Many websites monetize their traffic by providing space to display ads:
Example of webpage with dedicated space for ads
You can picture these ads as an online version of billboards or LED screens. They can contain static and interactive images or even short videos. The main difference is display ads are one click away from the promoted website. On the other hand, billboards have much higher friction.
For this reason, display ads are great for increasing brand awareness and consideration among your target audience. They can also work to drive conversions when you target visitors of your website who showed interest in your products (retargeting).
I’ll give you an overview of how the biggest ad platform for display ads—Google Display Network (GDN)—works. In Google Ads, you can either target people (audiences, demographics) or content (keywords, topics, placements) with your display ads.
The easiest way to launch your display campaign is to use the predefined affinity categories as audience targeting. Here’s an example of those:
List of affinity categories
Sounds good so far, right? Well, unless your target market is really broad, it’s likely a waste of your ad budget. That’s because Google isn’t really that good at profiling its users. Here are a few interests that Google associates with me:
List of interests
You can find yours by logging in to your Google account > Data and privacy > Ad settings.
I haven’t been to half of those places and have no interest in most of the things listed. I probably just searched for or clicked on something at some point that caused Google to put me into related affinity audiences. Because of that, it shows me display ads that I’m not even remotely interested in.
A great targeting option that’s easy to set up is to build your own custom intent or affinity segments.
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These segments are created based on a set of searched-for keywords, visited websites, or used apps. You can basically tell Google to show your ads to people who searched for certain things or visited websites related to your business.
Social media ads
The term “social media ads” encompasses a lot of different ad platforms and formats. For most people, this is likely what comes to mind when you say social media ad:
Braun's Insta post of its new shaver
That’s an example of an image ad (in this case, in a carousel format). But there are many video ads as well. There are even video-only platforms like Tik Tok. What about YouTube? That could also be considered social media, right?
There’s no point in listing all of it here. You get it. Social media ads compete with the versatility of Google Ads, as they can easily drive all stages of the marketing funnel too. Videos work best for top-of-the-funnel, while conversions will most likely be made from clicking on image ads.
Account structures and bidding work more or less the same across the board. What I’ve shown you so far in Google Ads is applicable to Facebook Business Manager, Twitter Ads, and other platforms as well.