Understanding and Utilizing the Google Display Network(GDN)

What Is the Google Display Network?

The Google Display Network (GDN) is a collection of websites, apps, and videos where your ads can appear. It offers a wide reach and various targeting options to help you reach your audience effectively.

The Google Display Network (GDN) encompasses millions of websites, apps, and videos where Google ads are displayed.

Display ads on the GDN can vary in appearance, such as the FedEx display ad shown.

The GDN collectively reaches a substantial percentage of internet users globally.

Using display ads, a type of Google ad, allows you to target this vast audience on the Google Display Network and reach millions of potential customers.

Why Use the GDN?

The Google Display Network (GDN) provides marketers with extensive reach, making it an effective platform to target diverse audiences.

Unlike search ads that target users actively searching for specific products or services, GDN allows advertisers to reach users who may not be actively seeking their offerings.

This broad reach is possible because nearly every website and blog contains content relevant to various target keywords, allowing ads to be displayed on relevant sites.

Utilizing the GDN can significantly enhance brand visibility, awareness, and ultimately drive sales.

How Does the Google Display Network Work? 

The Google Display Network (GDN) can display your online ads on websites, apps, or videos that are relevant to your business. Additionally, it can target users who meet the specific criteria you define, allowing for more effective ad placements.

Let’s see how it works in more detail.

Audience Targeting Based on Interests

Interest targeting on the Google Display Network allows advertisers to display their ads to users who have shown an interest in their products or services.

This targeting method also includes users who engage in activities related to the advertiser’s business, helping to reach a more relevant audience.

You can choose from three main interest-targeting categories: 

  1. Affinity Audiences
  2. Custom Affinity Audiences
  3. In-Market Audiences

Affinity Audiences

Affinity Audiences on the Google Display Network comprise 80 distinct groups categorized by interests, such as “running enthusiasts,” “action movie lovers,” or “book lovers.”

Advertisers can target one or multiple affinity audiences with their ads.

It’s important to note that while there’s no limit to the number of affinities you can target, adding more will result in a more refined audience but may reduce your overall reach and potential impressions.

Custom Affinity Audiences

You can refine your targeting on the Google Display Network by using keywords to create custom audiences.

For instance, if you’re advertising your triathlon gear store, you might use keywords like “triathlon training,” “beginner triathletes,” or “triathlon events.”

Google will display your ads to users visiting sites that contain these keywords. Additionally, you can specify URLs that your audience might visit, such as triathlete.com or ironman.com, to target specific sites where you want your ads to appear.

In-Market Audiences

This targeting category allows you to reach users who are actively researching products or services similar to yours. It’s particularly useful for increasing awareness among those who are “in-market” to buy, meaning they have a high purchase intent.

For instance, these users might have added triathlon gear to their shopping cart on another website or watched product review or comparison videos.

Audience Targeting Based on Demographics

Demographic targeting enables you to reach potential customers based on specific characteristics such as age, gender, parental status, or household income. By combining demographic targeting with interest targeting, you can refine your audience further, reaching a more relevant group.

For example, if you own a yoga studio for women and want to promote a special class for working mothers, you can target the “Female” demographic group within the “25-54” age range, specifying “Parent” status. You can also include affinity groups related to yoga, pilates, and fitness.

Keep in mind that the more specific your targeting, the smaller your audience will be. It’s advisable to test several targeting combinations to determine which ones yield the best results in terms of conversions.

Google Display Network vs. Google Search Network

The primary distinction between the Google Display Network and the Google Search Network lies in where your ads are displayed.

The Google Search Network comprises websites and apps associated with Google Search, where your ads can appear.

Your ads on the Google Search Network can be displayed in Google search results and other Google partner search sites when users search for phrases relevant to your keywords.

Like this:

On the other hand, with the Google Display Network, your ads are shown to users while they are visiting other websites, using apps, or watching videos.

When using the Google Display Network (GDN), you might not always reach individuals actively searching for what you offer, unlike the Google Search Network.

One noticeable difference between the two is the targeting approach. In the Search Network, advertisers target specific keywords, while in the Display Network, they target audiences, interests, and websites.

Additionally, the Search Network typically excels at capturing audiences with higher intent, while the Display Network is more effective for brand awareness campaigns.

Here’s a visual to illustrate the main differences between the two:

How Much Does It Cost to Use the Google Display Network?

The average cost per click on the Google Display Network (GDN) is typically less than $1, but your total cost will depend on your budget and bidding strategy.

