Google Display Network Ads Management

Bob Dumouchel
Google Display Ads Best Practices

What if I told you that there is a strategy to scale your business beyond your most aggressive business sales plan? Would you want me to keep talking? If yes, then join us for a discovery of the Google Display Network. In this first article we will explore the how-to manage the Display Network and next we will give you the why-to of this advertising tool. Like all tools, how-to use them is interesting but why to use them is what separates the mechanics from artists. This article explores the basics of taking care of your campaign and these are the areas that our services perform for our clients each month. Next month will explore when and why to use this tool to create a breakaway sales opportunity for your business.  

In this article, we will explore the basics of how to professionally manage a Display Campaign. From a high level, targeting is done with keywords, audiences, and direct placements. Display is also significantly less expensive than Search on a per click basis. The response tends to be lower so the resulting CPA is often very close between the networks.

Here are the top things you need to tend to in your Display Campaign.      

Minimum Monthly Maintenance Items   

  1. Placement Strategies & Reviews
  2. Bid Adjustments 
  3. Advertising Strategies & Test Reviews 
  4. Budget and Impression Share 
  5. Google Analytics to Google Ads Verification 
  6. Competitor Strategies & Tactics 
  7. Waste Management 
  8. Analysis & Reporting 
  9. Outsourcing 

Placement Strategies & Reviews

In Display, the three most important items are location, location, and location. Display Targeting tools include keywords, audiences, and placements. Display is especially important to innovations where search traffic does not exist because the market is unaware of the solution you are bringing to the market. When they do not know enough about you to find you, then Display is your tool of choice. 

Audiences are lists of people from various sources with a wide range of quality. One of my favorite audiences is a remarketing audience made up of people that visited specific pages on your website. Audiences, demographics, and topics are largely the same thing sliced in different ways. They are groups of people gathered by different methods. There is little doubt that Google likes audiences. I just wish they were more accurate in audience selection and more transparent with the sources and rules. 

Keywords are used to match to the content of the page. When you dig into the details, keywords can be sloppy with the match being downright creative. The upside of keyword matching is that it often gets lots of traffic but you often pay for that with a poor match. 

Managed Placements are the most accurate and the most work. Google has over the years made the use of managed placements more and more difficult with strong recommendations to audiences. We have to be careful with the wording here because a placement is where your ad showed up  while managed placement is a targeting method. Technically the terms are Managed Placements for your targets but the managed word is often dropped leading to some language confusion. 

One of my favorite strategies is the use of audiences and keywords to find sites that perform well. Then push those discovered sites into Managed Placements. This gives me the wide reach of the audiences and keywords with the precise control of Managed Placements. As this strategy matures the targeting becomes more precise as I move budget from the fishing (keywords and audiences) to Managed Placement.  

Bid Adjustments 

There are many ways to create a bidding strategy for a Display Campaign and the details could fill an entire book. At a high level we look at major placement factors: 

  1. Quality of the Site
  2. Competition for the placement 
  3. Content to influence factors
  4. Readers state of mind
  5. Past performance
  6. CPA Goal 
  7. VOA Goal 

Sites come in a wide range of quality levels from premier placements to complete junk and this is relative to the brand strategy and values. Some of my favorite placements are local media sites like Newspapers and Magazines but sometimes the goal is just raw volume where things like weather websites shine. Like all of the Google Ads system, the cost is market-driven so it is your competitors not Google that is setting the value. The content they are reading drives the mindset of the audience so finding a relationship between your ad and the content is important. 

Advertising Strategies & Test Reviews 

Strategies in Display are as creative as you are. This task is simply going back and reviewing your assumptions and projections. Explore your targeting method and goal then compare to what you actually got. It is common to aim for one group and end up with something entirely different. You target businesses and then get traffic from kid’s game sites. It happens and you have to constantly adjust your targeting to get back on target. Display targeting is more like a shotgun than a rifle and it requires constant attention. 

Display REQUIRES testing and on a regular schedule, you need to check in on those tests. Display is a general population tool and different parts of that audience will respond to different rules of influence. This means that you need advertising-creative for influences. Your test is not measuring just ad to ad but also influence to influence.       

