Marketing

Optimize Google Display Ads Like a Pro with These 8 Tips

Learning how to optimize your Google Display Network ads is pivotal to ensuring your PPC campaign delivers the ROI you expect.

Mariana Santiago Mariana Santiago on January 22, 2021 (last modified on January 19, 2021) • 12 minute read

When marketers think of Google Ads, their minds often immediately go to Google Search campaigns. But there’s more to the Google Ads collection of offerings than just search campaigns.

That’s right: you have options when it comes to the Google Ads network. And one of your best options happens to be the type of advertisement known as a “Google Display Ad”.

Google Display Ads – which, by the way, are themselves displayed on trillions of webpages not directly under Google’s ownership – are a great option for companies and businesses trying to raise brand awareness among top-of-the-funnel prospects.

Today, we’re going to explain exactly what Google Display Ads are, discuss whether or not Google Display Ads are effective for businesses that aren’t quite at the enterprise level and size yet, identify how long it takes to optimize a Google Display Ad, and – most excitingly! – hear 13 experts’ best advice on how to optimize Google Display Ads for your own advertising campaigns.

Let’s jump in.

What are Google Display Ads?

Google Display Ads are advertisements that appear across the Google Display Network as opposed to merely appearing within or on top of Google search query results.

The Google Display Network refers to the massive network of independently-owned websites and mobile applications that have made an agreement with Google to allow Google to place advertisements bought through Google on these independently-owned websites and mobile applications (for a cut of the profits, of course.)

The other major difference between Google Display Ads and Google search campaign ads is that Google Display Ads allow you to include images, art, and any number of creative elements in the ad itself. If you’ve got an eye for design, you’ll love creating Google Display Ads – graphic elements make this type of ad particularly eye-catching to consumers browsing the web. Google search campaign ads, on the other hand, have strict parameters: text only, a very particular character limit, and no images or graphics.

How to always get the most out of your marketing at the right time, in the right place? Easy. Connect your Google Adwords account with Databox.

Are Google Display Ads Effective?

There’s a widely spread misconception that Google Display Ads are only effective for massive, enterprise-level businesses who run large-scale branding campaigns.

Google Display Ads can do wonders for smaller businesses.

The Google Display Network is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal when you’re aiming to meet a prospect wherever they are on the customer journey.

Different people at different stages of awareness are likely to visit – you guessed it! – a differing set of websites and mobile apps.

Wisely placing Google Display Ads on websites appropriate to specific audiences’ awareness stages can do wonders to increase even a small business’s level of brand fame in the eyes of its target market.

Even small businesses can benefit from having their brand known by possible future customers. Consumers don’t buy from companies they can’t identify. Using Google Display Ads to walk alongside your prospects as they move through the customer journey is a great way of making yourself and your business a known entity to the people most likely to buy from you.

Editor’s note: Use this Google Ads dashboard template to analyze your campaigns, ad groups, keywords, and engagement metrics, and ultimately improve your return on investment (ROI).

Google Ads dashboard template

How Long Does Google Take to Optimize Display Ads?

If you’re trying to get the maximum possible ROI on the Google Display Ads you set up to promote your business, it’s important to optimize the ads you’ve created. Ad optimization is the process of improving your advertisements over time, using the data you collect over time from your audience’s response to your ad to improve the ad copy, the ad’s associated images, the ad’s headline, and…well, every part of the ad!

most important element of a successful google display add

The benefit of optimizing ads instead of simply creating entirely new advertisements is that optimization gives you the opportunity to take the data you already have access to and use it in order to create more persuasive ads.

Creating new advertisements from scratch, on the other hand, is essentially like trying to navigate a land you’ve never been to before without a map or a GPS. Sure, it might seem like one direction points north, but without any hard evidence supporting your beliefs, you’re just making an educated guess.

Google recently introduced something called the Google Ads Optimization Score. The score, presented on a scale from 0 to 100, represents how well Google’s algorithm believes your ads are performing – and conversely, how much better Google’s algorithm thinks your ads could be if you made a few changes.

