The Google Display Network is massive. This unprecedented network of websites and platforms allows you to put millions of eyeballs onto your products and services. Unless you know what you’re doing, it can also burn through your budget like crazy. Read on for a quick overview of this network and what you can do to save yourself a lot of money! If you’re brand new to the platform be sure to head over to the How To Use Adwords article on proper setup too.

What is the display network

Google calls it “the largest global network” that serves BILLIONS of users every MONTH. Crazy! Your ads can literally be shown on all types of web media within any topic or niche. Website owners all over the world can opt-in for Google Adsense. Adsense is “fueled” by people like us who want to advertise our services. We’re talking major websites like CNN, Blogger, Youtube, and even that small hobby, woodworking blog. Google’s system finds these sites and based on many different factors decides where our ads are shown. Here’s a video that can explains it:

Display network best practices

TARGETING. Targeting, targeting, targeting! Optimized targeting is what will help you find qualified leads and save you a ton of wasted money! It depends on the niche, but we usually explain to our clients that display ads come after we’ve nailed-down our search network strategy. You have to remember that these ads are showing to users who weren’t actively searching for you or your business. That’s why ad targeting is so important here. A VERY common mistake we see when reviewing client accounts is a large number of keywords being used for targeting, with no campaign exclusions at all. Unless your goal is just for broad exposure, in most cases your keyword lists shouldn’t consist of too many more than 10, and you should be telling the system NOT to show ads in certain topics. If I made custom owl necklaces for example, here’s what my keyword list might look like (and you could obviously still expand on this, but you can get the idea):

Adwords Display Keyword Targeting

You might be thinking that this limits your chances for ad impressions and you’d definitely be correct on that! You don’t want your ads shown all over the place burning through your ad budget. Here’s an example of what we see quite often:

Incorrect Adwords Targeting

Here’s a secret though. (Ok, it’s not really a secret, but not everyone knows about it, or they just forget to utilize this feature.) Let’s say you did want to use a keyword list like the one in the photo above. Let’s say you have a small budget but still want to work on exposure by using broad keywords on the display network. What you do is make bid adjustments based on the keyword type. So for example, “handmade owl necklace” might get a 25 cent bid while “owl jewelry” might get a 15 cent bid, and “owl gifts” would get a 10 cent bid. That 10 cent bid would limit the amount of impressions, as well as be a cheaper cost-per-click since those users are less likely to buy from you compared to a user clicking on the ad triggered by “handmade owl necklace”.

There’s targeting options other than just keywords too, like manual placements and general website topics. You can even add them all as targeting methods at once for extremely dialed-in display ads. We’ll cover the other methods in later articles as well as walk you through the entire process in the upcoming Adwords book.

No matter what targeting you use properly managing your Adwords account must include constant watch over where your ads are getting shown! Without a doubt your ads will show on websites that make no sense and have nothing to do with your ad. Once your ads have ran for a day or two start looking to see where they’re showing up at.

Go into the campaign > Click on DISPLAY NETWORK > Click on PLACEMENTS:

Display Network Ad Placements


Look at where your ads are being shown to make sure you’re OK with these type of ad placements. If you see any you don’t like you’ll need to use the CAMPAIGN PLACEMENT EXCLUSIONS area to add these websites to the excluded list.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the average Adwords click through rate for display network is much lower than on the search network. This makes perfect sense though. Your ad is potentially getting shown thousands of times a month, and again you have to remember that most of those users who “saw” your ads weren’t in the right frame of mind to click.

Adwords display network ad types and sizes

Quick side note: You can and should create text ads for the display network just like you do on the search network. But remember that these users are in a different mindset, so be aware of that as you think about what your ad copy will be.

One last thing we’ll cover real quick is what sort ad types and sizes that are possible. Even though text ads usually outperform image ads, it’s still a great idea to get images designed for your campaigns as well. Specially if you can design clever, eye-catching messages, or if you sell unique items that benefit from great photos of your products.

Google says that on average wider ads perform better than taller, thinner ones. They also say that the following specific sizes have shown the best performance: 336X280, 300X250, 728X90, 300X600, and 320X100 for mobile devices. This of course will have to be tested within your own campaigns.

What determines when each ad size gets shown comes down to your bid amounts, relevance, and what ad space inventory is available on websites where Google thinks your ad should be shown. The more variety of ad sizes you have in your campaigns, the more chances there are for your ad to be shown. Here’s an example of a 728X90 ad on

728X90 Adwords Ad


You might be wondering how to create your image ads? We use Photoshop for all of our client ads. Adobe now offers a monthly subscription for it if you feel that you’ll be making display ads quite often. If not there’s a free alternative to Photoshop called Gimp that you could try out. There’s a few free online “banner makers” out there, but most don’t seem to deliver great results. But I guess it all comes down to what you’re trying to design. Then the easiest of them all: Google actually has a display ad creator built right into Adwords.

We’ll wrap it up here. Just remember that you’re not trying to advertise to the entire Google Display Network! Be clever, grab their attention, but grab the RIGHT people’s attention.