Avoiding unwanted clicks in the display network

If a Pay Per Click advertiser started off only working with the Google Search Network then switching to or expanding to the Display Network might be somewhat daunting. The first thing one might notice is how differently keywords are handled, in that they aren’t necessarily needed at all.

Instead various targeting criteria, used to qualify your intended audience across Google Display Network websites, are employed. The tools at your disposal are:


  • Display Keywords

    Unlike regular keywords these are used for context in websites, to find pages that are related to what you’re advertising.


  • Manual Placements

    A very powerful tool, placements lets you decide exactly what websites you are interested in advertising on. Of course these websites must be opted into the Google Display Network.


  • Topics

    These are like Display Keywords but more broad in scope. You select general categories that are relevant to your ad and then Google finds websites that matches those categories in content.


  • Interests

    So far we’ve been targeting websites and their content. Google surreptitiously tracks the websites that internet users browse whenever it can which allows us to target ads to users that have shown interest in relevant categories. So the vital distinction here is that we are not necessarily showing ads on relevant websites but instead to users that have been on relevant websites.


  • Gender & Age

    These are actually two distinct targeting parameters but they are self explanatory enough to lump them together.


    You can combine multiple targets but bear in mind that each one limits your exposure, not expand it. So a potential user needs to be applicable to both targeting A and targeting B before your ad gets served.  If there are little or no octogenarians that have an interest in skateboards then try not to use that age and topic combination.


    Just like negative keywords in the Search Network you can add targeting parameters that exclude users to which it applies. This will become very important, as I will explain soon.


    By far the most powerful tool here is manual placements. With all the other tools we are trusting Google to be reliable and accurate, which are not always guaranteed. Except for manual placements we are targeting characteristics of users that are collected, estimated or even guessed at. Of course we aren’t even targeting the user personally, just the device that they browse the web on. It is possible that the tablet, laptop or personal computer that has become associated with certain browsing habits is shared or becomes shared with another person. Users that


    So eventually only with manual placements can one be confident that the website showing your ad is showing it to a relevant audience, because why else would someone have visited it?


    Until you start curating where your ads appear you may be surprised where they might pop up otherwise. For this reason you may want to use the Display Network’s site category options to exclude types of websites that don’t line up with your ad’s message.  You can choose to not display your ad on websites based on what type of content those websites carry or what type of service they deliver. For example you might want to avoid placing your ad on a gambling website or one that contains profane language.


    So far we keep referring to ad platforms as websites, which is correct for the most part. However the Google display network extends to their Google App network for mobile devices. You may find that your ads aren’t appearing on websites at all but on Android games and apps. This market is undisputedly very different and if you are not overtly aware of it when you launch your advertising campaign then you might be capturing clicks from disinterested or irrelevant parties.


    Like the shared family computer, targeting a device isn’t like targeting a person. It is not unusual for a typical mom or dad to browse various websites on their tablet and then hand it over to their child to play games on. Serving ads about the latest fashion trends in high heels or camping gear won’t hold sway over little Timmy playing with his edutainment app. And if he does tap on your ad, incidentally or not, it would be a wasted click.


    You can avoid advertising on mobile platforms by adding the GMob mobile app non-interstitial category as an exclusion.


    Ultimately with all PPC campaigns you need to constantly experiment and monitor the results. A portion of your budget should be allocated to finding new marketing strategies, especially so in the first few weeks. This counts double for the display network since you’re using broad audience qualification parameters than simple Search Network keywords. Also if you don’t start off using manual placements, which is fine if you don’t know where your target market spends their time, then you don’t know where your ads may end up.


    There is no sure fire strategy here since every marketing campaign is unique. It is up to the advertiser to see what works and what doesn’t.

Yuri Shatalov
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Yuri Shatalov
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