Automation on the Google Display Network

Display advertising through the Google Display Network (GDN) has changed significantly in the last couple of years, allowing for more flexibility, and far more automation than ever before.

If you have not managed GDN campaigns for a while, you may find yourself lost when it comes to campaign set up, choosing the right audience, bidding strategy or even creative. However, worry not, by the end of this blog you will have a good idea of how GDN has become more automated and how you can leverage smart bidding, smart creative and smart targeting to drive performance through this channel.

Smart Bidding

Google’s smart bidding not only uses Display data, but also relies on Search, YouTube and Shopping to aid the algorithms for optimisation. This means that the algorithm is much more reliable than the best optimised manual campaign, as it takes into consideration many more signals than is humanly possible.

So what bidding strategies are available on GDN, and which can help to automate your campaign optimisation?

  1. Enhanced CPC (eCPC) – this retains manual control over your bidding strategy and gives you the ability to set your own CPC. Google estimates that this bidding strategy is likely to drive 10% more conversions on average compared to manual bidding alone.
  2. Target CPA – this bidding strategy allows you to drive conversions based on a target CPA goal that you set. Ensure that the CPA target you initially set is similar to your historical CPA to begin with, and only begin to reduce this goal down as the campaign stabilises and you begin hitting your initial CPA target. Google predicts 20% more conversions on average vs manual bidding if this strategy is adopted correctly.
  3. Target Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS)- This takes your bidding strategy a step further, as it not only looks at the likelihood of a conversion, but also takes into account the conversion value to ensure you are hitting your target ROAS. Google predicts 30% more conversions on average compared to manual bidding.

Smart Creative

Gone are the days of poor creative with 5+ variations of image sizes to ensure you fit the ad space on as many placements as possible. Responsive Display Ads are the future! These ads allow for scale and performance whilst letting you optimise all assets to match your brand look and feel. In fact, Google predicts 50% more conversions when running both image and responsive ads together.

With Responsive Display Ads, all you have to do is give Google the assets required (images, texts, logo) and Google will take care of the rest by using a machine-learning driven model to determine the optimal combination of assets for each ad slot. Here is how it works:

Google recommends the following guidelines to ensure a successful launch of your responsive display ads:

  • All images meet basic quality standards
  • Upload logo in 1:1 and 1:4 aspect ratio
  • Include the recommended number of assets: images (5-10), short headline (5), long headline (fill up 90 characters limit), descriptions (5)
  • All messages should be unique from one another
  • Don’t use color or format controls, unless there is specific business need to do so
  • Use smart bidding for best performance
  • Change assets every two weeks (including pausing poor performing ones)

Responsive Display Ads have had a few updates since they were first launched to allow for more flexibility, thus giving you more power to ensure your ads meet your client’s branding requirements. Do give them a test alongside your standard banners!

Smart Targeting (& Smart Display Campaigns)

Unsure about which target audience to choose for your display campaign? Smart Display Campaigns may be the right option for you.

With Smart Display Campaigns, you provide Google with:

  1. Your target CPA bid
  2. Your campaign budget
  3. Your creative assets

Google then takes care of:

  1. Finding the right user with the right bid
  2. Using all available GDN inventory
  3. Building creative for each auction (using Responsive Display Ads)

In other words, Smart Display Campaigns combine smart bidding (automated bid strategy), smart creative (Responsive Display Ads) and smart targeting (choosing the right audience on your behalf) to drive performance.

Looking at the Smart targeting feature within the Smart Display Campaign in particular, Google will use performance history of account targeting and creative, landing page, site content, audience lists as well as interests to predict relevant and high performing display targeting tactics. Importantly however, Smart Display Campaigns focus on lower and mid-funnel audiences only as a substitute for topics and placements, similar audiences, keywords, in-market, and even remarketing! This ensures a better quality of conversions as the audiences are closer to making a purchase than higher end audiences that are simply based on interest.

To summarise

GDN has come a long way when it comes to campaign set up and features, to ensure it drives performance – not only cross channel – but also in its own right based on the last click model. This drive for performance is enhanced by automation, whether that is through smart bidding, smart creative, smart targeting, or even the amalgamation of all three features into Smart Display Campaigns. As the channel moves towards more automation, it is advisable to carry out constant testing on the smart features to identify what works best for your campaigns and clients, and ensure you scale these tests out where the performance warrants it!

If you have any questions or would like to discuss automation on the Google Display Network in more depth, contact us. 

by Jawdat Nassour
1 November 2018



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