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Google Display Network Explained

| 4 minutes to read

The Google Display Network (GDN) allows you to place targeted display ads on a variety of sites next to related content. This can help expand the reach of your online advertising as it targets potential customers who are not actively searching for what you are offering.

According to Google, the GND reaches 80% of global internet users meaning that by advertising via this platform you can reach a huge number of people you might not reach through conventional search ads.

The reasons for advertising on the GND can be varied but if any of the below are applicable to you, then I would suggest you consider targeting users via this platform:

  • small search volumes
  • brand awareness
  • available budget to expand existing account

If you already have an existing Google AdWords account and are advertising using search ads on Google or its partners then using the GND is fairly straightforward. Simply put, all you need to do is set up a separate campaign within your Google AdWords account set to display on the GDN, create ad groups which will target either certain keywords, themes or websites. Finally add the advertising you would like to use to each ad group, which should have a clear call to action to entice someone to click on the ad and engage with your website.


As I said above, you can use the GDN to target either keywords, themes, certain websites or even users who have visited your site in the past, which can be achieved through a variety of different targeting types:

Contextual Targeting

Using either keywords or themes (1,750 topics and sub-topics to choose from) decided upon by yourself, Google will match your ads to websites and content registered with the GND and match this with the keywords or themes you have decided upon. This therefore allows you to place advertisements next to relevant content, increasing the likeliness that your ad will attract a click.

For example if you were looking to sell insurance policies for iPhones then it would make sense to advertise on sites which talk about iPhones, such as iPhone app sites or review canters. The visitors to these sites are mostly likely to already have an iPhone and therefore will be more receptive to your advertising. Just like conventional search ads, you also have the ability to add negatives to your ad groups to prevent your ads from displaying next to undesirable content. This allows you to help protect your brand and improve the performance of the account.

Placement Targeting

This option allows you to get your message out there on specific web pages, mobile sites or a variety of other online content like videos, games or RSS feeds. This is a great option is you know particular sites are delivering high quality traffic and wish to target that site to ensure your ads are displayed as often as possible.


Finally this option allows you to target users who have previously visited your site, have left and are now browsing other websites. For this to be achieved you will need to tag pages on your site that correspond to services or products you wish to promote. For example, you could add a “TV” tag on all of the pages where you sell televisions. You can then create an AdWords campaign to show highly relevant messages (such as ads displaying a special offer on TVs) to people who’ve visited these pages as they browse sites across the Google Display Network.

General Recommendations

As with advertising via search ads in Google, advertising via the GND will require ongoing maintenance and tweaking in order to achieve a desired return on your investment. Simply uploading some ads and targeting a load of keywords might get you traffic, but you cannot be sure of the quality of the clicks you are paying Google for.

In light of this, here are a few best practices you might like to follow when setting up and maintenance your advertising on the GDN:

URL Types

If you’re a UK business targeting people in the United Kingdom you’re less likely to gain conversions from sites registered in France or Germany for example. Similarly, sites with a .biz or .info are often bought by domain spammers with the aim of producing scrapped or substandard content solely of the purpose of AdSense.

Site Exclusions

Be sure to monitor what sites are accounting for your ad spend and which are delivering your conversions. If there’s a site in the account you find you’re spending large amounts on but generating little or no conversions, then I would recommend excluding it from the sites you’re advertising on.


Finally be sure to monitor where your getting your conversions from, if there are specific URL from which you’re generating conversions at an attractive price then it might be beneficial to try and target those separately to ensure you’re displayed more prominently and increasing the likeliness you’ll gain a conversion.

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