Google Display Network: The Lost Channel & How To Make it Work for Direct Marketers

As many of you have seen and experienced, the paid search landscape is a constantly changing and dynamic ecosystem. Long gone are the days where, when asked what we do, you cited “you know those shaded messages that show up your results page after you do a search on Google? Yeah that’s me”.  Now SEM experts are required to deploy an arsenal of advertising formats within their marketing strategy.

This change is something we at Elite have embraced as we work with our clients to create a holistic marketing strategy – centered on traditional paid search, display, and social efforts. One area where we’ve seen tremendous growth and continued opportunity has been the Google Display Network. Not necessarily a “new” channel for marketers, it has been one that many advertisers have found challenging – especially when conducting direct marketing comparison with paid search.
Here in front of us was this powerful tool (GDN) with massive reach and scale. However until recently the targeting seemed to be lacking and to be honest advertisers seemed confounded on how to make Google Display work from a direct response perspective. Fortunately thanks to new audience segmentation and updates made to targeting on Google’s end, GDN has resurrected itself and should definitely be a channel advertisers reinvest and explore for clients!

Below are 4 tips on how to successfully run and optimize campaigns on the Google Display Network.

Tip 1: Understand the various types of campaigns available on the Google Display Network

Not all campaign types & targeting schematics made available for GDN campaigns are designed to do the same thing! Some targeting options are to help scale awareness while others are catered for direct response & engagement. Below is a breakdown of the various targeting schemes you can layer in your Google Display campaigns. I strongly recommend using this as a legend to help best determine the type of targeting you want to leverage based off the individual goals of your client.

For example, if your client is solely interested in driving leads but at a lowest cost per lead possible then you’d want to focus your campaign targeting initially around remarketing. Conversely if your client is focused on getting more brand awareness and site traffic than topics targeting would be your best bet!

Tip 2: Make sure you review all appropriate KPIs during campaign analysis (pre/post flight)

This seems quite obvious but is one of the biggest mistakes we’ve seen advertisers & clients make. Not all goals should be solely based on whether the client was able to achieve X CPA, or X ROI. Granted those are typically our primary KPIs but to really give Google Display a chance to succeed you need to look at the potential effects the campaign may also have on your book of business aside from sales & the cost per sale.

At Elite we always like to ensure review our client’s GA data to help get a better and more holistic understanding of the value our display campaigns are generating. Some of the KPIs we leverage from GA included reviewing the following. Goal here is to understand if there has been a positive lift in any of the following post campaign launch. Understanding the full impact your display initiatives have on your (or client’s) book of business will ensure campaigns are being measured and evaluated in the most accurate fashion.

  • Visits
  • Bounce Page %
  • Avg Session Length
  • # of Pages Visited

Here’s a bonus tip – make sure you give your campaigns enough time to run. Shutting down after a week due to high spend and low conversions? Definitely didn’t give the campaigns enough time to gain learnings, optimize, etc. At the very min run your flights for at least 3-4 weeks. We recommend allowing them to run relatively un-touch (save budget & frequency capping) for around 2 weeks, then conducting optimization for another 2 weeks, before making a decision on campaign success.

Tip 3: Layers Upon Layers Upon Layers!

Running just one GDN campaign is pointless. With GDN you need to be testing and more importantly you should be targeting multiple audience layers at a time. Long gone are the days where you would simply take your Remarketing Audience List and create a GDN RMKT campaign strictly based off that audience segment. Google has now given us advertisers much more flexibility in terms of the way we can target.

This is why we strongly recommend running multiple GDN campaigns of which are using multiple audience layers. For example take that Remarketing Audience List and layer it on with Contextual KWs to get even more tailored audience segments. Playing around with various combinations of audience targeting will allow you to fine tune your targeting – optimizing your GDN campaigns towards the most accurate and relevant audience segment.

Doing this will also allow you to conduct even more tailored messaging as you segment your audiences even further into tightly themed buckets and groups!

Tip 4: Use Google’s Tools – Don’t Ignore Them

Two simple but often disregarded tools Google offers advertisers is Frequency Capping and Placement Report.  Too often when auditing potential accounts we see that neither tool are being used!

Frequency Capping: you never want to become “that advertiser” – you know the one known as the creepy annoying ad that follows users everywhere and never disappears. To ensure this isn’t the case – we always recommend putting some sort of daily frequency cap in place. This will ensure that users will never see your ad more than X time in a given day. Best practice here is to typically put one of “3/user” in place.

Placement Report: this should be conducted at least once a week after the campaign has collected enough volume/traffic (typically around 1.5 to 2 weeks post initial launch). Pull placement reports to help identify both irrelevant high spending placements (which should then be added as exclusions to your campaigns) as well as top converting placements. Once you’ve identified some of your top performing placements you should take them out of your existing campaign, recreating your previous campaign but solely target those top placements. This will allow you to still have the same ‘audience centric’ targets as before but now solely focused on those high volume domains giving you the ability to now bid more aggressively and budget separately! When you do this migration also make sure you that add those top converting domains as negatives in your previous campaign. I’d also recommend you name your campaigns based off targeting segment to help avoid any type of confusion or implementation error.

Bottom line – if you’ve given up on the Google Display Network – we strongly recommend you give it another shot! More flexibility, stronger understanding of the true value of display and increased strategic insight has made GDN a great channel for marketers – especially those working with Elite SEM. Still have questions about GDN and how to make this into a successful channel for your company or client? Don’t hesitate to reach out and I’ll be more than glad to discuss!

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