Yes, The Google Display Network Can Drive PPC Conversions!

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I remember when Google launched the Google Display Network. It was called the Content Network back then, and it was part of search campaigns. In the beginning, not only were you stuck with the same bids for search as for display, but you couldn’t opt out of the content network at all!

Thankfully, Google saw the light and fixed things pretty quickly: first, allowing an opt-out, and second, allowing separate bids. Then, finally, Google gave us the ability to create distinct GDN campaigns.

I often hear people say to avoid the GDN like the plague, claiming poor conversion rates and low-quality traffic. And that’s what you’ll find if you merely copy your search campaigns to display (or worse, run display in combination with search). But a carefully crafted GDN campaign can drive conversions at a low cost.

In fact, I’ve written about how to profit from the Google Display Network. Let’s revisit some of those tactics, and talk about some new ones as well.

Generate awareness.

OK, awareness doesn’t always lead to conversions. But if you have a new product that people aren’t searching for, or if you’re targeting a niche audience, the GDN is a great way to reach people who may not be aware of your product. Impressions are usually high in the GDN, meaning lots of exposure for your ads. With a carefully crafted campaign and strategy, you can generate not only awareness, but conversions for a product that people may not be searching for.

Also, if you’re using rich media image ads, you can drive a lot of awareness without anyone even clicking on your ad! Remember, you don’t pay for impressions in the GDN, so engaging or interesting ads can capture attention without costing a lot in clicks.

Create remarketing lists.

Sure, you can do remarketing on the GDN, but you can also use GDN traffic to create remarketing or RLSA lists. This works especially well for new or niche products as mentioned in the example above. With the right targeting, you can drive people to your website from the GDN at a low cost, and then use RLSA or remarketing to get them to convert.

Launch in a new region.

A geotargeted GDN campaign can be a great way to create awareness of your company in a new geographic region. Let’s say you’re well-established in the US, and just recently launched in Canada. Or, you opened a new location in a new city within the US. Create a geotargeted GDN campaign to generate awareness of your business – again, at a lower CPC than you’d find with search. (Hat tip to Timothy Jensen for this idea!)

Get your ads on YouTube and other high-traffic sites.

Yes, YouTube is part of the GDN, as are other high-profile sites that you may not be able to afford otherwise. We frequently see our clients’ GDN ads on YouTube, even as in-stream ads showing over videos. This is great exposure for clients who may not otherwise have the assets (such as videos) to run on YouTube.

In my 2014 article, I talked about getting on to LinkedIn via the GDN. I’m not sure that’s still possible. That said, Microsoft’s recent purchase of LinkedIn could lead to an entirely new way to serve ads on LinkedIn – albeit not through the GDN.

As with any PPC campaign, driving conversions through the GDN requires attention and optimization. You’ll need to monitor your placement reports and remove any poor-performing sites. Test ad copy and ad variations like crazy. Try different targeting options: placement, keyword, interest, and combinations of these. Just be careful not to restrict your audience to the point that you don’t get any traffic.

With careful planning and monitoring, you can generate conversions from the GDN!

What are your favorite ways to use the GDN? Share in the comments!

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  1. There is gold to be found in them thar hills, but you had better be great at sifting through the sand in the draining heat.

    The main issue we continuously have with GDN is having an inefficient means of control.
    Target too much and you receive no traffic, open up targeting and you get hammered with tons of irrelevant traffic from unrelated content partners.

    Click fraud – Its there, its huge and Google does not kick it all back.
    Form fraud – We don’t get hit with form fraud when conducting search campaigns, turn on GDN and we get a 10-15% increase in fake form fill outs. Costs click dollars and worse it poisons our quality well, skews our data and make optimizing the campaigns very difficult.

    Excluding mobile apps, Gaming and other such nonsense.
    You can turn off topics, interests, block adsenseformobile and more, yet STILL you get clicks and traffic from Jr. looking to move to the next level of his game by clicking on the adsense ad that is blocking his way.

    We need to be able to block content partners (sorry can’t go with display) at the TLD level we could eliminate a great deal of the clutter we don’t want to advertise on. If we were not limited to blocking or targeting only down to the 2nd folder level on a partner site we could fair much better (/ vs

    For these reasons the time necessary to manage and optimize a GDN campaign starts to outweigh the returns one can achieve. I will say, this impacts our campaigns to a higher degree because we are mainly business to business and or our demo is 30 years old and above. We don’t advertise mobile apps or to millennials.

    I will say this positive thing about GDN, sure glad its not Bing Display Network!

    • Melissa Mackey says

      Ha, all very good points Jerry – your comment should serve as a caveat to anyone who thinks they can throw together a GDN campaign and let it run. You can’t. We have seen good results for B2B with the GDN – and we’ve seen terrible results too. It does require time, trial, and error. Thanks as always for your comment!

  2. Karen Henry says

    Melissa, I was just looking over our “Content Only” ads and trying to figure out if there’s any hope there. I went casting about for information and decided to visit your blog. Voila – this article! I think you may have validated my suspicions that I’m probably not going to get the conversion performance I “need” here. I spend time swatting away bad placements, hoping the clear the way for something good to happen but nothing ever does. Thanks for helping me see HOW this can be useful to me, if at all.

    • Melissa Mackey says

      You’re welcome! One thing I didn’t mention in my post that I’m recently getting into is looking at assisted conversions. Often, the display network generates few last-click conversions but many assists. Something to consider. Glad I can help!

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