The Google Display Network “GDN” is the largest contextual advertising network available on the Internet.

Consisting of millions of websites, advertisers can display their ads to a wide range of audiences using many targeting options.

Steps for better display campaigns

Apply the Pareto principle

Using the GDN, you may have seen your ads get placed on hundreds or thousands of websites — but only a handful are responsible for significant traffic.

Applied to digital marketing, we can expect 80% of our results to come from 20% of our placements, keywords, emails lists or other channels.

Identify opportunities in your account

The first step is finding the placements that produce the most volume. In your AdWords account, go to Display campaigns > Placements > WHERE ADS SHOWED.

In the placements dashboard, select a metric and reorder it from highest to lowest. The most important metrics to focus on are impressions, clicks and cost.

Create unique campaigns for top placements

Every placement has an audience with specific interests and behaviors.

Creating a separate campaign for these placements will give you the ability to manage budgets, deliver specific ad messaging and control landing pages that are most effective for that audience.

Block these placements from your general campaigns

The easiest way to do this is to create a shared exclusion list for the top placements and attach it to the old campaigns. This will ensure that only the new targeted campaigns will deliver ads for top placements.

Create ad groups with specific targeting

Ad groups are what will really separate the new campaign from the old one. This is where placements, demographics, topics and other targeting tools are controlled to segment the audience so specific people see specific ads and landing pages.

Design your ads

The image, headlines and descriptions are the main elements that influence users and determine performance. Make sure each is chosen carefully so it connects with the target audience.

Display targeting methods


When someone visits your site, a cookie is downloaded onto their browser which allows us to build an audience list based on their interaction with your site or YouTube channel. We can then show them remarketing ads across the web.

Target Similar Audiences

The Similar Audiences feature within Google AdWords attempts to find people with similar interests and browsing habits as your remarketing audiences.

To target similar audiences, set up a new display campaign and select the ‘Similar to remarketing lists‘ option within the Display Network targeting settings.

Placements targeting

By targeting placements, you’re able to select exactly which sites you want your ads to be displayed on, so it’s a safe option for advertisers just branching out into display advertising.

To set up placement targeting, navigate to the targeting settings of your display network campaign and choose ‘placements‘ from the Ad targeting drop down.

In-market audiences

Reach users who want your product or service in more places across the web.

Google can determine that someone is ‘in-market’ for your product or service by the related ads they have clicked, related clicks that led to conversions and related sites and pages recently viewed.

Affinity audiences

Reach users who have shown an interest in an area that relates to you product or service.

Based on previous internet activity, Google will build a profile of your users’ interests; Google Analytics then allows us to target your ads to these users across the Google Display Network.

Short conclusion

While the Display Network can feel like the wild wild west for some advertisers, there are tactics to create hyper relevant messaging directed to audiences that are more refined than traditional display targeting methods.