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Hello fellow advertisers! Today we will be doing an overview of all the forms of targeting you can possibly use on the Google AdWords Display Network. We’ll cover the following forms of targeting: keywords, topics, placements, affinity (and custom affinity) audiences, in-market audiences, and remarketing. I’ll also cover a highly recommended strategy called ‘lacing’ that helps you target a more granular list of users. This is extremely helpful due to the size of the display network, and it can help you save a lot of money and increase your lead generation on Google’s display network. Enjoy!
Hello everybody and welcome to another episode of my video blog series. I am your host, Nick Rennard, I’m the head of SEM here at Digital Reach Agency and today we are going to be talking about utilizing the display network in Google AdWords. A lot of the stuff were going to be going over today is relevant to other display platforms on things like Bing but today’s primarily gonna be focused around AdWords because that’s what I have the most personal experience with.
All right, so just going over the table of contents and what were going to cover today. We’ll start off by discussing the pros and cons of the display network. There’s two networks, search network and display network. Search network is what most people are familiar with, again today is gonna be primarily just revolving around display only and only really contrasting it with search network.
We’ll discuss some of the targeting options that we have on the display network. There’s quite a few to go over. Keyword targeting, placement targeting, topic targeting, interest targeting, there’s some subcategories of interest targeting including affinity audiences and custom affinity audiences along with in-market audiences, so we’ll go over each of those. And then the one people are most familiar I saved for last, remarketing. I’ll talk a little bit about remarketing. We do have a lot of resources on our website about remarketing already. But I’ll cover kind of the basics of it and what my recommendations are for that as well, because it is part of the display network.
Then lastly I’m gonna discuss a strategy that we’ve been using on the display network called lacing. It’s a term that we coined after we realized that advertising on the display network with only one form of targeting was too broad. So we’ll teach you how to narrow down your targeting so you can get more focused users. Yeah, I also have a section where I just have some wrap up recommendations at the very end for the conclusion, but let’s go ahead and get started here.
All right, so starting off with the pros and cons of the display network. First and foremost it’s good to know that the display network is massive. It is huge. I always tell people that, for kind of a comparison, if the search network is planet Earth the display network is the rest of the universe. If you think of how many web pages there are in the world and how many banner slots there are for each of those web pages each one of those little banner slots, that’s the display network. So the display network is essentially your ads showing up in those little banner slots on sites where you see ads for things that you browse beforehand. If you looked up like bicycles or something on Amazon and then it follows you around with those little ads that pop up, that’s the display network.
There’s actually some pros and cons to it being as massive as it is, so it being large is not necessarily good or bad. It’s good in the sense … Well, the first note here say’s that it’s easy to spend large quantities of money on the display network. That can be good and bad. It’s can be bad because if you don’t do your targeting correctly or if you don’t have enough funding to dump into it and you’re just not really covering a large portion of your market it can easily hemorrhage money.
Honestly, the display network has kind of a bad rap for being a platform where people waste money on it. It has gotten better over the years, display network. I feel like the algorithm that they’re writing for their targeting has improved over time and the types of targeting that we can use has definitely improved. But it’s just good to know that it’s very dangerous if you don’t set up your targeting correctly, then it’s easy to just kind of spray your ads over websites that are not displaying in front of relevant users. Now, that’s the con side of it.
The pro side of it is that if you have a lot of funding, if you’re a big software company or a pharma company or someone that has a lot of money to dump into … Let’s say you’re a B2B company that invests 20K plus monthly in AdWords, display network is a great place. Again there’s a lot of forms or targeting so you can try out different styles of targeting on the display network and it’s very easy to spend that money there. We have had a lot of success on the display network, so even though again it has kind of a bad rap for wasting money if you do kind of follow the recommendations that I have today and test it out and do a good job analyzing your data, yeah I would have a hard time believing that there wasn’t at least one form of targeting on the display network that was good for you.
All right, pros and cons, next on the list here is there’s lots of options for targeting. We did talk a little … I’ll go over the lacing methods that I discussed beforehand on how to get more granular with your targeting. Basically it allows you to take any pieces of the targeting criteria and lace multiple pieces together so that way your targeting a more granular list of users.
You can use both text and image ads on the display network which is nice. Most people start off with search campaigns so they already have text ads, so it’s pretty easy to set that up. Image ads, you will need some sort of designer. They do have a nice tool within AdWords for you to create your own image ads, it’s actually pretty good. I haven’t used it a ton, myself, but a lot of my techs have used it and have had good success with it. So if you don’t have the bandwidth to be creating images because you don’t have an internal designer or something like that you can set up image ads through AdWords.
