Google Display Network: 13 Ways to Scale Your Campaign Once It’s Profitable

Image 1 Do you have a Google Display Network (GDN) campaign that’s profitable (even marginally)? You’re one lucky SOB!

And if you want to learn how to scale a profitable campaign, you’re about to get luckier – because in this article I’m going to tell you 13 ways that I’ve used to scale my GDN campaign.

Many of these tactics aren’t widely known, so grab a pen and paper and take some notes!

In this article I cover the following tactics to scale a GDN campaign:

  1. Change your “Delivery method” for ads to “Accelerated”
  2. Add more (related) keywords
  3. Use image ads and text ads
  4. Use the full set of image ads allowed by Google
  5. Expand to new geographic areas
  6. Expand to different languages
  7. Increase “Impression share”
    1. Increase your campaign’s budget
    2. Increase your bid
    3. Increase your Quality Score
  8. Target high-volume websites that are related to your offer
  9. Target high-volume websites that are not directly related to your offer
  10.  Target Google’s largest properties:
    1. Gmail
    2. Youtube
  11. Use Google’s Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO)
  12. Use retargeting
  13. Target mobile phones

“Delivery Method” – Change it from “Standard” to “Accelerated” 

“Delivery method” simply refers to how quickly Google shows your ads.

The default setting in your account is “Standard”, which means that Google will try to show your ads evenly across the day, based on your budget.  The downside of this setting is if you have a small daily budget, your ad will only be shown a fraction of the time that it potentially could be shown.

If you change the delivery method in your Adwords account to “Accelerated”, however, Google will show your ad every time. The downside of this setting is your budget could become depleted early in the day, and your ad won’t be shown for most of the day (the solution: increase your budget!) To change the delivery method go into Settings > Delivery method (advanced). gdn_delivery_method_change_to_accelerated

Add More Keywords

If you have a search network campaign running…

Check the Search Query report to see which keywords are converting for you. If they’re high-volume keywords, add them to your GDN campaign. And if they’re not high-volume, consider lopping off part of the keyword and adding that “head” term to your GDN campaign.

If you don’t have a search network campaign running

Follow the tips in this article to add keywords to your campaign to get more traffic. Here are two good tips from that article:

  1. Add more generic keywords. For example, if you sell acne treatments, make sure you have high-volume, generic terms like “acne”, “acne treatment”, “acne remedies” in your campaign
  1. Add related keywords. These would be words that are synonymous with your target keyword. For example, related keywords for “acne” are blackheads, pimples, pustules, rosacea, whiteheads, skin inflammation, zits, and (most hilariously) pizza-face.
  1. You can also take keywords that are currently doing well in your campaign and plug them into the Adwords Contextual Targeting tool to get more related keywords. (Bonus point: as well as keywords, plug the URL of good placements into the tool to get even more keywords.)

Use Image AND Text Ads

A lot of advertisers start on GDN with text ads, because text ads are easier to set up than image ads.

To set up a text ad on GDN, all you have to do is type the ad text into your Adwords account; no need to have image ads created by a graphic designer.

And that’s often where a lot of advertisers stop – with text ads. Big mistake! There’s a crapload of ad inventory on GDN (one trillion ad impressions per month, to be exact), and a lot of that inventory is image ads. The rule of thumb for text versus image ads is:

  • Image ads get a higher clickthrough rate
  • Text ads get a lower CPA

Comparing the two sets of ads below, it’s obvious why image ads get a higher CTR: image_ad_vs_text_ad

Use The Full Set of Image Ad Sizes

Make sure you create image ads that match the full set of ad sizes that Google allows for the Display Network.

While some websites only allow the most popular ad sizes (i.e. 300×250, 336×280, 728×90, and 160×600), you’ll want to test all sizes.

** Tip: when starting a campaign I’ll have 8-10 completely different ads created in the most popular GDN ad size (300×250). By “completely different”, I mean I’ll make the same offer in every ad, but each ad will have a different style, colors, and text. Once I’ve found the ad that gets the highest CTR (which tells me that that particular ad resonates most strongly with my audience), I’ll have that ad created in all sizes allowed by Adwords. **

Here’s a handy infographic showing the image ad sizes allowed on GDN (courtesy of Hall Internet Marketing):

display-ad-sizes-infographic

Increase “Impression Share” for Your Existing Campaign(s) 

If you already have a campaign that’s making money, you probably haven’t maxed out its potential. Why? Because your ads are probably only getting a fraction of the maximum impressions (i.e. views) that they could.

