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Best Practice Guide: Display Orientation

Over time, Google AdWords has grown tremendously and with it, the possibilities for keyword switching. There have also been a lot of innovations and changes in the Google Display Network.

740x400Adwords-1 Google Display

Thus, the network’s reach has significantly grown with the possibilities to switch in apps, YouTube, and Gmail inboxes. Only recently has the new, responsive display format fundamentally changed the old text display. Before that, however, there were other, special formats for video and Gmail campaigns or Lightbox Ads. The various orientations that the Google Display Network offers in order to operate all these displays are especially exciting. The spectrum of different types and options for orientation is so significant that it is difficult to maintain an overview, and not just for newcomers to AdWords.

This article will help bring a little structure to the theme of display orientations and will deliver tips on the use of different orientations.

The Different Display Orientations

Over 90% of all Internet users have used the Google Display Network. This impressive number is due to a large number of websites that participate in the Google AdSense program. Added to that, however, is the reach from apps (Admob), YouTube, and Gmail.

But the Google Display Network is not only known for its immense reach - Google also sets the standard for precision and diversity of orientation options. In contrast to other display networks, Google can score with high traffic relevance. By combining orientation criteria, the potential scatter loss of the advertising campaign can be further minimized.

The orientations in the Google Display Network are based on four different methods: Placements, Keywords, Topics, and Target groups. These are presented below.

1. Placement Orientation

With placement orientation, websites, apps, or YouTube videos are logged in to place direct advertising there. Often, you already know which websites or blogs are relevant for your target group. With placement orientation, these are targeted directly without scatter loss.

Because of the high relevance, however, the potential reach of this orientation is also limited. If large, traffic-targeted placements are not integrated, this will generate little traffic. To get new placement ideas, we recommend the Google Display Planner, which is available in AdWords under "Tools." Alternatively, you can take a look at the placement finder tool, with which more exact placement recommendations can be called up.

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Figure 1: Generate new ideas on the website of the placement finder tool

But it is difficult to reach a certain traffic level in the display network with only placement orientation. For this, Google offers comprehensive orientations with which relevant traffic can be generated automatically.

2. Keyword / Contextual Orientation

The choice of placement takes place automatically with the keyword orientation. The logged-in keywords are compared with the available placement of the Google Display Network. If Google identifies a contextual relationship between the keyword and a placement, the advertisement is immediately switched on. In this, Google observes not only the content of the websites and frequently used words, but the language used and the structure of the site. From experience, the linking of keyword and placement works well in the basic setting.

Using "Audience" and "Content" however, can more accurately regulate how the algorithm should process the orientation. With the option "Content" Google attempts to focus the activation on above-average relevant placements, but the maximal scope is reduced to 30%. This configuration is to be recommended at the start of a display campaign, however. This configuration is also known under the term "Display Select Keywords."

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Figure 2: Keyword configuration of the contextual orientation.

If the logged-in keywords achieve too little traffic under "keywords," the configuration can then be converted to the "target group." In both cases, it is important to evaluate the activation placements and to regularly check their quality.

To research good keywords for this orientation, the Google Display Planner is again the best choice. But good keywords from search campaigns can also be used for the display orientation. Keywords from your own brand or from competitors achieve particularly good results. Through these keywords, you can often find relevant, but specific, placements.

3. Orientation by Topic

Advertising can be made even more convenient with the help of orientation topics. For this, Google has categorized the complete inventory of the Display Network and sorted it into topic categories (https://support.google.com/adwords/answer/156178?hl=de). The AdWords user can log in to the display advertising to reach, for example, all placements on the topic of "Mercedes Benz" (cf. Figure 3).

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Figure 3: The orientation of topics in the example "Autos and Vehicles."

In the choice of topics, it is important to keep the predicted reach (available impressions per week) in mind. Google automatically inserts this when logging in to AdWords, because the higher the available reach, the greater the danger of generating irrelevant traffic via the orientation. The topic of orientation should, therefore, be combined with further orientation criteria as much as possible (see section "Combination of Orientations").

4. Orientation via Target Groups / Interests and Remarketing

The previously presented orientations are all based on the contents of the placement (whether having to do with content, with context, or with entry of the URL). In orientation via target groups, the user and his or her surfing behavior is in focus. As already mentioned, Google reaches the majority of all Internet users through the Display Network. But the wide distribution of Google Analytics also ensures that Google has unending databases for analysis. Through machine learning, Google can compare the behavior of users in the meantime using this data and can allocate these determined clusters of users. The advertiser can use these segments to make his or her advertisement user-specific with AdWords.

Remarketing lists of AdWords are a known example of this. If a user visits one of the advertiser's websites, a cookie is placed in the user's browser. Using this cookie, the user can be immediately recognized by Google in the Display Network. The information that the user has already visited the site before plays an important role in the modulation of the advertising. For example, the user receives a display that shows precisely the product that he or she saw previously on the advertiser's website. The advertising display thus becomes more relevant to the user. Remarketing lists can be created, even from the email addresses from its own customer database (customer match). Google compares the email addresses with the addresses of Google accounts and places the user into the appropriate remarketing list, if they match. Of course, the customary data protection conditions apply here that also apply for newsletters (double opt-in, etc.).

The more user-specific information is available, the more individual and relevant the presentation of the advertising displays can be.

With the orientations "Affinity audiences" and "In-market audiences", Google relies on other user signals. Because of statistical agreements, Google finds user groups with similar behavioral patterns. With "Affinity audiences", users are assembled into groups based on their interests. Thus, for example, there are "Truck & SUV Enthusiasts" (cf. Figure 4).