Another good things about the display network is it has a very, very, very low cost per click. We’re talking like if an average AdWords click is anywhere for like one dollar to 20 dollars display network clicks are generally like 10 cents to a dollar. If you’re paying any more than a dollar for a click on the display network you’re probably paying too much. So that’s a pro in terms of you’re gonna be getting a lot of traffic to your site. The con side of that is that since you are spraying your ad across a lot of websites the chances of your ad being in front of someone that’s like a potential buyer is gonna be much lower.
So it does have lower conversion rates, but with a lower cost per click if something has half the conversion rate of a search network campaign, but the cost per click is 10 times cheaper then it’s actually much more profitable even though the conversion rates are lower. So we don’t only want to take conversion rates in mind here. So even though the conversion rates are lower we can have a much more successful campaign on the display network.
Lastly here, I personally think that display network campaigns are much easier to set up than search network campaigns. You don’t need to add extensions or anything like that. All you really needs is ads so the image and or text ads and then you need some form of targeting and we’ll be going over those pieces of targeting today, so that way if you already have an ad, hopefully you’ll be able to kind of pick one out of here that sounds good to you and run with it and see if you like it.
All right, next slide here. So the first form of targeting that we’re gonna go over is keyword targeting. Keyword targeting allows you to target sites based on the keywords that show up on the pages. It’s good to keep in mind that keyword targeting on the search network versus the display network are very, very, very different. I want to explain the difference between the two.
Keyword targeting on the search network is you’re targeting keywords that people are typing into their search queries on Google. So if you are advertising for, I don’t know, soccer cleats or something like that and you have a website with a whole shopping cart and stuff for different pieces of athletic footwear you might bid on someone typing in soccer cleats into Google. Display network is different. You can still bid on the keyword soccer cleats, but the way that it targets is that it targets websites that contain that keyword. So if there’s a website, let’s say it’s like a forum or something that is talking about soccer cleats or maybe that’s like the content of the page, it’s content based targeting. So it’s targeting pages that are about soccer cleats or have something to do with soccer cleats, and it’ll show your ads on those pages. So that’s kind of the difference between keyword targeting on the search network or the display network. On the search network it’s query based and on the display network it’s content based.
All right. I have a note here, it says AdWords will also target users that are interested in those keywords, so it does it based on interest as well, not just content. I don’t exactly know how the algorithm works for keyword targeting, I have had quite a bit of success with keyword targeting from the tests that I’ve done, but I guess the basic thing to note here is that if you want to do keyword targeting you just kind of want to pick your top keywords. If you’re a Middleware Monitoring company then you can try that keyword out and see if it works for you.
All right, I will say that this form of targeting is probably the easiest to set up because as I mentioned most people start AdWords with some sort of search campaign, so you probably already have a list of keywords to pull from, again I don’t recommend that you use all your keywords on the display network because it’s gonna be too broad. I would pick the top five or 10 keywords and break those up into ad groups and start there and kind of gauge how much traffic you’re getting and if you’re getting too much maybe you impression share loss due to budget is insanely high or your impression share loss due to rank is very high. You might want to reign that in using the lacing strategy that we’ll go over in a second here.
All right, next form of targeting is placements. Placements is actually the easiest to understand because you literally just get to choose the websites that you want to place your ads on. So you get to choose specific sites or subsets of those sites that you want your image and text ads to show on. So if I want my ad to show on New York Times somewhere you could add that as a placement and your ad will show up there.
You can also let Google choose relevant automatic placements based on your keywords and other targeting methods. I’m not a huge fan of settings that allow Google to take over. The reason being is you have to keep in mind that Google is their business and as a business their primary concern is making money. So a lot of the settings that they tell you to enable, and even like with the new AdWords editor update that they made, it seems very like they’re trying to sell you on these settings like this that just try to get you to spend more money. I don’t recommend this setting, I recommend if you do use placement targeting that you use it sparingly. You can test it out if there are pages that you want to show your site on, for example if you sell dental software or something like that and you want your ad to show up on like the top 10 dental distributors sites that could be a good use for it.
One of my issues with placement targeting is that generally it’s hard to come up with a full list of actual websites that you want to show your ads on, because if you use something like keyword targeting for example your ads are going to be showing up on hundreds of thousands of pages. Whereas like placement targeting it’s really hard to come up with a list of hundreds of pages off the top of your head that you want your ads to show on. So sometimes when I set up placement targeting in the past it’s just been too narrow, but if you do have a good list of sites then I definitely recommend trying this one out.
