Google Display Network (GDN) campaigns can be a great way to increase exposure for your brand, and reconnect with users who have previously visited your website.
But you may find you’re not getting the results you were hoping for if your campaigns are not well-optimised.
The problem with GDN campaigns
GDN ads can serve on hundreds of thousands of placements across the web, apps, and Google-owned properties, such as YouTube. While this kind of reach and exposure may sound like a good thing, more often than not, your ads won’t be getting in front of the right audience.
There is a huge issue with the quality of placements that ads may appear on.
A huge percentage of them are part of networks created for the sole purpose of generating revenue through Google’s advertising programme, AdSense. Participation is free, and Google pays for ad impressions, clicks, and other interactions. While there are eligibility requirements, the bar is set pretty low.
For proof of this, take a look at the URL and title of this article, and then try and find the actual content that relates to it. Absolutely shameless.
For this reason, it’s really important to put some safeguards in place.
Both can be accessed via the Tools and Settings menu in Google Ads.
Another way to keep tabs on where your ads are being shown is the ‘Where ads showed’ report, which sits under the ‘Content’ drop down menu.
The issue here is that excluding placements manually can take hours. And like negative keywords, it needs to be checked on an almost daily basis. You can then view Placement exclusions under the ‘Exclusions’ section.
Although this is time-consuming, it is just as important to review this as it is the Search Term report to review which searches are resulting in impressions for your ads.
Why might I be seeing so many low-quality and irrelevant placements?
As well as the fact that there are so many sites that make up the Google Display Network, making sure that your ads are targeting the right audience is incredibly important.
There are a lot of different targeting options available.
Ideally, you want to create audiences (preferably Combined Segments using your own data to refine as much as possible), and layer these with targeting such as Topics, Placements, and Display/Video keywords.
And just as important as including who you do want to target, is excluding those you don’t. Unless you’re advertising a mobile app, generally, I’d recommend excluding all app placements.
Annoyingly, you have to go through and tick each one individually. Ugh.
When it comes to remarketing campaigns, you may assume that if someone has engaged with your brand previously, that your ad popping up when they are browsing any other website or app is fine.
But it’s important to consider two things here; one, brand placement, and two, user intent.
Imagine you are a travel brand. You know that a user has been to your site and browsed family-friendly hotels, but hasn’t yet booked.
If you are just using remarketing with no other exclusions in place, an ad could be shown to them when they are unwinding playing a mobile game, while checking if their football team won on a betting site, or when reading a review for productivity software at work in the office. It’s unlikely at that moment that they will stop what they are already engaged in to revisit your website.
However, they may be more likely to engage with your brand if they are browsing parenting blogs or travel sites. But remember, keep checking the quality and performance of ad placements even if they are relevant to your target audience in case they are low quality or not delivering results, and exclude them.
Other things to be aware of
Google will often show ads on sites that do not match your language and location settings.
Examples of ads targeted to the UK and English language showing in irrelevant placements
This is frustrating, but other than using a script to prevent this, there’s not much you can do.
There are also two different settings that will determine the reach of your ads. These are known as ‘Targeting’ and ‘Observation’ settings, which Google defines as:
- ‘Targeting’: When you use this setting, you’re telling Google Ads who you’d like to reach with your ads or where you’d like your ads to show on the Internet. Use the ‘Targeting’ setting in your ad groups or campaigns, when you want to narrow your ad group to only show to specific audiences or on specific content that you’ve selected.
- ‘Observation’: When you use this setting, the reach of your campaign or ad group isn’t affected. In other words, the ‘Observation’ setting won’t change who can see your ads or where they can show. Use the ‘Observation’ setting if you don’t want to narrow your targeting any further, but you want to monitor how your ads perform within certain criteria.
Be careful if you want the granular targeting you’ve spent hours building to actually be used!
Not only that, there is an ad group level setting that opts you in by default to expand beyond your targeting signals.
And finally, don’t forget about content exclusions, which can be found under the campaign settings.