Here at WordStream, our team of consultants analyzes thousands of PPC accounts. While our customers’ pain points tend to vary, many of their issues can be tracked back to one major misstep—their campaigns are set to run on both the Search and Display Networks simultaneously.
99% of the time, this practice will wreak havoc on a PPC account. The main problem is, these networks target users in two completely different scenarios. Not to mention, since metrics across each network are combined, it is challenging to assess how each is performing, and it eliminates the option to segment one’s budget by network.
Quite frankly, applying the same strategy to both networks is like trying to fit a round peg in a square hole…it just doesn’t work. If you have any campaigns opted into both networks, save yourself from future pain and agony and start separating them. In today’s post, we’ll do a deep dive outlining the components of each of these networks and examine what types of advertisers should be utilizing them.
Before we delve into the intricacies of each network, I want to address one caveat to this rule, which is Google’s recent innovation, Search Network with Display Select (SNDS). If you’re an avid reader of this blog, you may remember a post from a few weeks ago, complete with a Google video broadcast (featuring our in-house celebrity, Rich Griffin!), touting the benefits of this new, hybrid campaign model. SNDS allows advertisers to opt their search campaigns into the GDN in a limited fashion. Essentially, Google Ads claims that it will use “improved signals and methods of predicting where your ads are likely to perform best” to ensure that display ads are only shown in locations that are highly relevant to the advertisers’ “ideal” user.
As Rich mentions in his Google hangout video, this setting is reminiscent of Enhanced Campaigns, whereby Google Ads pushes advertisers to expand their reach and appeal to a broader range of customers. For less-than-savvy PPCers, or advertisers who have limited time to dedicate to account management, this low-effort option may feel like a godsend. That said, it comes at a price. In shifting to this model, you are sacrificing significant control over GDN performance and putting a great deal of faith in Google. For advertisers who have the time to do so, we highly recommend sticking with the traditional best practice of managing the Search and Display Networks through separate campaigns.
Running ads on the Search Network is the most common, well-known form of PPC advertising. With this network selection, your ads will be eligible to appear on Google SERPs. If you want to expand your reach, you can extend your targeting to include “search partners,” a group comprised of smaller search engines, such as AOL.
This advertising format is incredibly effective because it targets an active searcher, who is on a mission to find something. As you can see in the example above, the searcher is looking for a plumber in Virginia. Upon submitting the query, both paid ads (highlighted in the red boxes) and organic listings appear. Sure, the plumbers could rely on their organic (read: free) listings, but chance are, they will be more successful if they run ads on the Search Network. Not only are paid ads more robust, but they allow the plumbers to include extensions with additional links, phone numbers and addresses. Since the Search Network connects advertisers to people actively looking for their products, search campaigns typically drive more conversions than display campaigns.
You should be running a Search Network campaign if:
In addition to traditional search advertising, Google also gives advertisers the opportunity to place their ads on a variety of sites across the internet. This collection of websites, which ranges from blogs to news sites and even YouTube, is referred to as the Google Display Network (GDN). According to Google, the GDN includes over 2 million sites that reach over 90% of global internet users. Given the expansiveness of this network, it is incredibly appealing to advertisers who are looking to expand their online presence.
When users are on the GDN, they may not necessarily be in “shopping mode.” Instead, they are going about their daily internet activities—catching up on news, reading blog posts, watching video clips, etc. In order to gain traction on the GDN, your ads must attract the users’ attention and entice them enough to click through to your site, leaving the content that they were originally engaged with. Accomplishing this is no easy feat—even with top-notch ad creative, it’s tough to draw users to click on ads while they are perusing the Display Network.
But don’t write the GDN off yet—while clicks may be scarce, ad space on the network is plentiful. It is the ideal space to promote brand awareness and its vast reach is appealing to advertisers who are looking to broaden their fan bases. By increasing your brand’s visibility, you may reap more clicks on organic listings or see an uptick in brand-specific searches. These clicks are also less costly than clicks on the search network.
You should be running a Display Network campaign if:
In reading the descriptions above, you may have noted that your company would benefit from both the Search and the Display Networks. We advise many advertisers to run campaigns for both, when budget permits.
However, to truly reap the benefits of each network, do your due diligence and break them into separate, network-specific campaigns. From a strategic standpoint, this will allow you to craft your messaging based on the scenario in which your audience is viewing your ad. From a more logistical standpoint, this segmentation is critical. Not only does it allow you to set specific budgets and bids per network, but it will keep your data “clean” and help you to make more impactful optimizations.
Let’s take click-through rate, for example. Ads on the Display Network typically garner lower CTRs than their Search Network counterparts (which comes as no surprise, given the context in which they are shown). If the campaigns are not segmented, the CTR data can be severely skewed, making it challenging to analyze performance.
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