Have your paid search efforts begun to stagnate? Are you still looking for growth opportunities even after expanding your keyword selection and remarketing?  If so, it’s time to consider Display advertising.

Picadilly Circus with Multiple Advertising Billboards

Unlike traditional billboards, you’ll still be able to measure impressions and other metrics with Display. Image via Pixabay.

Search campaigns drive strong CPA and ROAS results because they target people who are already searching for the products or services you offer. But that’s also one of their main drawbacks – you’re unable to reach people who haven’t heard of your product yet.

If you’re looking to grow your customer base beyond available Search inventory, it may be a good time to launch a Google Display Network (GDN) campaign. With display efforts, you can target an entirely new audience based on their interests, make them aware of your company, and pull them into the top of the sales funnel.

The Google Display Network is a collection of over two million websites, reaching over 90% of people on the web. The vast reach of the GDN means that setting up a Display campaign can be trickier than setting up a Search campaign. Since Display is more top-of-the-funnel, you can expect it to bring in fewer direct conversions than Search, though you’ll see the positive effects of Display down the line in your Search campaigns. Also, without proper targeting, the audience you reach on the GDN can be too broad, resulting in spend on unqualified audiences. For that reason, your choice of targeting is the factor most likely to drive success for your Display campaign.

The Display Toolbox

The key to successful Display campaigns is the targeting you use. Google has several options:


Placements are the specific websites that your ads show on. If you do not choose to target any specific placements, Google will automatically generate placements for you based on the other targeting options you use.

There is the option to manage your placements to show ads only on specific webpages. Because your webpages are highly-targeted, this type of Display campaign is typically where you’ll find the best conversion performance. However, because your ads will only show occasionally, you will receive very few impressions and will often find it difficult to scale a managed placement campaign.

Display keywords

Like search campaigns, you can use keywords to determine what audiences you would like to see your ads. Display keywords also help determine what webpages your ads will show on. To choose keywords for your ad groups, assess the top performing keywords in your current search campaigns and select your strongest performing non-brand keywords.

It’s also worth testing brand Display keywords. Doing so will show your ads next to content that is relevant to your brand, such as reviews, forums and news articles, helping you attain high share of voice and prevent competitors from showing ads next to your earned content.


Topics allow you to target webpages with content that matches the selected topic category. For instance, targeting the topic category “Cooking & Recipes” would show your ads on cooking and lifestyle websites such as Allrecipes, and on the cooking and recipes section of Huffington Post. Topics are a great way to reach a new audience that is already interested in your product.


Audience targeting allows you to show ads to specific groups of people (instead of specific websites in Topics targeting). Google generates profiles of its users based on previous search history and uses these to group users into audiences you can target. Examples of audiences include Movie Lovers, Technophiles, and Cooking Enthusiasts. You can also target people in the market for certain products, such as customers searching for Business Services.

Be cautious with audience targeting, at least when you’re just beginning. After all, someone who watches Netflix once a week is not necessarily a movie lover, nor is every Wired reader a Technophile.

Layering It All Together

With so many websites available on the GDN, it’s easy to spend money showing ads on irrelevant webpages. Layered targeting is the best way to make sure that prospective purchasers are seeing your ads.

First, you must put yourself in your customer’s shoes. What kind of websites are you browsing? What are your interests? What interests, topics, and keywords will help us show to these people? Once you choose your interests, topics, and keywords, you can start making combinations.

Let’s say you want to advertise your yoga pants business. If you only used audience targeting to show ads to people who are in the market for activewear, you’d be showing ads to millions of people. Some of them would be yoga enthusiasts, but others would be swimmers, runners, and people who don’t do yoga. However, if you layer targeting for the topics of yoga and pilates atop your audience targeting, you’d reach people who are interested in activewear and browsing on pages related to yoga and pilates. The two layers of targeting essentially act as a double verification – helping us reach an active audience at the moment they are reading about yoga and pilates. This audience is generally much more likely to purchase yoga pants now or in the future.

Target and Bid or Bid Only

For Display campaigns, Google asks you to set your targeting options to “target and bid” or “bid only.” If you select “target and bid,” you will only show ads to users in that particular category. If you choose “bid only,” you’ll be eligible to show ads to a much wider audience. By choosing “target and bid” for all targeting, you will reach only people who match all targeting criteria, making your audience pool smaller and more precise.

Other Items to Keep in Mind

After deciding your targeting options, there are a few other points to keep in mind:

Use image and text ads

To make sure you have ads showing as often as possible, you should include both image and text ads in your campaign. Since they are different in appearance, you can expect these two type of ads to perform differently; thus you should make sure to separate these ad types into different ad groups. For example, you might have one image ad group with keywords and interest targeting layered, then a text ad group with the same targeting. You should also consider designing unique ad copy based on the type of targeting you’re using.

Cap your impressions

To make sure your viewers don’t get ad fatigue, make sure to update your frequency settings to show a limited number of impressions per day to each user. We often recommend 4 impressions per campaign per user per day.

Monitor and maintain

After your campaign is launched, it’s important to check back and see what placements your ads have been showing on. Even with layered targeting, your ads are going to reach a much less qualified audience than you might prefer when you first start off. Because of this, it’s important to look through your automatic placements often as the campaign picks up more volume and exclude placements where you don’t want to show.

With the wealth of targeting options for Google Display campaigns, it can be a bit intimidating starting off on a blank slate. Just keep in mind layered targeting, and don’t be afraid to experiment with different interest, audience, and keyword combinations.