How to Improve Conversions on Google's Display Network with Smarter Targeting

Much of our time online is spent on someplace other than Whether it’s browsing content or watching videos, Google quickly moves us from the screen which is why the Display Network is so important for advertisers.

Oliver Wood

Much of our time online is spent on someplace other than Whether it’s browsing content or watching videos, Google quickly moves us from the screen which is why the Display Network is so important for advertisers.

It’s a broad reach across all the other web properties with a lot of opportunity for creative ads and detailed reporting.

Since Google has a significant reach across desktop and mobile devices, advertising on the Display Network is a strategy to incorporate through the buying cycle.

Customers are going back and forth between their devices and advertisers can take advantage of that reach with the right messages across the different devices.


Each demographic engages in different behaviours online throughout their journey. At the beginning of the buying funnel, they may view topic related sites as they are beginning to explore. They may then do additional research in that specific area indicating they have an affinity for it which is an option for targeting based on behaviour. A little further along is when searchers are then comparing prices; meaning they are considered in-market and getting closer to making a purchase. Now they start looking at particular sites that have what they want to buy so it’s time for retargeting based on all this behavioural data.

Clearly, the path to conversion is complex. People read what others say about the product, maybe review checklists for how to do something, they click on specific ads and visit specific websites. What’s great for advertisers is this constant connectedness provides many opportunities to gather data and reach people accordingly. This is why advertisers need to be present in these moments and not just at the end of the funnel with Search Network ads.

There are three key points in the funnel to understand so you can write ads differently based on the stage of the funnel.


Stage 1 - Awareness

At this early stage, video ads are great for pulling people in as well as ads with a viewable CPM. The goal here is to get your brand in front of people at the beginning of the journey. You’re measuring views and audience reach in Google Analytics and the demographics and affinities of your visitors. Go with broader targeting methods initially to make people aware of your brand, which includes strategies like using Similar Audiences. These are prospective customers that have similar behaviour to your existing customers. You can even add Google Consumer Surveys to go a step further and measure brand lift through your awareness efforts.


Stage 2 - Consideration

For this stage, standard text and image ads will invite people to consider you as their vendor of choice. This is a good time to introduce Gmail sponsored promotions or Lightbox ads that invite engagement. You may also start looking at custom affinity audiences, audience keywords, and topics.


Stage 3 - Purchase & Return Visits

Use dynamic image and dynamic text ads to invite the buyer to make a decision. Also, incorporate click-to-call ads because these people are ready to convert. Incorporate remarketing to bring them back to build that brand loyalty.


Targeting Your Audience

Now that you understand the stages, use the right mix of targeting which can be an audience or by context.


An example of audience targeting is gearing ads towards women who are parents and over 35 years of age. That’s a very specific demographic. When targeting an audience, think of a specific persona.

With context targeting, you can get a little bit deeper about where ads will be shown and which specific sites the ads are displayed on. This strategy is about the ad itself more so than the people on the receiving end of it. You are reaching beyond the demographics to the areas of interest. Both audience and context targeting are defined below in more detail.


In-Market Audiences

People who are actively researching and intend to buy your product or services are considered an In-Market Audience. The key differentiator here is intent compared to interest. Those in the intent stage are closer to the purchase point. Google uses signals like site content and recency to differentiate people who are closer to buying and with real-time data, you can speak to that highly qualified traffic. Using Conversion Tracking automates some of this process so you serve ads with a conversion goal in mind. Since this is a very specific audience, you want to have separate ad groups for in-market audiences compared to other audiences.


Audience Keywords (formerly keyword contextual targeting)

Match your ads to sites or pages based on selected topics. This is a contextual approach rather than the behavioural approach done with in-market audiences. Targeting keywords provide a lot of control with ads and in-depth reporting since you can see what’s happening at a keyword level. It’s easy to set this up by copying your search campaign terms and modifying it where needed. Monitor placement reports for those keywords and be sure to exclude placements that do not do well.


Gmail Sponsored Promotions

Deliver engaging full page ads directly to consumer’s Gmail boxes. This is targeting the audience - back to an in-market strategy, rather than the context of what’s actually in their inbox. If people click the Gmail teaser to a full-page, they view a full landing page so you are are not sharing screen real estate with other advertisers.


Display Remarketing

This re-engages previous site visitors with extremely relevant ads based on their website behaviour. With display remarketing, you can reconnect with them when they are back on or browsing other websites. This is important because one visit is generally not enough for a conversion and people are visiting multiple sites before making their decision.


Similar Audience

A Similar Audience enables you to expand your remarketing efforts when there is not a big pool of site traffic to pull from. With a Similar Audience, you can discover new prospects that share characteristics with your site visitors.

There is no magic formula to advertising on the Display Network. It’s about having the right message for the right person at the right time. The message needs to be clear with a very strong call-to-action so the consumer knows what to do. Is it a phone call? Is it taking advantage of a promotion? Do some experimenting with images, fonts, and colours. You want to be consistent with your existing website while also standing out to the viewers. And differentiate your copy for branding versus conversions versus clicks. If you apply these strategies and know your KPIs before getting started on this network, you will find success on the Display Network across the entire buyer journey.