How to use Display Ads and Gmail Ads

How to use Google Display and Google gmail ads

Search ads aren’t the only way to generate new business from Google, two other types of supplemental campaign types to run are Google Display and Gmail campaigns.

With the Google Display Network (“Display Ads” or “Display”), you have the power to show image and video type ads on millions of websites from YouTube to Yahoo to CNN.com.

This allows you additional reach besides just to those who are actively searching for your goods and services.

You can target audiences in many different ways similar to social media ads such as interests, behaviors and of course, remarketing.

Gmail is a type of Display Ad that shows a banner with a subject line that looks like a regular email.

The only difference is that it says “sponsored” and just like with any Display Ad you can choose from a wide array of targeting options from interests to behaviors to remarketing.

The other added benefit of Gmail ads is that users can save your ad to their saved folder to refer to later and forward it to someone else allowing your ad at no extra cost to reach other interested people.

Table of Contents

Setting Up Conversion Tracking

import goals from Google Analytics

Just as with any type of Google Ad, conversion tracking is critical to the success of the ads.

The algorithm will optimize for conversions, so it is crucial to have the proper tracking set up under conversions to make sure you are counting the actions you are looking to achieve from your Display and Gmail ads.

For instance, if you are looking to get more sales from your ads, it is important to make sure before launching that you have conversion tracking set up in Google Ads to optimize for “transactions” or “purchases”.

If you are looking for newsletter signups or lead form fill outs, it is important before launching your Display or Gmail campaigns that you can track these conversions in Google Analytics in the conversion tab.

In addition to ensuring you have conversions tracked, also ensure you weight your conversions by using the value parameter. 

Not all conversions are equal, so if you don’t add a value metric to your conversions, the algorithm will treat all conversions as equal. 

For example, newsletter signup would be less valuable than a sale, so the sale might have a value of the actual purchase (say $100) while the newsletter signup may have a value of say $5.

Value gives the algorithm the information to know that a sale is 20 times more important than a newsletter signup.

Setting A Frequency

frequency capping in Google Ads

If you go under your Google Display or Gmail campaign “settings”, you will see an option for frequency.

By default, the setting will allow Google to pick how many times a user sees your ad.

That means Google could show your ad 50, 60, even 100+ times to the same person if it feels that person will convert.

That could be a lot of money thrown down the drain.

Therefore, you can change that default setting to any frequency you like.

My recommendation is to allow a maximum of three times per day per user.

That allows a user to see your ads enough times to remember you but not too much where you see decimated returns.

After a certain amount of views, especially on the same day, the user may start to feel annoyed or uninterested.

frequency capping Google Ads day, week and month

Audience Targeting

One of the reasons advertisers are so drawn to social media ads is the vast majority of targeting options from all the interests and behaviors readily available.

To compete with brands such as Facebook, Google has been increasing its number of interests, known as affinity audiences and in-market audiences. 

Other audiences include those who have shown signals across the Google network that they are ready to buy or make a purchase decision, and remarketing which is based on your first-party data that comes from Google Ads, Google Analytics and even YouTube.

Affinity audiences are those who like or show interests in a particular topic.

An example of an affinity audience could be what Google calls “Foodies” which is described as “People who are enthusiastic about food and restaurant culture”, so say you were a restaurant and you want to attract new customers to your restaurant.

You could show your Display Ad to those who are specifically “foodies”, or another example of an affinity audience is what Google calls “Frequently Dines Out” which Google describes as “People who frequently purchase meals at restaurants and other dining establishes”.

These affinity audiences can help narrow down your targeting to find the right person to click on your ad, which will make a purchase decision.

Another type of audience you can target with Gmail and Display Ads are in-market audiences which are users who Google has determined are ready at that moment or in the near future to make a purchase of a particular item or service.

For instance, if you were a handbag eCommerce store, you can target users who are in-market or ready to buy “handbags” which Google describes as “people interested in purchasing women’s or men’s handbags, purses, wristlets or wallets.”

Another type of audience you can target is demographics.

You can target people based on “parental status”, “marital status”, “education” and “homeowner status”. 

For example, say for instance you are selling a couples retreat you may want to target only those who are “married” or in a relationship as those demographics are a critical factor in determining who would be interested in your offering.

Another example could be if you are offering an expensive or luxury item those who are more educated are much more likely to be able to afford it so if you targeted some with an “advanced degree” you know that they are much more likely to have the financial means and perhaps interest as well to purchase your higher ticket items.

