9 ways to get the most out of Google's display network

By Louella Hughes

  • Article summary

Webmasters often dismiss display activity through AdWords, but they are wrong to do so, argues Mike Dodgson of Digital Fuel, who provides his thoughts and tactics on getting the best out of the Google Display Network.

I asked a potential client recently if they were doing anything display-wise through AdWords, this was the reply: “We don’t do anything on the Google Display Network (“GDN”) because it doesn’t work as well as our other AdWords activity”.

I’ve heard this, and similar comments, over the years. Intriguingly when I ask if they are running any other display activity, the answer is almost always: “Yes, we’re spending a gazillion on DSP XYZ”. I’m exaggerating, but you get the picture.

It’s a trap that seems to be more common than usual, the thought that just because you can advertise display on Google, you should be achieving the same ‘last click’ conversion rate, which logically isn’t the case.

The thing that a lot of people don’t seem to grasp is that AdWords is a DSP, and it’s probably one of the easiest and most powerful tools for display advertising you will have in your arsenal. Some demand-side platforms love to make things complicated and sometimes the basic information is all you ever need i.e. “Tell me a list of sites we are bidding on? How can I protect my brand? What age groups are you targeting?” That’s not to say DSPs don’t give you this information, but with the GDN, you’re in control.

If you’re starting out in display advertising, or you would like to try it yourself then one of the best places to start is the Google Display Network via your Google AdWords account. Here are some of my thoughts and tactics around using this to your advantage:

1. Use view-through conversions Why wouldn’t you use this? That’s all you ever hear from DSP providers, and AdWords is no different. Don’t allow yourself to be blinded by how good your search campaign converts on a ‘last click’ basis, we’re comparing apples and pears here. View-through conversions can be found by adjusting the columns within the Ad Group view, and it’s the best way to judge if you’re getting return on ad spend (if that’s your goal).

Rightly or wrongly, view-through (or post-view/post-impression) conversions take a lot of flack, but think about this for a second, if you were to see all of the customers who converted on your site after seeing a TV advert, we’d be singing from the rooftops, or most likely looking for an alternative marketing channel!

2. Use location targeting A great way to beta test a new product or offer is to trial it in a specific location. Once you’ve finished, you’ll probably find you were able to buy impressions on premium publishers with high volume traffic for a cheap price. For example, you might find it easier to generate more impressions on a high-volume news website in one area of the country than another. This is particularly prevalent in places like Australia or America where publisher legislation or governance differs by state.

3. Up-weight on best performing keywords and placements If you’re going to get involved in GDN, get stuck in! Analyse the data on a daily basis and when you see something working for you after a period of time, then go for it. If something isn’t working for you, simple, switch it off. You’re in control of your display advertising; there’s no point in getting anxious about where your ads might be appearing and what impact it may or may not be having on your brand.

4. Use the ad schedule An impression is an impression? Well kind of, but you want the right impression at the right time. If you’re selling toupees online, you better make damn sure you’re bidding on the right sites the next time Donald Trump says something enlightening. Also bear in mind that if you don’t look after your schedule, you’re likely to be winning impressions that usually don’t turn out to be financially viable.

However, this would depend on your business, of course. Casino affiliates will find they can get cheap impressions between the hours of 1am-3am and often a good conversion rate, whereas something like online concert ticket sales might not find that time of the day very appealing.

5. Use keyword targeting to your advantage Allowing you to advertise on websites containing certain content, keyword targeting through GDN is extremely powerful. This is purely due to the fact that it is something your competitors can’t really replicate to the exact method. You know your business, and you know what people are talking about on blogs, forums and in articles; use that to your advantage and you will no doubt find good quality cheap inventory.

6. Use video Ever wanted to appear on YouTube? Well you can through the GDN, or TrueView as Google calls it. YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet, with six billion hours of video views every month.

TrueView advertising is by far the most costeffective mass medium, and the beauty is it’s all under your control and there are no set budgets of the platform if you’re using the five-second ‘skippable’ version of TrueView. So, if you have an amazing offer you would like to push and you have a video available to use, then just connect your YouTube channel to your AdWords account and away you go.

Additionally, you’ll only ever pay when a user watches the whole ad or 30 seconds, but if someone skips an ad, you won’t be charged. Here’s a pro tip: get your brand in the first five seconds of the ad, because that way you’re guaranteed free exposure even if someone skips.

If you don’t have a video available, then there are loads of ways you can create a simple video online at a very low cost or even for free. Animoto or Veeroll are a great place to start without spending big bucks on production.

7. Got an app? Get downloads If you’ve got an app but you’re not able to get ranked within the app store or the play store, then you could try your hand at some online PR or app store optimisation. However, if you want some quick exposure with decent volume then placing in-app ads could be the answer. It’s a great way to get inside some key apps in your space and maybe even some competitors. You’ll have to use your App Store or Google Play app link for the final URL, and also any third party tracking links into the tracking template (if necessary), and away you go.

8. Gmail advertising This can be a fantastic way to get into your target markets’ inboxes, without having to pay for expensive and sometimes largely ineffective lists. Gmail ads sit at the top of people’s inboxes and can include images, videos or embedded forms. There are several different layout options when you choose to create a Gmail ad, even uploading a custom HTML, and some great options to create something from scratch with the ad builder functionality. Once people click the ad at the top of the inbox, it then expands to show your complete ad.

You’ll only get charged for when the ad gets expanded, not for any interactions past that stage. One of the great things about this feature is that you can use Google’s ‘Custom Match’ option to upload a database of customers and target Gmail e-mails with a fantastic offer. However, remember you’ll need at least 1,000 Gmail addresses to get started.

9. Remarketing Largely regarded as the most efficient way to bring users back to your site. Remarketing enables you to target users with ads who have already visited your site with a sign-up offer or an alternative message. It’s often thought of as just something marketers switch on, which then bombards visitors around the web with no frequency cap, but the reality is there should be a lot more thought that goes into a remarketing strategy.

Ensure you’re segmenting your users correctly then showing relevant ads to those audiences. This will see your engagement levels increase, and most likely your CTRs too. Once you’re in the swing of things, adjust your bids, placements and locations to maximise your performance against your KPIs. After a while if scale is starting to become an issue, use AdWords’ ‘Similar Audiences’ feature (more commonly known as ‘lookalikes’) to grow and expand your reach.

Final words Google’s current policy means that websites within the gambling space cannot run remarketing or Gmail ads, however every other feature is available providing your AdWords account is approved to run in that jurisdiction. If you’re running gambling ads and have a huge audience base you’ll have to source an alternative DSP that has access to exchanges with gambling inventory available.

As usual, it’s all about testing and finding the ‘sweet spot’ for your brand, and the trick is to get creative and utilise the tools at your disposal.

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