Google Display Network – Four Top Tips

Based on a lot of conversations with clients there is a dirty word within the Google lexicon that tends to get ignored by many marketers and seems to have become synonymous with ‘waste of money’, ‘bad targeting’ and ‘low click through rates’ just to name a few.  That dirty word (OK phrase) is ‘Google Display Network’.

Firstly for those who are not aware of what the Google Display Network (GDN) is:

“A group of thousands of websites and apps where your ads can appear. Sites in this network have partnered with Google to show relevant AdWords ads.”

These ads can be text, image or video ads.  I’m sure you have seen websites that have had text ads down the side with the words ‘Ads by Google’.  You might relate the appearance of ‘Ads by Google with low rent, even spammy kinds of sites.

But quality sites are in the network too.  You will find high volume traffic sites such as ‘,, ‘’  and ‘’ just to name a few.

Just for once we want to stand up for Google here and say that we think that in our experience the Google Display Network is Google’s best kept secret.

It’s true that we weren’t a fan of the Google Display Network when we first tested it, you either got zero impressions (it just wasn’t working) or lots of impressions and no clicks.  But Google have introduced a lot more targeting options since those days, and we have learnt a lot about the best way to target converting visitors.  So how should you use the GDN?  Here are top three tips:

  1. Separate search and display networks out – GDN has a much lower click-through rate than search (the targeting is broader so this should be expected – and tolerated) if you don’t separate out the display and search networks in the campaign settings you will bring down the overall average of your CTR - and we all know how important CTR is to quality score!
  1. Test the various targeting options now available – When the GDN was first introduced you could only target by ‘managed placements’ or ‘automatic placements’.  There are now a variety of targeting options as you can see from the table below:
Targeting Option
How It Works
Contextual (Automatic Placements) Google evaluates all the keywords in a display ad group and places your ads on websites that match this theme
Managed Placements Select the specific sites where you want your ads to run
Topics Targets your ads to websites that include content about topics you select
Interest Categories Targets your ads to users with specific interests based on websites they visit
Remarketing Shows ads to people who previously visited your site

  1. Test multiple ads formats and sizes – Don’t just stick to text ads as in our experience image ads perform much better and test different sizes; MPU, leaderboards, skyscrapers and banners to name a few.
  1. 4.
    Don’t get hung up by the term ‘targeting’
    which is a bit loose in the Google Display Network.  Treat some obscure sites that your ad might appear on as impression opportunities.  The fact that the site seems disconnected from your product isn’t necessarily an issue.  What’s the worst that can happen?  You will get some free exposure and maybe some more brand awareness.  If you get clicks you are getting traffic, and over time you can always exclude the site if you get no conversions.
In our eyes the main contributing factor to making the GDN work for you is test test test!  If a group of websites that you thought matched your customer profile exactly but for some reason aren’t meeting your objectives, try testing on topics or interest insteadMaybe try opening your ads to the entire GDN to get learning’s on what does and doesn’t work.  Try testing different ads sizes and formats. Try changing your bids.  Just as in search, it is all about testing and seeing what works and then when you find what works try and make it better.

With all this in mind, the GDN is another targeting method that we here at Pull digital think should be part of your Internet marketing armoury.  If you are not doing it, you can bet your bottom dollar that your competitors will be and be stealing a march on you!


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