You can also target users based on your remarketing lists and similar audiences (comparable to lookalike audiences in Facebook).

Remarketing means that they have been to your website and perhaps taken action on your website and/or visited a specific page.

Remarketing audiences are built in the remarketing tab on Google Ads.

I prefer to build my audiences in Google Analytics, but the vital point to make is to make sure your audiences are built out and for Display have at least 100 people to be eligible.

Similar audiences are based on your remarketing campaigns and are people who share similar characters to those of your remarketing audiences.

They can help you reach a large number of new people without guessing what affinity and in-market audiences you should add.

Primarily with similar audiences, your affinity and in-market segments are built right in.

Lastly, another type of audience you can target with your Gmail and Display Ads are based on keywords. These have nothing to do with the audience tab but the keyword tab.

You can take the relevant keywords you would bid on in search campaigns and target people on the Display Network and Gmail based on the keywords a user searches anywhere on the Google Network.

So, say someone searches “plumber near me” on Google search, you can add that keyword to your Display campaign so when someone searches that keyword on the search they start seeing your Display ad.

This can also work really well for extremely competitive industries such as law or SaaS where keywords can cost on the search network $10, $15, $20 per click where on the Display network you can pay less than a few dollars.

Structuring Your Targeting

targeting and observation in Google ads display ads

Google, by default, recommends your audiences be set up as “targeting” not “observation” which is what I recommend as well.

Targeting means that the user has to fit into your audience criteria for your ad to show up, “observation” means that you can see how many people that click and see your ad are part of your audience.

Still, they don’t necessarily need to be part of the audiences you define to see your ad.

That leaves Google plenty of room to show your ad to people beyond your desired targeting, and many leads to lower engagement and conversion rates.

Breaking out the different audience types into different ad groups so you can compare the data and pause low performing ad groups as needed.

For instance, create one ad group for affinity audiences only and one for in-market audiences.

Put remarketing audiences in another group, similar audiences in another, keywords in another and so on.

You are also given the option to “expand” your audience, which again gives Google more opportunity to show your ads more to people who Google deems close enough to your audiences.

Leave the expanded option off and control the audiences that see your Display and Gmail ads as much as possible.

Google, by default, has the expanded option on because they want more people to see your ad since they are paid based on how many clicks your ads get.

Typically, once you spend over $50 or get over 5,000 impressions or 1,000 clicks without a single conversion, I would pause your Adgroup or Campaign. 

It isn’t worth it to keep spending on that ad group if it isn’t producing any results, whether it be sales or leads.

Creative

In terms of ad creative for Display, you have two options: responsive ads or standard Display Ads.

Each could be effective, so I recommend testing both.

For standard Display Ads, you must follow Google’s standard sizes.

Some of the standard sizes include a square which is 250 x 250 pixels, a banner which is 468 x 60 and skyscraper which is 120 x 600.

I would recommend Googling “standard Display Ads” and sending all the size dimensions to your graphic designer or the person who are creating the ads and have them make all the sizes.

Display Ads should be eye-catching images and demonstrate the product or the service, use bold colours and patterns where if it was embedded in an article; it would capture a user’s attention.

If the design is too plain, you could experience a very low engagement rate as users may miss your ad entirely or not be captivated enough to click.

In terms of the ad itself, there should be text on the Display images themselves that describe the product or service and the value proposition.

If you are an eCommerce brand, you can include a promo code, if you are a service-based business you can add a call to action to schedule a free consultation.

However, the text to describe what the product or service is critical since the user may have no other context of who you are and if you are remarketing you need to describe who you are to jog their memory.

Another critical component to the standard Display Ad creative is the call to action button.

This box on the standard Display Ads are not directly clickable, but users can click on that part of the Display Ad and go to your website.

The call to action button could say “shop now” if you are selling a product, “book now” if you want them to book an appointment, or “request a demo” if you are a software company looking to book more demos.

The call to action button should be customized to the action you are looking for the user to do once they click and go to your website or landing page.

The other type of creative that I highly recommend testing for Display Ads are responsive ads. Responsive ads use AI learning to customize the Display Ad for each user.

For Display responsive ads, you are allowed to select up to 15 images, five logos and five videos for creative.

For text you are allowed to write up to five headlines that are up to 30 characters each, one long headline that is 90 characters long and up to five descriptions that are up to 90 characters long.

For headlines and descriptions, you can use some of the headlines and descriptions that are doing well for your standard search ads.

Reinforcement is good, and it isn’t always necessary to reinvent the wheel.

In terms of selecting images, I always recommend you upload your images from your computer.

