Ultimate Guide to the Google Display Network

By Joel Tiemeyer |

What is the Google Display Network?

Google Ads has two basic networks, the Search Network, and the Display Network. The Search Network shows ads to people who are already searching for specific products or services, so they already know what they want and are actively searching for it. The Google Display Network allows you to advertise to people before they reach the point of actively looking for a specific product or service. This allows you access to a much wider group of potential customers than just those who already know what they want.

The Google Display Network consists of over two million websites that reach over 90% of people that use the Internet. It accounts for over 1 trillion page views per month in total. It can help you reach people who are browsing their favorite blog or news site, watching YouTube videos, or even checking their email through Gmail. You can advertise using a variety of ad formats, including text, image, or video ads, which helps keep your audience engaged with your company and your brand.

The Google Display Network is your opportunity to get in front of a large audience of people quickly, easily, and at a very low cost. Competition on the Display Network has been far lower than the Search Network, which often means that it is often far less expensive to advertise on Display than Search. The Display Network can help you sell more, build customer loyalty, engage with new and existing customers, and increase your brand awareness.

Track How Well Your Campaigns Are Doing In Real-Time

Using the Google Display Network, you can also track how well your campaigns are doing in real-time. You can see which websites your ads are running on, which ads are getting the most clicks, and which sites give you the most sales at the lowest costs. Google allows you to define a metric called conversions, which allows you to choose which metrics mean the most to your business and track them. They could be phone calls or web form submissions from potential leads, or sales made from the website, or even downloads of white papers or case studies if that is valuable to your business. The Google Display Network helps you track how much return you are getting on your advertising dollars.

For instance, if you are a residential plumbing company, you can use the Google Display Network to show ads to people who are browsing a DIY home repair site to reach homeowners who might need your services in your area. This allows you to get in front of people who will need your services before they start actively looking for a specific provider, so you can be the first company they think of when they look to buy. You can see how many people that saw your plumbing ad clicked on it, as well as how many people who came to your site called you or contacted you about your services. You can show ads to people who have already visited your site to get them to return to your site and re-engage with you.

Make Sure Your Website Is Optimized

To advertise on the Display Network, you will need to have a website for your business. When someone clicks on your ad, it will take them to a page on your website that is called a landing page. A landing page can be your homepage, or it can be any page that would be most relevant to the person to whom you are advertising. Make sure your entire site is mobile optimized, as you will be missing a huge portion of web users who are using their smartphone to access the Internet. If you need help optimizing your website’s mobile experience, Google has some great resources on the topic.

So, if these benefits of advertising on the Google Display Network have you wondering how to get started on an advertising campaign of your own, keep reading! In this article, I will tell you how you can create, set up and optimize your first Google Display Network campaign. After you are finished reading, you will know how to choose between the different types of campaign, how to target the audience you want to reach, how to create different types of ad formats, and how to measure your results.

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Campaign Settings

If this is your first Google Ads campaign, login or create a new Google Account and go to adwords.google.com. This will take you directly to the Create Campaign page. If you already have a Google Ads campaign, just click the +Campaign button on your Account screen.

First, you will want to specify that you want your campaign to be “Display Network Only”. Google officially recommends the “Search Network with Display Select” option for new users, but it can be confusing to combine two different networks in one campaign, so I would recommend creating separate campaigns for each network. Then, you need to name your new campaign. This can be anything that makes sense to you, but I like to name them after the purpose of each campaign. For example, if this is a remarketing campaign, I would name it “Remarketing”.

Next comes the Campaign Type section. You can choose a specific marketing objective if you want, but choosing “No marketing objective” will allow you access to all features of the Display Network, so there’s no reason not to choose that option. You also cannot change this after campaign creation, so if you change your mind later you’ll have to start a new campaign.

After that, you will come to the Locations section. The location refers to where the person searching is located. Determining where you show ads is based on your service area (if applicable) and your budget. Adding more locations will show your ads to more people, so you can adjust this based on locations that perform best and locations where you would like to gain more customers.

Set Your Bid Strategy

Next, you’ll set your bid strategy and budget. To start, you can just choose the automatic bidding option, and Google will set your bids for you. This can be a good option if you don’t have the time to spend evaluating the bids and changing them on a consistent basis based on performance. You can choose different bid strategies based on your goals. The options for automated bid strategies are Target CPA (Cost Per Acquisition), Target ROAS (Return on Ad Spend), Maximize Clicks and Viewable CPM (Cost Per Mil which refers to cost per thousand impressions). These different methods of measuring campaign performance will be discussed later.

There is also a manual CPC (Cost per Click) bidding option if you would like to have more control over how much you bid. Manual CPC allows you to set a maximum cost per click bid that is the most you would like to pay per click. If a placement costs less than your maximum CPC, you will be charged the smaller amount, but if the placement costs more than your maximum CPC, your ad will not show in that spot. If you can spend the time monitoring the performance of the campaign, or want control over how much you spend each time someone clicks on your ad, manual CPC bidding makes sense for you. Otherwise, automated bidding works well in most situations and can sometimes yield better results.

