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5 ways to make Display out perform Search!

When it comes to advertising using the Google AdWords PPC network, there are 2 main forms of advertising available to users; Search & Display. There are a lot of similarities in the way you create campaigns for these 2 networks, but they work in very different ways and will almost always generate very different results.

As the name would imply, search advertising is the process of displaying your adverts based on a list of keywords that have been set by the advertiser. With Search marketing, your ads will appear on the Google search engine and also the other search engines which are a part of the Google Search Partner Network (AOL, for example).

Display marketing has nothing to do with the Google Search Engine, or any other search engine for that matter. When opting in to the display network, your ads will appear on websites that have signed up to be a part of Google’s ‘AdSense’ program which allows website owners to promote Google advertisements on their web pages.

The results you see with display when compared with search will often be vastly different to each other, and the main reason for this is that with search advertising, users are actively looking for something – whether it be a product, service, or simply some information. With display advertising, the website visitor might simply be on one of their favourite websites and happen to see your advert during one of their regular visits.

Because of the fact that your visitors that come from a display campaign are not actively looking for something as with Search traffic, it can often be much harder to convert this traffic into a paying customer. But does this mean you should avoid the channel altogether? Absolutely not! There are a several benefits to advertising on display, such as:

  1. Extremely large reach means your brand is being exposed to a lot of internet users.
  2. Display reports can tell you a lot about your target audience and what kind of people are most likely to use your products/services.
  3. Display campaigns compliment other marketing channels (such as Search) well, and targetting methods such as remarketing help you to keep your brand in front of your website visitors.

Below are 5 tips to help you see success with the AdWords Display Network:

1) Use more than one method of targetting for each campaign.

Over the years, Google have slowly been implementing more and more targetting methods for the AdWords display network. Here is a list of some of the main targetting methods you can use for your campaign:

– Target by topic. This targetting type delivers your ads to web pages based on their topic. For example, a blog site for European cars might fall under the “automobiles” topic. If you’ve selected the automobiles topic to target with your campaign, then your ads have a chance at being shown on this site.

– Target by interest. If you’re using a Google product such as Google+, YouTube etc. then chances are Google know your exact age, gender and potentially even your browsing history. This browsing history is used to create a profile for you which AdWords advertisers can then use to deliver you adverts that match your interests. If Google have recorded that you’ve visited a lot of clothing sites, then you would be shown ads by advertisers that have selected “Fashion” as an interest to target.

– Target by keyword. This targetting type works in a very similar way to regular Search advertising. You set the keywords you want to target, and Google then deliver your adverts to web pages that mention your keywords within its page content.

– Target by age. Pretty self-explanatory – you are able to target users by age bracket with this method (i.e. 18-24. 25-34 etc.).

– Target by gender. Again pretty self-explanatory – target either males, females, unknown or both (the ‘Unknown’ option is for users that Google cannot track as being either male or female. This also applies to the age targetting method).


Although even using one of these targetting methods will help you to improve the relevancy of your traffic, the more targetting you can be, the better. For example, if you’re running a display campaign for your online shoe store business, one topic to target may be “Fashion”. This will display your ads exclusively to users that are visiting a fashion website, but wouldn’t it be better to target users who are visiting a fashion website, but also show a keen interest in shoes? To do this, you’ll simply need to set “Fashion” as a target topic, and then “Shoes” as an interest to target.

2) Make use of as many ad sizes and formats as possible.

Although there are millions of websites that are a part of Google’s Display Network, if you’re only using one ad size and format, chances are you’ll be heavily limiting the amount of sites that you’ll be able to advertise on. To ensure that you’re able to advertise on as many websites as possible, create as many different ad sizes and formats as you possibly can. Initially, I’d recommend creating the following formats and sizes as these seem to generally be the most commonly allowed:

  • Standard text ad
  • JPG Leaderboard (728×90)
  • JPG Square (250×250)
  • JPG Skyscraper (120×600)

3) Granulate your data as finely as possible.

In order to be able to optimise your display performance as efficiently as possible, you need as much detail you can get about where your traffic is coming from.

When setting particular ages, topics, placements, keywords & interests to target, we’re given 2 options; Target & Bid, or Bid only. A great way to learn more about your traffic is by adding an extensive list of placements, keywords, interests & topics – and even if you’re only interested in targetting your traffic by, let’s say interest, the bid only option will allow you to select particular topics/keywords/placements without telling AdWords to target them exclusively. This option simply allows you to set a custom bid if the traffic that does come through happens to fall under one of your bid only target methods.


4) Compliment your display campaigns with remarketing.

Maximising your reach by targetting a completely new audience is all well and good, but it’s equally, if not even more important to try and make sure that the people that do come to your site don’t forget your brand after going elsewhere. Something to help you ensure they remember your brand is a display targetting method called “remarketing”.

Remarketing allows you to place a bit of tracking code on your web pages which will keep a cookie list of users that have visited particular pages. You can then serve custom ads to these users so that your ads are being re-served to them whenever they visit a site within the display network. Remarketing can often result in an increased conversion rate for your campaign, as it can create the illusion of your marketing campaign being a lot more robust than it actually is – internet users that aren’t familiar with remarketing just assume you’re a big company that advertises everywhere they go!

5) Make use of % bid reductions based on performance reports.

When it comes to the main targetting methods listed in point 1, Google will only allow you to set bids for a single targetting method per AdGroup – and rightfully so. If you were to set bids for multiple targetting types then how would AdWords know which bid to use to determine your position? However when it comes to settings such as ad scheduling, geo-targetting & device targetting, AdWords allow you to have set % bid adjustment in order to put more/less focus on particular target locations, times of day, days of week, device types etc.  based on how well they’re performing for your campaign. Analyse your performance data and set bid adjustments to help improve your conversion rates and focus on the right traffic.


When it comes to using display to drive traffic to your website remember, the main thing to keep in mind is that sometimes capturing a large reach has long-term benefits that exceed the value a short term direct response campaign can provide for your business. The trick is to create a campaign that fulfils your short term direct response needs, but also gives you long-term value in the way of brand exposure.

For more information please see the following resources:

My post on SEJ on doing dispay, the right way

Video from Google introducing their display network

Display advertising is fast overtaking search for certain industry providing stronger CPA’s, better reach and positive long term affects on your brand. If you are having trouble getting your display advertising campaign performing let us know in the comments below! or for professional help get in touch with us via our contact page.

Posted on August 16, 2013 by


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