Marketing Insights
Marin Software's Official Blog

You, Google and the Display Network – Making the Most of Contextual Keyword Targeting

By   April 21st, 2011

Reaching over 640 million internet users per month through Google’s Display Network, formally known as Google’s Content Network, is easy.  Reaching those internet users that are relevant is hard, and often a seemingly daunting task.  Understanding how Google manages and operates their Display Network is critical in ensuring healthy and optimized content campaigns.  Google allows advertisers to target audiences through keywords, placements, categories, remarketing and topics.  Our discussion today focuses on keyword targeting.

For direct response and branding content campaigns, effective campaign build-out and execution of best practices can mean the difference between millions of wasted impressions and thousands of qualified clicks.

When constructing or expanding Google content campaigns, keep these thoughts in mind:

  1. Nature of the Beast
  2. Drawing Up a Game Plan
  3. Execution is Key
  4. The Network Never Sleeps

Nature of the Beast

Before considering displaying an advertiser’s creative on the Display Network, Google first scans the publisher’s content page for repeated and emphasized keywords.  Once a theme(s) or concept(s) has been determined, Google then matches the content to an ad creative based on an advertiser’s ad group theme (also known as the moment of relevance).  Keep in mind that the theme(s) and concept(s) of a particular content page are continuously analyzed and reclassified.

Drawing Up a Game Plan

Think of content ad groups as you would search keywords.  Adding, pausing and deleting keywords within an ad group have an impact, and change how Google assesses that ad group’s theme.  Remain highly relevant by considering the overall theme of the keywords contained within each content ad group.  Leave no room for Google to incorrectly assess the theme of an ad group and its intended audience.

Execution is Key

Generally speaking, content ad groups are most effective when utilizing 5 to 30 keywords (Google, 2011).  Additionally, duplicating keywords across ad groups is highly effective as long as the keywords aid in establishing a common theme.  Once a tight set of keywords has been generated, construct ad creative that matches the theme of the keywords and ad group.  Including call-to-actions and unique selling points make for effective ad creative.  Keep in mind that ad groups are keywords within the Display Network, so never incorporate dynamic keyword insertion within ad creative and always use ad group level URLs.

The Network Never Sleeps

Like search, content campaigns and ad groups require constant upkeep and optimization.  In addition to refining ad group themes via keyword expansion, there are key strategies that should be deployed in every content campaign.  Like establishing an ad group theme using tightly grouped keywords, negative keywords are just as important in restricting ads from displaying for irrelevant or less relevant publisher content.  Consider the difference in advertising desktop computer games and console video games.  In this case, a negative keyword list should be generated to block content that discusses new video game releases for the Playstation 3.  Similarly, implement site exclusions to exclude your ad creative from showing on poorly performing placements.  Conversely, utilize placement targeting to target and capitalize on higher converting placements.  Most leading search management platforms capture site referrals and allow you to manage your site placements and exclusions.  Creative testing is critical in determining what your customers are looking for.  Continuously testing ad creative language (emotional, functional, promotional, etc) and formatting (text, image, video and different sizes) provides insight into what types of ads perform best.

In the ever changing landscape of Google’s Display Network, it’s critical to buy into the concepts of tightening ad group themes, increasing ad creative relevancy and continuously optimizing content campaigns.  Start with these simple best practices and begin converting irrelevant impressions into qualified clicks.