Typically, it takes Google somewhere around 7 days to provide you with an initial Optimization Score. Google provides several suggestions along with the numerical Optimization Score. Consider it your Google-gifted roadmap to better ROI on your Google Display Ads.

Editor’s note: Optimize ads based on keywords and search terms with Google Ads – Ad Groups and Keywords Performance dashboard template. Easily find negative search terms that are costing them money.

Google Ads – Ad Groups and Keywords Performance dashboard template

8 Tips for Optimizing Google Display Ads

If you’d rather not wait a week for Google to provide you with an initial Optimization Score, we’ve got some great news for you. We’ve compiled a list of eight stellar tips from Google Display Ads experts on how to optimize your Google Display Ads so you get the Advertising ROI you’ve dreamed about more quickly than ever before.

  1. Target the right audience
  2. Look beyond volume when picking your keywords
  3. Create a custom audience based on competitors’ websites
  4. Exclude placements when appropriate
  5. Make sure to take advantage of remarketing
  6. Use both Responsive Display Ads AND Standard Display Ads
  7. Make sure your ad design works to your advantage
  8. Optimize your bids for devices and placements

1. Target the right audience

An advertisement for a swimming pool installation service might not work on Alaskans in the dead of December. Make sure your Google Display Network advertisements are targeted to people who stand a good chance of being interested in and able to benefit from whatever it is that you’re selling.

Andre Oentoro of Milkwhale says, “We focus on targeting the right audience. Without a target audience, we would be getting less engagement. With the correct audience, we can offer the best solutions for them.”

Stewart Dunlop from PPCGenius adds, “To optimize Google display ads it’s critical to target your campaigns to the right audience. And to do this, it’s recommended that you go beyond basic demographics. Demographics are important and your ads should be set to target basic demographics (gender, age, location, etc.).

But that’s the basic stuff. If your restaurant is in San Diego, don’t pay to target people in New York. To improve your game, you should also focus on the interests of the audience, the brands they like, and their behavior.

Although the personalized audience is great for recruiting people who have already had an interaction with you, a similar audience allows you to target new users who do not yet know you, but who are likely to become your customers.”

Targeting using expressed interest, demographics, and other relevant signals are excellent advice. However, you also want to be sure your ad’s audience isn’t too broad.

Emily Lutz from Perfect Search Media says, “Narrowing the targeting to the most qualified audience. This involves using Custom Audiences and targeting people who have recently searched for our best-converting search keywords. This is the most effective way to make sure that your ads are reaching the most qualified customers to engage with your ads and eventually convert.”

2. Look beyond volume when picking your keywords

Keyword research is one of the most critical steps when planning a PPC or SEO strategy. There’s more to picking a perfect keyword than just ensuring that keyword is something people are actively searching for. When picking keywords, consider searcher intent.

Yoann Bierling from International Consulting adds, “Getting keywords as refined as possible is what really makes ads displayed to the right audience. You can maximize the budget and create the best-looking ad – if the audience is not targeted properly, they simply won’t interact, and it might even hurt your brand image. Spend more time looking for related keywords that will resonate with your audience, and geo-target to the right segment(s). Think like a customer: where are you, and what are you looking for, when you might be interested without knowing it by the product your company is offering?”

Choosing the wrong keywords for your Google Display Network ad can lead to unfortunately low engagement, so make your choices wisely!

Related: 11 Tips for Creating a Custom Google Ads Dashboard to Track PPC Performance

3. Create a custom audience based on competitors’ websites

Custom audiences can work as a super powerful tool to make sure your ads are appearing to the audience most suited to your business’s unique – or should we say custom? – needs. People who are browsing your competitors’ websites are likely to be in the market for the service you offer.

Charlie Nadler from Simple Machines Marketing says, “Targeting users who have visited competitor websites. We’ve seen this improve CTR and on-page engagement.” 

Robert Huebert from HBT Digital Consulting adds, “One way that I created more engagement with Google Display Ads was to create a custom audience with people that had visited certain websites that are in the industry that I’m targeting. Then, I use that audience to show ads on the internet. I know that those people are interested since they’ve visited those custom web sites, and it has definitely increased my click-through rate!”

