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Google’s ‘Display Network’ needn’t be overwhelming

Google’s ‘Display Network’ of millions of sites where we can advertise through AdWords has become more attractive as it has offered us more control over the years. As long as you keep it on a tight leash, it can be very cost-effective, even compared to search advertising. There are now so many ways of targeting the ads that using it can be almost overwhelming. Not only can you target pages and sites by name, by keyword and by topic, you can also target viewers by interests, demographics, previous interactions (‘remarketing’), location and devices. And yes, you can combine all or any of those. So where to begin?

We like to start by advertising on known sites, and/or advertising to known people. The former can be done by getting long lists of sites which have referred people in the past – only a few will have Google ads on them, but you can specify them anyway. The latter can be done through remarketing lists. The key is then to monitor things carefully. More often than not we find that mobile devices produce a poorer cost per engaged visitor than desktop PCs, to the extent that we often start without using them, possibly just introducing them as a test later. Other tests we run will include letting the ads run on unspecified sites but with keyword targeting.

There are also different types of ads to test: simple text ads, ‘responsive’ image ads (where Google makes up the ads from supplied images and logos), and your own image ads. While the latter is obviously the most impressive to see in the real world (especially if the ads are HTML5), there’s going to be a limit to the number of sizes you’re prepared to commission, and that limits the reach severely. The key though is to test the results continuously.