The Google Display Network (GDN) can be a huge boon for you as an advertiser if you know how to take advantage of it. There are plenty of articles out there about best practices for the GDN, but there are some things they don’t mention that I consider musts.

1. Use Mixed Targeting

Adding two types of targeting does not grow your audience size. It accomplishes quite the opposite, actually.

When you choose two types of targeting on the GDN, Google will only target the segment of each audience that overlaps with the other (as evidenced by the fun little Venn Diagram below). It’s essentially like another layer of filtering to make sure your audience is as relevant as possible.

Rather than go into too much detail here, I’ll let Shelley Ellis fill you with specifics and some examples to get you started presented in her article on Marketing Land.


2. Use Automated Bidding Strategies

Whether you use bidding rules you set up and manage yourself, or you use one of Google’s Conversion Optimizer settings, I’ve always found it beneficial to use some sort of automated bidding strategy. This is almost completely contrary to my opinions about bid management for search, but we’ll leave that for another post.

Display campaigns can become very large and cumbersome very quickly. More often than not, you’ll get better performance out of automatic bidding options than manual. Whether you set up rules yourself or let Google take the reins, it’s up to you. The goal here is just to be sure that bids are regularly getting adjusted based on performance.

3. Control Your Estimated Audience Size

Here, I mean control your audience at an ad group level. If it’s too small, you’re not going to get any traffic. If it’s too big, you’re missing out some optimization opportunities. If you find that one of your interest categories has a very large estimated audience size, break it up by layering some keyword targeting as well. Sounds familiar?

Create multiple ad groups targeting the same interest category, but have each ad group use a different group of keywords. This will allow you to take advantage of ad-group-level auto-bidding optimizations as well as to learn which sub-segments of your audience are more valuable than others.

P.S. 10B+ is the biggest estimated audience size AdWords will show you. If that’s your estimation it’s time to segment.

4. Keep Image and Text ads in Separate Ad Groups

This is mostly a decision based on ease of management. You’ll have greater visibility into which type of ads perform the best, as well as have the potential to set automated bidding strategies that are custom to each type.

This can be done in one of two ways: separate ad types by campaign and set unique Target or Max CPA bids, or segment ad type only at the ad group level and use Flexible Bidding Strategies to set Target or Max CPA bids on an ad group level. Either way works, so it’s entirely up to you.

Bonus Tip: Always set minimum bids about 25% higher initially for image ads. More often than not, image ads have to beat out 2 to 3 ads for an impression on the GDN, so raising the bid a bit will ensure they’re shown as often as they can.

5. Review Placements at the Micro and Macro Level

Too often, marketers get caught looking at automatic placement reports on just an ad group or campaign level. Every once in a while, (I tend to do it every quarter) take a look at your aggregate performance on automatic placements. Here’s my process.

Find the ones that work well for your brand overall and find the ones that eat away little bits of your budget in lots of different campaigns and never convert. The good performers might be good candidates for Manual Placement targeting and the poor performers that spread throughout the account should more than likely be excluded from all GDN campaigns in your account.

Bonus Tip: Run this report for long-term as well as short-term performance. You might find some solid placements to target or awful ones to exclude that have earned their claim to awesomeness or crappiness over the course of 9 months rather than the last 30 days.

6. Run Aggregate Level Ad Copy Tests

Keyword targeting on the GDN isn’t quite the same as on Search. Your potential customer isn’t closely tied to a specific phrase because they didn’t type it in. Give yourself a break and run ad copy tests at the campaign level rather than ad group. In other words, every ad group will have the same 2-3 text or image ads active throughout a campaign.

When looking to end the test and start a new one, use pivot tables in Excel to determine a winner on a campaign level, pause all variations of that ad in the campaign, and write and upload a new piece of ad copy. You’ll only have to analyse one test rather than tests for all the ad groups you have. Big time saver.



7. Don’t Blindly Exclude Use Categories

Category exclusions are a great way to keep your brand name and ads off poor sites, but don’t be fooled, these choices aren’t easy ones. Just because something is a parked domain, or an error page, doesn’t mean you’re going to have poor performance.

Give your campaign a little time to run and figure itself out. Give it a week or two, if you can, and see what the performance looks like on those categories before you exclude it. Who knows, maybe profanity-laden pages are just where your audience likes to spend their free time, or maybe they’re just really bad when using the Internet and keep hitting error pages. Either way, these are not a ”one-size-excluded-from-all” setting.

So those are mine, but what are some of your uncommon GDN best practices? Toss them in the comments and we’ll keep this learning’ wheel a turnin’.

Note: The opinions expressed in this article are the views of the author, and not necessarily the views of Caphyon, its staff, or its partners.

1 comment
  1. Great Insight. A lot of these things were not covered in other articles that I went through. Thanks. Been struggling with my GDN campaign for a bit now. Can someone have a look at our ad campaign and suggest improvements?

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