4 Google Display Network Targeting Facts You Need to Know

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You believe in the power of full-funnel marketing, right? Good!

You understand that people aren’t going to search for you on Google or Bing unless they know you exist, right? That’s awesome!

So you see the value in display advertising, and you want to learn more about the Display Network. Well, you came to the right post.

Google Display Network targeting facts

Whether you are setting up a new display campaign or trying to squeeze all the worth from your current campaigns, there are many nuances to the Display Network that can make or break an ad group’s performance. Here are the top four facts that I share with anyone who wants to work with Display ads.

Fact #1: Placements don’t have to stick to websites

Most advertisers think of the Display Network as a collection of websites where we can show ads. While this line of thinking is mostly correct, it’s not fully complete. Yes, we can show ads on websites, but our ads can also appear on YouTube channels, YouTube videos, relevant apps, and app categories.

Google Display Network targeting placements

Just as exact match isn’t truly exact, your managed placements might not be as exact as you want them to be either. If the website you choose as a related app, your ads can also show up on that app even if you do not select it as a placement. Even if you are choosing specific placements, monitor your placement reports often to really make sure your ads are showing up on the websites you want them to be.

I recently wrote about some of my favorite ways to find new placements to target for the Display Network. Check it out if you are looking for a new approach to find and test placements.

Fact #2: Keyword targeting can work in a couple ways

Before you even consider picking keywords in your Display campaign, you need to understand the keyword settings. If you are currently running Display campaigns with keyword targeting, the two settings we have are Audiences and Content. Here is what a current keyword setting looks like for an ad group I have been running for a while.

Google Display Network keyword targeting options

The Audience setting will show your ads to users are have an active interest in your selected keywords. If you have this option selected, it’s important to know Google started changing the Audience setting to have users create custom intent audiences instead. Google advises how to manage this change on the Google Ads help page for Display keywords: “To continue showing your ads to people interested in certain keywords, move your audience keywords to new custom intent audiences.” Keep this in mind if you either already have keywords added to your Display ad groups or plan on creating keyword targeting ad groups in the near future.

The Content setting uses contextual targeting to put your ads in front of the selected users. Contextual targeting means Google will take your list of keywords and try to find relevant websites or apps as placements. To find the chosen placements, Google looks at the website text, language, link structure, and page structure to make the decision.

But which one should I use, Joe? I can’t answer that. Each account is going to perform differently. Consider creating an ad group for each keyword setting and see which one works better. You will never know until you test.

Fact #3: Google can help if you’re looking for audiences

I have no problem admitting I have gotten stuck in the audience rut a few times. Maybe you have, too. You’ve tried every remarketing audience you can think of using. You created so many custom intent and custom affinity audiences that you feel you’ve exhausted all your options. Well, when you’re in that rut, Google actually has a pretty good solution to help give you new options.

Google Display Network audience target options

When editing your audiences in an ad group, select the Ideas tab to get a list of auto-created custom intent audiences. Google can create custom intent audiences based on your remarketing lists, your Search campaigns, your user behavior, and more. Before adding any of the auto-created audiences to your ad groups, you can get a preview of some of the keywords Google has compiled together to get an understanding of if these audiences are a fit for your campaign or not. Now this is machine learning I can definitely get behind.

Fact #4: We want to exclude mobile apps—Google doesn’t want us to

In the summer of 2018, Google removed the option to exclude mobile app non-interstitials from the options of content exclusions in our campaign settings. Many of us went into our campaigns one day and saw this…

Google Display Network mobile app exclusion removed

Typically, the majority of the apps my ads have been placed on are pure junk, or I’m reaching an audience that will never care about what I’m trying to promote. Removing the option to exclude was an issue for my accounts.

Luckily, the PPC community is a generous, ever-sharing group of people. Last year, Kirk Williams of Zato Marketing shared a workaround  to exclude mobile apps by using AdWords Editor. In a few very easy steps, you can exclude all mobile apps from your targeting if you like to save your budgets and keep in front of the target audience as much as possible. Thanks, Kirk!

Keep testing

Remember, I can’t tell you which targeting option is the best for your business. There are too many factors involved to make a blanket assumption. But what I will tell you is to test out as many that make sense to your campaign goals. And while you are testing, understand all the fine print of how the targeting options actually work. They may or may not be as targeted as you think they are.



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