It's time to give the Google AdWords Display Network a pat on the head because it's all grown up. This March, the Display Network, formerly known as Content Network, turns 9 years old. With its growth have come new features and enhancements. It seems to have come a bit late to the game (nine years to see keyword level data?), however, the changes are significant and will make management easier and increase opportunities for performance improvement.
1. Display campaign management. First, Google recognized the need for a singular interface for display. For many years, PPC managers have worked through multiple tabs to manage display. This new solution, rolling out over the next few weeks, combines the current "Networks," "Audiences," and "Topics" tabs under a new "Display Network" tab. This will help streamline implementation and management tasks.
2. Keyword level data. Contextual targeting (ads placed on web pages based on keywords) has been one of the most basic forms of targeting. Now, a new feature offers us the ability to see performance on the Display Network at the keyword level. Keyword statistics will be available for display only in the Display Network tab, and the Keywords tab will now show just search statistics. If keywords are added or edited in the main Keywords tab, any changes made to the keywords will affect both search and display targeting in that campaign. This will make it even more important to keep search and display campaigns separate so that keywords can be optimized in ways appropriate for the two distinct channels.
3. Display Ad Builder. For some companies, creating graphics for display/banner ads could be a barrier to entry in using the Display Network because of costs or resources. Display Ad Builder is a new tool allowing advertisers to choose from a variety of templates using their own text, images, or logos. One of the best things about this tool is that it creates banner ads in many different sizes, enabling the advertiser to implement any or all sizes of the ad. A display ad can be easily created using any text ad with the following steps: click the "Ads" tab within any campaign or ad group that contains text ads, select the checkbox next to any text ad, and from the drop-down menu above the ads table, select "More Actions" then "Generate Display Ad."
4. Topic targeting. Topic targeting is another new feature and serves ads based on page-level content. Advertisers can choose to show ads on websites related to real estate or automotive, for example. One or multiple topics can be selected to make ads more relevant. For optimization purposes, this should be set up in a new campaign targeting only the Display Network. It's not recommended to use contextual targeting with keywords in this campaign since they can limit traffic.
5. Interest categories. Until now, our only behavioral targeting options have been via remarketing campaigns. Interest categories is a new behavioral targeting method showing ads to users who have previously expressed interest in a relevant topic based on their visits to similar websites on the Display Network as well as on third-party data. Google developed an algorithm, using cookies from DoubleClick and the user behavior data of visitors on AdSense websites, to create these interest categories. It has categorized between 500 to 800 million cookies in over 2,000 interest categories. The system not only looks at what the user is interested in generally and her long-term profile, but also what she is interested in recent sessions, and right now on the page across over 2 million websites.
Since these ads are targeted to the user directly instead of to the website where the ad appears, they are a great complement to any existing contextually targeted display campaign and a way to get your ad in front of an already highly engaged audience. Interest category campaigns are easy to set up since the list of users is pre-defined, and there is no placement or keyword selection necessary.
New in Beta
Insights for Audience, currently in beta, looks at a remarketing list and develops an audience composition breakout. These reports will be used to determine the demographics and user behavior on the website.
The Google Display Network has come a long way to reach maturity and grow a stronger feature set. Its adoption by advertisers can continue to grow too if future product enhancements recognize our needs for more efficient and relevant placements that reach the right audience at the right time.
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Lisa Raehsler is the founder and principal strategist at Big Click Co., an online advertising company and Google AdWords Certified Partner, specializing in strategy and management of SEM and PPC for search engines, display, retargeting, and social media ad campaigns. Lisa has led strategy on dozens of PPC accounts and puts her experience into practice every day as a thought leader in integrating clients' search campaigns with ecommerce websites, behavioral targeting strategies, and web analytics. She has participated extensively in the local interactive community, as well as at national search engine marketing conferences. Lisa's recent speaking engagements include SES, OMS, MIMA, HeroConf, and SMX conferences, as well as numerous private and public training engagements. As a columnist for ClickZ and Search Engine Watch, she writes on the topic of paid search. Follow her on Twitter @LisaRocksSEM.
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