Top Seven Targeting Tactics for the Google Display Network 

What is the Google Display Network you might ask? The Google Display Network (GDN) is a collection of websites that partner with Google to display ads on their web pages.  Advertisers can use this channel to find relevant webpages for their message to appear on and increase their marketing reach.

Building campaigns on the GDN can come with a steep learning curve because strategies and tactics differ from a search campaign and a lot can go wrong in a hurry. But with the right targeting in place, it can be a powerful tool to find a broad, yet targeted, audience.

The GDN uses the same Google Ads interface as search advertising, but there are some fundamental differences that can make optimizing a campaign a little tricky. First of all, search advertising catches people when they are actively looking for product information and are further down the conversion funnel. Display advertising, on the other hand, appears around relevant content when a user isn’t necessarily looking to take an action.

Because of the differences between search and display advertising, it is important for an advertiser to get a campaign started off on the right foot and running smoothly. Read on to learn seven targeting tactics to improve performance and find the right audience for your message.

1. Create Separate Search and Display Campaigns

This tip is number one for a reason. As previously mentioned, search and display are very different advertising mediums and the metrics/KPIs can widely differ. It is crucial to set up a display-only campaign to get the most visibility and control over your advertising.

Fortunately, this is easy to do.  In the Google Ads interface, click the + campaign button and select display network only.

Display Network Only

2. Remarketing

Though there are a variety of techniques available when serving up display ads, remarketing should be considered the go-to technique. Remarketing is the process of sending ads to users who have already been to a site. Thanks to the wide reach of the GDN, a site’s visitors can be targeted as they browse the web. It is a great tool for marketers to utilize because it allows them to reach out to users who have indicated an interest in your product or services. Also, if Google Analytics is installed, advertisers can target audience members who meet a specific marketing segment or site goal.

3. Placements

Thanks to the partnerships that Google has formed, an ad can end up on some pretty high profile sites such as Elle, National Geographic, Orbitz, and Forbes. Google even has an easy-to-use tool to help find possible placements on their network. Just go to the Google Ads User Interface and click “Display Planner” located under the tools menu.

Display Planner

Then enter keywords and/or a landing page – Google will generate a list of placement suggestions.

One unique value that the GDN provides is that it can be used to make ad buys on YouTube. As one of the most popular sites on the web, advertisers can reach an audience where they spend a lot of time online. With YouTube’s massive reach – over 1 billion unique users per month – consider refining placements to target video viewers with remarketing or some of the other targeting techniques listed below.

How to do this:

Add in YouTube as a specific placement for a display ad group. Within a display ad group, go to Targeting  > Placements > then enter and select Be sure to include the .com or the placement finder might suggest other video sharing sites similar to YouTube and not YouTube itself.

4. Site Category Exclusions

Not all placements are right for all advertisers. Google offers a way of opting out of specific types of sites where the content might not be appropriate (profanity, death and tragedy, mature audiences, etc) or where the site’s content quality might not be high (such as in-game or error pages). These are pre-categorized by Google and can be found at the bottom of the page on the display network tab.

Recommended categories to initially opt-out:

Gambling, in game, gMob app non-interstitial, error pages, and parked domains.

5. Keyword Targeting

Like with search, an advertiser can enter in a set of keywords and Google will find relevant sites on the GDN. Unlike search, these keywords will be a broad match only, used to target the content on the page; not answer a search query.

This offers two advantages: One, it enables advertisers to find users who may not know about their product. Two, it allows advertisers to bid on keywords that might receive a low quality score in a search campaign. To decide what these keywords could be, think of complementary offerings to a product or service.  For example, an optometrist who sells prescription glasses and contacts may not want to explicitly bid on “eye care plans,” but a person reading an article about that topic may be in the market for new glasses.

6. Demographic Targeting

Based on a user’s browsing history, Google is often able to derive basic demographic information about that user. This allows advertisers to learn a little more about who is responding to their ad and optimize performance accordingly.  This will most likely be used in conjunction with other targeting techniques to further refine an audience. Google offers the following fields which an advertiser can bid up, down, or exclude all together.

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Parental Status

Unless an advertiser has a product that is geared towards a very specific audience, initially removing a specific demographic target is not recommended. A better approach is to wait for a campaign to begin to collect data and then use the demographic reports to refine the audience that ads are sent to.

7. Combined Targets

What is truly fantastic about all of these targeting techniques is that they can be combined to find an audience that is highly addressable. For example one can create a remarketing campaign that is further refined by keyword targeting to only appear on given web pages. Or, placements and demographic targets may be used together to reach women over the age of 25 as the browse travel sites. The possibilities are almost endless.

Be careful not to optimize to an overly reduced audience. While it may be great to find 1,000 people to show an ad to, the campaign won’t have enough of an audience to generate a substantial amount of clicks back to a website. Google also provides estimated impression volume within the targeting menu to gage when an ad buy has been refined too far.

Let’s Begin Implementation

The Google Display Network casts a wide net, but you can use the targeting options listed above to find a desirable audience that is receptive to your marketing message.  Don’t forget to review and optimize as your campaign gains data. Like with search, display isn’t “set it and forget it.” Keep working at it to make sure a campaign is successful. Let us know of any interesting ways to use the GDN to reach customers by leaving a comment below.


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