Your Complete Guide to Google Display Ads

I’m certain you have seen hundreds, perhaps even thousands of display ads in your lifetime of website surfing. Maybe it was something that took your eye because it was relevant to you and one of your hobbies? Or maybe it was a business you have never heard of? Welcome, you have entered the world of display advertising.

This is a practice most commonly done through Google Ads, and in particular the Google Display Network. However, it is not entirely limited to this platform. Display Video 360 and Magnite are good examples of platforms where you can set up display ads to serve across the interwebs. For the purpose of this guide, I will be focusing on Google Ads and the Display Network.

Google Ads and the Display Network

Tens of millions of dollars are spent on the Google Display Network (GDN) every DAY. As the Search Network becomes populated with competitors, it will make this area tougher to break into. Therefore, the GDN could be the ideal platform for you.

After all, you can place your business’ ads on over 3 million different websites. With the specific targeting you have available, it’s easy to make your ad appear on the sites you know your audience will be populating. The vast reach that you can achieve with a modest budget is why so many smaller businesses are starting to take advantage of the GDN.

Ad Types and Sizes

When you think of text ads, they’re all going to look pretty similar. That’s one of the beauties of display ads, as you have so many different options that you can design and use to advertise your business. The most common size you will come across is a Mid-page unit (MPU), which is 300x250px.


The biggest benefit of this size is that it can be viewed on both mobile devices and computers. Most other sizes are either too large to fit the mobile dimensions or too small to be housed on sites viewed on a pc. If you were to press on with pushing display ads, at least one creative should be an MPU to receive the best possible results.

Another largely popular size is the billboard, ironically a large, popular size. Coming in at 970x250px, this advert is one that you will commonly find at the top of web pages, like the one shown below.

A huge plus side to this artwork is that you can fit a lot of detail in, or equally scale up your image sizes to make them stand out. The Call to Action (CTA) button is clear and whilst small, in an area of the ad with the most going on to make it jump out to you. It’s a clever strategy to place your hyperlink button close to something on your display ad which is going to make people much more likely to visit your site.

The third ad size I would highly recommend is the filmstrip banner. This is 300x600px and again is a very common size found on most websites with ad space available. It will appear looking like this:

Like the billboard, it allows you plenty of space to work with, to try and get your marketing message across in the most precise and efficient way as possible. As you can see from this ad, they have done it in a way so that they leave quite a lot of white space.

This is uncommon; however, it is very smart. It forces you to focus on the detail in the middle of the graphic, so you immediately know the message, the CTA, and what it is you will be getting by going to this website.

There are a fair few other sizes which you can incorporate into your creative library which can include; leaderboard (728x90px), skyscraper (160x600px), mobile large (320x150px) and mobile small (320x50px).

All of the sizes seen above can be displayed as simple PNG or JPEG graphics, but other types are commonly seen more often and have more interactivity. You can create your artwork in a GIF format, meaning you can have more than one slide of information if you feel like you can’t fit everything you want into one graphic. If you’re leaning towards the side of videos, you can take the extra step and create HTML ads, which have a lot more details and run like videos on the sites you want. Be careful though, as a large file size can cause slow loading page speeds and websites will not want these ads running all too much.

Another quality option at your disposal is a responsive display ad. This works in a similar vein to that of a responsive text ad, in that you provide various ad assets. Google will then order them in such a way that it believes the user would like to see it, making them more likely to interact. If you use this ad type, make sure to check the “Combinations” tab to determine which headlines, descriptions, and images are the most effective, and which are not so good for your campaign.

Costs and Statistics

Similarly to the search network, the display network runs on a live auction basis. If your creative is eligible for the auction, you will instantly bid against competitors based on a few different factors. These will be your maximum cost per click (CPC) and your Quality Score.

More often than not, your actual CPC will be lower than your max. CPC. This is because your winning bid will only need to be 1p more than your competitors’ highest bid. Your quality score is how Google measures your ad against the audience you are trying to reach. This will include ad content, CTA, and landing page relevance.

This is considered to be a key area for businesses that have a smaller budget, as the typical CPC is over 4 times less than the CPC of search ads. The interaction that search ads garner generally holds more value, but display ads have such a broad outreach that they should always be considered if you don’t want to be spending the big bucks just yet.

It is also a general rule of thumb to not rank the performance of your display ad campaign against any search ad campaigns that you are running. Display ads do not reach the standard click-through rate (CTR) levels that search ads often achieve, and will probably not get the total conversions also. This shouldn’t put you off display ads at all though, as you will want to compare your campaign performance against the average that your competitors are expected to achieve.

A CTR of 0.05% is standard across the board for most industries to want to achieve as a minimum, and if you are getting over 0.1%, your ads are definitely performing well. From my personal experience of running display ad campaigns, I have found the MPU and Billboard sizes to be the real winners, often pulling in a CTR well above average. This will obviously depend on many factors though, from your budget to the design, the landing page experience to the CTA placement. Keep everything in mind when pushing on with a display ad campaign to ensure you outrank your competitors.

Display Ad Targeting

There are various ways in which you can focus your ads towards the ideal audience for you. Just be careful with targeting your display ads specifically, as this will dramatically increase your average CPC.

The first thing that you will want to apply to a campaign is an audience. You should know your own audience better than anyone, so make sure your display ads are focused on these people. Of course, you will want to branch out to try and reach new users, so an affinity list will be ideal in finding people who are interested in your area without being direct customers. We would also advise trying out a few lists so that you have some scope, and as previously mentioned, your targeting isn’t too specific from the get-go.

Another major part of your targeting will be the placement of your display ads. With Google, you have the opportunity to place your ads on the sites that you want, but be careful. Certain websites will charge more for public auction inventory, and sites you may want to be on will not have the sizes you have for an affordable CPC.

A key area which you should work on is your demographics. More likely than not, your audiences’ age will trend towards a certain group, be it young adults up to 25 years old, or older people that are 55+. If you know this to be the case, you can exclude age groups from your campaigns so that you can be sure ads will not reach people that you know will not be as likely to become customers.

However, don’t feel like you are just limited to this. You can always set up multiple ad groups and run more specific campaigns in some, and general campaigns in others.

Display Video 360 and Magnite

If Google Ads is not something that you want to deal with, do not fret. There are a few other very good options that have useful features the GDN doesn’t have, whilst still keeping the core platform similar.

Display Video 360 is a solely display based platform, and in my personal opinion, this is a better option than the display network. That is especially if you are focusing a lot of effort on multiple different types of ads across different networks. It also has an integrated reporting feature to make data-sharing simple. However, it is quite difficult to get access to a DV360 account as you need to have a monthly spend on Google Ads of around £10,000.

Not a fan of giving your money to Google? Chances are you’re not the only one. Magnite will be the platform for you, created when Project Rubicon and Telaria joined forces to propel themselves forward to try and rival Google, in terms of selling-side platforms. Here you will have access to a very similar public inventory with plenty of practical solutions. A huge bonus with the Telaria side is the improved access to Connected TV advertising, an area of marketing where we see things picking up quickly as more smart TV’s show more ads.


Display ads are an invaluable tool for your marketing strategy, they might not be the conversion getters like the search ads, but they will get you all across the internet to access new users who may have never come across your business.

You have various methods of targeting to squeeze every last bit of relevancy into your campaigns, a whole host of sizes to design that can appeal to the reader’s eye, and much more.

Got any questions about how display ads work or how they could help your business? Get in touch with us today.

Want to find out more? Get in touch with us today!