Last note here says that all placements must be partnered with Google in order to show ads. I guess that’s pretty straightforward, but I guess it’s more of a disclaimer that it can only show up on sites that are partnered with Google, which makes sense because it’s Google AdWords.
All right, next form of targeting and this might be the form of targeting that I’ve had the most success with aside from remarketing. I kind of put remarketing in its own category because I feel like everyone should be doing remarketing, but these other forms of display targeting I think are a bit more unique. So topic targeting is very similar to keywords targeting in that it’s content based. It allows you to place your ads on websites containing content relevant to the topics that you choose. You can see here on the picture if you look up Google AdWords topic targeting it’ll come up and you just click on the first AdWords support link, it comes up with this page. You can see here that they have these different section of topics. Arts and entertainment, auto and vehicles, beauty and fitness, books and literature, and then they have subsets of each of those categories like in books and literature you have book retailers, children’s literature, eBooks, fan fiction, literary classics, poetry, all kinds of different subsections of books and literature.
There’s hundreds and hundreds of topics on this page, so I’ve actually never had a client that wasn’t able to find a topic that was somewhat close to what they do. So the basic idea here is that you scan through this list of topic codes and you find anywhere from … Similar to the keyword targeting, find like five to 10 that are close to what you do and split those up into ad groups and see how they perform for you. It’s a very simple set up, you pick from this list of the codes you want to try, separate them into their own ad groups, and then see how they perform.
Again, it’s content based just like keyword targeting, so it’s very, very similar in that sense. I don’t think there’s a lot of differences between keyword and topic targeting. They’re both the same style and they’re both trying to target content based around whatever topic or keyword you choose. So they’re very similar just theoretically even. One of the reasons I recommend topic targeting is because it’s easy, because it’s just pick from the list. Very easy set up, again I’ve had the most success with topic targeting. I typically lace topic targeting and keyword targeting together because they are similar and I feel like people matching more than one piece of criteria is ideal for a display network campaign.
All right, next slide here. Okay, so affinity audiences, and this gets into … the tab that it’s under within AdWords is actually called Interest and Remarketing. They pair interest and remarketing together, this is one of the interests. The way that interest targeting works is that going back to the bicycle example on Amazon, where if you look up something on Amazon then you get followed around with ads, Google’s very good about knowing what you do, who you are, what you’re interested in. The cookies that are within your browser essentially tell Google what kind of person you are. It can be kind of scary how much they know about you. Your sex, your age, your income, they can make very good estimations on who you are and they can show ads in front of you based on what they think that you’re interested in.
So again, affinity audiences … Actually, let me back up, affinity audiences are very similar to topic charting in that you just kind of pick from a list. It’s gonna be a list of different audiences like people that are fans of the books and literature. There’s probably a books and literature affinity audience that you can select from as well. So if you are trying to sell online books or something like that or comics or whatever, you would choose an affinity audience in that category and essentially follow people who are interested in those topics with ads. So as those people with those interests browse around on other pages your ads are gonna show in front of them.
Again, very similar to topic targeting that you’re just selecting from a category and it’ll display your ads in front of people that are interested in those affinity audiences. There’s no limit on the types of sites that your ads will show up on, so you need to manage that manually. I highly recommend with any display campaign that you always check your site category exclusions and your negative placements. Most people don’t do this on a display campaign and they’ll end up hemorrhaging a lot of money by having their ad show on some site that Google things is relevant, but it isn’t actually relevant. Google’s algorithm is far from perfect in terms of getting ads in front of the right people and on top of that you want to keep in mind what I mentioned before about Google being a business. Google is trying to make money. So Google is fine putting your ads in front of anybody if it generates clicks and it makes them money.
So you want to be careful about that. I highly recommend you go into the display network tab after your display campaigns. I usually check this monthly for my client accounts. Go into the display network tab, go to placements, and it’ll actually tell you exactly what pages your ads have been showing on, what’s been getting clicked on, how much money you spent, and sometimes you’ll find that 90% of your spend is being dumped on this mobile site that’s absolute trash and it never converts. And what you can do is if you find that out you can add that site as a negative placement so that way your ad will never show up on that site again and it can use that funding to spread it out across the other sites that are more relevant.
It actually very common for that to happen and that’s one of the big reasons that people hate the display network is because they’ll start running it and they won’t do that work on the account to optimize it and it ends up hemorrhaging a bunch of money, dumping all of that into some garbage website, and then people end up blaming the display network when really it isn’t the display network’s fault, it’s the management of that campaign. So yeah, blame your agency for not managing that properly. Anyways, affinity audiences I have less experience with this than some of the other forms of targeting, but it seems cool, it seems very similar to keyword and topic targeting, but it’s just targeting users based on their interests rather than targeting websites based on their content.
