The Google Display Network is awesome – it serves 1 trillion impressions every month on sites such as Forbes, Walgreens, People, Fox News, Esquire, and more. Plus, Display campaigns are super reasonably priced. In industries such as education, where search can run you $15-30/click, the GDN has got you covered with <$1 CPCs.
For me, where it gets problematic is targeting.
Managed placements are cool because they allow you to pick & choose which sites you want your ads to show on. Want to target men 18-35? Esquire, boom! Need to get your ad in front of politically conservative senior citizens? Fox News, FTW!
But you limit yourself by using managed placements; there are thousands of potentially relevant sites that you don’t know about that your ads might perform well on. Google solves this issue by giving you broader targeting options. In theory, you can use keyword & topic targeting to show your ads only on relevant sites and interest targeting to show your ads only to users whose browsing history suggests they are a good target.
If you’re using keyword, interest, or topic targeting though, you’ll notice that your ads show on thousands of websites. What’s more, you might tell Google ‘show ads on websites relevant to the following keywords’ – brain surgery, neurology, etc. – and next thing you know, your ads are showing on crackmixtapes.com & girlgames.com.
The truth is that the Google Display Network is pretty hit or miss with its targeting. What’s more, it is full of A-list sites, but also D-list sites, you don’t want to pay for. The solution is to regularly sweep through your placements to make sure that they are relevant and/or driving conversions.
Here are three things you can do to improve placement relevance before you even go live! These steps are just as effective as searching for placements to block and much quicker!
1. Adjust bids based on demographic data. Say you’re selling hearing aids, you can ensure that you’re not targeting 18-24 year olds before launching.
2. Use Site Category options. These can help ensure your ads only show on higher quality sites.
In 2014, Seer ran Display campaigns for 30+ accounts across more than 440,000 sites – spanning from aaj.tv to zzsounds.com. All of these clients had different goals – from visibility, to lead generation, to eComm – but all tracked some sort of conversion – usually a form submission or a purchase.
The breadth and depth of our data allows us to do something that’s tough at the individual account level: to identify which GDN placements perform best and perform worst. The attached file shows 123 duds – GDN sites on which campaigns spent a significant amount of money and had either a $300+ CPA or a big ol’ 0 conversions with $300 spend in 2014.
The Best Performers (250+ conversions, CPA <$50) are well-known publishers. These placements have two things going for them: quality design & quality content. Quality design ensures that users can separate content from ads, meaning that people who click are more likely to actually want the product/service (aka fewer accidental clicks). Quality content means more opportunities to place ads on relevant pages.
The Worst Performers (0 conversions & $300 spend or 1+ conversions w/ CPA >$300) fall into a few buckets. Many of these are gaming & celebrity news sites. Many are low quality Buzzfeed knock-offs (see interesticle.com). In fact, I block a placement almost anytime I see the word ‘buzz’ in the name. Link-overload on many of these sites makes it likely that a user will click an ad by accident.
Download the full list of 123 Google Display Network sites that Seer recommends blocking. Let us know if there are any problem placements that you would add!