The Display Advertising Handbook for Beginners

The Display Advertising Handbook for Beginners

By Manuela Vulpescu

The display network’s reach is incredibly vast. It includes newspapers and magazines, a series of apps, plus Gmail and YouTube. Only the Google display network has more than 2 million sites and apps that produce more than 1 trillion impressions a month. Despite having a reported reach of over 90% of global internet users, it is relatively underused in favor of bottom-of-the-funnel PPC tactics capable of generating more conversions.

Why are the results so different on Search and Display Networks?

On the Search network, the user is actively trying to find an answer to a question he has in mind. That’s the main reason why he naturally engages with relevant ads he sees in SERP until he gets what he is looking for.

In Display networks, on the other hand, the user wants to read an article, watch a video, or engage with other activities. So when your ad hits, the message comes as a disruption. The user has to leave his current activity to click on your ad and see what you have to say. This makes the conversion rates in the display advertising campaigns shallow compared to what you can get via “classic PPC.”

Still, the good part of the display is that you have many targeting options and more chances to be compelling as your ads here will be more visual, including both images and videos when compared to the ones on the search network, which are more text formated with fewer exceptions (see the shopping ads).

When should you opt for display advertising?

There is no doubt that the most commonly used display network approach is remarketing , as it enables you to show ads to users who previously interacted with your site, complementing your PPC efforts in the search network. Even if display usually generates a lower CTR, as mentioned before, with this kind of behavioral advertising, you can achieve a CPA that is even better than the one you standardly get on the search network. People seeing your remarketing ads are more inclined to interact with them because they are already familiar with your brand.

However, if you are not entirely focused on ROAS, then the upper-funnel display advertising can be a great option for sustainable growth.

Targeting options for display networks

With display, you can set your targeting at the campaign level where you can opt for specific locations, devices, or time frames to show your ads, or you can go deeper (to the ad group level) and choose between specific placement options, contextual opportunities, and particular audience characteristics you may consider relevant for your business. Anyway, it is best not to combine display ad targeting options in an ad group but to use bids and serve ads that are appealing to each audience in part.

Contextual Targeting

Contextual targeting matches your targeting options with the page’s content where your ad is to be displayed. This means that when someone is looking for a particular article related to a specific subject and land on o page of a publication to read it, they may be exposed to your contextual ad that treats the same matter in its own way.

Placement targeting

Placements are ad slots across a publisher’s site or app. Some publishers may have multiple ad slots that you can target individually. To be on a specific website, use placement targeting if the publisher you have in mind is part of the display network.

Audience Targeting

Audiences are groups of users that share a similar behavior or affinity. You can choose custom versions or use the pre-created ones, such as the In-Market or Affinity Audiences. You may also want to opt for “Similar audiences” for your remarketing campaigns. To do that, you will most probably need to import your customers' data from your CRM into your Google Ads account.

Layer Targeting

With display advertising, you can layer targeting and become so specific that you can exclusively approach users who simultaneously meet predefined criteria. For example, you can go only for those who read a particular publication. You can opt for a certain placement on a page with an article describing a topic related to a distinct keyword intent. Only if all those criteria combined are simultaneously met will your ad be displayed.

With this type of programmatic buying , there is also the possibility for you to approach potential customers who meet exclusively selected criteria. For instance, the person is in the market (meaning they have already done their research and are willing to buy a similar product). The contextual criteria are met as well, meaning that the landing page on the publisher site contains information about the subject. In this case, you can opt to modify the bid and increase it as there is a higher chance you will end up with a contract since you are more likely dealing with a hot prospect.

Display Ad Formats

In the display network, different publishers offer ad slots that vary in size. The types of ads permitted in these slots include “only text ads” or “text with image ads.”

There is also the possibility to go for Responsive Ads that include a combination of texts and images and are rendered at the time of ad display. They can show in multiple sizes and formats and work for almost every inventory slot.

The fact that they are automatically resized provides less control over the branding look and feel. If you are not comfortable with this, you will probably opt for image ads to precisely design key visuals for each slot type in part. However, you will need to create then all these multiple variations to maximize your reach. Keep in mind that there are some inventory slots where image ads can not be displayed and where responsive ones manage things better.

Long story short: if your goal is to get the maximum reach, you may find responsive ads very useful, and when you intend to control your brand look online, image ads will work best, especially when combined with some responsive ones to accomplish maximum reach at the same time.

Specialty ad formats

Some of the available special ad formats include the Lightbox (which expands upon interaction) or the Dynamic Ads (in which you can insert data from a feed to personalize the experience). They are very effective for remarketing campaigns.

You can also choose to show ads through Gmail campaigns or videos for YouTube and other publishers.


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