How to Tell if Your GDN Campaign is Missing Out on a Ton of Impressions

Before trying to fix this problem, you need to find out what your campaign’s “impression share” is. Google says that “Impression share” is “the impressions you’ve received on the Display Network divided by the estimated number of impressions you were eligible to receive”.

In other words, it’s the percentage of impressions you’re actually getting compared to the total impressions you could be getting.

To add impression share metrics to your Adwords dashboard, go into Columns > Customize columns > Competitive metrics and add “Display Impr. share”, “Display Lost IS (rank)”, and “Display Lost IS (budget)”: gdn_how_to_add_display_impression_share_stats Here’s what the Impression share stats looked like for my campaign before I followed the steps in this article to increase it: gdn_impression_share_screenshot_my_account As you can see from the screenshot, I was missing out on a TON of impressions. For my most mature campaign (the Display Campaign Optimizer campaign, called “DCO” in my dashboard), I was getting less than 10% of potential impressions.

Here’s the “before-and-after” scenario I was looking at:

Current Daily Stats (what I was currently getting, with <10% Impression Share)

  • 70,000 impressions
  • 632 clicks
  • 77 conversions

Potential Daily Stats (what I could get with 100% Impression Share)

  • ~700,000 impressions
  • ~6,300 clicks
  • ~770 conversions

Holy crap!  And that’s just for ONE of the campaigns in my account! Google said 88.38% of the impressions were being missed due to “rank”.  This means my ads had a low “Ad Rank”.  The remaining 11.27% was being missed due to “budget” (which obviously means my budget was too low).

There are two ways to increase low Ad Rank:

  1. Increase bid
  2. Improve Quality Score

Increasing your bid is straightforward – you already set a bid when setting up the campaign, so just go into your account and increase it.

** Quick note on bidding: I recommend you increase your bids in increments of no more than $0.05 – increase by $0.05, then wait a day or two and see what happens to the amount of clicks you’re getting, and your CPA.

In my experience, increasing bids by more than that can suddenly increase your CPA by a lot, as Google starts showing your ads on a lot of unrelated sites. Increasing your bids more slowly will allow Google’s algorithms to adjust slowly.  **

Improving your Quality Score (QS) is a little more involved.  Google says that these factors are used to calculate QS for ads on the Display Network:

  • The ad’s past performance on this and similar sites
  • The relevance of the ads and keywords in the ad group to the site
  • The quality of your landing page
  • Other relevance factors

But wait, it gets even more confusing! QS also depends on the placement and bidding settings in your campaign:

  • QS for placement-targeted ads depends on the campaign’s bidding setting
  • QS for campaigns that use CPM bidding depends on the quality of your landing page
  • QS for campaigns that use CPC bidding depends on the historical CTR of the ad on this and similar sites AND the quality of your landing page

So to improve the QS of a campaign that uses CPC (cost-per-click) bidding – which is probably most campaigns – you need to: a)    Improve the CTR of your ad on all sites you’re advertising on b)    Make sure you’re advertising on relevant sites to your offer c)     Make sure you have a high-quality landing page

To summarize, there are 3 main ways you can increase Impression Share:

  1. Increase your campaign’s budget
  2. Increase your bid
  3. Increase your Quality Score 

Target High-Volume Websites That Are Related to Your Offer

Depending on the niche you’re in, there might be a handful of sites you can target that are both related to your product AND get a ton of traffic.

For example, if your product is in one of the evergreen niches, you might have a product that relates to…ahem…”male chest fat”. To see if there are high-volume websites that are related to your product, you could go to Adwords’ Display Planner and enter the keywords “man boobs” into the search box. The Planner would then tell you:

  • If there are any sites relevant to your offer
  • What the historical cost-per-click (CPC) is for those sites
  • How many impressions and cookies each site serves up in a typical week

Here’s what I found when I typed in that provocative term: adwords_display_planner_man_boobs So Google is telling us that it thinks the sites AskTheTrainer.com and PlasticSurgery4U.com are most relevant to the topic “man boobs”. It’s also saying that if we advertise on those sites, we could expect our ad to be seen 10k – 15k times per week on the top site (if we get 100% Impression Share).

Target High-Volume Sites That Are NOT Directly Related to Your Offer

I sell information products in a health niche, so when I started advertising on GDN and started making sales on sites like ebay.com.au, I was pretty surprised. The point is this: if you have an offer that appeals to a broad audience (for example, a particular demographic group), you might be able to make sales on sites that are not directly relayed to your niche.

