Yes, The Google Display Network Can Drive PPC Conversions!

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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3 Ways To Profit From The Google Display Network

Earlier this week, there was an interesting conversation on Twitter about the Google Display Network. IntelligentPPC made the bold statement that one should avoid the GDN like the plague. Many members of PPCchat disagreed, myself included. Check this link for an example of the debate that ensued.

If you’re running search and display campaigns together, then you certainly will lose money. The two are not the same and optimization tactics are totally different. But if you’re running distinct campaigns in display, then you absolutely can profit from it. Here are 3 ways to profit from the Google Display Network.

Promote a new product.

One of the rare times that keyword search falls down is in new product launches. Let’s say you’ve developed a great new product that’s totally revolutionary. So revolutionary that no one is searching for it. If no one is searching for it, keyword search won’t be much help to you. I’ve seen this time and again – low search volume for new products.

The problem is lack of awareness. If people don’t know about it, they won’t search for it.

Enter the GDN.

By running carefully crafted display ads targeting the right audience, the GDN will help increase awareness of your new product amongst your target audience. From there, people will buy – either directly from the display ads, or from searches performed later on.

We recently did this with one of our clients. They developed a product that was unique. No one was searching for it. We created image display ads with pictures showing the product in use. The ads led users to a video demonstration on the client site.

Not only did we increase traffic and ultimately search volume for the product, we also saw direct and profitable sales from display.

Get on prime web properties through the back door.

Let’s face it – targeting B2B customers with keyword search can be challenging. Right now I have a client who’s trying to reach B2B decision makers to get them to use their product. Problem is, their product is also something consumers search for. They don’t want to reach consumers, so we’ve used negative keywords to eliminate most of those searches – and now the client’s search volume is very low.

Immediately I started thinking “LinkedIn Ads.” But CPCs on LinkedIn are high – the audience for this client has a minimum CPC of $4.50, and you’ll need to bid much higher to get a good position.

Enter the GDN.

Yes, LinkedIn is part of the GDN. And you can craft a GDN campaign to show ads on LinkedIn for a lower cost than going through LinkedIn directly. You can even get image display ads onto LinkedIn this way – something that costs 5 figures when working directly with LinkedIn.

Build killer remarketing lists.

Awareness is a key component of any marketing strategy. If you’re only using keyword search, you’re missing those who don’t know about your product. Sure, you might hook some of them with broad, generic terms – but at what cost? I’ve seen broad keywords in the $30-$50 per click range. With conversion rates of 1% or lower, that’s usually not very profitable.

Enter the GDN.

Use the GDN to create awareness of your brand and your product. Then, create a remarketing list comprised of those who came to your site from the GDN but didn’t convert. Then remarket to them with a compelling offer.

By using the 2-step GDN/remarketing process, instead of paying $30 for a visitor with a 1% conversion rate, you can now pay $2 or $3 per click. That’s 10 visits from the GDN for one from search – and now they’re familiar with you because of the remarketing component. That means they’re more likely to buy. At a lower cost than from keyword search.

So should you avoid the GDN like the plague? Go for it – I’ll be happy to take the customers you’re leaving on the table.

How have you used the GDN to make a profit? Share in the comments?

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Google’s Display Network, Part 1: Best Practices & Myths

Just last week, I had a call with one of our Google reps. He was quite knowledgeable, and made several helpful suggestions on Adwords features we could try for our Fluency Media clients. While I was aware of most of the features already, he explained them in detail, and suggested which clients should try which features.

One of the features he brought up was the Google Display Network. The conversation with our rep reminded me that many new advertisers don’t know how to use the Display network, which then prompted me to outline some of the best practices and myths.

When Google launched the Display network about 7 years ago, it was like the Wild West: the network was full of MFA sites, and there were none of the great features like site exclusion that we have now. It was a huge gamble to even thinking about running ads there.

Thankfully, Google listened to advertiser feedback, and made huge improvements over the years. Still, though, the Display network can be a money pit for advertisers who don’t follow best practices.

Best Practice #1: Realize that Display isn’t search.

The first concept to understand is that Display isn’t search. Ads aren’t served based on keywords typed into a search engine. Instead, ads are served on websites where the content matches the content of the ad. Because of this, Display campaigns should always be separate from Search campaigns. Although Google allows advertisers to run ads in both Search and Display in the same campaign, don’t be tempted to take this shortcut. It’s not unusual for ad groups & campaigns to perform very differently in the two networks, so you’ll want the control you get with separate bidding for Search & Display.

Best Practice #2: Use small, tightly-themed ad groups.

This is good advice for search campaigns, too, but is critical for Display. It’s your job as an advertiser to make it abundantly clear to Google what your ad group’s topic is, so Google can show it on appropriate pages. Using tightly themed ad groups will accomplish this.

Best Practice #3: Make heavy use of the placement performance report & site exclusion.

Probably the best thing Google did to enhance advertiser performance in the Display Network was to create the placement performance report. I remember literally whooping with joy when this launched – finally, advertisers would have the transparency to see where their ads were being served, and what the results were on a site-by-site basis! Use this feature to your advantage. The report is easier than ever to run in the new Adwords interface – just go to Networks, set your date range (I use All Time to give the largest data set, and start excluding.

There are a few myths out there about the Display Network that advertisers should be aware of, as well.

Myth #1: Display is an inexpensive source of traffic & conversions.

OK, so this isn’t a total myth. Frequently, Display is a great incremental source of conversions at a very low cost. However, this is by no means always true. Click costs can rival those in search – in fact sometimes CPCs are higher in Display than in search, depending on the vertical. So if you’re looking for a quick way to grab incremental conversions, Display is definitely not the answer. You’ll get traffic, but it may not be inexpensive, and it may not convert.

Myth #2: Display is for everyone.

Again, this isn’t a total myth. We have several clients who get as good or better results from Display as from search. But it’s not a given. For every client who gets great results in Display, we have at least 2 who got horrible results, despite our best efforts to optimize. I firmly believe that there are some businesses for which display is just not a good fit. But you wouldn’t know this from talking to Google – every time I talk to a Google rep, including the conversation last week, they try to pitch me on trying Display for every client.

Myth #3: Site targeting in the Display network is easy.

First, a brief explanation. There are a few targeting options in the display network: keyword targeting, interest category targeting, and placement, or site, targeting. With site targeting, an advertiser can choose exactly which sites they’d like their ads to appear on. So if you want your ads to appear on, you can target that site using site targeting.

Sounds simple, right? It’s not. First of all, there are thousands upon thousands of sites in the display network, so choosing the right sites is a daunting task. Secondly, advertisers tend to gang up when site targeting – everyone wants to target the same popular, high-traffic sites. And what happens when inventory is short and demand is high? You got it – the price goes way, way up. So not only is it challenging to figure out what sites to target, it can be challenging to get conversions at a good cost when the bids are so high.

In Part 2, I’ll share some display network resources that will help you make the most out of the network.

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