Google Display Network Targeting: Your Guide to Better Results (Part 3)

by Adam Kreitman

Last updated on February 14th, 2018

But wait, there’s more!

In the first 2 articles in this series (Part 1 and Part 2) we looked at 7 potential Google Display Network targeting tactics. In this 3rd (and final) segment of this series, we look at a few more ways that are not as commonly known or used… yet may be some of your best options for optimizing your GDN campaign.

advertising - placeit

Source: and Spiral Media –

Let’s dig right in…

Similar Audiences

Remarketing is a great way to get previous visitors to your site back again. But its reach is limited only to people who have been to your site.

What if there was a way to extend your reach and target prospects who have common characteristics to those who have visited your site? Well, you can do just that with Similar Audiences.

Similar Audiences gives you a way to leverage your remarketing list(s) to get new people to your site who may have never heard of your website before.

The way this works is this: Basically, Google determines shared interests and characteristics of your audience based on their browsing history over the past 30 days, as well as Google’s contextual engine. Then they use that data to identify a similar audience of users with similar interests and characteristics that you are able to target with ads.

Google automatically creates Similar Audiences for you when you use remarketing and have a list of at least 500 people with enough similarity in interests and characteristics so that Google is able to create a similar audience.

Once a Similar Audience shows up in your campaign, you can add it just like you would any other Remarketing list as seen in the screen shot here:

similar audiences

One tip on using Similar Audiences is that it’s great to create a Similar Audience of your site visitors. Even better to create one of BUYERS. So, if you have enough traffic so that you can create a similar audience to those who have converted on your site, it’s definitely worth testing a campaign targeting them.

Display Targeting Optimization

This is a “new” feature Google just rolled out recently. I say “new” in quotes because it’s actually a variation of Google’s Display Campaign Optimizer (DCO) which has been around for a while. Display Targeting Optimization (DTO) just has a new name and what looks like a new option compared to the old DCO.

In either case, this feature lets Google automatically help you reach additional customers at, what they claim to be, a similar cost per customer. (I say “claim to be” because I’ve seen the results can vary wildly in live campaigns.)

Basically DTO runs on top of your existing targeting methods and allows Google to go out and find additional conversions for you by using their algorithm to show your ads “in the right place at the right time.”

There are now 2 targeting optimization options to choose from.

A “conservative” option (which seems to be a little different from what was previously available) that simply is supposed to help you reach more customers at your current (or a target) cost per customer.

And an “aggressive” option that’s supposed to help you reach even more customers than the “conservative” option with the potential to have a higher cost per customer. You have to have at least 15 conversions per month in your campaign to use this option.

We haven’t tried these new options out yet, but based on past experience with DCO, it’s worth testing. But keep a close eye on things. When it works, it’s a great thing to let Google find additional conversions for you but, when you let Google have much latitude in your campaigns, you can end up paying WAY more for clicks and conversions than you want.

Search Network with Display Select

One of the common pieces of advice you’ll get from experienced AdWords pros is that you never want to have one campaign that gets traffic from both the Search Network and the Display Network. They each require a very different approach, so it’s best to keep them in separate campaigns.

Understanding this, Google launched Search Network with Display Select. If you want to set up a campaign that targets both Search and Display, this is now your only option.

The way this option differs from the way you used to be able to do things is Google says this option uses “improved signals and methods of predicting where your ads are likely to perform best, and sets a higher bar for when to show them.”

That sounds all well and good, but we’ve stayed away from this option and haven’t heard any experienced AdWords pros jumping for joy over the results they’re seeing with it. At the end of the day, Search and Display are still very different animals, and you’re probably better off keeping them separate instead of experimenting with the Search Network with Display Select option.

Site Category Options

We’ve spent a lot of time talking in this series about going after specific groups, topics, keywords, placements, etc., that you specifically want to target. What if there are categories of sites that you want to stay clear of?

For example, let’s say your company sells children’s products. Would you really want your ads to potentially run on sites that have sexually suggestive content or foul language?

Probably not and, fortunately, there’s a way to prevent that from happening. It’s using Site category options on your Display Network campaigns. You can find toward the bottom of the page when you click on the Display tab in any of your GDN campaigns.

site category options

When you do, you’ll get this screen which allows you to block your ads from appearing on the following types of web pages.

site category options 2

They’re fairly self explanatory. Just two things I want to point out.

