Display Advertising

Display Advertising


(1) What is Display Advertising? 

Display advertising refers to the process of advertising a product or service through textbased, image or video advertisements on networks of publisher websites such as the Google Display Network and Facebook etc. These advertisements encourage the user to clickthrough to a landing page and take action (e.g. make a purchase). Most display and online advertising campaigns are charged on a cost per click (CPC) basis. That is to say, every time the user on a search engine clicks on your ad, you’ll get charged an amount based on your overall bidding strategy.

Unlike search advertising that uses a pull approach where users are actively looking for a product/service similar to yours. Display advertising uses a push approach where users who see your display ads are targeted purposefully for those ads, either because of remarketing campaigns or maybe they’re browsing a website that’s relevant to your offer.

Think of display advertising as the digital version of a billboard, print ad or TV ad you see offline. Businesses pay whoever owns the ad “space” hoping to get their ads seen by the right kinds of people. And then turn those people into customers. In the online world of display advertising, ad space isn’t on billboards or TV channels but on the websites we visit. Display advertising gives businesses the chance to pay for their ads to appear when the right kind of person is on the right kind of page. There are lots of ways to do this. You can make deals directly with the owners of a website, or you can use networks that match businesses with lots of different websites that have ad space to sell. You can decide to show your ads on specific web pages, or to specific groups of people—or even both.

They can also be used for retargeting campaigns. This is where ads are served to users who have already visited a specific website. The aim is to “retarget” them and encourage them to return to the website to take the same action (or an action at a different stage of the funnel).

Display ads are placed on relevant third-party websites in the form of banner, image and text ads. Display advertising is pretty much a blanket term that includes every visual ad placed on a website, however, it can be divided into three basic categories:

(a) Site placement advertising 

In this type of display advertising the advertiser/marketer chooses the website they would like to run their display ads on.

(b) Contextual advertising

In this type of display advertising networks place ads on relevant websites, for example showing an ad for dog food on a pet adoption website.

(c) Remarketing 

Remarketing display ads appear in front of users who have been on your website or postclick landing page but have left without completing the relevant conversion goal. 

(2) Understanding Ad Networks 

Advertising networks connect large groups of websites offering advertising space with people who want to advertise on them. Display advertising networks are like a middleman, connecting businesses who want to advertise, with websites with ad space to sell.

Say you found a specific website you wanted to advertise on. Well, you have a few options here. First, you could contact the site directly to work out the details, and that’s certainly something that happens. But with all the websites out there that offer advertising opportunities, you can imagine this can get pretty time consuming. This is where display advertising networks come in. They handle both the buying and the selling of display ads, linking businesses to websites that want to sell advertising space.

There are quite a few of these networks out there, like Google Display Network or Yahoo, each network has its own rules, its own features and its own processes and bidding systems, but the key is that they all match buyers and sellers to fill available ad spots.

Websites that offer these ad spaces can become a part of these networks, and they can do things like set minimum prices for how much money they expect for showing ads. Your business can then bid for the spots you want throughout all the websites in that network, deciding how much you’re willing to pay. Buyers and sellers are connected every single time pages are loaded, and the ads that win the right to fill the ad spot are shown.

Another thing networks do is handle the money involved. Buying and selling ads happens every second of every day, and the networks collect money from businesses and pay the websites that show the ads. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, advertising networks collect and share data with businesses. They can tell you how many times your ads are shown, how many times they’re clicked on, how much they cost you, where they’ve been showing up, and how all of this varies between the websites and audiences you’re targeting. Many networks even let you add tracking to your web pages so you can see if your ads are resulting in conversions on your website.

(3) Display ads versus native ads

While display ads are used as an umbrella term to include all ads that users see online. The term native advertising refers to a form of advertising that attempts to match the content of the platform. This is done to make the message more easily consumable by the users of that platform. Native ads appear in-feed and are non-disruptive, like suggested posts on Facebook or promoted posts on Twitter. 

So, while the intent of display ads is to stand out, native ads are meant to blend in with the web page they are situated on and not look like ads at all. Native ads are mostly found on social media feeds, or as recommended content on a webpage, the ads look like part of the editorial flow of the page. Display ads call out for attention, while native ads blend in with web pages and focus on soft-selling.
These are the most common native ad placements:


Native ads are ideal for driving traffic to your website as they serve users with educational ad content that piques their interest. 