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Figure 4: The target groups orientation "Affinity audiences", for example "Truck & SUV Enthusiasts".

With "In-market audiences," Google goes one step further. The user behavior will be analyzed to determine whether or not there is a clear intention to buy on the part of the user. For example, you can target users who would presumably like to buy a used vehicle (cf. Figure 5).

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Figure 5: The target group orientation "In-market audiences", for example "Motor Vehicles (Used)."

The orientation "Similar to remarketing lists" functions in the same way. Here it is the visitors to a website (thus the users of the remarketing lists) whose user behavior is analyzed to find statistical duplicates.

Google can also use these methods for YouTube remarketing lists (users who have seen a video) or for remarketing lists created from customer data. The principle remains the same.

Best Practice Target Groups

The functions of the orientations are hard to grasp and, from outside, the actual differences in the algorithms cannot be clearly evaluated. However, some recommendations can be made.

The remarketing campaigns should not be missing from any AdWords account. Anyone who curates an email program with a sufficiently large number of customers should also look at the customer match function and target his or her customers in the AdWords campaign with their remarketing lists. The remaining orientations that statistically evaluate user behavior can then be carefully tested. Depending on categories of interest and the type of website, the performance of a campaign can differ strongly. It is also recommended to combine different kinds of orientations.

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Figure 6: Overview over all Target Groups

Combination of Orientation / or of the Difference of “Orientation and Demand” and “Only Demand”

As already mentioned, the various orientations can be combined with each other at any time.

You can, for example, combine the topic "Mercedes Benz" with target groups ready to buy "Motor vehicles (used)." Activation could be set so that a presentation occurs when the user of the target groups searches for "Car buyers" on websites with the topic "Mercedes Benz." Both orientations are thus limited. The maximal scope of each individual orientation is thus lowered.

In the orientation configurations, the combination of the orientation to the configuration "Tagret and bid" should be considered (cf. Figure 7).

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Figure 7: The configurations "Target and bid" and "Bid only."

With regard to orientations with particularly high reach, this is a sensible configuration for regulating traffic at a suitable level and thus optimizing quality.

The configuration "Bid only" would be activated instead of the main orientation (that is the orientation that is logged first). In the above-named example, this would be the topic of orientation of "Mercedes Benz" (see Figure 8 light-blue color). The additional orientation "Car buyer" (see Figure 8 light-red color) could, for example, trigger a CPC increase if users with the intention to buy surf websites on the topic of Mercedes Benz (thus for the pink section from Figure 8).

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Figure 8: With the amounts displayed, Google illustrates with which configurations the orientations are active at the time.

Best Practice

In addition to the already-named recommendations on the individual orientations, there is a whole other set of tricks to increase the relevance of traffic in the display campaign.


1. Use options for website categories


With these options, certain categories of placements can be excluded. It is worthwhile to exclude certain categories that don’t fit your sites.


2. Placement adsenseformobileapps


In comparison to regular website placements, app placements perform least well in terms of performance values. For most AdWords users, it is thus recommended to deactivate the switch to apps. This can currently only be done by logging “adsenseformobileapps.com” as a negative placement in the campaign.


3. Deactivate AdWords from automatically finding new customers


In creating orientations, Google offers the possibility "Automatically allow AdWords to find new customers". In our experience, you should not activate this option if this orientation has already yielded good results and you don't want to push the reach. In starting a new campaign, however, this function is not required.


4.Use a presentation of reach


The presentation of reach is an important aid for determining whether the selected orientation is specific enough. The possible targeted reach should fit the daily budget of the campaign.

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Figure 9: In each orientation, the available scope is displayed in impressions per week.


5. Campaign structure


Even in the development of the display campaigns, it is expected to break down the type of orientation as precisely as possible. For each type of orientation used (placements, keywords, topics, target groups with common interests, target groups willing to buy, etc.), at least one separate campaign should be created. In the Ad groups, you can decide between various advertising formats (banner, text).


6. Carry out regular placement evaluation and list placement exclusions


The evaluation of performance should take place regularly to be able to react to irrelevant placements. Poor placements should be excluded in a timely fashion. For better handling, it is recommended to administer these on the account level above "lists with placement exclusions" (in jointly-used libraries). Even in large display campaigns with many orientations, the expense can be reduced tremendously with placement evaluation.


There are many different ways to determine the appropriate targeting with AdWords. This large variety, clearly has its pitfalls: It requires a lot of experience and know-how about campaign development and maintenance, to ensure the proper handling and optimal use of the software. On top of that most campaigns require a substantial amount of data, already prior their first set-up. Both conditions have to be met to develop customizable high-quality campaigns with AdWords.

No idea how or even where you should start? This article will give you a first intro to AdWords, illustrating its opportunities as well as obstacles you might encounter while using the software. Our goal is, to steepen your learning curve while working with AdWords and supporting you in developing your first campaigns.

In its essence, AdWords helps you to communicate more effectively with your target audience. While you certainly can adjust your assumptions about your target audience within the process of optimizing any previously set-up campaign, you will need an initial profile of your target group before starting with AdWords. The software supports you with the technical set-up of your display network. The creative and market research parts, which are essential prior to any campaign, still have to be managed alongside this set-up. Without a clear vision who you want to reach and the appropriate wording to communicate with your target audience, your AdWords campaigns won’t be able to deliver the desired results.

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Published on May 2, 2017 by Johannes Stabel