While Google gives you the option to use stock images for your Display remarketing ads, custom branded images will outperform the standard stock images that they provide.

You also get an “asset progress score” where Google tells you if you have enough images, headlines and descriptions as well as an ad strength score that goes from poor to excellent.

When making your Display responsive ads always make sure the ads receive an excellent score.

Suppose they don’t try and add additional images, headlines and or descriptions until you get an excellent score.

If you set an ad live, that has less than an excellent score; it is an excellent possibility that the ads will not perform as well as they could.

Placements

In terms of placements, one of the first things I always do is exclude app placements.

The reason I exclude app placements is that many users accidentally click on ads while in apps as the ads can sometimes take up a majority of the screen and they can be clicked on accidentally.

When a user is on the main website, there is a much lower chance that the click on the Display Adwas accidental.

You can also view your current placements and the data behind it and decide over time if there are additional placements you would like to pause.

I recommend waiting for at least 1000 clicks or $500 in spend before deciding to pause any placements.

You want to make sure consistently there is a pattern behind the site and not the audience or another factor as to why a website is not converting.

Sometimes a website is low quality or is so engaging to a user that they don’t click on your ads.

In that case, you can pause placements to focus on higher converting placements.

Devices

device analysis google ads

For some products and services, mobile converts better than desktop, and in other instances, desktops convert better than mobile.

One thing that is pretty universal across all brands and services that there will be a lot more impressions across mobile and that’s only going to continue.

While the number of conversions is important when deciding to remove a device placement or decreasing bids significantly, I would recommend waiting until you have at least 1,000 impressions on both mobile and desktop.

Only then look at the conversion rate which is the percentage of people who converted divided by the total traffic.

I would also look at the cost per conversion, which is the total spend on that device divided by the total number of conversions.

Those metrics can help you compare on a much deeper level if your audiences are more likely to convert on a desktop or mobile device or it could be that both channels convert equally which in that case you would just leave the device alone.

Note you can increase bids up to 900% and decrease bids up to -90%.

Say you are bidding $1.00 if you increased bids 900% that would increase your bid up to $90 and if you decrease bids -90% that would decrease your $1.00 bid to $0.10. I typically don’t recommend increasing your bids more than 90% and less than -70% otherwise you are letting other devices completely control where your ads appear.

Increase or decrease bids slowly.

So you can increase or decrease your bids 20% at a time, let results run for seven days and then re-evaluate.

You may also find you increased or decreased bids too much and in that case, go back to your original bid adjustments or increase or decrease 5% or 10% from the original adjustment to keep adjustments in check. 

In terms of tablets, again I would wait until you have a decent amount of conversions (at least 1000 or more) but look at conversion rate and cost per conversion, not the number of conversions to see if you should increase or decrease bids.

If you see a high conversion rate of tablets, you can increase your bids to help get more impressions on tablets which could help your conversion rate overall if users are likely to convert on tablets.

One tendency about what device type converts a user the most, whether it is Display or Gmail is the price point and if there are steps involved in filling out a form.

The more of a decision-making process it is to convert the more likely the user is almost exclusively to convert on a desktop.

So, for instance, if you are selling a $50 or $100 item, then you may likely see an equal or higher conversion rate on mobile.

Still, if the price point of an item on your store is $1,000, $2,000 or $5,000 or more, then it may take a lot more thinking for a user to decide and also they may feel more secure making a more significant purchase like that from home on a desktop.

The same thing goes for a lead form if the steps to fill out a form is just putting in your name and email then you may be more likely to see a higher conversion rate and more conversions on a mobile device.

However, if the process to fill out a form is a series of steps or five, ten or more pieces of information it could take longer for a user to fill out the information and therefore, desktop ads may convert at a much higher rate.

Location

targeting using radius

Selecting the right location or locations is also critical to helping your Display, and Gmail campaigns are successful.

You can also review what’s called a “geography report” and look at your existing data by state, county, zip code, etc.

You can see clicks, impressions, conversions, conversion rate and cost per conversion, which can help you determine if you have certain locations that don’t convert or don’t convert at a higher rate.

Just as with devices I would recommend waiting until you have at last 1,000 impressions before making any kind of conclusions on geographic areas to keep and pause.

Just as with devices as well I recommend only increasing or decreasing 20% at a time and then review in seven days and decide if you want to increase or decrease more or less.

Certain countries, cities, states etc. are more highly populated so the number of conversions could be higher but if you look at the conversion rate and cost per conversion you can make the best decisions on what areas to increase bids on and what areas to decrease bids on.

