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If you are considering running display ads, the Google Display Network (part of Google Ads) is a popular and efficient way to publish your ads across the Internet.

Below we will break down the fundamentals of the Google Display Network, including how it differs from Search Network, where your ads can be displayed, how to target users, and more.

Google Display Network – what is it?

Google Display Network is a wide advertising network that reaches millions of websites. Its reach is estimated to be around 70% of Internet users. Website owners place code provided by Google, which allows the Google Display Network to place ads on the website. As a website owner, this program is called Google Adsense, and the website owner makes money by allowing ads on their website.

What Is The Google Display Network?

Google manages the ad network and ad placement. Upon a single page view, Google holds an auction for which ads should be included on the page, and inserting the ad onto the page – all within a second.

As a company seeking to advertise, it’s also very efficient and easy to get started. Once your ads are created, you can use the Google Display Network to show ads on websites, phone apps, and more. You can show ads to visitors who have visited your site before (called retargeting), or matches specific criteria you set up.

Google Display Network vs Google Search Network

Google’s ad network consists of two primary areas – Display and Search.Google Display Network versus Google Search NetworkMost people know Google as a search engine, and are familiar with typing search queries into Google. When you view search results, ads relevant to your search will show up. These ads come from the Google Search Network. This paid search tactic lets companies reach users while they are searching for specific keywords and phrases. The ads are mostly text-based, with some additional content like a “Call” button to entice users to click the ad.

The Google Display Network is a bit more passive. While the Google Search Network uses text-based ads, Google Display Network uses visual ads on websites, where users can see them as they read, shop, or browse. The Display Network allows for visual, rich-media ads such as video and images.

Google Display Network Ads & Locations

The Google Display Network spans millions of websites – but it’s important to know that ads aren’t live on all of them at the same time. A campaign like that wouldn’t deliver the most effective results, and would be incredibly expensive. Also, the millions of websites include several popular sites such as YouTube – which is huge in its own right.

The Google Display Network considers multiple criteria for displaying your ads online, such as the user and their targeting information, your campaign and targeting behavior, and the website and its content.

To be the most effective with a Google Display Network campaign, there are a few things to consider.

Google Display Network Website LocationsWebsites With Complimentary Content

The first way is to give your campaign certain keywords and topics, and Google will select sites that are complimentary to those.

This route can work well for a broad audience, but the downside to this is that this approach can take a lot of management and hands-on time. This is because you’ll want to review and tweak terms and websites if they aren’t performing well, or if your ads end up on the wrong websites.

Curated List Of Websites

A curated list of websites is called “managed placements”, and allows you to hand-pick which websites to place your ads on.

This works well if you really know your target audience and the websites, publications, and content that they read online. Since this is a “whitelist” approach, this also means that you know exactly where your ads run.

For example, if you are a kitchen remodeler, it might make sense to aim for DIY and home improvement websites.

Carefully Consider Mobile App Campaigns

One thing to watch is letting your display ads run on mobile apps. Display ads here can reach a wide audience, but they don’t typically convert well (especially so for mobile games). Of course, every company’s needs are different and a test campaign is always worthy, but conserving your budget for higher performing outlets is wise.

Targeting With Google Display Network

Another angle is targeting your users by specific traits they have, including any interests, by demographic information, or any websites they have visited (including your own).

Google Display Network TargetingBy User Interest and Affinity

Similar to the concept of websites with complimentary content, you can target users who display an affinity for certain interests. Extending the kitchen remodeler example, it may make sense to target users who have an interest in Home & Garden.

By User Demographic Information

Criteria here is a bit more specific – age, location, gender, and even device are options. You can really dial in your targeting to be sure that your audience matches your customer base lookalike, or excluding demographics that don’t match (such as outside of a 100 mile service area).

By User Browsing Activity

The Display Network can track the websites that users visit, purchase from, watch videos on, and more. You can use this data to target users and put your budget to good work.

One special strategy is called “remarketing”, which means that you can display your ads to visitors that have been on your website. There is real power in the customization of remarketing. For example, a campaign can consist of the users viewing a product, adding it to a cart, but not completing a checkout, it’s possible to show them specific ads about completing a checkout. It’s also possible to show them coupons or special offers to lure them back to your website. Remarketing via display ads is a powerful strategy in use by many companies.

Reporting & Attribution

One of the best things about digital advertising is the ability to see how effective your budget spend is. However, if your attribution is not properly set up and documented, this may be giving you accurate data, but not the full picture.

Attribution is the act of giving marketing dollars and efforts credit for “conversions” – whether that’s a phone call, a form fill, or a purchase. Attribution becomes complicated quickly when you realize that not every conversion will happen immediately. Showing an ad to a user and having them click on your ad is desired – but what if the person doesn’t convert immediately? What if they remember your ad a few days later, search for your brand on Google, and convert then? Display brought in the user and should get some credit.

When you set up campaigns, it’s important to be sure that conversion reporting is accurate. We recommend sharing your Google Display Network campaigns with Google Analytics to ensure that all marketing touchpoint (including emails, social, and organic) are included. This way, if visitors return back after engaging with your ads, you can give proper credit to the campaigns.


The Google Display Network is a great option for companies seeking to start out in display advertising. It reaches a lot of users (but there are other networks that are larger though). Having your campaigns properly configured, monitored regularly, and setting up reporting is the best way to ensure marketing dollars are spent wisely.

Venn Marketing has helped many companies just like yours with online advertising. If you’d like to discuss if Google Display Network is a good fit, and what sort of budget you’d need to run campaigns, contact us and let’s discuss your digital marketing.