Budget, Bid, and Impression Share 

There is always more advertising to buy than there is budget to buy it with. With this as a given, the question becomes “How much of the share do you want to buy?” The answer depends on the CPA (Cost Per Action) and VOA (Volume Of Actions) goals. If your VOA is short and you have room on the CPA then increasing the bid is a good idea. 

One thing you have to watch is that the deeper into the impression share you buy the higher the cost and this cost increase is exponential, not linear. In this example, let’s assume we have to push the bid up from $.50 to $1 to get the last 10% of the traffic. That bid adjustment applies back to the first click, driving up the cost per click for ALL the traffic, not just the last 10%. This will also change the mix of placements that you are purchasing since you now qualify for placements that you lost with the lower bid. 

Google Analytics to Google Ads Verification 

Like all advertising, you are throwing money around and auditing is important to maintaining control. Our recommendation is simple. Once a month, make sure that the traffic you are paying for is, in fact, showing up. Look at the clicks from your ads and the arrivals on your page and make sure most of it makes it to the site. This is web traffic and there are known tracking flaws so the numbers will not match perfectly but if the difference is more than 10% then start digging because something is probably wrong. 

Competitor Strategies & Tactics 

Competitors are sneaky, evil, smart, dangerous, alpha predators in constant motion. They watch what you are doing and develop counteractions. They drive your advertising costs up and they are not going to roll over and let you have the market. This is a Word War and it’s serious. To play on the Display Network battlefield you need to be the smartest of the alpha predators and this requires constant innovation. Stand in one place too long and your competitors will figure out what you are doing and beat you senseless. Develop a constantly changing set of tactics so you become unpredictable and unstoppable. Every month, you need new tactics and new targets. Find new groups that your product or service fits and find an emotional button you can push.  

Waste Management 

The Display Network is vast and messy, add to that the fog of a Word War and you have a need for waste management. You will never make the system perfect but you need to make it better than your competitors or it will slowly bleed you out. Watch your placements and measure everything. If a site starts to display bad behavior you have to act quickly. If you are not removing 10% of the site placements each month you are probably not doing the waste management you need. Your strategies and tactics need to replace the volume you are removing so this works hand in hand with the section above. 

Analysis & Reporting

Management rule 1.01 states “Measure and it shall improve” and this is absolutely true. At the top end of analysis and reporting is the CPA and VOA but the devil is in the details. Make sure that those that need to act, get the analysis/reporting in enough detail to correct the tactic or strategy. Make sure that your analysis is looking to the future as well as the past. Reporting can be tricky to get right because you do not want to bury managers in data and starve them for information and you would be amazed how good digital marketing is at doing this. If the report is going to a manager that controls strategy then stay out of the painful details that they do not act on. The key takeaway here is to make sure the reporting matches the needs of the reader.

Outsourcing Google Display

To outsource or not to outsource, that is the question and it’s not an easy one. This is written for two types of readers, what we call the DIY (Do It Yourself) and DIFM (Do It For Me) audience. For the DIY this is a list of items they need to include in their work plan. For the DIFM this helps them understand the work we perform for our clients in this area. 

Many executives overlook the overhead of staying up to date in a rapidly changing specialty. Digital marketing changes at warp speed and Google normally has at least one change every day. Google Experts typically spend 8-12 hours a week just to keep up with changes. Internal staff typically manage one account so 100% of this cost goes there. Agency staff manage up to 30 accounts greatly increasing the leverage of this fixed expense. There is great leverage in working on a series of accounts on the same task. Agency staff has peers they can learn from and collaborate with. 

To be fair, the internal staff has its advantages. They understand the culture of the business and should feel a stronger relationship to the organizational goals. They have direct relationships with other departments and will know the current events of the business. 

Staff turnover

When internal staff turns over, this often means a loss of 100% of the account management skills and tribal knowledge. The new person hired to replace the expert will often want to completely re-engineer the account because they do not understand the strategies and tactics. Agencies face turnover as well but since they typically have multiple people with these skills, turnover results in overtime, not a complete system failure.  


The Google Display Network is a tool that provides great power to the business to reach people not actively seeking their product or service. This tends to be new business and a brand building opportunity. It is not a magic bullet, it has its challenges and it requires smart people that can use the tool to create an advantage for your business.