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Written by Sam Yadegar on Dec 16 , 2020

If Google Display Ads aren’t part of your digital marketing strategy, you could be missing out.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What affinity, custom affinity, and in-market audiences are
  • Ways to capitalize on competitors’ marketing efforts
  • How to implement event targeting with Google Display Network ads
  • Common Display ad mistakes to avoid

It probably won’t surprise you that Google is the place to be for online marketing. And when it comes to the Google Display Network, these campaigns reportedly reach more than 90% of people?on the internet across websites, mobile apps, and videos.?

Google Ads allows you to capitalize on the astounding amount of daily searches and quickly earn the attention you need to build brand awareness. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a better way to promote your business, generate leads, and increase ROI.

Google Display Network Ads are an excellent tool for discovering leads with a high conversion probability and targeting them in the right place and at the right time. Here’s how to make them work for you.

HawkSEM: The Best Google Display Network Ads for Lead Generation

A Display Ad on the homepage of the New York Times.

Why you should consider Display Ads

Google provides online advertising through two channels: the Google Search Network and the Google Display Network (GDN). Ads delivered via the Search Network allow companies to buy real estate in Google’s search results through keyword optimization.?

Alternatively, the Display Network delivers those visual-based ads you come across while reading a blog article, watching a video on YouTube, or using a mobile app. The GDN consists of more than 2 million websites, videos, and apps where your ads can appear.?

The Google Display Network’s benefits

With the Google Display Network, you can capture someone’s attention early in the buying process, reaching them before they start searching for what you offer. This allows you to influence your prospect before your competition does, which can be instrumental in your overall advertising strategy.?

Display ads are affordable, as each cost per click (CPC) is typically less than $1. Whether you’re a small business with limited advertising dollars or a larger company looking to invest in multiple campaigns, Google ads are a budget-friendly option.

Additionally, through the power of visual imagery, digital ads enable you to better establish your brand and keep your company top of mind. You can appeal to users through a variety of vibrant, engaging ad designs, including:

  • Responsive display ads: Allow Google to automatically test different combinations of headlines, images, descriptions, and logos, and then display the best-performing combination?
  • Uploaded image ads: Created outside of Google and can be uploaded via multiple file types into Google
  • Engagement ads: Use the same flexible targeting options as normal display campaigns
  • Gmail ads: Show up in the Promotions and Social tabs of your inbox and, when opened, may expand just like an email

Of all the benefits display ads offer, the ability to target an audience with great specificity may be the most helpful in increasing ROI. Companies that target a niche market by topic, interest, demographic, and even location can see a boost in lead generation and sales.

HawkSEM: The Best Google Display Network Ads for Lead Generation

While specifying your target audience through qualifiers like topics or interests does narrow your focus, it also causes Google to guess which sites would be a good fit. (Image via Unsplash)

Important Google Display Network lead generation tools

When you take advantage of Display ads, you can narrow down the target audience according to their interests, search intent, and behavior. These tools are specifically designed to help you do it.?

1. Affinity audiences

You can choose to show your ads to consumers who have a specific area of interest. Google algorithms determine which network users have a lasting interest in a certain category.

In other words, if a person keeps visiting websites and forums related to flowers while searching for related terms, Google marks “flowers” as an area of interest.

On the business side, if you’re a flower shop and choose “flowers” as something your target audience is interested in, Google will show your ads to the above users.?

2. Custom affinity audiences

Targeting users based solely on their area of interest may not always generate leads with high potential. That’s why Google offers you an opportunity to narrow down the search with custom affinity audiences.

With this tool, you can layer the existing affinity audiences with your focus keywords. This way you can target users based on their area of interest and the terms they use when searching the web.

Let’s say you’re a high-end flower shop that sells rare flowers. With custom affinity audiences, you can narrow down flower fans to those who search for specific flower types. You can also use demographic settings (such as age, gender, parental status, and household income) to specify your audience even further.

3. In-market audiences

Just like affinity audiences, in-market audiences allow you to target users based on the interests they demonstrate when browsing the web. The main difference is that in-market audiences can help you target consumers in the middle of the sales funnel.

They focus on potential customers who are actively searching for certain products or services. When targeting, Google considers the following factors:

  • The topics and content of the pages visited by the user
  • How often the user visits pages with certain content
  • How many times the user converts during those visits
  • The user’s reaction to related ads

If someone is searching for “fresh carnation bouquets” and visits different flower shop websites to compare prices or even puts something in a cart, Google can put them into the “flower bouquets” in-market audience.?

