3 Reasons To Love The Google Display Network (Really!)


There’s a widely held notion among the paid search community that the Google Display Network (GDN) via AdWords doesn’t really work — that it wastes money and is not as targeted as its counterpart, the Search Network.

However, the GDN actually comes in handy in many different situations, and today, I’m going to share with you three ways the GDN can really support your paid search program.

First, A Little Refresher On The Google Display Network

The Google Display Network reportedly reaches 90 percent of Internet users via millions of sites. It’s a more passive form of advertising, whereas the Search Network is more active. In other words, people are actively looking for something when they come across Search Network ads, whereas they are often are casually browsing websites when they happen upon Google Display Network ads (though they may also be researching).

The GDN allows advertisers to employ traditional text ads, in addition to more engaging ads that contain images, video and rich media (animated or motion elements). From the AdWords help files, here are examples of the different types of ads you can use:


The GDN lets you target your audience in different ways:

  • By keywords: Placements based on keywords you choose (i.e. contextual targeting).
  • By topics: Placements based on types of topics.
  • Retargeting: Ads shown to those who have already visited your site and thus expressed interest in your brand, products or services.
  • Managed placements: Manually manage which sites or pages would be best to show your ad, and ensure they don’t show up where it’s not a good match.

It’s worth noting that typically, you’ll pay more per conversion on the GDN versus the Search Network (at least in my experience). However, it’s not black and white; one client of ours in the photography industry converted better on the GDN, for example.

3 Ways The GDN Can Open Up Your Advertising Options

Let’s talk about a few reasons and scenarios where businesses have benefitted from adding the GDN to their paid search programs.

1. In The Search Network, Clicks Are Sky High And Competition Is Fierce

One of our clients within the legal industry spends between $80 and $100 per click on the Search Network and call-only campaigns. On the other hand, the ads we have on the GDN come in at about $2 to $12 per click.

We have a good mix of remarketing campaigns and general GDN campaigns working together for this client to gain more brand recognition and relevant traffic to this client’s site.

2. The GDN Is Great For Non-Compete PPC Programs

If you have PPC campaigns for distributors and resellers of a product, for example, those businesses may have agreements not to compete in the Search Network for the same keywords that the product’s maker is competing for.

We work with a tech company that resells products and received a list from the product’s maker of search terms we could not bid on in the Search Network. Fair enough … but this list put us out of the game on the Search Network. So, what did we do? Turned to the GDN.

This strategy worked in driving traffic to the client’s site and did not infringe upon any agreements they had in place.

3. No Quality Score Issues On The GDN

In theory, we shouldn’t have to deal with a low Quality Score on the Search Network if we’re doing everything right. Every once in a while, however, we have to deal with it for various reasons. I’ll give you an example.

Recently, we posted new PPC campaigns for a client that had very aggressive deadlines. We knew we were approaching things half baked, and the client was aware that we would have to sacrifice quality in order to meet the deadline.

Lo and behold, Google AdWords turned its nose at the landing pages of the campaign, and the Quality Score sank hard and fast. To keep up the momentum, we turned to the GDN right away so we would not see a lag in traffic going to the client’s website.

Luckily, the GDN offered targeting by topics specific to the exact thing the client was offering, so it was highly targeted.

This GDN strategy supplemented traffic to the site while the client worked on a better version of the landing page for the Search Network. Once that was up, the Quality Score returned to its healthy state, and we could continue in search.

Extra Tips For Managing The GDN

  • Manage your placements vigorously. Just as you would manage negative keywords in the Search Network, manage your placements on the GDN daily. It may seem overwhelming when you’re dealing with potentially tens of thousands of sites. Don’t look at every one. Instead, try this: sort by number of impressions and look at the clicks. If you start seeing a trend where the ads are showing on a site that is counterintuitive, exclude it. AdWords help files walk you through how to exclude topics, categories of sites, Web pages and apps, and IP addresses.
  • Really experiment with targeting. Some people think that the keyword targeting option in GDN is a waste of money, but in my experience, I’ve seen positive results in some cases. So experiment. If you’re looking for a safe bet, go with a targeting strategy that uses both keywords and topics.
  • Explore complementary campaigns. Consider branded campaigns on the GDN as a complement to your Search Network campaigns. We’ve also had success with bidding on the competition’s keywords in the GDN, too.

I hope this article sheds some light on the underdog that is the Google Display Network. It’s a handy advertising network that can supplement your efforts on an ongoing basis, open up new possibilities for advertisers, and even get you out of a bind when you need it!

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