“The Google Display Network (GDN) is a brand awareness channel. You shouldn’t expect to see direct conversions come through the GDN, and if they do, they will be less profitable or lower quality than Search conversions.” We’ve all heard those cardinal rules of GDN expectations, but rules were made to be broken. Here are Search Network vs. GDN KPIs for four real-life lead gen advertisers:


You may ask if lead quality is as strong on the GDN as it is on Search. In some cases, it is. In other cases, where lead quality is lower, we often find that the lower CPAs on the GDN result in similar Cost-per-Sales-Qualified-Leads as on the Search Network. In layman’s terms – even if the quality leads are less frequent, the fact that each lead is so much cheaper can make the Cost-per-SQL even out.

How did I drive these direct conversions? The key to successful GDN campaigns is in the targeting. The more relevant your ad placements are, the more qualified your audience will be and the better conversion rates you’ll likely get. Here’s how I’ve built GDN campaigns that deliver leads at a lower CPA than Search campaigns.

GDN campaigns may be an untapped treasure trove of leads. Image via Pixabay.GDN campaigns may be an untapped treasure trove of leads. Image via Pixabay.

Top Remarketing Placements

Even if you’re not running other GDN campaigns, chances are good that you’re running Remarketing campaigns. Look at the placements report in AdWords and see which webpages drive the most conversions – if those pages are relevant and consistent performers, you should consider showing GDN ads on those sites to capture new users.

Leverage Customer Behavior Insight

Don’t just think about your product – think about who uses it. Your goal is to show your ads to relevant users, and that may mean advertising on sites that aren’t specifically about your product. For example:

One advertiser I work with sells heavy duty computers often used in the government and defense industries. In addition to researching sites about computers, we also researched to see where the defense industry spends time online, which led to sites like DefenseDaily.com.

Remember that relevant site content and a relevant user base sometimes don’t go hand in hand, but a successful GDN campaign will leverage insights about both.

Organic Search Results

Chances are that if someone is in the market for your product, they’re typing in queries around your top keywords or competitor terms. Search those keyword sets on Google, and browse the organic results. You will often find extremely relevant articles, reviews, and comparisons – prime places for you to display ads.

Team Input

Your sales and product teams have (most likely) been in the industry a long time, and have a wealth of user and customer data. They understand their customer, the top industry voices, and the most popular industry websites better than anyone. I’ve received a wealth of GDN placements from other team members that I probably wouldn’t have found on my own.

Google Analytics Interest Report

With over 2,000 affinity and in-market audiences, how on earth do you figure out which ones will be most successful? Rather than wading through the options in AdWords and guessing at which ones seem most relevant, look in Google Analytics. The Interests Overview report will tell you which interest categories your audience falls into. You can get even more targeted by overlaying a Converters segment to see which interest categories your prior converters already fall into. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I use this data to launch GDN campaigns with the interest categories that have proven successful.

Even if you’ve tried the GDN in the past without success, a new approach to targeting may be all you need to turn it around. After all, you wouldn’t stop Search advertising just because one group of keywords didn’t work, would you? Set yourself up for GDN success by researching the most relevant placements and using existing data to build interest targeting with proven success.