Your budget is how much you are willing to spend in total daily. Some companies choose not to have a budget, or set a budget higher than they know they can spend, if they are getting a positive ROI. Some only have a limited amount to spend, so they limit it to a specific amount. This is entirely specific to your business and how much money you are willing and able to spend on this campaign.

Advanced Settings, Location, and Call Extension Options

After that, you’ll find the Advanced settings section. These settings can be left to default, and they will not have much effect on performance, but you may want to change some of them to optimize your campaign fully. I will highlight a few of them that may be useful to you here. Scheduling your ads can be useful if there are specific times of day you do not want to show ads. By default, ads are set to show all the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes, you might not want to show ads at a specific time, or you only want your ads to show during your business hours.
Ad Delivery allows you to choose the rotation of ads, if you have more than one ad set up. By default, the ad rotation is set to Optimize for clicks. This means that ads that are more likely to be clicked on, based on past performance, are shown more often than ads that are less likely to be clicked on. If you want to optimize for a different metric, or you want the ads to rotate evenly instead, you can change the setting here.

Lastly on the campaign set-up page, you’ll find the Location and Call Extension options. Location extensions show your store’s physical location along with the rest of the ad. This is useful if you are trying to entice potential customers to come to your store. If this is valuable to you, you will need to set up a Google My Business page and connect it with Google Ads. Call extensions add a section to your ad where users can click to call you. This can be useful if you are trying to drive potential customers to call you. If neither of these extensions are useful to you, just leave those blank. Now, it’s time to move on to setting up your first ad group!

Google Display Network screen shot

Ad Group Types

To set up an ad group, you will need to choose what kind of people you would like to target. There are three main categories of ad groups: Display Keywords, Interests & Remarketing, and Use a Different Targeting Method. These methods allow you to target based on various characteristics or demonstrated interests of the person browsing the sites on the Display Network.

The Display Keyword ad group type allows you to show ads on websites related to keywords that you choose. These can be words or phrases to describe your products or services. For instance, if you are a chimney cleaning company, you might enter “chimney sweep” and other related phrases to the list. You can choose a Keyword Setting of either “Audience”, which will show your ad both on websites, videos, or apps related to the keywords you entered, and to people who are likely to be interested in these keywords no matter what site on the Google Display Network they are visiting, and “Content”, which will only show your ads on websites, apps and videos that are directly related to your keyword list.

Interests & Remarketing allows you to show ads to people who have shown interest in a category of product or service, as well as to people who have visited your site in the past. For Interests, you can choose an Affinity Audience, which will show ads to people who have shown a long-term interest in a certain category, which you can choose out of an extensive list that Google put together. You can also create a custom affinity audience based on specific website or interests that you choose. You are also able to target based on in-market audiences, which only show ads to people that Google has determined are actively researching and comparing products and services that you choose from Google’s prepopulated list.

Remarketing Lists, Targeting Optimization

Remarketing and customer email list targeting allows you to show ads to people who are already familiar with your business. These lists are a list of people who have been to your website in the past. You can segment the people in these lists by how long it has been since they last visited the site, or by which pages they viewed on your site. Remarketing lists require a Google Analytics account that is connected to your Google Ads account. Then, you need to set up the remarketing list in Google Analytics before creating this ad group.

Customer email list requires you to have a list of emails, either from prospective customers, or current customers that you want to show ads to. Another option for both remarketing and customer email list is the “Similar to remarketing list/customer email list” option, which will allow Google Ads to find other people who are similar to the people that are currently in your lists and show ads to them as well.

The Other targeting methods allow you to target people and websites based on Topics, Placements, and Demographics. Topics allow you to show ads on pages about specific subjects that you can choose out of an extensive list. Placements allow you to choose a specific website from the Google Display Network to show ads. Demographics allow you to target specific people based on certain demographic features, like age, gender, or parental status.

One other setting to note before you move on to creating your ads is the Targeting Optimization feature. This setting will allow Google Ads to automatically find new customers. By default, it is turned on and set to Conservative targeting. Conservative targeting finds additional customers like the target you already set up. It also attempts to keep the same cost per customer that you already have. You can also choose Aggressive targeting, which will find even more new customers, but your cost per customer may go up as a result. If you don’t want to use this option, you can opt out by unchecking the box to “Let Google Ads automatically find new customers”. Once you have decided on your targeting methods, it is time to create the ads!

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Types of Ads

There are several different types of ads that you can show people through the Display Network. The main type that you will use most often is the basic image ad. The Display Network allows ads in many different layouts and sizes to fit on different types of websites. The types of ads that you can create are Responsive Ads, Image Ads, the Ad Gallery, and App/Digital Content ads.

