Google Ads

Stop Dismissing the GDN and Engage Traffic That Converts

We’ve all heard it before.

You’re in a strategy planning meeting with your client (or your in-house stakeholders) talking through your digital strategy and further growth opportunities for the next year or quarter, and someone suggests, “Let’s launch a GDN campaign for XYZ initiative,” and another person quickly responds with “Oh the GDN doesn’t convert,” or “The CPLs are too high,” or “We’ve tried that before, it didn’t work.”

You know we’ve all heard this. Hell, I’m sure quite a few of us have even said this! I’ll admit, I used to be a non-believer, but over the past couple of months, I’m like a whole new woman – I’ve truly been converted – The GDN actually does convert!


Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should simply run a Display campaign with a couple of managed placements and call it a day. You still have to make sure you’re executing on the GDN strategically for it to actually drive results. Luckily for us, Google has really stepped up their audience targeting game on the GDN over the past year to make sure you’re not only adopting the network, but expanding strategically and effectively. Listed here a couple of my favorite targeting tactics, what I’ve been calling the GDN Trifecta.

Targeting tactic #1: Custom Affinity Audiences

The first of the GDN Trifecta are Custom Affinity Audiences. These are audiences you can create that are more tailored to your brand, compared to more broad, TV-like affinity audiences. I tend to think of these as a more generic, DIY audience-building tool, similar to what third-party data platforms have. You input the relevant data, and Google creates the audience you.

When you’re in the publisher creating these audiences, you can use a combination of:

  • Interests (entered as keywords)
  • URLs (to target based on the content of the site)
  • Places (locations your audience might be interested in)
  • Apps (apps your audience might be interested in)

Not all input options are going to be relevant for you, but they definitely give you the opportunity to be creative. You don’t have to only target audiences exactly speaking to your services, but you can target audiences of folks who are similar to your services, or even an add-on to your service.

Recommended audiences:

  • Competitor URLs & names
    • This allows you to target users who are interested in your competitors
  • Industry blogs/publications
    • This definitely depends on the advertiser, but if there are common resources that folks in the industries they’re targeting visit, you should target those audiences
  • Top search keywords
    • Do you have keywords that perform drastically better than other terms? Use that data and build an audience off of users who are interested in those terms.

Targeting tactic #2: In-Market Audiences

In-Market Audiences have been around for a while now, with Bing even rolling them out to be available for Search campaigns (and Google having them in closed beta FOREVER). These audiences allow you to target users who are in the market for your services based on their online browsing behaviors. The no-brainer use case is to target users who are in the market for your services, which you should absolutely do. But you can take this targeting tactic to the next level.

Example: You are a telecommunications company (think internet or cable TV), and you want to expand your display prospecting efforts to help feed your digital funnel. You can use in-market audiences in two ways:

  1. Target users who are in-market for telecom services using the Cable & Satellite TV Providers and Internet Service Providers segments.
  2. Target users who are in the market for moving services, using the Moving & Relocation in-market segment. These are people who are qualified for your service and likely haven’t quite realized they need to find a new cable/internet provider.ppc funnel
    1. While this tactic will not likely provide last-click results, the impression is extremely valuable because it plants the seed with the user to think about your brand during the buying process.
    2. If the user clicks on your ad, this is even more valuable, because you now have the opportunity to build audiences off of these users and retarget them later.

Targeting tactic #3: Custom Intent Audiences

This beautiful newest member of the Trifecta is only available in the new UI and it’s absolutely worth the headache of switching over to the new UI to get the opportunity to use them, Secretly, I think this is a secret ploy to get us old time PPCers to adopt the new UI, at least temporarily.

Custom Intent Audiences use keywords and URLs to create an audience based on products and services your ideal audience is actively researching. These audiences provide the unique opportunity to utilize the “intent-based” state of paid search and share those learnings with your broader prospecting efforts. Us marketers are all about data, and this takes advantage of that and allows us to work smarter, not harder.

Audience recommendations:

  • Your highest converting search keywords
    • These terms are already extremely valuable to you, so using Custom Intent Audiences will allow you to share those learnings on the Google Display Network
  • Competitive non-brand keywords
    • If you have been hesitant to further expand into non-brand keyword sets because they’re extremely competitive, this might be an opportunity for you to target users who have shown intent to search these terms, but at a lower price
  • Content promotion
    • Have you developed instructional content that is intended to drive users down the funnel? This is a good opportunity to capture those “how-to” type queries at a lower price than on the search network

Anyone who has worked with me in the past few months knows that the one thing I’ve been recommending to every advertiser when asked “what else should we do” is to expand further in the GDN. These three audience types above, the GDN Trifecta, are 100% why. The Google Display Network isn’t just for filling the funnel anymore; it’s about actually driving cost-efficient conversions. Most advertisers haven’t jumped on board yet, so my biggest recommendation is to jump on this train before your competitors do.

I’ve been converted, have you?

AdStage Team