience targeting methods.

The success of your advertising campaigns relies on getting the right message to the right people. This is made possible because of GDN’s enormous reach. Also, its targeting options allow you to either drill down to that specific segment you want to attract or cast a net on a wide audience to see which segments are more responsive.

There are different types of audience-targeting methods:

Type #1. In-Market Targeting

In-market users are those who may be potentially interested in buying your product or service based on their recent intents.

If you’re selling footwear, your in-market users are those who have browsed through shoe shopping sites recently, have looked explicitly for footwear-related keywords using Google search, or already have some products on their carts or wishlists.

Within the GDN console, you can find a wide array of In-Marketing user categories like Consumer Electronics, Real Estate, or Apparel & Accessories. Each of which has subcategories that brag a user base of millions.

If you find this too broad, go back to your Google Analytics data to compare and align accordingly.

Type #2. Affinity Targeting

Affinity targeting refers to marketing to users who are categorized based on their hobbies, passions, and interests. These are the sports fans, the gadget enthusiasts, the fashion connoisseurs, etc.

The size of each main category can be extensive, which means it can also get expensive, so it’s essential to narrow your targeting to a couple of layers down.

When in doubt, always go back to your Google Analytics data to identify a target pool that is more focused in size.

Type #3. Placement Targeting

If you’re selling car accessories, you might get more interest by placing your ad on a YouTube video featuring car mods or upgrades. Placement targeting lets you display your ads on specific websites, apps, or videos on the internet where you feel they will get the most interest and impressions.

Type #4. Keyword Targeting

Although keywords are the main feature of Search ads, GDN also lets marketers use the keyword tool to reach users based on words and phrases that might be unique to their intended audience. This targeting layer is often used alongside other targeting strategies to help filter broad criteria into more defined target groups.

Type #5. Retargeting

A remarketing campaign targets the following users:

  • People who have already done business with you before
  • Those who have visited your site
  • Those who have browsed your store
  • Those who have shown some interest in your offers in one way or another

Users don’t always purchase the first time they stumble upon your product or service, even if they are mildly interested. They might look around, check if they can find a similar product or service somewhere else cheaper, or they may simply note you down to check you out again later.

Remarketing campaigns help encourage these types of users to revisit your site, renew their interest, and finally buy something or refer a friend.

Type #6. Custom Audience Targeting

You can customize your target group in Audience Manager or as you add audiences to your ad group. You may add site URLs and keywords to the console. This way, Google will put your ad in front of users who are likely to be interested or have recently searched for these sites or keywords.

Unlike Placement targeting, Google does not only specifically place your ad on the specified websites but also uses the given keywords to find other sites or locations that are contextually relevant.

Type #7. Demographic Targeting

This basic marketing strategy uses demographic information, such as gender, age, marital status, and location, to find the appropriate audience for the campaign. Because demographic variables are often correlated with customer needs, this form of behavioral advertising is usually expected, especially when drawing a buyer persona at the beginning of the campaign planning.

Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your GDN Campaigns

Tips getting most out GDN campaign
Illustration by ellin_ via Dribbble

At the end of the day, a great tool is only as good as its strategist. Now that you know the basics of audience targeting, it’s time to learn about ways to optimize your GDN usage so you can get the most out of your efforts and your money.

#1. Do demographic testing first, assess, then adjust

If you target multiple demographic elements, be sure to assess the performance of each category, especially for hazy but potentially costly inclusions like the “Unknown” category under Gender or “+65” under Age.

#2. Stay on top of your placement performance

Constantly monitor where your ads are shown. See to it that your ads appear in relevant locations and that these locations deliver high-quality results and are therefore the best investment for your money.

#3. Identify which formats work

You can create two types of ads under Google Display Network: standard image ads and responsive ads. Both work, depending on multiple factors, like the copy, size, and the presence (or absence) of images.

It’s always best to run your iterations of different ad types, sizes, and styles to see which gets the most attention from your target audience. But if you’re pinched for money, the current research on the effectiveness of ads has shown that display ads with rectangular formats and leaderboard styles work best.

#4. Do not overlayer

While GDN gives you the opportunity for laser-focused targeting, layering can also be counterproductive when done over the top. Remember that each layer of criteria you use to narrow down your pool of targets also decreases reach and visibility.

Instead of running multiple campaigns on very narrowly defined target groups, you can start broad and narrow down based on the responses you get. You might be surprised where leads can pop up.

#5. Know your benchmarks

After running your campaign for a while, try to identify benchmarks to help you assess whether there can be room for improvement in your campaigns.

Identifying your benchmarks will help you assess if you’re paying too much per click, if your conversion rates are doing poorly, or if you need to increase the target range of your campaigns.

Final Thoughts

Although primarily a bottom-of-the-funnel tool, carefully curated campaigns can drive conversion and customer loyalty without the hefty price tag. The Google Display Network can deliver tremendous results for your marketing goals with the right plan, attention, and strategy.

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