What is the Google Display Network and How Can You Target?

Today I’m going to talk about the Google Display network and how to target inside of it. I really think that Google is building its audiences, and they’re getting really good at it! We’ve had fantastic results inside the display network.

So, today I just want to talk about all the different ways that you can target. So, let’s go ahead and let’s just build a new campaign and choose the display network.

Here there are different ways that we want to have traffic. I’m going to skip all those, and I’m going to build a campaign without a goal. The reason for that is when you go through one of the above, Google will limit the options or the levers that you can pull based on the particular goal you choose.

I want to have all the options, so I’m going to create a campaign without a goal. Once I’m inside there, it’s going to ask for the website. I’m not quite sure why they ask for the website. This isn’t the landing page or where you’re going to go. They don’t use it, but they ask for it. So, here we are.

I usually like to name my campaign’s display, and then this is going to be my cold audience. So, I’m going to target people who do not know me.

Display Network Target: Locations, Bidding, Budget

The first targeting capabilities that I have are locations, so if I want to target just down to Indianapolis, I can do that. I can target by the DMA, so that’s old radio terms, but basically Marion County and two counties out.  Now I can take a look and see where that’s actually showing me. But, let’s do a radius. So, let’s do Indianapolis again. And let’s set a 20-mile radius – it’s okay that I have two different targetings here. Here’s why that’s ok: let’s say I get along and I see that people in this targeted area are outperforming the 20-mile radius. In response to that performance, I can do a bid adjustment and make sure that I bid even higher if somebody is within this one area versus the other.

Consider your target radius and the location of your business. So, I’m going to go ahead and save that setting. The next targeting option that I have is languages. So, I can target a specific language. I’m going to leave it as English for now.


This post and video are not about bidding, but I am going to go ahead to change this option to viewable impressions. I know you might want to go after conversions, but this is the display network, and that’s a really tight area. Once you’ve got a campaign going and it’s running really well, then you can come back and go after conversions. For the conversion option to be effective you have to have so many conversions and completions, and it’s just not a good idea to do it at the beginning. I want people to view my ad, so I choose viewable impressions.


Budget, I’m going to start out with $5/day just to start small, and then we’re going to actually get into our different ad groups.

Display Network Target: Audiences

Each ad group that I do will be a different targeted audience. I want to do that so that I can compare the different audiences. So, let’s start off with the audiences that Google has in target audiences first. So, we have three main underneath the audience section. We have what their interests and habits are, what they’re actively researching or planning, and how they have interacted with your business.

If you are doing YouTube or Gmail, you do have another option which is called life events and we don’t see that right now.

What are their interests and habits (affinity and custom affinity)?

So, let’s go to the first one,  interests and habits (affinity and custom affinity). Google has pre-built some audiences, so we’ve got banking and finance, and then we can drill down even more and say, avid investors. So, these are all pre-built affinity audiences. This is based on what their interests and habits are, based on everything that Google knows about you, which is a lot.

We can also build a custom affinity audience. We can go down a little bit more. So, we can put in here, as the example, marathon runners, triathletes. So, rather than just the broad category of an athlete, I can get a particular triathlon athlete.

So, this is good to put keywords of interest that your potential client might be in. URLs, think of all the websites that your clients might potentially visit. That would be good. Think about your competitors. You can build a list of competitors and put that in here as well for a custom affinity audience.

Think about places that your client has visited before, or would visit. That’s a place that you can add there. Then, apps. Think about the apps that your clients have interacted with before. So, you want to enter at least five inside of there, and Google will go out there and they will build that audience for you. I’ve used this and it’s done really well.

What Are They Actively Researching or Planning (In-Market and Custom Intent)?

This audience target is based on search behavior.

Google Display NetworkIf you’ve run ads before, Google will auto-create some audiences for you. I’ve seen some great ones that way. But if you haven’t done it, you have a couple of different options. You have in-market, so I’m kind of skipping over custom intent here, but I’ll come back to it.

In-market, these are people, based on their search behavior, they are already in-market for apparel and accessories as a whole, or we could drill down and get people who are interested in activewear.

We can also build a custom intent audience.

Similar to custom affinity, a custom intent audience is based on what they are already actively searching for.  We can enter keywords and URLs to build that audience. So, they’ve already given us some ideas.  For example,  I can choose a digital marketing agency and I can see that there’s an estimated size for weekly impressions of 100,000 to 500,000. I’ll select that one and call it digital marketing agencies custom intent. So these are people who are actively searching for a digital marketing agency. I’ll create this audience.