How to use Google Display Network Ads for lead generation

Here are a few tactics to consider when implementing Display ads into your lead generation strategy:

1. Explore seasonal event segments

In 2019, Google introduced an important subdivision of its in-market audiences designed specifically for holiday seasons. When you combine these audiences with product-based keywords, you can adjust your ads specifically for holiday shoppers.

  • Black Friday
  • Christmas
  • Back-to-school
  • Valentine’s Day

Before rolling out the new feature, Google and Toyota tested it for Black Friday and Christmas segments. The tactic resulted in a 67% increase in conversion rates.

This feature maximizes your chances of reaching the ideal customer with your ads by narrowing down the target audience.

2. Take advantage of the competition

Custom affinity audiences offer an opportunity to target your competitors’ prospects. When setting up a custom audience, you can use the competition’s website as URLs and their keywords as interests. In short, you’re advertising your products and services to the visitors your competition is trying hard to attract.

When using this method to generate leads, make sure to provide the best offer you have. Since these people don’t convert for the competition, they may be harder to please.

It’s also worth keeping in mind that the competition may not have been extremely precise with their marketing strategies. Make sure to use negative keywords and geo-targeting to prevent their low-quality leads from catching your bait.

3. Be careful with specific selections

While narrowing down the audience can be extremely helpful, it could also backfire. If your goal is to generate more leads, you may want to avoid getting overly specific and unintentionally bypassing relevant audience segments.

Using too many parameters could leave potential buyers out of the marketing loop. Meanwhile, the CPC could go up. With many companies using the same in-market audiences, the competition can be high, thus increasing campaign costs and leading to performance declines.

A/B test your ads and landing pages across different targeting options to see which one works best for your business.

4. Employ event marketing

Since affinity audiences allow you to target users who visit specific websites, consider serving your ads up to event attendees.

For example, if there’s a flower show in town next month (in post-pandemic times, of course), you can target users who visit the show’s website. These people aren’t just interested in flowers, they’re ready to spend their free time at an event. This turns them into prospects with high conversion potential.

You can layer this audience with flower-related keywords and potentially gain access to the customers of your dreams. By coupling such targeting efforts with top-notch ad copy, you can create a campaign with an impressive ROI.

HawkSEM: The Best Google Display Network Ads for Lead Generation

A look at choosing “similar audiences” on the Google Display Network (Image via SEMrush)

5. Reach similar audiences

Google Ads offers a “similar audiences” targeting option. This lets you increase the reach of existing remarketing campaigns by driving new users with similar browsing habits to your site.

Create a new display campaign and choose “Similar to remarketing lists” in the target settings. From there, you’ll select the audience(s) you’d like to reach. It’s that easy!

6. Pay attention to exclusions

Google offers advanced content settings to prevent your ads from appearing on websites you don’t want them on. Some websites may feature content that isn’t appropriate for your brand, for instance, and placing your ads on them could hurt your reputation.

When setting up Display ads for lead gen purposes, pay special attention to the exclusion boxes, since Google doesn’t check them off automatically.

7. Apply managed placement targeting?

You can also control where your ads are being delivered through managed placements. Specifying your target audience through qualifiers like topics or interests narrows your focus. It also causes Google to guess which sites would be a good fit. This means your ads could be posted to websites that won’t yield results.?

With placement targeting, you can select specific sites you’d like your ads to appear. More focused target audience means more lead generation.

The takeaway?

Navigating the digital marketing world is no simple task. Luckily, the Google Display Network makes creating display ads as seamless as possible. Google’s algorithms help you identify and reach your prospective customers, often before they even know they need you.?

Google provides you a variety of highly efficient targeting options. Setting up a Display Ad campaign requires an excellent understanding of your target audience as well as professional use of keywords, and Display ads are a great way to generate leads, boost sales, and increase your ROI.

Need more help mastering Google for your advertising efforts? Let’s make it happen.

This article has been updated and was originally published in March 2020.

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar

Sam Yadegar is the co-founder and CEO of HawkSEM. Starting out as a software engineer, his penchant for solving problems quickly led him to the digital marketing world, where he has been helping clients for over 12 years. He loves doing everything he can to help brands "crush it" through ROI-driven digital marketing programs. He's also a fan of basketball and spending time with his family.

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