My Personal Best Practices for Google Display Ads

best practices for google display ads

I have a love/ hate relationship with google display ads. Love, because I’ve had people call me out of the blue on more than one occasion by telling me that they saw one of my ads online. These people went on to become customers who would do over five figures in business.

But I also have a lot of hate for Google Display Ads. For the number of times that I have blown thousands of euros on worthless impressions and clicks that did not yield a single phone call.

Advertising online can be tricky, and I want to share my best practices for Google Display Ads.

Weed out the garbage placements

The most important setting for your google display ads is the “Where ads Showed” tab under placements. This tab shows where your display ads have shown.

I remember the first time I viewed the data under this tab; I got a massive pain in my stomach. I looked at the list of websites and apps that my display ads had appeared in. We are talking pages and pages of garbage. I looked up some of these sites, only to realize that these websites were pathetic content farms.

Among the hundreds of results, only a few decent websites were present. The rest were just worthless clicks. I was shocked that Google had approved some of these websites even to advertise in the Google Adsense network.

You need to go into the settings and eliminate all the crappy websites that show your ads. Google has set up their interface, so there are actually three different places where you need to go to remove garbage websites: (1) Under the main settings, (2) under the Topics tab (by clicking on exclusions), (3) you can manually remove placements in the placements tab.

Among the websites you should consider removing are gaming sites, mobile apps, and websites containing adult content.

There are also some excellent resources online that maintain impressive databases of extensive lists of poor-quality placements. Some great resources are this google docs sheet by DOM. Another website that gives some great information on the overall quality of placements is webmechanix.

When you advertise on the Google Display Network, there are about 10 different banner sizes. I made the mistake of designing ads with various banner sizes cause I wanted to test the results.

I made horizontal banners, vertical banners, wide banners. I tried them all.

But the truth is that 80-85% of your impressions and clicks are with the 300X250 banner size. This is the most commonly used banner, so start with this banner size whenever you launch a new campaign.

Do your testing and experimentation with this banner size. If, at some point, your ads are doing well, and there is scope to scale out to bigger budgets, then you can try to experiment.

But setting up a bunch of different banners from the start is only asking for complexity. Things are complicated enough when you need to test out creatives, headlines, and audiences. Don’t add banner size to the complexity mix.

Start by targeting narrowly

Another critical best practice for Google Display ads is not to target too broadly. Google has set up its interface to get you to “get more clicks and impressions.” This is Google’s sneaky way of getting you to spend more money.

When adopting best practices for Google Display Ads, a fundamentally important concept is that you need reliable data to test what is working and what is not working. 9 out of the 10 things that you try out will bomb. One out of ten will be successful, and you must build on this one thing.

You need reliable & transparent data to know what’s important. When you select your targeting options under the Audiences tab, Google will prompt you to target broader than the chosen audience.

This is a recipe for a disaster since you have no information on who this broader audience is. If your campaigns are successful and bring in cash, you should consider opening up targeting gradually.

But when you start, you are better off testing each audience against other audiences so you can understand which audiences are the most effective.

Final Thoughts

In summary, my top 3 best practices for Google display ads are

  1. Keep track of where your ads showed, and be ruthless in eliminating garbage websites and mobile apps
  2. Make your ads in the classic 300X 250 banner as that is where all your traffic will be.
  3. Always start by targeting your audiences narrowly, and expand once you start seeing some success.

If you want to read my thoughts on Google Search ads, in this article I give you some tips on how to save money.

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