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Getting to Know AdWords Display Network

When people think of AdWords, they generally think of the ads they see on the top and right side of the screen when they search on  There is also the display network when ads are placed on websites people visit for content.  Along with the standard text ads that are seen on the search network, advertisers can also place image and video ads on the display network.  This network is definitely worth considering as an advertising platform since it reaches 90% of Internet users (Source: Comscore 2013).

Display ads are a bit like billboards, letting you potentially reach broad groups.  Considering how wide the display network is, there is a chance your audience will see the ad.  This can sound a bit like throwing money into the air and seeing what sticks.  Like with billboards, you don’t know for sure who sees your ads.  Fortunately, there are strategies to reach different types of users that can be relatively inexpensive.

  • Remarketing was explained in a previous post.  This is when your ads follow visitors to your website when they visit other sites.  Your goal is to re-engage them and bring them back to your site again.
  • In-market audience:  This is very appealing since the browsing history indicates these people may be close to making a purchase.  They are “in the market”.
  • Keywords:  This should be familiar to people already using the search network.  With keywords, Google may show your ad on sites that have page content related to your keywords.  You can use the keywords that perform well in your search ads and implement them in your display campaigns.
  • Managed placements: This allows you to target a very specific website, assuming the website of interest is accepting placements.  Not all websites will accept ads.  With the Display Planner, you can get a feel for cost and traffic for a specific URL, and also see which formats are accepted on the different sites.
  • Target by topic: This is pretty broad and will reach a wider audience than managed placements, which can be a good or bad thing.  If your product or service is very niche, you may reach very few real prospects since it is such a broad group.  Or, you could find your niche market hidden in these big groups.
  • Similar audiences: If you want to attract new visitors that are similar to your existing remarketing lists, similar audiences can be a good tool.  The tricky part is that Google is making this determination based on internet browsing behavior and may reach a broader group than what you really want.
  • Interests: This method of targeting reaches users who have visited sites that are similar in topic to what you offer.  A word of caution with this one: people may be visiting sites that are not really a personal interest.  I have a client who works in a specific industry, which I’ll call XYZ.  In doing my research for her and reading content on other sites, Google assumes I am interested in XYZ.  Although I have no personal interest in XYZ, I regularly see ads about that topic, which I have no interest in.  Naturally, I’m not clicking on it and am only one person. But if there are a number of people in that situation, advertisers are going to wonder if their ads are not well-written or are being displayed on irrelevant sites.
  • Affinity: This is similar to interests, with people who regularly visit sites of the same topic.  This may have the same issue as interests mentioned above because my surfing habits since I started working with this client make me look like I have a heavy interest in XYZ.

Remember the same strategy applies for Display as it does with Search.  You need to get their attention with the headline and have a call to action.  Regardless of network, users need to know what comes next after the click and the landing page needs to match the original ad.  The rules about testing apply here too.  If you’re running ads on the Display Network, make sure you do the same testing you do with Search.

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