Today’s post is by Sr. Account Manager Rick Farago, who has been in the SEM biz since 2003 and has one of the best slapshots in the Tobacco Belt.

Let’s say you have your GDN (Google Display Network) Campaign set up and running, but it’s not performing as well as you would like. Here are a few adjustments that you can make to improve your GDN campaign.

1. Targeting: create ad groups based on targeting options, and only target those options in their respective ad groups. 

This will allow you to optimize the GDN campaign more efficiently. (Aside: you will also want to create a remarketing ad group for targeting remarketing only. We’ll get to that later.)

gdn targeting

Here’s a breakdown of your targeting options: 

A)     Keywords: Do your research and only use core keywords; don’t look for the long tail, as the core keywords will cover long-tail queries. Add these to your GDN keyword ad groups.

B)      Placements: Take advantage of the Dimensions tab and view automatic placements to create a list of placements that have converted well. Target these placements specifically in the GDN placements ad group you create.

gdn placements targeting 

If you don’t have historical data, use the search feature or do your own research to find a few relevant sites. Note: be careful with the search feature; it seems to be designed to help Google’s pocket more than your clients.

search for placements targeting

Do these look viable? Google thinks so.


C)      Topics: Be very selective with the topics you add to your GDN topics ad group. Take advantage of the ability to drill down to the most specific topic versus choosing a top-level topic.


D)     Interests & Remarketing: You will use this section in your Audience ad group and your Remarketing ad group. (Note: treat Interests/Remarketing for your Audience ad group just like your Topics ad group. Be selective.) 

In the Remarketing ad group, you will select your all visitors or your main list as the target:

GDN interests and remarketing targeting 

 2. Take advantage of the Shared Library.

Create negative keyword lists and negative placements that you can share across campaigns instead of going into each campaign and setting them up. Keep in mind that these are your core negatives; you will still need to set some negatives at the individual ad group or campaign level.

The Shared Library is also where you can create your converted visitor list under Audiences to use as an exclusion in all your campaigns.

gdn shared library 

Campaign Exclusions can be added at the bottom of the Display Network tab page:

campaign exclusions gdn 

 3. Exclude certain categories. 

Go back to Exclusions and click on Categories; then, under campaign level, select “Add exclusions.”

category exclusions gdn

Non-performing categories you will almost always want to exclude include: In-video, in-game, parked domains, error pages, Death & Tragedy, and “Juvenile, gross & bizarre content.”

gdn exclude categories 

4. Exclude certain age groups.

Under Exclusions, select the Age tab; under Campaign level, select “Add exclusions.” You should know what age groups fit your audience. There is no reason to target outside of this. Select those outside your target and save.

age exclusions gdn

5. Don’t go overboard with all your GDN targeting options. 

Be selective with the keywords you choose and the placements, topics, and interests you target. Optimization will allow you to expand each month. The biggest thing with these adjustments is to know your target audience, start small, and build from there. Throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks is a poor model to follow. You will find yourself spending too much, targeting the wrong audience, and chasing down all the poor performers in your campaigns. This only benefits Google, not your client or business.

There you have it: tips for shoring up your GDN campaigns. Any other tricks to share?

– Rick Farago, Sr. Account Manager


  1. PPC Associates January 14th, 2013

    5 Clever Adjustments that Can Save Your GDN Campaign:

  2. Terry Whalen January 14th, 2013

    Hi Rick,

    Much agreed that it seems best to start more targeted and focused and expand from their when it comes to display.

    Question about #4: what percent of display inventory does Google tyically know the user’s age? I’m thinking that for non-Google display inventory (ie. we’re not including or it’s way under 10%.

  3. Rick Farago January 14th, 2013


    I’d say Google has much more insight than that, even from non-Google display inventory. While this will most likely vary from industry to industry, and country to country. I’d say Google can pinpoint closer to 45% – 50% of GDN visitors by gender. Keep in mind that single computers in a household with multiple users will skew any demographic profile so you have to take the data with a grain of salt.

    You could always experiment by setting up your GDN ad groups to target by gender and see what the data shows. Google will break this out by male, female and unknown if you select “specific genders” and select all 3 check boxes versus going with the default of “All genders” in the settings.

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