How to Optimise Display Campaigns in Adwords – Part One

This is part one in a series of articles all about Google Display Network. Here I’ll give you a brief overview of how Display works, how should initially get started and how you would usually structure your campaigns. Each targeting method will be dealt with in a separate article, hence this being part one.

What is the Display Network?

When targeting Search your text ads will be shown on search engine results pages based on the keywords you choose. Called the Search Network this can be Google but can also include other partner search engines such as Ask as well as websites that use Google Custom Search for their results pages.

Display ads on the other hand can be either text ads or image ads and are shown on Placement sites within the Display Network. These are third party websites who often run a program called Adsense. This means they get a share of any revenue generated from ad impressions or clicks. The auction system still applies so your bid, quality score and targeting setting will be taken into account.

The Display Network also has access to DoubleClick inventory. Combined with Adsense this means that your ads could appear on something close to 90% of all potential site pages across the world. Massive potential but…

If you’ve never used or set up Display Campaigns before in Adwords it can be a bit daunting to effectively unleash ads across the world on sites you’ve never even imagined let alone heard of. Fear not: this set of guides is aimed to help you get started, get to grips with the entire channel and teach you some best practices for optimisation.

What are the Targeting Options on Display?

If you click on the Display tab on Adwords you’ll notice just below there’s a list of targeting options.

Targetting Options for Display Network

Display Keywords allows for quite tight targeting and as you move rightward the targeting becomes looser. Therefore the risk of a less than desirable ROAS (Return on Advertising Spend) increases as you develop your account from keywords to targeting a whole gender group. There are some exceptions but here’s a rundown:

  • Display Keywords – Google will place your ads on websites (or Placements) that it considers contextually similar to the keywords you’ve selected.
  • Placements – You choose the sites where you want your ads to show and bid accordingly against each individual Placement
  • Topics – You choose which topics of websites’ content where your ads will appear.
  • Interests & remarketing – You choose the people who may be interested in your products or have shown an interest by having already paid your site a visit
  • Gender – You choose the gender of your potential audience
  • Age – You choose the age of your potential audience

To get a grasp of how big each targeted market is it might be worth spending a few moments playing with the Display Planner. Since its update this tool is far more intuitive and it should become obvious when you see the audience figures why keywords are a good place to start when branching out into Display advertising.

Structure: Separate your Display Campaigns from your Search Campaigns

Your Display campaign should be separate from your Search campaigns. This will allow your bids to closer reflect the Display Network and not interfere with your Search keywords.

In terms of structure I would recommend that each Display campaign should target one set of keywords or market; a brand of goods or type of good for instance.

Each Ad Group can be set to bid at a certain targeting level. So for instance you can set one Ad Group to base bids on the performance of your keywords, another on your Remarketing Lists, a further one on Placements and so on. Because of this you should therefore end up with separate Ad Groups for each targeting option:

  • Product A – Display – Keywords
  • Product A – Display – Remarketing
  • Product A – Display – Placements

A second level of segmentation is also recommended based on ad sizes/types. At the very least you should have a separate Ad Group for text ads and one for image ads:

  • Product A – Display – Text Ads – Keywords
  • Product A – Display – Image Ads – Keywords

If you have the time and inclination you can further split image ads by their size. This can prove very beneficial as different sized ads will perform differently but there is a great deal of additional management work involved and not all accounts will be large enough to warrant the effort.

Basic Settings – What are the Best Practices?

Most settings are similar to Search and in most scenarios you’ll choose the same settings that you usually would. There are some additional options though:

  • Frequency Capping – Found in the settings tab this option instructs Google how many times you would like your ads to be shown to any one individual over a set period of time be this day, week or month. Generally speaking you do not want to bombard users with your ads lest they press the mute button. This is particularly important for retargeting campaigns where it can be very obvious to users you’re following them around the web. You can’t really test this figure (unfortunately) but anywhere between 5-10 impressions per day should be sufficient in most cases.
  • Site Category Options – This allows you to choose which types of sites your ads do not appear on. As this is a form of targeting (or non-targeting) it’s found under the Display tab in the targeting options. You can add exclusions for campaigns and for individual Ad Groups. Most of these are fairly obvious and you’ll decide what’s suitable based on the product you’re promoting. As your campaign matures keep an eye on your placements; if you find that your ads are not cost effective on a group of similar sites (say forums) instead of excluding each domain individually it may be worth revisiting Site Category Options and simply disabling forums at this level.

Targeting Exclusions for Google Display

Ads: Choosing your Display Ads and how to Optimise them

There are four different types of ads that you can create for the Display Network:

  • Text Ads – Exactly the same as on Search
  • Image Ads – Simple image ads with no moving features or animation
  • Rich Media Ads – These are image ads with moving features or animation such as changing text, moving icons or product carousel
  • Video Ads – As YouTube videos can be embedded onto third party websites any video advertising can also be applicable to the Display Network. This is quite a different area of Adwords so will not be dealt with in this guide.

If you’re just starting out it might be best to stick with text based ads to experiment and familiarise yourself with the Display Network. Choosing your ads from your already existing Search ads is probably the easiest and quickest way to get going.

There is another advantage; although Display will perform differently than Search by using familiar successful ads you can now tinker with other options knowing your ads are probably not the fault for any poor performance.

Different industries can see drastic differences in performance between their text ads and image ads. Generally speaking if you’re a business that already utilises visual merchandising, glossy brochures and chisel faced models chances are stimulating image ads will work better than text.

If on the other hand you sell services that no amount of colour will make interesting to your average Joe you may never find a use for image ads.

The only way to find out is to get some live once you’re comfortable you know what you’re doing. Google’s Ad Gallery allows anybody to quickly get some image ads or rich media ads up and running. Although quite good most people will probably prefer bespoke ads created professionally.

As with Search ads you can run ads against one another to measure performance scientifically (sort of) so invest some time in creating a number of different ads with different ad copy and/or images (for image ads this can be quite costly which is why I usually recommend starting with text ads so risks can be assessed and minimised).

Primarily optimise your ads based on cost-per-acquisition (CPA). Click-through-rates (CTR) are not a contributing factor to performance. That being said this is sometimes a numbers game and it can be better to gain more conversions more expensively than none. CTR should be considered but CPA should be the overriding metric for Display Ads.

Optimising Bids

Bids are set at a targeting level. This means that you can set bids against a keyword for instance, or against placements or topics or interests and so on. Adwords Editor is the best place to set bidding options under the Ad Groups tab selecting the Display Network custom bid type drop down.

Bid Targeting on Adwords Editor

For campaigns where you combine different targeting options you generally want to set bids to the tighter level. The most usual example is where you target a number of sites or Placements but narrow the pages upon which your ads feature by also targeting keywords. In this instance set your bids by Placement.

What’s Next?

Now that you understand how Display works and have your ads the next question that needs answering is where are you going to show them. This is where targeting comes into play.



What are your thoughts?