Display Network Ads In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

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Synopsis — Display advertising usually brings to mind large visually oriented ads on media such as billboards or the sides of buildings, but online display advertising is a term that can be applied to anything beyond the text-based ads that appear on the search engine results page. With the ability to create attractive ads easily accessible to all businesses, using more than a few words to make your claim is no longer the provenance of large companies with huge advertising budgets. For example, banner ads can be created for virtually nothing with a variety of free or low-cost online tools. But advertisers need not stop with the simple banner ad. Display network advertising on properties such as the Google Display Network can involve text, image, video and/or rich media.

In her article “Display Network Ads In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!” Hollis Thomases shows you how to take advantage of the opportunities that display network advertising affords online marketers by understanding the basics and setting expectations prior to taking the plunge and setting up a campaign. She discusses techniques and tips for both the Google Display Network and Bing’s Content Network, particularly concerning display ad formats and pricing structures. With three key takeaways and a handy chart of submission sizes for Google display ads, this article is a great introduction to the basics of this intriguing means of extending your advertising spend online.

The complete article follows …

Display Network Ads In 5, 4, 3, 2, 1!

If you’re a search marketer used to working with PPC, but maxed out on inventory or ready to branch into other forms of online advertising, it may be time to consider the sister side to search engines — the content or display network. The word “display” can be a bit misleading if taken literally — many ads served on Google’s Display Network are text ads and Bing’s Content Network only permits text ads. Still, the point is that through these networks you can branch out and start advertising beyond the SERPs, helping gain additional eyeballs and audience reach.

1.  Understand The Basics

When it comes to expanding beyond search to display, the leader by far is Google’s Display Network (GDN), an opt-in platform comprised of, according to Google, “specific Google properties, YouTube, and over a million display partners.” GDN’s advertising format options include text, image, video, and rich media ads. Bing (which now includes Yahoo’s PPC component) is an opt-out platform — all new campaigns set up on Bing are automatically included in the content network unless the option is disabled. While the GDN campaign set-up prompts you to choose or enter your keywords, Bing automatically defaults to the same keywords as your PPC campaign.

2.  Set Expectations

If expanding from search to content or display campaigns, it’s important to realize that generally they will never perform as well as search campaigns. This has less to do with changing formats, such as from text-only to graphical ads, than how and where your ads appear. Ads in search engines benefit from a high degree of relevancy, since the user is already looking for the subject matter on which you’re advertising. Once you leave search engines, however, relevancy and ad potency diminishes. Yes, the editorial or page content next to which your ad is served can match, but the fact is that the reader didn’t necessarily seek it out, and therefore might be less inclined to react. If you need the same ROI, you’ll need to bid less and improve your ad message, landing pages, and conversion processes even more. You may even want to start thinking of content network advertising as an exercise that combines direct response with branding.

3.  Set Up Your Campaign

Google’s platform is very sophisticated in controlling your campaign. Campaign planning begins with a choice of Automatic or Managed Placements. Automatic Placement means that Google controls your campaign, using contextual targeting technology to crawl the page content to determine, based on your campaign keywords, if it is a match to serve your ad. You still can elect to exclude placements you do not want your ad to appear on. With Managed Placements, you control more aspects of the campaign. You can still use keyword targeting and exclude placements, but you can select sites on which you want your ads to appear or audiences you want your ads to appear to. You can also manually manage ad bidding, which increases or decreases the likelihood of your ad appearing. Because the amount of real estate that publishers tend to allocate to Google ads is limited, only top bidders on a relevant keyword will see their ads appearing. Opinions vary on the pluses and minuses of Managed versus Automatic Placements. The key is to always be testing, comparing your campaign’s set-up and performance to see what works best for your campaign’s particular circumstances and objectives.

Bing’s content network lets you target by keywords or site placement, but your campaign must be set up for each format separately. If you want Bing to serve by site placement, it chooses for you based on sites deemed relevant to your keywords. The only control you have with respect to sites on which your ad appears is excluding sites from Bing’s distribution list. You can, however, view which websites have placements available, either on an individual basis or throughout the entire Microsoft Media Network.

Both platforms have similar ad targeting options — by geography, language, site placements, audience demographics, day-parting — but Google has a few additional ones, including audience remarketing, interest-based targeting, and above-the-fold placements. If building a campaign for a larger brand, you might want to consider using the new AdPlanner 1000 or Blast Campaign features. More details on these forms of targeting are at http://bit.ly/aGOhMI.