For instance, in the United States, states such as Florida, New York, Texas and California tend to get more conversions, but that’s because there are more people in those states.

However, if you look at conversion rate and see a much higher percentage in smaller states, you may want to increase your bids there so that way if someone searches in that particular state and they tend to convert higher you have a higher chance of your ads showing up there.

Another example, in the United States, is looking at individual states such as Alaska and Hawaii, especially if you are an eCommerce brand.

You may never get a sale in those states if shipping costs more or it takes longer to ship to those states.

Therefore, blocking them could save you some money that could be put towards other high converting states. 

Demographics

Excluding demographics in Google Ads

With Display and Gmail ads, you also have control over your demographics.

That is the age, gender, household income and parental status of those who can see your ads.

With the household income that data and optimizations are only available in the United States, Japan, Australia and New Zealand.

Just as with location, device and other targeting options, my advice is to wait until you have at least 1,000 impressions before making any type of conclusions.

You want to let the data collection before making any bid adjustments or blocking any demographics from seeing your ads; you may be surprised what demographics convert the best.

You also like other targeting options want to look beyond the number conversions and look at conversion rate and cost per conversion.

If the conversion rate is high, but impressions are low, you may increase your bids so that way you can increase your impressions and potentially increase your total number of conversions.

You only want to increase or decrease your bids 20% at a time and re-evaluate in seven days.

If you increase or decrease too quickly you may find that your initial finding was too premature or you aggressively changed too quickly which ended up hurting results.

Some demographics that I see a lot of advertisers’ block are those who are 18-24-years old.

For a lot of products and services, they may be too young, and therefore, they may search but never have any intent to buy or become a lead.

Another demographic that I see a lot of advertisers eventually block is those that are the lower 50% of household income.

I am not encouraging you to do this right when the campaign launches but something to be observing as you start collecting data.

Unless the products or services cost more than $500 then typically every income range can convert.

The opposite is also true; for instance, you may be a discount retailer or selling something to low-income people.

You want to observe actual data first, but if you see a much lower conversion rate and much higher cost per conversion for top 10% of the household income, you can block or decrease bids to focus more of your budget on highly converting income targets.

Another option in demographics for age, gender, household income and parental status is called “unknown”, that means Google can’t determine what the user identifies as and could be any of the options.

Anyone who is searching in private mode could be in that category or anyone that doesn’t allow cookies. I always recommend not excluding unknown.

Although it is a mixed bag, it can do very well as it can include a lot of the demographics you are trying to target.

Setting Up Ads For Success

Once you have all the targeting and creative made, it is essential to make sure you have a strong call to actions in your ad copy.

If you are looking for someone to become a lead, encourage them to click on your ad and fill out a contact form on your website.

If you give them a phone number to call that may increase your call volume, but it isn’t going to help encourage people to click on your ad and go to your website.

If you are an eCommerce brand, you can have your text include a promo code where a user has to click on your ad and use your promo code at checkout.

In Summary

Display and Gmail ads can be a great and effective way to increase your conversions and help compliment your search campaigns.

Gmail and Display campaigns don’t show the same direct intent as search ads do when someone is actively looking for immediate information or a product or service but is shown to the right person at the right time they can be quite useful.

While it is quite easy to waste money on Display and Gmail if you monitor your conversions and look at post-click metrics such as time on site and pages per session you can get a lot of conversions and relevant traffic out of these tactics.

My advice is to test many different audiences and creatives to learn what resonates the best with your audiences.

If you only test one audience and one creative, you will never know what performs the best, and you are not letting the algorithm learn what ads to show and to who.

To be successful with Gmail and Display Ads, you should be pausing low performers (compared to your other ads) in terms of conversions, conversion rate and cost per conversion and then testing additional options.

The ads and audiences you create on initial launch may not be the ads and audiences you are using six months from now, and that’s not a bad thing.

That means you are removing what isn’t working to find others that will.

Once the ads are live, don’t just set it and forget it, check back on your audiences, review your locations, devices and placements and see what bids need to be adjusted, what placements can be excluded and continuously refine as the campaign spends more money.

I recommend checking daily, but if that doesn’t fit in your schedule I recommend at least checking 3 to 4 times per week, and I would not recommend skipping more than two to three days at a time.

Conclusion

Now it’s over to you.

What did you think; have you got enough information to improve or setup your Google Display and Google Gmail campaigns?

What could we add or what did you find helpful in the article.

Please add your comments below.