A year or two after Google AdWords began, Google started selling ads on its Google Display Network (GDN). At its simplest level, it’s a beautiful system:
- A website owner (the “publisher”) produces content and is eager to make money from the traffic that his site commands.
- He places code on his website, similar to an invisible box, which Google can use as they see fit.
- People (the “advertisers”) pay Google to place their ads on his site, in the invisible boxes.
- Google shares a portion of that income with the publisher.
The publisher doesn’t know which ads will appear on his site, but he trusts Google to screen and manage the advertisers. As a result, he avoids having to spend time looking for advertisers and managing clients on a one-to-one basis.
Google provides you with four different options for selecting your place in the GDN.
Managed placement targeting
With this option, you enter the web address of the sites where you want to advertise. If those sites are available, Google will show your ads there. You can even target a specific area on a site. For example, you can select www.nytimes.com which will give you access to the entire New York Times website, or you can specify www.nytimes.com/section/technology, which will limit your ads to the technology section. This is a good option if you want a lot of control, but it greatly limits your reach.
Using this option, you can choose broad or narrow categories of sites on which to show your ads. There are, at the time of writing, 2,221 topics to choose from. You can view these in your AdWords account or at https://developers.google.com/adwords/api/docs/ appendix/verticals.
The more specific and drilled-down a topic you choose, the better your targeting will be. For example, “Arts & Entertainment” is extremely broad, but you can drill down to “Arts & Entertainment >; Entertainment Industry >; Recording Industry >; Record Labels” for terrific precision.
Topic targeting is an easy place to begin, but for even better results, target by keywords.
Every page on every one of the two-million-plus sites within the GDN has been identified by Google to have a central “theme.” Keywords are what you use in your display campaigns to tell Google which themes to look for. It then finds the pages to match your chosen keyword themes. This can be a very precise targeting method.
There are three main types of keywords:
- Brand keywords. This is where a company or organization bids on their own name. Why target your own brand name? Because a page on the Display Network where people are talking about you, your products or your business can be a fantastic place to show your ad. If your name is the subject of a positive conversation, that’s a great place for people to see you advertising.
- Competitor keywords. This method allows Google to find any of the numerous pages in their network where your competitor is being discussed. You can then insert yourself into the conversation.
- Non-brand keywords. You already use non-brand keywords in your search campaigns: They’re the terms related to your products and services. If you sell young women’s fashion, it might be worth targeting keywords like “maxi dress” or “crop tops.” Google will show your ads on pages related to those themes.
Google knows an enormous amount about its users, including their favorite sites, the videos they watch, the items they purchase, the types of emails they receive and more. Google combines this information to create a fairly accurate profile of each user’s personal interests. With this targeting method, Google shows your ad to people they believe would have an interest in your business, regardless of the site they’re on.
Behavioral targeting allows you to target people in two ways:
- Interest targeting, which is their behavior across the wider web. Google gets a sense of their overall interests, using either short- or long-term activity.
- Targeting based on each person’s behavior on your site. This includes both remarketing, which refers to their behavior on your site, as well as customer match (your knowledge of their email address).
There are two primary types of interest targeting you can start with:
- Affinity targeting. This is where you target people based on their long-term behavior over the course of many months. It takes into account the types of websites they’ve been to and searches they’ve done. Google has broken down the available market into roughly 100 segments. Examples include avid investors, music lovers, and car enthusiasts.
- In-market targeting. Unlike affinity targeting, this targets people based on their online behavior over just the past one to two weeks. It includes searches they’ve performed, sites they’ve visited and even emails they’ve received. This is how Google knows what you’re in the market to buy in the very near future.
The other major type of behavioral targeting is called remarketing, and there are five main types you can use:
- Basic remarketing. This is where you show an ad to a previous visitor based on what actions they took on your website.
- YouTube remarketing. If you’re running videos as ads, you can retarget every person who views, comments on or likes any of your videos.
- Customer match. With this feature, you can upload a .csv file of email addresses, and the ones that Google recognizes will be targeted with ads.
- Dynamic remarketing. If you own an ecommerce store and you’ve got a Merchant Center account linked to your AdWords account, you can show ads featuring a specific product that your visitor just looked at on your site.
- Similar audiences. If you’ve generated a remarketing list of 20,000 people, you can choose to target other Google users who are similar to yours. Google looks at thousands of data points and provides you a new list, five to 10 times the size of your original, allowing you to advertise to it.