While GDN buys are easily managed directly from its web interface, working with Bing means you will probably want to download its adCenter desktop application. Unlike GDN, Bing does not allow campaign or account-level distribution network targeting — targeting is set up at the ad group level, and the adCenter desktop application makes multi-group selection, bid type management, and campaign optimization easier over time. Both platforms let you set up keyword groups to manage performance at a more granular level.

4.  Choose Display Ad Format

Branching into the graphical advertising format requires certain things production-wise. If you have the means to produce display (“image”) ads or have some from another campaign, you may be able to use those in Google — more on specifications in a moment. If you do not have production capabilities, however, use Google’s free template-based Display Ad Builder. With it, you can use an image as simple as a business logo to produce your ad, and then proceed to campaign set-up.

If you plan to use or produce your own display ad creative, keep in mind that participating publishers select which ad formats and sizes they allow on their pages. To increase the chances of your ad appearing, Google recommends you create multiple-sized versions. You may also want to create two completely different versions of each ad to carry out A/B split testing.

The technical requirements and limitations include:

  • File size cannot exceed 50K
  • Static (non-animated) image ads can be formatted as JPEG, PNG, or GIF files
  • Animated ads must have a frame rate no faster than 5 fps, or 200 frames per millisecond and can be formatted as either GIF or Flash files
  • Flash ads must be published for Flash Player version 4-10 and a maximum of 30 seconds long, after which they must remain static. ActionScript versions 1-3 are acceptable. All Flash ads should support the clickTAG variable, which can affect your ability to track the campaign properly. AdWords does not allow the specific tracking of user interactions not involving clicks, like view-through, key-modifier, and mouse location tracking. Google has additional restrictions on Flash ads, plus they must comply with other animation ad policies (read more at http://bit.ly/hBEZKZ).

Submission Sizes For Google Display Ads

  • 300 x 50 Mobile leaderboard
  • 468 x 60 Banner
  • 728 x 90 Leaderboard
  • 250 x 250 Square
  • 200 x 200 Small square
  • 336 x 280 Large rectangle
  • 300 x 250 Inline rectangle
  • 120 x 600 Skyscraper
  • 160 x 600 Wide skyscraper

*NOTE: Because Google needs room for your URL and a Google link, it will resize your images vertically by 11 or 22 pixels, depending on the image size option you’ve selected.

5.  Choose Your Pricing Structure

Bing’s Content Network is strictly CPC (cost per click), but with the GDN, you also can select CPM (cost-per-thousand impressions) or CPA (cost-per-action) options. CPM bidding is probably the trickiest to master for campaign optimization purposes because a CPM bid still competes against CPC bids, which might be for text-based ads. If you really want a display ad to appear and you’re bidding on a CPM rate, you need to out-bid all the CPC text-based advertisers (as well as other CPM bidders) that would otherwise occupy the same allocated ad space. For this reason, CPM-based bidding is much less effective for performance-based advertisers, and should be reserved for situations where visibility is the objective.

CPA bidding, on the other hand, is very effective for performance-based campaigns. Here, you indicate how much you’re willing to pay for a conversion, insert Google conversion tags on your thank-you pages, and Google’s Conversion Optimizer will manage your campaign to that CPA target. However, CPA bidding is not without competition, so play around with your max bid to be sure you’re generating as many affordable conversions as you can.

Key Concluding Take-Aways

Advertising on the display network involves many variables, but let me summarize with three key take-aways:

  1. Taking advantage of the search engine content/display networks gives you a way to get your brand even more exposure, especially when you’ve maxed out in search.
  2. Text-based ads delivered through content networks are relatively easy to master; graphical display ads not so much. Get your feet wet using text ads, and then try graphical ones.
  3. Level your expectations — display/content campaigns will not perform like search, so pay close attention and test different campaign set-ups and pricing structures.

Best of luck and happy advertising!

About the Author

In 1998, Hollis Thomases, a graduate of Cornell University, founded Web Ad.vantage, Inc. (www.webadvantage.net), a specialized agency providing strategic online marketing and advertising solutions. Her wide-ranging experience, practical insights, and pragmatic approach has earned Hollis a reputation as online marketing’s “Voice of Reason.”

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