Here are a few high-volume websites that are probably suitable for any niche (some of which I’ve made sales on with my health info products):

Target Google’s Largest Properties

There are a couple Google-owned properties that are worth targeting as separate campaigns in your Adwords account:

  1. Gmail. Google itself recommends that you set up a Gmail-specific campaign.

 Some suggestions from this Adwords thread on optimizing Gmail-targeted GDN campaigns include:

  1. Add these managed placements: mail.google.com and    mail.google.com::Inbox,Top center
  1. Target your Gmail campaign by Contextual (i.e. keywords), Demographic, Interests, or Topics

If you’re a real baller, look into Gmail Sponsored Promotions. This program requires you to set up an IO (insertion order) with Google, and it doesn’t look cheap, but if you’re serious about using Gmail as an advertising channel, it’s worth looking into.

For more info on Google Sponsored Promotions, check out the stellar results Wordstream has had with program, and Elite SEM’s blog has an excellent tutorial on Gmail Sponsored Promotions implementation and best practices. 2. Youtube. Advertising on Youtube could be the subject of an entire course, so I’ll just mention a few things here:

  1. The place to start learning about advertising on Youtube is here: Display Ads on Youtube
  2. Learn how to set up Youtube as a managed placement here: Show your ad on Youtube
  3. You don’t need to apply makeup and sit in front of a camera to advertise on Youtube! You can also use plain ol’ text or display ads.

Here’s a breakdown of the types of ads you can place on Youtube:

  • Video ads can be be displayed In-Stream (i.e. in the video screen itself, before the feature video), In-Display (i.e. on top of the list of suggested videos along the side of the feature video’s page), or In-Search (i.e. at the top of the Youtube search results when people use keywords to search for a video)

Check out Marketing Mojo’s blog for an excellent explanation of video advertising choices on Youtube.

  • Display ads (also called banner ads by Youtube) are displayed to the right of the feature video, or at the top of the page in mobile phones.

Here’s a diagram showing all the different types of ad formats available for Youtube (which I personally find frigging confusing!): gdn_youtube_ad_formats Wordstream has a great tutorial on How to Advertise in Youtube Videos that outlines all of the advertising options.

Expand to New Geographic Areas 

When you set up your campaign you probably selected only a couple of English-speaking countries for your campaign. How about broadening that scope to include ALL of the English-speaking countries, as well as countries that have a growing middle class that speaks English?

I would start by targeting all countries in Europe, because most European countries are wealthy and have a large number of people who speak English as a second (or third) language. Here are some countries that have a large absolute number of English-speakers and that you’ve probably never thought of advertising in:

  • India
  • Pakistan
  • Nigeria
  • Philippines
  • Germany
  • Bangladesh
  • France
  • Italy
  • Thailand
  • Holland
  • South Africa
  • Turkey
  • Spain

Here’s something that’s even more interesting: a language training company has an index that ranks countries by the average level of English skills among adults.

To target your country-based campaign even better, I would start with the countries that have a high level of English proficiency. You can see the ranking here. I would also add whatever GDN layering is appropriate for your campaign (i.e. keywords, demographics, topics, interests, etc.)

Target Different Languages

Another setting to test in your GDN campaign is languages. As alluded to in the previous section, there are a lot of people who speak English as a second or third language, and some of these people don’t live in countries that are normally associated with English-speakers.

So in addition to targeting the countries that those people live in, you can also set up a new campaign targeting popular languages, as a way to target people who would otherwise never see your ads. Why this might help you capture an additional, relevant audience is that Google uses the browser language settings to determine a user’s language.

So if a user has Spanish as their browser setting, and they live in a Spanish-speaking country, they would never see your ad – unless you specifically target their language. You can try this out even if your ads (and website) are in English.

Use Google’s Display Campaign Optimizer

The Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO) is Google’s way to rake in more money for themselves automatically ramp up your campaign by using their algorithms to find more placements for you.

Why use the DCO, instead of just increasing the budget on your existing campaign?  Because the DCO automatically finds more placements at your target CPA. All you have to do is go into the Display Network tab of each ad group and click the “+Targeting” button. Then under “Targeting optimization” select “Let Adwords automatically find new customers”: gdn_display_conversion_optimizer_setting Wondering if DCO is for you? Here’s a good article by former Google employee Kristina Cutura: Should You Try Google’s Display Campaign Optimizer? 