One is the “Below-the-fold” option. If you exclude this option, you’re telling Google you only want your GDN ads to appear at the top of the page (i.e., above the fold). You can use this option to get your ads running in the prime real estate on the pages your ads appear on to increase the chances they’ll get seen by prospects. It’s definitely worth experimenting with this option.

Second is the Disclaimer Google puts at the bottom of the Site category options page where they say they’ll exclude topics and page as best they can, but they can’t guarantee it.

Just keep that in mind and understand, with the millions of pages out there on the GDN, they’re algorithm isn’t perfect, so you still need to keep an eye on things to make sure your ads aren’t appearing where you don’t want them to.

Combining Targeting Methods

We’ve covered a ton of different ways to target people on the Display Network so far in this series. If you’ve been wondering if it’s possible to combine the different targeting methods, then you get a gold star!

Because yes, absolutely, you can combine any of the options we’ve discussed to create highly focused targeting options to reach your ideal prospects. And you may just find that doing this is the key to making GDN advertising really work well for you.

Here are a few examples of combining different Google Display Network targeting methods:

Contextual + Managed Placements

Let’s say you notice ads are getting a decent response from your ads running on a high traffic site that covers an enormous range of content like You’d like to target that site directly with a Managed Placement, but there are a few problems.

First, covers a wide range of topics and you don’t want your ads running across the entire site.

And, second, you want to bid higher for clicks on the site but, at the same time, don’t want to overpay for irrelevant clicks.

By combining Managed Placements and Contextual (keyword) targeting, you can mitigate those issues.

So, for example, if you’re selling a CrossFit course, you can target people on (Managed Placement) who are on pages that reference keywords like CrossFit, exercise, etc. (Contextual Targeting). This way you’re targeting visitors on who are most likely to be interested in what you offer and, because it’s a smaller, targeted audience you can bid more for clicks.

Remarketing + Topics

This is a strategy you can use to target visitors who have been to your site without worrying about royally ticking them off by seeing your ads on every page they visit on the GDN.

By combining Remarketing and Topic Targeting, you’ll be showing your ads to those who’ve visited your site ONLY when they’re on Web pages related to your products/services. Basically it insures you stay top of mind to previous site visitors at the time(s) they’re researching and/or shopping for what you offer.

Interests + Demographics

While I wouldn’t recommend just targeting a specific demographic group on the GDN and nothing else, it is worth testing a combination of demographic targeting with other targeting methods.

Let’s say you’re trying to reach moms with young kids who have an interest in yoga and pilates. Just selecting the Yoga & Pilates Interest group may bring you way more traffic than you want and, more importantly, traffic from people outside your ideal gender and age range.

You can create a much more targeted audience by combining Interest Targeting + Demographics as in the image below.

demo and interest combo

Simply choose the Yoga & Pilates Interest category, then add the age ranges of 25 – 34 and 35 – 44 and Female for gender and you’re ads will show to that much more targeted audience.


This wraps up our 3-part series on the ways you can target your prospects on the Google Display Network. With no shortage of targeting options and combinations, the challenge is finding the methods that are best for your business and its goals.

My advice is to start small and test out a few different targeting ideas based on the audience you’re trying to reach and see where you start getting some traction. Then build off your successes and shut down the ones that don’t work well.

Do that methodically over time and you could very well find a flood of conversions headed your way!

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Adam Kreitman.



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Adam Kreitman

Adam Kreitman coaches business owners on how to make their websites more compelling to their prospects.. and to Google. He owns Words That Click, a firm specializing in Conversion Optimization and managing Google AdWords campaigns for small businesses.Follow him on


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  1. Rachna says:
    May 16, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    I sell 2 products online…first is “home decor and furnishing “products like curtains, pillows, photo frames etc and the 2nd is “auto accessories”. I want to drive sale through Google Adwords display campaign.. kindly suggest me which targeting (or multiple targetings) should i use to drive maximum conversions?

  2. Kaitlin Olson says:
    May 8, 2015 at 12:27 pm

    Thanks for the great series!

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      May 9, 2015 at 6:35 pm

      Glad you liked it, Kaitlin!

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