All right, so kind of expanding on affinity audiences there’s also something called custom affinity audiences. This was released in, I believe, 2014, so it’s been around for a while. It’s been getting improved over times as have every form of display targeting. I feel like every year it gets a little bit better. Custom affinity audiences are essentially the exact same thing, but you get to create your own list of users based on a URL from a site. So like if you have a competitor or … I’ll go over the strategy of competitors in a second, but you can choose URLs and choose keywords of sites that are relevant to what you’re trying to sell and you can create your own custom audience and Google will select users that it thinks are interested in those interests, I guess, and it’ll display your ads in front of them.
This targeting is still the same as affinity audiences, as I mentioned, but you get to create your own so if you go through the affinity audiences within AdWords and you don’t really find that there’s anything for you there or you feel that the targeting is just a little loose I recommend trying out custom affinity audiences. We actually just started implementing these for a lot of our clients, so we’re still gathering data in terms of … I don’t really have a conclusion on whether or not I highly recommend or don’t recommend these. I think with any form of targeting on AdWords though, that the answer is nothing is necessarily good or bad, but the answer is that you have to test it for your own company. Every industry, every company, every website, every campaign is gonna be different and you just have to test it out and see if it works for you.
The competitors strategy that I was talking about beforehand, the way that we’ve been using custom affinity audiences is we’ve been getting a list of our clients top 10 competitors sites and we’ve been creating custom affinity audiences of people who are interested in those competitors and the idea is that if people are interested in their competitors we want to get our ads in front of those users so that way if they’re considering going through another one of our competitors or maybe they’re already going through one of our competitors we want to put our ads in front of those people as a viable option if they ever want to switch or if they want to consider somebody else besides that particular competitor. So we’re essentially trying to snipe traffic from our competitors. So that’s one strategy you can use here.
I would say the biggest draw back to custom affinity audiences is that you have to create your own, so they’re custom based so it’s a little more work, but honestly like once you get the hang of this it’s not hard. It’s just clicking through the buttons and inserting the URLs and your keywords and whatnot. It’s pretty easy to set up lists if you’re relatively familiar with that or if you’re not with any of these forms of targeting, if it looks interesting to you or I started rambling about and you decided that it sounded cool, I highly recommend you look up the Google AdWords support pages or any blogs on it. Read up more, get more of the details, and that way when you do run your campaign you’re more educated about it and you’re not making any elementary mistakes that might cause you to hate the display network in the long run.
All right, I think this is the last form of targeting here besides remarketing. In-market audiences, now I’ll start this off by saying that I don’t think … I’ve maybe created a couple campaigns with in-market audiences. I have very little experience with in-market audiences, setting them up myself, I do have techs that have used them. Basically the way that it works is that it’s able to determine when users are in the market to purchase a product versus simply interested in that category.
Now, when I first heard about this I was really skeptical because I was like, “Wait, how do you know if someone’s like ready to buy or not ready to buy?” So I started reading up on more blogs and stuff on it. The general consensus I got from it, I didn’t really get a clear answer, which is true about a lot of their algorithms is that we don’t know a lot about the algorithm, we just kind of get the general idea behind it and then we test it and see if it works. But basically it tracks users based on them visiting key pages. So apparently Google has identified certain pages and sites like shopping carts, price comparison sites, consumers reviews. They’ve identified pages like that as being higher conversion rate users. Like those types of people if they’re comparing prices then they’re more ready to buy then someone who’s just visiting generic pages, I guess.
Again, I don’t really know exactly how it works, but the idea is that rather than just trying to target top of funnel users that are interested in literature for example, it’s trying to target someone who is not only interested in literature but is comparing prices on a particular books and you’re trying to get your ads in front of those people because they’re ready to buy. I don’t know anything about the effectiveness of it. Again, I will always defer to what I just said about how you should test anything out yourself and see if it works for you. This particular form of targeting is very similar to topic targeting in that you just kind of pick your in-market audience from a list and set up some ad groups, run the campaign, see if it works.
All right, last one here is remarketing. Most people are familiar with remarketing, for those that aren’t remarketing is targeting users based on a list of users. Basically we populate a list of users that have been to your site before and we follow those people around with ads trying to entice them to come back. If you’ve ever been to your own website then you see your ads kind of following you around, those are the remarketing ads.
Remarketing is definitely the most common form of display advertisement. People generally use display and remarketing kind of interchangeably, which is kind of inaccurate because yes remarketing is display, but display is not only remarketing, there’s a lot of forms of display. So yeah, remarketing, create a list of users that have been to your site, either through analytics or AdWords. If you check out our blog resources on our website you’ll know that we recommend using analytics rather than AdWords for pretty much everything. Then we try to entice them to come back using text or image ads.