Use Retargeting

Image 2 Retargeting (also called remarketing) is a HUGE trend right now in online marketing.

If you’ve ever visited a website, then found yourself followed around the internet by that site’s ads, you’ve been “retargeted”. When a site retargets you, they drop a cookie in your browser so they can serve ads to you as you visit other websites. It’s a way to get people who have been to a website – but have not converted – to take whatever action you’d like them to.

You can sign up for Adwords’ retargeting, depending on the niche you’re in (read the policy on who can use their retargeting service here). Because I sell information products in a health niche (which they consider a “sensitive” topic), Adwords disabled my retargeting list shortly after I opted in to their program. So I now use a popular third-party retargeting service called Perfect Audience.

Target Mobile Phones

You’ve probably heard that mobile is the future (and present) of marketing.  Here are a few mind-blowing stats to prove the point:

  • Over 1.2 billion people access the web from their mobile devices
  • Global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all internet traffic
  • Mobile web adoption is growing 8 times faster than web adoption did in the 1990s and early 2000s
  • No one screen size has more than 20% of the market
  • Almost 500 million tablets will ship in 2013 and 2014
  • 25.85% of emails are opened on mobile phones, and 10.16% are opened on tablets

Like Youtube marketing, mobile marketing could be a course unto itself. I’ll just mention a couple of important points:

  • If you’re in this for the long-haul, make sure your website displays well on mobile phones and tablets. Mobile use will only continue to grow, as smartphone use continues to grow in both developed and developing countries
  • How fast your site loads (including, and probably especially, on mobile devices) is becoming increasingly important for conversions.   

Summing Up 

If you have a profitable Google Display Network campaign, you’re a lucky dude. Now what you need to do is SCALE the crap out of your campaign. In this post I’ve outlined 13 ways you can scale a GDN campaign:

  1. Change your “Delivery method” for ads to “Accelerated”
  2. Add more (related) keywords
  3. Use image ads and text ads
  4. Use the full set of image ads allowed by Google
  5. Expand to new geographic areas
  6. Expand to different languages
  7. Increase “Impression share”
    1. Increase your campaign’s budget
    2. Increase your bid
    3. Increase your Quality Score
  8. Target high-volume websites that are related to your offer
  9. Target high-volume websites that are not directly related to your offer
  10.  Target Google’s largest properties:
    1. Gmail
    2. Youtube
  11. Use Google’s Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO)
  12. Use retargeting
  13. Target mobile phones

I’ll be implementing these tips in my own GDN campaign and reporting what I’ve learned in my Niche Sherpa private forum. If you haven’t found a profitable niche yet, or are struggling with your online business, my Niche Sherpa course can get you up and running in less than 60 days. Click here to learn how the Sherpa can help you! 

Excellent Resources for Learning How to Increase GDN Traffic:

A Strategy Map for Google Display Network Success

7 Common Pitfalls of Google Display Network Management

7 Uncommon Best Practices for the Google Display Network

A few great GDN articles by Kristina Cutura (former Google employee):

4 Easy Ways to Increase Adwords Traffic

Should You Try Google’s Display Campaign Optimizer?

Optimize Pay-Per-Click Display Campaigns for ROI

Postscript: Additional Recommendations by Kristina Cutura

I emailed Kristina when this post was published and asked if she'd review it and provide feedback. Here are several points she added:

(1) One thing I might recommend to keep the campaign profitable is to continue to review placements that are generating traffic and exclude those that generated spend without any conversions. You could be spending a lot of money on placements that are not converting at all, so this is especially important if you have a limited budget.

(2) For your top converting placements, you can se unique bids, so that each placement has a different bid depending on conversions and cost to convert. Most advertisers use ad group level bids, but placement specific bids are an advanced way to manage GDN.

(3) You can also use negative keywords in the same way as search to exclude irrelevant, non-performing pages from triggering your ads. For example, if you sell B2B software and are looking to get B2B leads from prospective buyers, you can add "jobs" and similar negatives toe exclude people looking at job postings from seeing your ads.

(4) Finally, for most brands using retargeting, I recommend opting out of sensitive sites at the site category level in the Display Network tab.

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Comments

  1. Markus says

    Good stuff here, thank you. The “Missed Impressions” part was an aspect i haven’t considered well enough – so far.

    Greetings from Germany 🙂

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