If they’re already looking for the service you offer, they’re likely to be near the bottom of the funnel – so why not capitalize on a competitors’ better-known brand presence?

4. Exclude placements when appropriate

Not every website is a great place for your business to be featured.

Jeff Ferguson from Amplitude Digital says, “One of the tactics that are often ignored is excluding ineffective placements from your campaign. Similar to negative keywords in a Google Search Ads campaign, excluding placements allows advertisers to remove specific pages (or videos) that may not be delivering the results they hoped for from their campaigns.

Be careful though, display ads usually live much higher in the marketing funnel/earlier in the consumer journey than search ads, so lower CTRs and other metrics are expected. Make sure you compare your display campaigns to other display campaigns, lest you kill off parts of your campaign that are providing a valuable touchpoint to your potential customers.”

Ensure that your ads only display on websites that won’t actively harm your business’s reputation or provide a solid ROI.

5. Make sure to take advantage of remarketing

Remarketing is one of the most powerful tactics in any PPC campaign. By showing your ads multiple times to people who have demonstrated interest in your company, you’re focusing your marketing budget on people who are extremely likely to decide to do business with you.

CJ Xia of Boster Biological Technology says, “We have used Remarketing to optimize the Google Display Ads of our company. I believe that If you’re ever going to see any kind of return on the display network, you’re going to see it from remarketing first. Remarketing is essentially when you cookie your past site visitors to follow them around with ads on various sites they browse. Remarketing is actually used to engage the past visitors, “completing the whole circle of engagement.”

6. Use both Responsive Display Ads AND Standard Display Ads

Diversity is the spice of life, right? Remember that when you’re planning a Google Display Network ad campaign. Use both responsive display ads AND standard display ads in order to optimize your results.

Brandon Loures of Brandlift Digital Marketing says, “Recently we’ve noticed the importance of google’s responsive display ads. Whether its for a service or a product responsive display ads help to get placements in places where standard display ads won’t show up.

For example, in order to run your display or retargeting display as ads on the top of youtube search or as native ads you must have a responsive ad in your campaign. Responsive ads show in premium placements like these that regular display will not. Google says in their support docs that responsive display ads have the highest reach out of any display ad. Increasing reach and frequency at the same or lower CPM leads to increased engagement.”

David Mile from The PPC Machine LTD adds, “I’ve tested custom made image ads versus Google’s own responsive ads and, even though the custom-made banners tended to look nicer, the responsive ads got higher engagement.”

7. Make sure your ad design works to your advantage

When you start to design your advertisement, make sure the graphics and colors you choose represent your business well AND contribute to increasing the likelihood of conversion.

Nate Nead of SEO.co says, “We have found that design and color schemes matter. Google display ads that have few and simple texts with warmer colors tend to convert clicks much more readily. We have found that when we use blue and green, for instance, our click-through-rate increases about 10-15% than when we use red, orange, and yellow in our display ads. This is also something to consider when designing other website copy as well.”

Warm colors and simple text are a great start, but no internet ad is complete without a button to click on.

Sam Richards of Trivia20 agrees, saying that “It sounds basic, but put incorporate a graphic element into the design that looks like a button. It’s more likely to earn a click. And be sure to test the color of the button, we’ve found solid fills in bright colors outperform lighter colors and ghost buttons which just have an outline.”

8. Optimize your bids for devices and placements

The device on which an internet user browses might suggest a higher or lower level of purchase intent. Keep this in mind when bidding for specific devices and placements.

Courtney Portincasa from Noah Digital says, “Optimizing bids for devices and placements have always resulted in a much higher engagement when optimizing Google Display Ads.”


About the author
Mariana Santiago
Mariana Santiago Mariana Santiago is a copywriter, email marketer, theatre geek, and adventurer. While she's redoing her website, you can find her on LinkedIn or Twitter. If you're looking for someone to obsess over the power of CRM-ESP integrations with, she'd be happy to oblige.

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