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How to Make Display Ads Worth The Investment

September 29, 2020
written by Sam Carr

When it comes to brand awareness, display ads are king. But are you getting the most out of them?

Hate them or love them, Google’s display ads offer an excellent reach and ROI for advertisers looking to advertise their brand.

Compared to other ad types, display ads are visually appealing, cheaper, and excel in remarketing campaigns.

Yet many PPC advertisers often don’t get the most out of their display ads.

Unknown to many, Google’s placements can be very questionable and many times just be completely wrong. If you run a campaign about cat food, you’d expect your ads to show up on pet-related websites, but most of the time that’s not the case.

To get the most out of display ads, you need to optimise your campaigns to ensure you only pay for the best placements. Here’s how to do it.

What are display ads?

You’ve probably heard the term display ads when talking about pay-per-click ads, but for those who haven’t run any display campaigns before, what exactly are they?

Originally known as banner ads in the late ’90s, they had a much-needed upgrade in the early 2000s thanks to new technology. Instead of just being static adverts that webmasters updated every month, big networks came along such as Google’s Display Network (GDN) and created dynamic widgets that could be changed regularly.

This meant that webmasters only needed to place the code on their websites once and Google would automatically update their ads to optimize the placements. The results where that webmasters got more clicks on their ads and made more money, while advertisers got more relevant traffic.

Since then, the popularity of display ads has grown exponentially and with the introduction of new campaign types (such as re-marketing campaigns) thousands of businesses use them today.

One of the largest display networks out there at the moment is the Google Display Network (GDN). It currently has over 2,000,000 third party websites and can reach 90% of online visitors. If you’re looking to promote your brand, service or products, then you would definitely consider Google’s display network.

Display ads vs other ads

Compared to other types of ads out there, display ads are very unique in how they work and how they target people.

Traditionally many online ads used to be part of a closed network, such as Google’s search ads. Every ad was displayed on Google’s own search engine and was triggered when a user typed in a specific keyword or phrase. If the user never used Google and opted for Bing or Yahoo! instead, then they would never see the ads.

But unlike search ads, display ads are only found on third party websites and the specific ad shown to the user depends on their browsing habits. Almost any website can sign up to Google’s AdSense program and have display ads on their website in a matter of hours. This means that even if someone has never used Google in their life, they’re still very likely to see display ads.

This is one of the biggest advantages of display ads, its reach. Will millions of websites running display ads you can quickly target tens of thousands of websites and users.

However, it’s not all positive, one of the biggest downsides of display ads are that they can ruin a user’s experience. Especially when they are plastered all over the website, which in turn can slow down the loading and interaction of the page. You might think having more ads on the page is good for advertisers, but having too many can be a big problem.

The dangers of display ads

From what we’ve covered so far, display ads are probably in your good books by now. But unfortunately, it’s not all good news.

Display ads currently have some of the highest levels of ad fraud compared to any other type of ad campaign.


Because many fraudsters can cheat the system and earn money thanks to Google’s AdSense network. Unlike search ads that only appear on Google’s search engine, every time a user clicks a display ad, Google pays the website owner for displaying the ad.

Depending on the niche of the website and what ads are displayed, this can range from a few pennies per click to a few pounds.

Currently, all webmasters get 68% of the revenue derived from the click. So the more ad clicks they get, the more money they make.

This “easy money” has attracted plenty of shady figures who purposely absolute and cheat the system to make themselves more money. And in recent years, there has been a huge increase in the number of ad fraud rings specifically designed to steal advertiser’s money.

With plenty of shady websites out there who participate in ad stacking, hidden ads and other unethical tactics, it seems like nearly everyone is out to get your money!

Optimising display campaigns

Thankfully, Google and other networks give users a lot of control when it comes to display ads optimisation. To get the most out of your ad budget, advertisers can specifically define which websites they don’t want their ads running on.

There are many reasons why you might choose to exclude a specific website or webpage from displaying your ads. And it’s not just down to fraud and malicious behaviour. Sometimes, some websites just don’t perform well for a range of reasons and end up wasting money. Or sometimes advertisers just don’t want their brand associated with a certain website or topic.

To find which websites you should exclude from your display ads, there are several paths to take. The first and most obvious way is to check your campaign data and look for any low-performing websites that don’t convert. If you’re getting lots of clicks but no conversions, then it’s probably best to exclude them and stop them from wasting any more money going forward.

Another method is to do a visual inspection of each website. Although it can be fairly time-consuming considering your ads could appear on thousands of different websites, taking a look at websites with the highest click-through rate is recommended.

You never know if it has a high CTR because the website is relevant to your ads, or because the website has ads in places people are likely to misclick. Without looking at the website you won’t be able to know.

Grab our free exclusion list

Luckily there is a much faster and easier way to exclude the websites that are only going to waste your money. We’ve done all the hard work for you.

As part of our ad fraud detection service, we track fraudulent clicks and invalid traffic every single day.

Having tracked thousands of campaigns from thousands of different advertisers in different niches, we’ve discovered the top sources you should exclude from your display ads.

Spanning across websites, mobile apps, and YouTube videos, we’ve compiled a list of 60,000+ different placement exclusions you can copy and paste into any campaign.

No matter if you’re running your first display ad campaign, or you’re currently managing thousands of different clients, this list is sure to come in handy.

Download our free 60,000+ exclusions list here.

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