Responsive Ads allow you to create one banner image, and Google will automatically adjust their size, appearance, and format to fit the available ad space on each website that you choose to show ads on. This can be useful if you can create an image ad, but can’t invest the time and resources necessary to create a full set of ad sizes and formats to advertise on all websites you need.

Image ads are the most basic type of ad. You will need to upload an image for each size and format you would like to advertise on. If you don’t upload the correct ad size, your ad will not show in placements with those size requirements. Google will also suggest ad ideas for your image ads if you enter your website URL.

Ad Gallery has a wide variety of different kinds of ads. Dynamic ads allow you to create ads that match the location of the person seeing the ad, as well as the content they are reading. An example of an industry that uses these types of ads are the travel industry. You can use dynamic ads to show someone who is searching for things to do in New York City hotels and flights to New York. Lightbox ads allow you to combine various elements like videos, image galleries and maps to fill available space on various ad sizes. They expand when people engage with the ad by clicking, tapping, or hovering over it. This allows you to interact with customers who are interested in engaging with your content.

Video ads allow you to place a 15 to 30 second video that will appear on video partner sites through the Google Display Network. Basically, your video ads will play before video content on a Display Network site. You will need to create a video separately to use in this ad, Google will not provide the video content. General purpose ads are animated ads with text, an image, and your company logo. When the user clicks on these ads, they will be taken to a landing page on your website. Gmail Ads allow you to create interactive ads that appear in the Promotions tab in Gmail. You pay for the ad when someone clicks on the ad to expand it.

App/Digital Content ads allow you to get people to install your mobile app. You will need to have a mobile app and it needs to be listed in either the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store. You can either display the thumbnail of your app from the app store, with a headline and description text that you create, or you can create a display banner image to promote your ad. Once you are done setting up your ads, it is time to set up tracking and to learn how to evaluate performance and optimize your Display Network campaigns.

If you want more information on Display Network ads, head over to The Complete Guide to Google Display Network Ad Sizes.


Measuring Performance & Optimizing Your Campaigns

Measuring the performance of your Display Network campaign can vary depending on your goals in starting the campaign. If you want the user to take a specific action on your website, such as buying your product or filling out a form, you will want to set up conversion tracking and focus on increasing conversions and decreasing your cost per conversion. On the other hand, If you are looking for brand engagement or brand awareness, you should focus on your vCPM (viewable cost per thousand impressions). Also, you should focus on the number of times the ad was seen and interacted with. If you are looking to drive traffic to your website, you should focus on the number of clicks and the click-through rate (CTR).

Conversion tracking is a free tool that allows you to track what happens after people click on your ad. You can track a wide variety of actions that
would have a positive impact on your company. You can track website actions, like purchases, or email list sign-ups, phone calls, app installs or in-app actions, or you can import conversions from offline sources. An example of an imported conversion would be when a customer clicks an ad, but eventually, comes into your office and signs a contract.

The purpose of a brand awareness or brand engagement campaign is to make sure that people know about your company and have positive associations with your brand and your products or services. This can increase loyalty to your company, and help move people along towards eventually buying from you. You will want to increase the number of impressions as much as possible, but you also don’t want to waste your spend on people who will never buy from you because they aren’t interested in what your company does. Make sure that your targeting is set up correctly to reach only those people who are interested in what you have to offer.

To make a direct-response campaign effective, make sure that you highlight a distinct offer that the customer can take advantage of. Make sure that the first page the customer sees on your site once they click on your ad is clear on how they can take advantage of that offer. Tell the customer in the ad what you would like them to do next, for example, call you (make sure to include your phone number), request a quote, buy today, etc. This is called a clear call-to-action. Provide the customer with enough information to take the next step, and make your website clean and easy to navigate, especially along the path you would like them to take. At this point, you are all set to launch your first Display Network campaign for Google Ads. Congratulations!

Google AdWords and Display Network

The Google Display Network through Google Ads is an excellent way to advertise your company. It is a very large network encompassing a huge part of the websites on the internet. You can reach a huge volume of people that you can’t find anywhere else. The network gives you a large amount of control of how much you want to spend, where you spend it, and what locations you would like to show ads.

You can control who sees your ads, by people who are interested in your product, people who are actively searching for the services you provide, people who have already been to your website, or other demographic information. You can test different kinds of ads, like image, video, or dynamic ads to see what works best to engage with your audience. The best part is, Google provides many ways to evaluate the performance of the ads, from how many people saw your ad all the way down to how much money you made from the ad campaign.

Many people are afraid to start working on the Google Display Network because it is confusing and hard to navigate. It can be difficult to sit down and figure out how to set up your campaign, but once you do, you’ll find that the Display Network is a huge opportunity to bring in new business for your company. I hope after reading this article that you now find it less intimidating to move forward with your next advertising campaign.