Building a Successful Display Campaign in Google AdWords

Published November 7, 2015
When you think of Google AdWords, you may immediately associate it with paid search – bidding on keywords for ads to show up in search results. However, AdWords also offers powerful capabilities for targeting individuals via display advertising. Display advertising includes several forms of online advertising including banner ads, text ads and others. A strong display campaign can provide excellent support for reaching people beyond search, allowing you to show ads on strategically placed sites around the web to capture a customer’s attention.
To build a successful display campaign, you want to reach as precise an audience as possible. In this article, we’ll cover how to get a display campaign off the ground and how to focus your targeting toward the right audience.



Setting Up a Display Campaign

First, you’ll need to get a display campaign active in your AdWords account. To begin, click the red “+ Campaign” button from within the main AdWords interface, then select “Display Network only” from the options that appear.


Setting Up a Display Campaign in AdWords


Next, you’ll walk through configuring the campaign. You can add geographic targets and set up bids similarly to how you’d set them up in a search campaign. You will want to pay specific attention to the options under “Ad Delivery” in the setup phase.

  • Ad Rotation: Ad rotation options determine whether or not AdWords will optimize how likely specific ads are to show as opposed to showing each ad approximately the same number of times. If you’re planning to manage this campaign closely, you’re better off choosing “rotate indefinitely,” as ads will serve more evenly. You’ll then be able to make better decisions for manually optimizing campaigns and knowing what ad sets performed better, as opposed to letting Google make those decisions on your behalf (which often skews performance toward particular ads over others based on minimal data).

    Configuring Ad Delivery


  • Frequency Capping: Frequency capping determines how many times your ads will show to individuals in a given time period. While you want to reinforce your brand’s visibility through display advertising, you also don’t want to overwhelm people with seeing your ads 100 times in a day (nor is that your best investment). We’d recommend setting ad rotation to show 3-5 times per day, although you will find varying opinions on this topic.

Configuring Ad Group Targeting

With your campaign configured, you can now build out your ad groups. Targeting parameters are setup on the ad group level, determining who you’re reaching with display ads and where the ads will show up.

AdWords offers the following targeting options:

  • Keyword (contextual) targeting: AdWords determines webpage placements related to a set of keywords
  • Placement targeting: You pick specific websites where ads will appear
  • Topic targeting: You choose topics defined by Google, including multiple websites that fall into specific categories (for instance, home and garden)
  • Audience targeting: You choose audience categories defined by Google, based on interests website activity (for instance, vehicle shopping)
  • Remarketing: This allows you to serve ads to previous site visitors via a simple tracking code placed in your site

These targeting options can also be layered together make targeting even more precise. For example, by layering targeting options you can reach only people who both fit in an “apartments for rent” interest category and who are browsing sites within an “apartments and residential properties” category. You should test multiple forms of targeting against each other to see what performs best for your brand. Build out multiple ad groups targeting different categories, such as “interests + keywords” or “topics + remarketing,” and compare performance over time.

To set up or modify targeting on a display ad group, go to the Display Network tab from within the AdWords interface and select the red “+ Targeting” button.


Configure Display Targeting


Note that, for each of these categories, you can choose to reach only the targets you select (Target and Bid) or to simply bid on those targets while also reaching others that fit within your targeting criteria (Bid Only). In the example above, we’ve chosen to “Target and Bid” on the website placements, so ads will only show on the websites listed. However, we’ve chosen “Bid Only” on the audience category. With this setup, we can increase our audience bid to make ads be more likely to reach those heavily showing interest in apartment research, but still show ads to anyone visiting the selecting websites.


Set up Bid Options


Remarketing is a powerful option, allowing you to target people who have previously visited your website. To take advantage, you’ll need to ensure the remarketing code is in place on your site and that you’ve built out remarketing lists relevant to the audiences you want to target. You can then add remarketing to your targeting options from the “Interests and remarketing” section.

Once you have a campaign setup with targeting options in place, you’ll need to ensure you’re reaching people with the right ad messaging.

Display Ad Types

You can run text ads, static image, or animated display ads on the Google Display Network. Each type of ad has its own pros and cons.

  • Text ads are the easiest to create, as you simply input text into AdWords. These ads also will receive wide reach, since AdWords will fit text ads into many different sized placements across a wide number of sites.
  • Static image ads require time to concept and design, but can drive much more visibility to your brand. You’re also limited to ads appearing within placements fitting the ad sizes you’ve designed.
  • Animated display ads utilize HTML5 to incorporate motion and interactivity. These have the advantage of further increasing ad visibility, as well as working in more messaging, since text and imagery can show through a sequence of motion. However, these ads require the most time to construct.

Note that you can use pre-built display ad templates within AdWords, which will help you save time and quickly cover a variety of ad placements. However, you also run the risk of your ads looking like the same templates countless other advertisers are using.

We’d recommend running both text ads and image ads in separate ad groups, since you can often cover more placements with text ads that may not be available with image ads alone. However, if at all possible, you should include well-designed image ads, which tend to show higher clickthrough rates and better represent your brand online.


Launching a successful Google AdWords display campaign requires a combination of the right campaign settings, ad group targeting, and ad creative. You’ll want to be sure that your campaign is setup properly to reach the audience that you desire to convert into sales or leads for your business. In addition, segment your targeting and ads to set yourself up for testing what performs best to drive traffic and conversions.


When the client first came to you, you talked up the value of Google Analytics. You emphasized the importance of seeing where your traffic was coming from. You went on and on about how Google Analytics can show traffic sources to pinpoint whether people came from search, social media or a specific site referral, and how valuable this data was. You sold them on it, so much so that your client looked forward to receiving that first report, the magical day when they would finally understand where visitors were coming from.
But then the report came, and it looked like this:



It showed that 10% of your client’s traffic came from “(direct)/(none)”. What does this label mean? How do you explain Direct traffic to your client? Better yet, how do you explain “none”?
Let’s take a closer look at understanding Direct traffic in Google Analytics and how we can address it with clients.
Digital marketers spend a lot of time focused on PPC and SEO campaigns in order to drive desirable traffic to a website. The phrases we’re ranking for and bidding on get meticulous attention, so much so that we often forget about some of the other ways that visitors find us.

We put a tremendous amount of the effort we put into reviewing organic search data and PPC campaign performance in analytics. But how closely do we monitor referral reports?

If that’s not a channel you review regularly, you may be missing out on seeing traffic that is coming directly from links you’ve obtained around the web, local business listings, news mentions, and more. Many times, links are only considered as a means to an end, a metric that Google uses in determining how to rank sites in the SERPs (search engine results pages). But the fact is, many of a site’s links may be directly contributing to its traffic.

In this article, we’ll review how to look at referral reports in Google Analytics, and some of the many ways to use that data to better inform your web marketing decisions.


Remember how your mom told you not to stand too close to the television because it might hurt your eyes?

The same rules can apply to data. If you’re too close, you may miss the patterns and trends that are crucial to understanding your website’s performance. You can’t judge a site’s performance looking at data in the bubble of a single day, you must consider any day’s traffic compared to the days before and after.

Google Analytics makes it fairly easy to analyze trends over long periods of time. But it also allows you to stand right in front of that TV, to look at more granular levels of time, right down to the hour.
There’s a better way to get that close to the data, without burning your retinas. We’ll cover how to analyze traffic effectively in today’s post.