The list for remarketing can get very granular, so some of the things that we’ve done in the past is we created lists of people who have … with a shopping cart, for example, they’ll have three different stages or five different stages of the shopping cart and we’ll create a list of users for each of those stages and we can advertise more aggressively depending on like how far they’ve gotten down that funnel and those lists, we can also look at the population of those lists and be able to tell how much leakage we’re having on particular audiences. So we can see when they go from step three to step four, where they have to insert their credit card information, then 80% of our traffic drops off so you can figure out maybe there’s something we can do to optimize that page and make it better or maybe people just don’t like entering their credit card information, which is probably more likely to be the answer.
Anyways, that’s essentially kind of 101 of what remarketing is. I did mention that I highly recommend you check our blog section for remarketing. We have tons and tons of blog. Remarketing is one of the biggest topics that we’ve written on, on our page. So yeah, digitalreachagency.com and check out our blog section for those. I think that’s about all I have for remarketing.
Last thing I want to go over here before I go over my final recommendations is the lacing strategy that I was talking about. This is what I think makes me like the display network, because if on the display network you could only target one of those forms of targeting I would tell you that everything besides remarketing is way too broad and is probably never going to be profitable for you. But lacing is a cool strategy that we use where you can think of it like a Venn diagram where you can lace two pieces of … This picture down here at the bottom, you can lace keyword targeting with topic targeting together, and this is what we’ve had the most success with on the display network, because whenever we only use one form of targeting, aside from just remarketing. Remarketing is good just on it’s own, but the other forms keywords, topics, in-market audiences, et cetera, we can force the users to match multiple pieces of criteria. So rather than target everyone in this keywords and everyone in this topic we can target only the users that match both. It narrows the list a lot.
You remember when I said that the display network is like the universe? So in order to narrow that down and try to get a much more focused list of users honestly I don’t even recommend going on the display network unless you’re at least testing different forms of lacing strategies. You can lace two, three, four, five, six, however many different audiences you want together. The more that you lace together the more granular it gets. Your cost per click is gonna get a little more expensive as you get more granular, but you’re also gonna be putting your ads in front of more focused users.
What was my note here? So yeah, we highly recommend that you try to target users based on multiple pieces of criteria. We don’t recommend only using one piece of criteria. More granular lacing is generally better for lead generation. If you are just trying to get your ads in front of people on particular pages and you’re just using it for awareness then using only one form is probably fine in that case, but most people are interested in lead gen, so that’s kind of what I’m more focused around anyways, is making our clients more money. So even though the more granular lacing is more expansive it’s more targeted and it’s probably gonna get you better leads. Then less granular lacing is gonna be better for awareness and the advantage there is it’s gonna be cheaper.
Anyways, that’s a little bit about the lacing strategy. My final recommendations just wrapping up here. Personally, I’ve had the most success with number one is remarketing, hands down. As soon as you go to the display network the first thing you should check out should be remarketing. After that the most success I’ve personally have is lacing keywords and topics together. But I think that any form of lacing is totally fine and definitely worth testing.
For your particular account we would advocate that if you’re not sure what to go for you just kind of pick something that looks interesting to you. Maybe like the custom affinity audience of targeting your people who have been to your competitors sites sounds interesting to you. Lace that with some other form of targeting and then set up a campaign, test it, let it run for a little bit, until you have a statistically significant data, analyze that data, see if the campaign was good for you, check the impression share to see if your targeting was too broad or too narrow and if it was too narrow you can try to loosen up on it, maybe add more keywords or whatever. If it was too broad you can try lacing in another form of targeting to try and narrow that down with the lacing strategy.
Yeah, my last note was actually what I just said. If your audience is too big then just narrow it using the lacing technique. Anyways, that’s kind of a full overview of the display network. That covers every single form of targeting that you can do on the display network. If any of these seem interesting, again just reiterating my recommendation of doing your homework and reading up on blogs and the AdWords support pages. Don’t go just setting up a campaign and hoping that it does well for you. Display network is kind of dangerous. It’s huge and if you don’t set it up correctly you’re probably going to waste money on it. But if you set up up correctly and you’re cautious and careful about it, it can be very profitable and we’ve had a lot of good experiences with our clients in the past.
Anyway, that’s pretty much all I have for today. I appreciate you guys watching and I will see you guys next week in my next video blog series.
Additional Contributors for this piece: Kim Brown, DRA Paid Media Strategist Looking for new sources of organic traffic? Of course you are! How…
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