The Google display network enables you to advertise on relevant websites. It increases your reach through displaying your ad in multiple places rather than just in the SERPs. This sounds great on first appearance but do you really want to increase your reach?

Optimising an AdWords campaign is all about specifically limiting your audience in order to target only those who are most likely to convert. One of the greatest mistakes of a pay per click (PPC) campaign is trying to target everyone and watching your budget drain away with little in return. So on second thoughts increasing your reach might not be all its hyped up to be.

The appetising and the not so appetising box of popcorn 

Let’s say we’re eating a box of popcorn and next to us is another box of slightly burnt not so nice popcorn. Now we know that we’re unlikely to be able to finish all the popcorn because no one ever does and the ones that do have dropped most of it on the floor. So we have to decide which box to eat from. Surely the best thing is to start on the nice box and if we do somehow manage to finish it, then perhaps go onto the slightly burnt box.

PPC ads in the SERPs (search engine results pages) make up the nice box of popcorn. They are specially made ads specifically targeting customers who are actively searching for the product or service relating to that ad. We know that they are actively looking to purchase the product or service since they have gone through the trouble of searching for it in Google. Therefore, these customers are highly likely to be interested in our product and convert. To miss out on these customers would be handing them over to our rivals.

Ads on the display network make up the slightly burnt box of popcorn. They might be ok but they’re just not as nice as the other box. These ads are being shown to people who are not actively searching for the product or service and so are less valuable than those that are.
Now there are some perks; your ad might remind someone that they were thinking of buying your product (remarketing), or might put the idea of buying a product into someone’s head. This is quite nice, but these people are bound to be more indecisive about buying a product since they didn’t go through the trouble of actively searching. They could be dithering around clicking on your ads just for a look and then after costing you a fair bit of money deciding that they in fact didn’t want to buy your product after all. Or maybe even worse, after your ad stimulates them to buy a product, they go to the search engine to find the best deal and end up buying somewhere else. You’ve just paid and persuaded someone to buy one of your competitors’ products.

So why use the display network?

Just like the only time you’d eat the slightly burnt popcorn is when you’ve finished all the nice popcorn, the only time I’d recommend using the display network is if you’ve already targeted all the relevant searches in the Google search engine. Why eat some of the nice popcorn and some of the burnt, and end up leaving half the box of nice popcorn because you got too full? Don’t use your PPC budget up on the display network before you’ve already targeted all potential customers coming through the search engine. PPC is not free; it is not about increasing your reach or increasing your clicks. It’s about targeting only those high potential customers who are going to give you high conversion rates.

Should you ever use the Display network?

If your budget has already allowed you to target all the relevant reaches in Google, then you could think about a carefully planned display network campaign as long as you know what you’re doing. For those with large budgets this might be an option. First of all, a remarketing strategy could be a good use of budget, enticing those customers who took an interest in your product to come back and buy for real this time. Alternatively, if your business relies heavily on branding and you’d like to create some brand awareness, then the display network could be a good option for you.

Just remember

When you’re starting out, search engine traffic is the easier, more reliable option.