Using the Google Display Network to Scale Customer Acquisition

Having a customer acquisition strategy is an essential need for any business.

Without it, you're going to face serious challenges growing your company. That said, finding ways to acquire new customers is tough.  

There are a ton of different account strategies that have been discussed and published to help you identify the best way to use paid channels for customer acquisition. And, while these playbooks are a great place to start, we’ve learned that sustainable growth comes down to a fair amount of experimenting and calibrating based on success. And, the answer often varies with each business.

Paid Advertising Experiments

Today I’d love to share a recent Google Adwords tactic we’ve been implementing to help companies scale their customer acquisition efforts. Using the Google Display Network, we’ve been able to successfully assist mature businesses entering new markets, as well as help startups launch and quickly find customers.

While the Display Network is traditionally harder to leverage for lead generation compared to the Search Network, we’ve found that with enough testing, a true understanding of your target audience, and an integrated marketing plan, it can be a powerful channel to help you reach new prospects and acquire new customers.

Let’s dive into the details...

What is Google Display?

The Google Display network is a powerful nexus that reaches more than 2 million websites and 90 percent of internet users. Using the display ‘campaign type’ in Adwords, you can get your ads in front of specific target audiences while they’re browsing websites, watching a YouTube video, checking their email, or using apps.

How is it different than Google Search?

Google has two advertising networks: Search and Display.

The Search Network allows advertisers to place text ads on Google’s search engine. With search, your ads appear when users are searching for keywords or phrases you are bidding on. Text ads on the Search Network show above and below Google organic search results.

The Display Network is designed to help you find the your audience. It places your image and text ads into select websites, where it can reach users while they browse.

One of the biggest differences between these two networks is intent. Google searchers are looking for something specific while browsers are shown ads based upon their interests and behavior. In other words, Search helps potential customers find you, and Display helps you find potential customers.  

Search-Network-vs-Display-Network.png#asset:166

Using Google Display as an Acquisition Channel

Google Display ads have a role at the top and bottom of the marketing funnel.

At the top of the funnel, display ads are great for awareness and brand reach. This is because the Google Display Network has a massive reach, making it easier to cast a wide net.

Display ads can be used at the bottom of the funnel for acquisition campaigns. Once you’ve used display ads to effectively open up the funnel to as many people as possible, you can identify top audiences, and remarket to them later with more conversion-focused campaigns.

Here’s how we do it:

1. Understand your target audience

With Display, browsers are shown ads based on their interests and behavior. This makes it vital to understand your users so you can target correctly. When we start working with a client, the first thing we do is work to understand their target audience. To effectively do our jobs as paid advertisers, we need to know what the target audience cares about, what problems they are trying to solve, and what will motivate them to take action. We take the time to explicitly define these items to eliminate guesses and subjectivity. In fact, we don’t open Adwords or Facebook for account setup until the entire team feels confident that they know the target audience and the brands unique selling proposition.

2. Deploy multiple targeting combinations

Once we have a solid understanding of the target audience, we work to develop a handful of display audience targeting combinations. To illustrate this, we’ll share the story of a company that provides healthy gourmet food delivery service in Florida. We developed four display campaigns with the following audience targeting strategies for this account:

  • In-Market: In-market audiences is a way to connect with consumers who are actively researching or comparing products and services across Google Display Network publisher and partner sites and YouTube. To qualify someone as being in-market for a specific product or service, Google takes into account clicks on related ads and subsequent conversions, along with the content of the sites and pages they visit and the recency and frequency of the visits. For this category, we targeted individuals in the market for gyms and fitness classes in Florida.

  • Custom Affinity: Google defines custom affinity audiences as letting advertisers define whom they want to reach across the web, on any screen. By factoring in consumers’ most recent passions and ongoing interests, your message always reaches the right users. For this category, we targeted competitors and user with an affinity for fitness.

Adwords Custom AffinityCustom Affinity audience targeting in Adwords

  • Similar: Using similar audiences, you can find people who have similar search behavior to your existing remarketing list members. To get the best results with similar campaigns, we often layer the campaigns with other forms of targeting to increase efficiency. In this case, we layered on top performing keywords to the similar audiences.

  • Topics/KWs: Topic targeting lets you place your display ads on website pages about those topics, whether it's agriculture, music, or something else entirely. For this targeting option, we selected the following topics: cleansing, diets, detox, and fitness. In addition to these topics, we layered on top performing keywords to control spend.

3. Develop a compelling offer

To get the best results with these campaigns make sure to leverage creative copy relevant to the target audience. We set up our display campaigns with multiple copy options and let them run for at least 7 days until we optimize the top performers.  

In addition to crafting strong copy for cold traffic, we also like to use display retargeting to offer follow-up promotions. For the client used in the above example, we offered 10% off the first month of meals with the discount expiring in 24 hours.  

4. Test and optimize

Instead of just putting money into display campaigns, whether they are prospecting or remarketing, and hoping to see a positive return, it’s important to test multiple targeting combinations. This has helped us quickly identify high-performing display campaigns and allocate our budget more efficiently.

Analyzing how your display campaigns perform daily allows you to see the hot spots of opportunity where you should fire up your bids. Inversely, you’ll also learn about the campaigns you should dial back and save money.

If you want to grow, you’ll have to acquire and retain.

Our clients that are most successful with paid acquisition also focus on retention. Rather than putting their entire budget into the upfront traffic drivers and then hoping their leads will turn into profitable clients over time, they apply proven customer retention strategies that lead to long-term success.

Before launching your paid acquisition efforts make sure your retention plan is solid. It’s hard to have the foresight to plan for every bump a customer might run into but making sure your team is empowered to spring into action on the customers behalf is critical. You’ll end up wasting time and money if the customers your acquire through paid advertising don’t stick around.

Over to you!

What strategies have you tried? Where have you had success or failures? We'd love to have this conversation with you over on our Facebook page.

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