Optimizing Keywords on the Display Network: Pro Tips from the PPC Jedi

Keyword targeting on the Google Display Network (GDN) continues to change year over year. To run a successful GDN campaign you’ll need to fully understand how keywords function on the display network. This post will give you advice on best practices and functionality tips to get the best performance from your keyword targeted GDN campaigns.

Imperial AT-AT Fail
Be sure to implement GDN Keyword best practices and avoid an epic fail.

Understanding Google’s Contextual Engine

Google Display Network keywords are a form of contextual targeting.  Lets make sure we understand contextual targeting works.  Google analyzes the content of each webpage that is part of the Google Display Network. Google touts that their contextual engine “continually scans every page in our network and matches your ads to highly relevant content. The algorithm takes into account: keywords, frequency of words, audience signals, font sizes, word placement and linguistics.” After that evaluation, they determine the ‘central theme’ of the webpage. Google then uses the display keywords you have set to match with these webpage themes.  So just because a page contains the keyword you are targeting doesn’t mean your ad will trigger, because it isn’t matching keywords to words on the page but rather the page’s general content/theme.  On the Search Network, Google matches keywords to a user’s search term.

Does match type matter on GDN?

On the Google Display Network all of the keywords are considered to be Broad Match types.  There is no need or benefit to adding phrase or exact match keywords.  Also, since they are broad, you don’t need to include misspellings, plurals, synonyms, and other variations of your keywords. On The GDN, your keywords help Google know what relevant sites to show your ads on; this is called automatic placements.

Pro Tips for Creating GDN Keyword Lists:

  • When organizing keywords, make sure that you continue with ‘normal adgroups best practices’ and put closely related keywords together into their own adgroups. Use common themes to segment your keywords as much as you can.
  • Google has suggested, “Each ad group should typically have between 5 and 50 keywords.”  I would suggest that you keep your adgroups tighter with 5-15 keywords.
  • Avoid keyword themes (adgroups) that are aimed at targeting audiences.
  • You can use Google’s Display Planner to help you build your keyword list.
  • Avoid repeating keywords in the same ad group.  Since the GDN only uses broad match types it is unnecessary to include different match types of the same keyword, plurals, and misspellings.
  • Again, since we are using broad keywords, your long-tail keywords from search don’t need to be included. Shorter keywords of 2-3 words in length tend to work the most effectively.

The Lightsaber, weapon of a Jedi

  • You will not need to find every synonym of your keywords (as you might with you top performing phrase and exact keywords from search); the broad match type will work as a thesaurus for you.  Focus on making sure that you have the right topics covered, but don’t fret about spending all day finding variations of the same words.
  • Remember when starting a new GDN campaign that you should probably start with lower bids than your search campaigns.  You can often get display clicks for less than you’ll find on search, and it is generally safer to increase incrementally.
  • Explore targeting keywords that are not necessarily your current product offering.  The idea here is to increase your reach with your target audience.  For example, if you are selling lightsabers online, your target audience is likely the Jedi.  You will obviously use lightsaber related keywords.  If you were to add “becoming a jedi” and “jedi training tests” keywords then you would be reaching an audience that is new to becoming a Jedi and would obviously be in need of a lightsaber.  Using keywords outside of your product offering works because, unlike paid search, we are not matching intent.

What do Negative Keywords do on the GDN?

Do negative keywords on the GDN work the same as negative keywords on the search network?  The short answer is no; but they are pretty similar.  Excluding keywords will limit the visibility of your ads on the GDN. When you exclude keywords from your campaign or ad group, Adwords attempts to avoid showing your ads on GDN sites that contain those terms; it is not a guarantee though.  Keyword exclusions aren’t as precise on the GDN as they are on the Search Network, (remember we are dealing with page themes, not search queries) so your ad could still appear on pages containing your excluded terms depending on the other keywords you are targeting. One other thought, your ads still could show on pages that contain variations of the terms that you select as keyword exclusions.

Let’s look at some examples

Let’s say you roll around in a sandcrawler and sell droids with your Jawa buddies.  You would create a keyword list that includes terms related to droids.

Wrong Droid
“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Websites about droids would be targeted by the keywords on your list. You would want to exclude terms like Verizon and Motorola to prevent your ads from appearing on sites about phones.

Keep in mind compound keywords though; for example, “tractor beam.” If you were to just use the negative keyword –tractor, your ad might still appear on pages that contain the term “tractor beam” because the meaning changes when “tractor” and “beam” are combined.

Here’s how to exclude keywords:

    1. Click the campaign/adgroup that you’d like to exclude keywords from.
    2. Go to the Display Network tab.
    3. Click the Exclusions link below the statistics table (bottom of the page).
    4. Make sure you are on the Display keywords tab.
    5. To exclude keywords from an ad group, click the Add exclusions button in the “Ad group level” table. To exclude keywords from a campaign, click the Add exclusions button in the “Campaign level” table.
    6. Add your excluded keywords (one per line).
    7. Click Save.

Still Struggling with Google Display Campaigns?

Need professional assistance? Reach out to the PPC Lead Generation Experts.

May the Force be with you

Yoda: “No more training do you require. Already know you, that which you need.”
PPC Manager: “Then I am a PPC Jedi.”
Yoda: “No. Not yet. One thing remains. GDN. You must confront the Google Display Network. Then, only then, a PPC Jedi will you be.”

5 thoughts on “Optimizing Keywords on the Display Network: Pro Tips from the PPC Jedi

  1. Scott says:

    In the past it was possible to see where your ads were appearing in the display network, but I can’t for the life of me find where my Display Keywords are showing so I have no idea whether the target websites are relevant to my product.

    I’m getting a lot of traffic but no conversions and it just makes me feel that I’m getting a lot of untargeted traffic.

    • Greg Young says:

      Scott, thats a good question; Google has moved some things around a bit. If you go into the campaign you are curious about and choose the “Display Network” tab, you can see options for keywords, placements, topics, and so on. If you want to see the websites your ads are showing up on you will find them in the placements section. If you have not manually set placements then you will just be seeing the automatic placements that Google placed your ads on. Make sure you have a long enough time frame enabled because there can be a slight lag, so if you are just trying to look at today’s data you may not see any results. Let me know if that works for you, or if I can answer any other questions.

    • Greg Young says:

      Scott, thats a good question; Google has moved some things around a bit. If you go into the campaign you are curious about and choose the “Display Network” tab, you can see options for keywords, placements, topics, and so on. If you want to see the websites your ads are showing up on you will find them in the placements section. If you have not manually set placements then you will just be seeing the automatic placements that Google placed your ads on. Make sure you have a long enough time frame enabled because there can be a slight lag, so if you are just trying to look at today’s data you may not see any results. Let me know if that works for you, or if I can answer any other questions.

  2. David J says:

    Great idea to add negative kw lists to gdn – I’m thinking that games, kids, tablets.. might be defacto for all my lists..thanks!

Leave a Reply to Josh Aharonoff Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published.