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Improve Your Google Display Network Performance – Avoid These 5 Common Mistakes

John Lee
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arrow-riding-manMore advertisers are taking advantage of Google’s Display Network in their online advertising mix. Being a proponent of the GDN, I think this is great.

That being said, as I continue to get a peek into new AdWords accounts or through conversations with other advertisers or potential clients, I’ve come to realize that a lot of folks are making big mistakes in their GDN campaigns.

These mistakes are typically the byproduct of a lack of knowledge (you don’t know what you don’t know, right?). In other cases it is simply a fear of the unknown that is holding an advertiser back. Either way, today is your opportunity to dodge a bullet. Consider these five mistakes and see how you can improve your GDN performance.

1. Lumping Image & Text Ads into the Same Ad Group

One of the biggest flaws of AdWords is that it allows you to target all networks and all ad types within the same campaign and ad group(s). You could feasibly have search and display layered with computer, tablet and mobile targeting with a whipped topping of text, WAP and image ads (banners)! What good can come from this?

I could write an entire article on just that topic, but to the point - when targeting the GDN, you can build ad groups that leverage both text and image ads. This is a mistake.

  • Text and image ads can and will be placed on different sites across the GDN. If these ads are running in the same ad group, it isn't possible to segment in a Placement Performance report which websites each ad type was placed on.
  • Each ad type will perform differently and require a different bidding strategy.
  • Separating ad types into unique ad groups will make creating segmented reports that much easier.

2. Disregarding Average Position for Text Ads on Display

Text ads and image ads perform differently on the GDN. One important difference is how they perform in relation to average ad position.

Image ads rank in position 1. That’s it. Your ad either shows or it doesn’t.

Bid changes affect how many times your ad wins the auction and is displayed. I’ve seen many folks see the average position reported as 1 and they assume that they are doing everything right! Wrong.

With image ads, you have to be vigilant and run Impression Share reports to understand how many of the available impressions you are actually showing for. Increase your bids to get more impressions (and clicks, conversions, etc.), decrease to get fewer impressions.

Text ads appear in blocks that typically contain three ads. So there is an opportunity to have an average position outside of postiion 1. What you have to be aware of is when you rank below position 3. While you may still receive impressions and clicks in a position lower than 3, you're missing out on a substantial amount of potential impressions.

Ranking in the top 3 ensures you are getting much more exposure and will see the strongest performance. Should you bid to position for your GDN text ads? Absolutely not! But if you find your GDN performance is sluggish, review average position and impression share reports. Bumping your ad into the top 3 positions may just give you the boost you need.

3. Under Bidding on Managed Placements

The day that Google gave us the option to bid on managed placements (site targeting), it was a revelation. And a revolution. Now we could cherry pick the best performing sites and drastically improve our GDN stats. While that is true, the dirty little secret is that Google also changed the auction for placements.

The general idea is that when you choose to site target, or list a website as a managed placement, you are entering a "one ad vs. many" auction. Your managed placement ad is competing against all the other ads in the action to take the #1 position and be the only ad shown in that ad unit.

Ultimately, you have to bid higher to win these auctions. When advertisers find a website that performs great in a contextually targeted campaign (automatic placement) and make it a managed placement, they leave the bid the same and are dismayed when impressions, clicks and conversions drop from that placement. Bid up and dominate your competition!

4. Assuming Topics & Interest Categories are “Tight” Targeting

Google’s Topic Targeting and Interest Category targeting options are awesome. Seriously. They offer advertisers a way to slice and dice the GDN in meaningful ways and build smart, sexy campaigns.

The problem is that advertisers assume that Google's targeting options are "tight." By that I mean that they assume that the sites within a given topic or category are directly relevant. Unfortunately, that just isn't the case.

There are still a ton of junk sites that just happen to match to one of Google’s topics or categories. Don’t make the mistake of targeting one of these groups and just letting it run wild. You have to be smart, run placement performance reports and exclude irrelevant sites just like any other contextually targeted campaign.

5. NOT Using Remarketing

Remarketing is available. It is super targeted. You will only show ads to people who have been to your site, or a specific page or completed a specific action.

The SEM industry is constantly reporting strong conversion performance and success. But still, so many of you are hesitant to give it a try. Why?

This is a mistake born out of fear of the unknown. There are also a lot of misleading articles and conversations out there that label remarketing as “creepy.” Whatever the case may be, I implore you to test it – give it a try. I promise you, remarketing in AdWords is super easy to set up and I think you’ll be pleased with the results!

So, these are just 5 mistakes advertisers make on Google’s Display Network. It is just the tip of the iceberg to be certain. But hopefully you realize where you have perhaps made one of these mistakes and can course correct for a big boost in GDN performance!

What other mistakes have you seen advertisers make on the GDN that can be easily avoided? Tell us in the comments.


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