If you’re looking to educate users on a particular subject, or are just trying to get them to your website to view more offers then creating native ads is your best bet. Native ads are non-intrusive and so aren’t affected by banner blindness, however, if the goal of your campaign is to increase brand awareness, retarget lost customers, or customer acquisition then creating a display advertising campaign is the right way to go.

(4) Forms of Display Ads 

Your display campaigns can come in several shapes, sizes and formats, which include the following:

(a) Banner Ads 

One of the oldest and traditional forms of advertising, banner ads usually appear at the top of websites.

Display ads of course have certain restrictions in place for advertisers to follow. It’s important to know and follow the rules accordingly so your ads can be accepted without going through a handful of revisions.

Ads cannot have a white background without a border, this prevents ads from being visually striking and blending into the light backgrounds they sit on. Most websites or galleries have a max file size limit, this is also true for Google Adwords. Display ads need to be under the size of 150KB in order to be eligible for ad placement. These are the most commonly used display ad sizes


If you want to make the most money from your Google Ads campaign then following is the selection of the most common ad sizes below:

  • Medium Rectangle (300 x 250)
  • Large Rectangle (336 x 280)
  • Leaderboard (728 x 90) Large Skyscraper (300 x 600)
  • Large Mobile Banner (320 x 100)

(b) Interstitial Ads 

Interstitial ads are interactive, full-screen ads that cover the interface of their host app or site. They are designed to appear between content, so they’re best placed at natural transition points or breaks, such as in between activities or game levels. Their full-coverage is what differentiates them from other ad types, like pop up, native, and banner ads. 

For reference, here’s an interstitial ads example (left), compared to a pop-up ad (middle) and banner ad (right):


(c) Rich Media: 

Rich media ads, as the name suggests, are an amalgamation of rich media viz. text, images, audio, video, animations, or others. These ads are dynamic in style and can mold as per the users’ on-screen / on-device movements. The intent is to make ads more interactive and deliver better user experience.


(d) Video Ads 

The YouTube advertising platform, as well as social networks like Instagram and Facebook, have opened a whole new avenue for marketers. Video ads allow you to reach your audience and connect with them on a personal level, and are well worth investing in. 

(5) Benefits and Downsides to Display Advertising

As is the case with all marketing activities, display campaigns can come with their own pros and cons. Before we get into some actionable and in-depth advice on how to apply display ads to your business, let’s look at their benefits and downsides. First, the pros: 

(a) Diversity 

Display ads come in many shapes and sizes. And as you’ve seen above, they can be presented in a number of formats, too. This means you can choose a style and advertising format that will help you achieve your goals. 

(b) Reach 

Thanks for the Google Display Network (GDN), you can access millions of sites straight from your Google Ads account. 

(c) Targeting 

Because of GDN’s extensive reach, you can also target the right audience by placing your ads on the right websites. This includes demographic and geo-targeting, along with specific interests of your target audience. 

(d) Measurable 

Clicks, impressions and conversions can all be tracked from Google Ads, as well as Google Analytics for more granular performance and engagement tracking. 

This all sounds great, but what about the cons? There are some downsides to display ads, including:

  •  Banner Blindnes

Because of the prolific nature of display ads, many users have come to ignore them completely. This means a lower click-through rate. However, this can be circumvented using remarketing and rich media ads.

  • Ad Blockers 

Along with this, ad blocker technology has risen in popularity over the last few years. Many brands and media outlets have tried to circumvent this, however, by giving users the option of allowing ads or purchasing a subscription:


Despite these small downsides, display advertising still works – especially when you do it right.
Here, we’ll run through several techniques and tips to ensure you get the most out of your ad efforts while generating a positive (and lucrative) ROI. 

(6) Display Ad Strategy & the Sales Funnel 

Like all digital marketing strategies, display advertising starts with goal setting. Therefore, your strategy will ultimately depend on your goals. Some possible display ad goals include: 

  • Building brand and top-of-mind awareness 
  • Generating leads by offering a lead magnet 
  • Attracting abandoned users/customers through retargeting 
  • Nurturing leads through the buying process

Defining exactly what you want to get out of your display advertising will help you create campaigns that are focused on your different business goals. If you have lots of goals, a single ad or a single campaign can’t do it all. But don’t worry. If you clearly lay out what you want to achieve up front, you can then build out different adverts targeting different people for all the right reasons. 

