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Keys to Creating Profitable GDN Campaigns

Published: September 18, 2013

Author: Calvin Vu

keysI often hear that the GDN is the domain of brand advertisers, while search is for DR (Direct Response) advertisers. In recent years, Google has chipped away at the GDN perception by adding many sophisticated ways to target your audience and segment traffic. These improvements have allowed advertisers to save money by more driving qualified traffic to their sites than ever before.
Done right, GDN campaigns can act as valuable profit centers for DR advertisers because the platform has massive scale and relatively low CPCs compared to search. Here are some tips to get you going:
Know the Funnel
Visitors who come to your site through the GDN often do so out of curiosity rather than specific intent. The fact that most of these visitors are top-of-the-funnel has two big takeaways for DR advertisers:
Keep the conversion event shallow. The barrier to a form fill (a lead) is generally much lower than making a purchase, which can take weeks and multiple re-engagements to complete in some industries. Leads are seeds you plant for future revenue, and in many cases driving cheap leads will generate more revenue over time than the occasional purchase. For one ecommerce client, driving visitors to specific category pages resulted in a few purchases over two weeks and a negative ROAS. On the other hand, driving email subscriptions delivered no immediate revenue, but delivered 10x revenue compared to the first case and strongly positive ROAS by the end of two weeks.
Keep site content approachable to a large audience. Keeping in the same vein as above, you should treat your visitors with introductory content that will encourage them to advance down the funnel. It is easy to lose a potential customer who is in the exploration phase by driving them to niche content. For example, driving visitors to a free introductory video can drive many more leads than more advanced tutorials, as was the case for one of my B2B clients.
Create Opportunities to Re-Engage
The biggest strength of display for DR is in creating opportunities to re-engage with your customers once they leave your site.  Most advertisers get good ROI out of remarketing campaigns, but still some don’t get as much mileage as they can. Here are some opportunities that advertisers might miss:
1)     Set up remarketing lists for different time frames and portions of the site, then bid differently according to place in funnel
2)     “Upsell” converted users by driving them to premium parts of the site
3)     Use targeted ads, possibly in combination with a promotion
Squeeze Extra Performance with Advanced Segmentation
Google has hundreds of options to find your customer and two underappreciated ways to segment your data: gender and age. These are common demographic groups for companies to track, and for good reason: each of these demographic buckets spends money very differently, depending on the industry. If I notice a 2x difference in conversion rate between men and women on the GDN (and I have), then it makes sense to a separate ad serving and bidding strategy for each.
The ability to advertise differently to each of your demos, combined with the many ways to seek your audience out (by keyword, user profile, placement, website topic), cuts down on a lot of wasted spend that often occurs when new advertisers dive into GDN without a strategic plan.
GDN can be a valuable tool for DR advertising; in fact, it is the main source of leads for several of my clients. To profit from GDN, you must first craft a strategy that arms you with an understanding of the customer profile and the proper place of display advertising in the customer journey. The second part is executing that strategy using innovative tactics (IQ) that will help deliver both profit and actionable insights about your customer.

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