So far, we went over what their interests and habits are, and then what they’re actively researching and planning.

Now, if I was going to build this ad group out, I wouldn’t add any more audiences to it, that would be the ad group. But, for the sake of this video and explaining all the different ways we can target, we’re going to go on.

How They Have Interacted with Your Business (remarketing and similar audiences)

So, the next way we can do that is how they’ve how interacted with your business before. You’ll want to make sure that your Google Ads account is connected to your Google Analytics account, and this will allow you to target people who have been to your website before. You can not only just target people who have been to your website before, but you can also target how they have interacted with your site before.

So, perhaps you have some videos on your site, perhaps you have a certain landing page on your site. Perhaps you want to make sure for people who have done this, this, and that, and you want to target those people because you want to send them a new piece of content that they could relate to. You can do that. So, many different ways to target people who have interacted with your website.

How Have They Interacted With Your Business Before?

So, perhaps you have some videos on your site, perhaps you have a certain landing page on your site. Perhaps you want to make sure for people who have done this, this, and that, and you want to target those people because you want to send them a new piece of content that they might be related to. You can do that. So, there are all different ways to target people who have interacted with your website.

There are also YouTube users. So you can target people who have been to your YouTube channel, people who have gone to a certain video, people who have liked, commented, or shared any of your videos. If you don’t see this option here, it’s because you haven’t connected your YouTube account to your Google Ads account. You need to make sure those are connected.  And we want to do linked accounts. Once we have accounts linked, then we want to go to the audience manager, and we want to create new audiences.

So, out of the audience section that is available, those are the available ways to target that you have, so what their interests and habits are, what they are actively researching or planning, and how they have interacted with your business before. But, there’s actually more.

Display Network Target: Demographics and Content

You Can Target by Demographic Information

So, I can target males, females, unknown. I can target certain ages. I can target parental status, or I can target household income.

Content Targeting

Next, we have different options based on content. So, let’s select all three of these: CONTENT, TOPICS, AND PLACEMENT

CONTENT: First of all, we have targeted keywords, so we can choose terms related to our products or services to target relevant websites. So, we could choose to go after online marketing.

Once we’ve done that, we have two different options in the keyword set. First, we can show the audience, show ads to people likely to be interested in these keywords, and also on web pages, apps, and videos related to those keywords. Also, we can show just on content, or only show our ads on web pages, apps, and videos related to those particular keywords.

So, there’s a difference there. There are people who are interested in it, so anywhere online, different types of websites, or just websites that are related.

TOPICS: Now, we are going to take that and we are now going to choose the next one, which is topics. So, Google has made prebuilt topics inside of here. So, if we were to go to, let’s just say the auto industry, we have prebuilt topics of bicycles, boat wear, all different ones that are available.

So, again these are going to be topics to target web pages, apps, and videos that are about a certain topic.

PLACEMENTS: The next way that we can target is going to be based on placements. You can actually choose to show on websites or just on the YouTube channel, or certain videos, or apps (or certain app categories). I can take it a step further, though, and not only choose the website, but I can actually choose a particular website.

So, I can go down here and enter multiple placements, and let’s say that I wanted to show up on SEMrush. And enter that in there, I can add one placement, and I can see that I can show up on SEMrush with 1000 that is available. One final thing, after you’ve chosen all of these audiences, Google has snuck it in here, but they have done some automated targeting.

Their default is conservative automation, which means they’re going to go just a little bit outside of the audiences that you’ve chosen, and no thank you, Google, I want no automated targeting. I’ve chosen my targeting. I’m going to have different ad groups within there. If you find one that’s performing, then you can have Google go a little bit more on the aggressive setting.


So that’s it for all the different ways that you can target inside of Google display network. There are a ton. As I mentioned, there are a couple more targeting options available if you have YouTube ads or Gmail ads. There are some life events that you can target as well. However, the targeting options outlined above will provide a good start for your Display Network targeting strategy. When you do Google display, you are reaching over 90% of internet users online. It is a great way to target while maintaining a reasonable cost per click.

Want to listen?

Ep #19 – How Displays Ads Help Your Marketing Funnel

Listen to “Ep #19 – How Displays Ads Help Your Marketing Funnel” on Spreaker.

This week, the digital marketing team talks about displays ads. If you aren’t sure what display ads are, you’ve come to the right place. Also, the team discusses how display ads help your marketing funnel. Follow along to get all the details!

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