In the final topic for our series on how to succeed on the display network, I’ll be discussing display network strategy. I’ll break strategy down into three parts:

Goals – What you intend to accomplish with your display campaign.

Channels – Where you’ll be placing your ads.

Ads – CPM or CPC? Creative strategies to get the most out of each.

Defining your goals

It’s important to understand that display is an entirely different monster than search. You aren’t going to have the same intent connection when serving display ads as you will when serving ads through search. The potential impression wasn’t a result of someone directly telling you what they are looking for. Because of this, you should start your display strategy by thinking through exactly what you intend to get from using display. To start, is it something you even need in the first place? Would your budget be better spent in other marketing channels? If there is room for display, you need to understand the benefit of using it and how best to implement display to reach your company goals.

It’s essential to think through the branding aspects of a good display campaign, particularly when using image ads. Would your product or service benefit from branding, even if you aren’t seeing conversions come through? Will your display campaign contribute to higher conversion rates in your other marketing channels? In most cases, the answer to both of these questions is yes. Because of that, you need to address your conversion rates differently than you do in search. Multichannel tracking in Google Analytics is a great free tool that can help you better define what your goals should be. In many instances, several touch points are needed to convert a user. Display can be an integral part of assisting conversions.

Does this mean you should always relax your conversion cost goals in display? Nope. What you should do is always consider the full benefit of using a display platform.

Define the most appropriate channels

Understanding the channels that you’ll be using is an integral part of your overall strategy. In my opinion, display is more flexible than search when it comes to channels. With search, the ads are shown on the actual search engine, making Google the clear-cut leader when it comes to reach. In display, you can find an equally trafficked site on a second or third tier engine as you can on Google. Sure, Google is going to have more potential sites than these other engines, but the gap isn’t as large or important. Because of this, I think exploring multiple channels is a good approach.

One thing I’ll add as a precaution is that your available budget should also play into how many channels you go after initially. Display can, in many instances, take more time and money to truly optimize than what you may be used to in a search campaign. There are two schools of thought here. You can be cautious with your spend and slowly identify the appropriate marketing mix and placements within your display campaign and control your costs – or – you can set up several targeting options with a decent budget and accelerate the optimization process but with the potential for higher conversion costs initially. I’m firmly in the school of the second option. You have to identify what is going to work and the faster you get there the more successful your campaign is going to be in the long run. Additionally, with higher starting budgets, you are more likely to find a higher number of successful placements.

The takeaway here is, if your budget is tight, spreading it out among several channels is going to lessen the odds of making all of those channels as successful as it can be. Would you rather have one rockstar channel or several so-so channels?

You should also remember to think through how you’ll be utilizing your individual channels. If you need some more insight into this, check out a post I wrote last month about scaling your display campaigns.

Match your ad strategy to address your goals.

The third process that you should work through when developing your overall display strategy is your ad objectives. To start, you should decide on a bidding model. There is a place for both CPM and CPC but the way you go about your creative should be different for each. In a CPC model, my best advice is to pre-qualify your traffic through extremely descriptive ads. Because you’ll only be paying for customers that click, if you ad is too vague, you might be driving traffic that isn’t qualified at all and that will wind up costing you more money. Your ads need to be extremely relevant in CPC but you need to strike a balance between disqualifying too much traffic. You don’t want to lose fringe customers that might click due to curiosity and lead to a conversion.

CPM requires a different strategy in my opinion. You are paying for those impressions regardless of who is clicking on them. In these instances, I think the right move is to leave something for the imagination. You want your ad to draw attention to itself. You want it to be intriguing and you don’t want to pre-qualify too much. Hopefully you have a good site to back up the creative and your focus should be on getting as many of your impressions to click through to the site, where they can then make a decision on how to proceed. Your bounce rate will probably be higher for your CPM campaign than with your overall site traffic but you’ll also be capturing more visitors for the same price and are giving yourself more of an opportunity to convert at no additional cost.

It’s obviously important to think through which route you’re going to take ahead of creating your campaigns because your messaging should be consistent with your overall strategy. Now that you’ve got your starting strategy all worked out, read through some of our other posts on display to take your campaigns to the next level.