A simple way to break down what you want to achieve with display advertising is to think about the different steps of the customer journey as a funnel. The widest part at the top is awareness. Generally speaking, display ads are most effective when serving three specific purposes:


In other words, display ads should be used to build or maintain brand awareness, and foster loyalty. 

Another thing to consider is how your display ads will work in tandem with your SEM funnel and PPC campaigns. For example, you might find that targeting users who don’t take action after visiting a PPC landing page can increase the overall ROI of that campaign. 

Your goals are the first part of a well-documented strategy. Ensure you’re defining why you’re running ads, what you hope to achieve, and the metrics you’re measuring. 

(7) Get Your Display Network Targeting Right 

This is the part that can make or break your campaign. Without the right targeting, you risk serving your ads to people who simply don’t care about what you have to offer. 

The number of targeting options available can be daunting. While the process works in a similar manner to the search network, display targeting goes far beyond keywords. Let’s explore the different targeting options across the display network and how each of them work: 

(a) Keyword Targeting 

Google will serve your ads alongside content on websites that contain any target keywords you define. 

(b) Demographic Targeting

Allows you to target an audience based on a website or audience’s basic demographic profile. 

(c) Placement Targeting 

This allows you to choose which website(s) your display ads appear on. For example, if you’re targeting a fashion audience, you can have your ads display on specific websites such as Vogue, Elle and Grazia. 

(d) Topic Targeting 

Allows users to target a group of websites that fit within a certain topic. 

(e) Interest Targeting 

Google has access to several data-points on its users, which allows you to serve display ads based on what users are entering into the search engine. These are then segmented into two further categories: 

1. In-Market: These are relevant to products and services, and are usually aimed at those expressing an interest in purchasing. 

2. Affinity: Analyzes overall topics and interests to build the identity of a specific user. 

  • Audience Targeting: Allows you to target users who have already visited your website (remarketing). 

There may be times when you don’t want your ads to appear on certain websites or websites that address certain topics. These are known as display targeting exclusions, which allow you to exclude your display ads from certain keywords, topics, placements and demographics. These act in a similar manner to negative keywords, in that you are defining which content not to target. 

Then there are site category exclusions. Typically, these are used to ensure your ads do not appear on websites containing themes such as mature content, gambling, error pages etc.


Ultimately, you must get your targeting right if you want to see any results from your display ad efforts. By serving ads on irrelevant websites, you’re going to experience a low CTR and wasted budget.

(8) Creating Awesome Ad Creative 

With your targeting set, it’s time to attract your perfect audience and get them to click – which is where creating effective and compelling ad creative comes in. Here are four tips to follow when planning and designing your creative display ad assets. No matter your design skills, they’ll help guide you when setting out to attract (or retarget) traffic.

(a) Use the Right Language 

Much like SEM, display advertising allows you to target specific customer segments. This means you should speak to each of those groups independently, not as if they were one and the same. 

For example, someone running an online shoe store may think that the majority of their customers buy for style. But upon closer inspection (and talking to your customers on an individual basis), it turns out many of them buy for comfort.
Therefore, this store can identify the demographic and psychographic profile of these buyers to serve ads especially for them.

In the example below, Hilton is addressing those looking for a weekend deal, focusing on price point (and thus convenience) over luxury:


Ensure you’re matching the language to the audience you’re looking to attract. Avoid buzzwords and be clear.

(b) Use Catchy Copy

While display ads are inherently visual formats, it’s still important to get the ad copy right. Here are a few things to keep in mind when crafting your copy: 

a. Establish urgency Use words such as “now” and “need” in order to compel people to act (click) quickly.
b. Make them curious Ask questions and elicit an air of mystery by using phrases such as “beware,” “announcing” and “before it’s too late.”
c. Use numbers and symbols Numbers are easy to understand, which is key when grabbing attention. Use stats and include numbers when providing social proof to encourage people to click.
d. Be bold As important as the words you use is how you present them. Use bold lettering and typography that stands out. But make sure it’s clear to read. In the example below, Hornitos incite curiosity using copy wrapped in sharp, on-brand typography:


e. Clutter-Free Imagery 

The imagery you use should be simple, clutter-free and on-brand. If you’re using photos, make sure it encapsulates what your brand is about.
Illustrations can be great visual devices to get your message across. Here, Dropbox uses a simple and light illustration that successfully grabs attention:

Enhancing Brand

Next Blog: 7. Web Analytics Introduction