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The Google Display Network (GDN) is a continuously growing and changing beast, much like the Google Search Network, and it is very easy to be spending too much or suffering from too little efficiency. Here’s how to take control of how your GDN investment is spent with a bias towards making more efficient conversions.


There are still accounts out there that, believe it or not, do not utilize remarketing features. Remarketing is where every visitor is tagged with a persistent cookie and can be added to one or more remarketing audiences (set up in AdWords) so they can be targeted with dedicated bids and/or messaging.

For retailers, the likes of dynamic remarketing can be especially powerful.

If you’re not doing remarketing yet, you should start. Remarketing ads have significantly higher conversion rates (and better efficiency) than standard GDN ads.

Similar Audiences

Building upon the remarketing, you can broaden this out to Similar Audiences which give you a way to take all those millions of users and winkle out those who share a common profile with your website’s visitors.



The fact is that text ads and differently shaped banner ads can show on different (but overlapping) subsets of websites and, indeed, positions on those websites. This being the case, throwing all your ad formats into a single ad group is not only a recipe for lower-than-possible efficiency but also difficulty in managing and observing performance, period.

If at all possible, you should have one banner ad format per ad group – each ad group for each ad can start with the same settings, such as targeting, but evolve as the data dictates. This means you have much more granular bidding, targeting and reporting (just report at the ad group level) and much easier access to ad-level stats.

In addition, you should have a range of GDN campaigns that represent a spectrum of audience breadth. You want campaigns that cover the whole network (subject to the exclusions mentioned later in this post) and with targeted placements in other campaigns excluded plus any proven poor performing placements also excluded over time, then contextually targeted campaigns (keywords only), then placement targeted and so on all the way through to segmented remarketing and customer match (the ultimate remarketing).

Separate campaigns like this allow for you to assign budgets to control spend levels and get the bidding more in line with the relative performance of all these campaigns.


In the vast majority of contexts, it’s basically always worthwhile to exclude all the available exclusions from your GDN campaign. The method of setting these exclusions is described in the latter link.

In short, they stop your ad displaying on places that can be havens for robotic clicks and should save you some serious money. In addition, there is an experimental AdMob exclusion option. The other way to exclude app ad impressions – and this part of the GDN is often the weakest – you should use placement exclusions.

Placement targeting and exclusions

If you’re running placement-targeted campaigns in the account, you should take full advantage of this knowledge that those ads are serving on website X and try some tests.

  • Mention the website in the ad.
  • Mention a special deal for visitors to this site.
  • If the site is likely to appeal to a certain demographic, play directly to them in the creative.

Ensure you use placement exclusions for websites or placements that drain resources with no return. It’s the GDN version of a search query report.


Device delineation

Device performance is going to very a lot, you’ll most likely find mobile devices to be the weakest so assess if it’s worth it to be there. But also, if you think it is, try to structure your account to cater to these devices with banner sizes and calls to action.

Qualify and stand out

Low conversion rates on the GDN may not have anything to do with the placement or other factors but actually be due to the ad creative not qualifying users properly. Make sure a user is as informed as possible about your offering (and limitations, such as pricing – if it’s expensive – or eligibility – “home owners only”) before they click and visit.

In addition, attracting the right clicks can be about standing out and getting people who are not actively hunting for your product or service in the moment to click on your ad. The most likely thing they’ll want to do is check you out as opposed to buy there and then so the call to action should be in that vein (“Learn more”, “Don’t miss out”) – they want to understand your brand and be warmed up to you first.

If you know that your clientele is generally men but the site you are delivering ads on is read by both genders, set up the ad creative to appeal more to men.


Not necessarily every tactic here will work for your specific account – that’s why you test – but hopefully it will give you some areas to look at and understand if there’s more you can be doing to drive GDN efficiencies.

If you would like to learn more about how you can take control of your GDN costs, tweet us or follow us on LinkedIn.

24 August 2016