Skip to main content

Display or unrequested advertising – an alternative to Search Ads

To be honest, online advertising has always been mildly infuriating.

Slowing down your page loading time, hovering over your content and fooling us into clicking it. Recent studies have shown that more than half of users disapprove of online ads, at least partly.

Maybe that is why so many people use Ad Blocks these days: more than 615 million devices use ad blockers, according to some.

Although developers are constantly finding ways to elude ad blockers, and publishers might ask for user support in the form of a request to voluntarily disable the ad blocker, the core fact remains: most people do not like ads.

If you are a website owner trying to get more traffic using advertising, this could be a bit of a problem, right?

The most annoying advertising focuses on pushing unrequested ads in between the content of other websites. The less annoying way is to provide ads as a response to requests from users. We have mentioned the second type before, in our SEO vs PPC Search (link) post: Search Network advertising in Google search results pages.

This is the type of advertising that responds to an immediate need of the users searching for products or services and it can lead to 10-20% people clicking on a paid search result. The average search ad gets about 2% click-through rate in Google, with much variation depending on how high it is shown in the results rankings.

The black sheep of online advertising?

But we did not get to talk a lot about the other option, the “black sheep” of online advertising, the unrequested, sometimes irritating ads in the Display network. The most common system for display advertising is also done using Google, just like Search advertising.

While the Search option is pretty straightforward, the Display system is a little more complex. It uses website owners who offer space for ads on their websites through a service called AdSense and matches these websites to ads pushed by marketers through AdWords. This leads to much poorer results in terms of click-through rates.

The average CTR for ads in the Display Network is 0.35%. This means that an ad needs to be shown 10.000 times for it to have 35 users click on it.

The fat finger syndrome

That is not all. Even more discouraging is the fact that many of these clicks are accidental, especially on mobile displays.

Various sources claim to have research results showing about 50% of clicks on ads on mobile displays are accidental. If you are following traffic using Visitor Analytics, make sure you try to identify these accidental clicks, by comparing mobile user behaviour to average user behaviour. You may notice very short visits with a referral from mobile ads, as well as a very high bounce rate on these user sessions. This probably means that these visits correspond to accidental clicks. So 0.35% might really mean 0.17% real, interested people clicking on your ad. Not very encouraging stats, is it?

Of course, these results may vary per industry, with higher interest, for instance, for technology display ads.

The quality of the ad copy is another factor. Also, 0.17% of a very large display volume can be relevant. There are websites that have more than 2 million views per day. An ad on that website could potentially bring 3400 users to your website. And that is just from one source. In the Display network, you can have access to thousands of publishers relevant to your business.

How do we build an audience with Display advertising

There are a few different ways to target your ads.

Using keywords – just like in Search advertising, you may choose one or more keywords relevant to your business. Google will display your ads:

  • to people likely to be interested in these keywords and also on web pages, apps, and videos related to these keywords
  • on web pages, apps, and videos related to these keywords

Using audience interests – there are several detailed options to choose from here. For example, you may choose an affinity audience, that targets users based on their long-term interests. Google tracks IPs and has extensive data on the search preferences of users. This is very similar to the system Facebook uses.

That data is used for your ad to be sent to users in an interest category such as “book lovers” or “health and fitness buffs” or countless others. So, regardless of the actual website content, your ad may be shown anywhere during the chosen category’s navigation. A person often researching health and fitness on the web might see your food supplement ads on a food blog or a news page.

Placements – you can choose the actual websites where you want your ad to be displayed. The most popular websites will also have higher prices.

Demographics – Google can estimate the age user, gender and the parental status of most users, based on their IPs history. You can send your ads to a custom demographic group.

For example, if you have a bike rental website, choosing “bike” as a keyword will place your ad on blogs about biking and biking fan pages, but, if you choose the first option under 1, also on other websites that bike fans usually visit.

Of course, on their own, all the above options might create an audience that is too wide. In order to narrow it down, you can mix the targeting options.

Example: I have a website that sells furniture. I choose to show my ads on websites related to the keywords “interior design”, “art deco”, “homes”, but only to people in the audience in the “home décor enthusiasts” and only if they are women between 35 to 54 years old.

Narrowing your audience down to the most relevant group will most likely increase your ad performance significantly. You can get results from unrequested advertising, too, if you set it up the right way.

Want to know more about improving your website content or traffic? Check out some great tools to use when you are editing your website content, learn what is pay per click and go through our comparison on SEO vs. Pay per Click Search Network!

This page was updated on: 12. July 2018 - 10:00