Often times I find that people treat the display network as secondary to search. I’ll admit, it’s not always the first thought that comes into my mind when I start thinking about how I’m going to tackle a new account. I never understood why that is. I mean, display is awesome, why should it take a backseat? After many sleepless nights of pondering this question, I’ve decided that the answer is in the options. For a long time, display was simply display. It didn’t have all of the cool tools and functionality that search did. Because it wasn’t complex and didn’t have all the bells and whistles, I feel like many folks didn’t spend the time to understand the intricacies of how to truly optimize a display campaign. Because of this, folks often don’t understand the power and flexibility of driving a highly optimized display campaign. To help bridge the gap, I’m going to tackle one of the first concepts that should be understood when breaking out a Display campaign on AdWords, how to scale your campaigns.

The primary thing to understand with Display is that using different features will reach different audiences. You want to break your campaigns out in such a way that all of your audiences are segmented. This will allow you to budget and bid to find the perfect display marketing mix to reach your goals.

Your audiences are going to be defined by a few primary characteristics, mainly their size, their conversion rate, and the cost of each conversion. You might be asking yourself, why split conversion rate and cost per conversion? Well, some campaigns might have higher than average conversion rates but also higher than average click costs, which could drive your conversion cost higher than the benefit of the increase in conversion rate. Make sense? Now that that’s out of the way, lets get into the details.

There are several types of Display campaigns you can break out so I’ll lay some out here as well as what you can expect in terms of reach, cost, and conversion rates. We’ll work from what is typically the most successful towards the campaigns that are more than likely going to provide higher lead costs.

Remarketing: Typically with remarketing, you will find small reach but with that will come the highest conversion rates and lowest conversion costs. If there is one type of display marketing you should be doing, this is it. You will be targeting people who have already interacted with your brand. With that said, get specific and scale your remarketing. Create different campaigns around your home page visitors, cart abandoners, product/services pages, or paid search landing pages. Having these campaigns split will allow you to scale your spend accordingly. Cart abandoners are going to provide the highest performance, which might influence you to bid to higher positions or dedicate unlimited budget (recommended). Home page visitors will provide the lowest level of remarketing performance so maybe you bid to a lower position or limit the budget to mitigate the higher lead costs.

Contextual or Keyword Targeting: This form of display will still provide good conversion rates and cost per conversion but will increase your reach considerably. Contextual campaigns will require some more tweaking but they can be very successful. Keyword targeting is the most popular as it’s what people are most familiar with. You should be able to find success with this but keep in mind that with a larger audience comes larger risks. You should be monitoring your performance on a granular basis to ensure you’re getting the most out of these campaigns.  Additionally, like remarketing, you can scale this category within itself. Branded keywords will perform better than broad product or service keywords for example.

DCO: These campaigns are still in beta but can be very helpful. First, it’s automated so they are relatively low maintenance. DCO campaigns reach a larger audience and typically find good conversion rates. Your conversion costs might be slightly higher because you may be paying more for clicks but overall, you should see good performance out of DCO. If DCO is available to you, I recommend giving it a try.

Interest Category Targeting: Interest categories are again a smaller snapshot of people, typically somewhere between the reach of Contextual and Remarketing. You are however less likely to find the high conversion rates and low lead costs. Interest targeting should still be manageable and in many instances you will find great success on some interest selections. You just have to keep in mind that when you talking about interests you are getting further away from your actual brand and because of that you are typically going to see your performance metrics slip a bit compared to the other targeting I’ve already discussed.

Topic Targeting: When you start talking about topics, you’re getting even further away from your brand. You’re also giving up some control, as you no longer are triggering ads with specific keywords you’ve selected as being meaningful. Because of this, you can expect your CPL to be the least effective. Conversely, you are also casting a big net. Topic targeting should reach a large audience, which has its benefits, despite a potentially higher lead cost. When scaling your topic campaign, you should think about the lifetime value of your client. Can you actually pay a little more than what you think you can for a conversion? If so, it might be beneficial to open it up. If not, you might want to think about ad position and capping budget because if you can make it work, even on a small level, you should be reaching an audience that your other campaigns don’t necessarily have covered.

With a little bit of thought and a lot of segmentation, you should start to see how your campaigns scale. Although what I laid out here is typical, it doesn’t mean that a topics campaign can’t outperform a retargeting campaign. The point of this is, if you don’t try it, you won’t know what works best for you. Also, if you don’t segment your campaigns, even within the categories I outlined here, you won’t necessarily have a great understanding of how each segment could perform or what audience behaviors you’re likely to see. As you scale, you should be able to draw a line in the sand of profitability, which hopefully will build confidence in the display network.

The last think I’ll leave you with is that it’s fine to have some gray area when you do draw that line. Your higher performing, specifically targeted campaigns should buy you the ability to run more broad lower performing campaigns. Remember that broad campaigns fuel more targeted campaigns on display and bring with them a whole bunch of value from a branding aspect. Think about attribution, view-through conversions, and lifetime values. If a topics campaign is still driving lead costs a couple bucks high, despite all your optimizations, does the profit from your other campaigns more than support those small loses? If so, think about staying with it. You’re still profitable and now you’re reaching a much larger audience, which is going to keep your sales funnel full.