Similar to the Google Search Network, the GDN operates on a live auction system where you’re charged each time someone clicks on your ads.

One advantage of the GDN is that there’s generally less competition for keyword bids compared to the Search Network. This can make it easier to reach users interested in your products or services, even though their intent may not be as strong.

Advertisers often turn to the GDN for brand awareness campaigns due to the higher number of impressions available.

How to Create Google Display Ads

To create a display campaign and run your ads on the Google Display Network (GDN), follow these steps:

Access Google Ads: Log in to your Google Ads account.

Navigate to Campaigns: In the left-hand menu, click on “Campaigns.”

Create a New Campaign: Click the blue plus button to create a new campaign.

Choose Your Campaign Goal: Select “New campaign” and then choose your campaign goal. If you don’t have a specific goal, you can create a campaign without a goal’s guidance.

Select Display Campaign Type: Choose “Display” as the campaign type.

Enter Campaign Details: Enter your website URL and campaign name. Click “Continue” to proceed.

Then, you’ll be prompted to: 

  • Choose your target location, language, and set your budget and bidding strategy.
  • Add audience-targeting parameters to refine who sees your ads.
  • Write your ad copy and upload visuals (images or videos) for your ads.
  • Review your campaign settings and click “Publish” to launch your campaign.

How to Optimize Your Ads for the Google Display Network

Use the following guidelines to create optimized, responsive Display Network ads.

(Responsive display ads are the default ad type for GDN.)

Google will ask you to submit your assets (e.g., headlines, logos, images, and descriptions). And it’ll automatically adjust everything to fit different devices and available ad space

Follow these best practices to create ads that reach users and drive performance:

Stick to Google’s Image Size Guidelines

Images play a crucial role in display ads, helping convey your brand and message effectively.

You have the flexibility to upload up to 15 images in three aspect ratios: square, landscape, and portrait. Alternatively, you can opt for images from Google’s free stock image library.

Like this:

Google lets you set the ratio of the images you select from their library.

Here are some key guidelines for image sizing in Google Display Network ads:

Square Images:

  • Ratio: 1:1
  • Recommended Size: 1200 x 1200 pixels
  • Minimum Size: 300 x 300 pixels

Landscape Images:

  • Ratio: 1.91:1
  • Recommended Size: 1200 x 628 pixels
  • Minimum Size: 600 x 314 pixels

Portrait Images:

  • Ratio: 9:16
  • Recommended Size: 900 x 1600 pixels
  • Minimum Size: 600 x 1067 pixels

Make Sure Your Images Are High Quality

For optimal performance, it’s important to use images that are not only the correct size but also high quality. Here are some dos and don’ts for using images in your display ads:


  • Use blurry or excessively filtered images
  • Use images that are upside-down or outlined with a border
  • Overlay your logo on top of an image
  • Overlay text, buttons, or other graphics on the image
  • Use logos with colorful backgrounds


  • Use single images (avoid collages)
  • Feature your product or service as the main focus
  • Use images with physical settings, natural shadows, and lighting
  • Use logos with transparent or white backgrounds

Follow Google’s Text Recommendations

When creating text for your display ads, it’s crucial to use clear and straightforward language to describe your product or service. Avoid using generic text, writing in all caps, or using clickbait tactics. Instead, focus on providing relevant information that will resonate with your target audience.

Short Headlines

You have the option to include up to five short headlines. Here are some guidelines to follow:


  • Punctuating the end of short headlines
  • Using identical copy in both a headline and description
  • Using your business name as a headline
  • Writing in all caps


  • Clearly communicate what users can do, such as “Pay with a credit card”
  • Clearly outline your offer, such as “Free next-day delivery”
  • Make your headlines unique and compelling, such as “Running shoes for less”

Keep all short headlines under 30 characters, or Google might cut them off. And make sure all your assets are unique.

In responsive display ads, you have the option to include one long headline. Here are some guidelines:


  • Punctuating the end of your long headline
  • Repeating the copy from your short headlines
  • Using all caps
  • Using clickbait


  • Describe your brand’s or product’s value proposition in a compelling way
  • Make your headline useful and interesting
  • Write your headline so it can stand alone, as Google may show it without description text

Keep your long headline under 90 characters to avoid any cutoffs. 


Google shows descriptions alongside short headlines, not long headlines. Here are some guidelines for writing descriptions:


  • Using generic messaging
  • Using all caps
  • Using clickbait


  • Make the text easy to read and understand
  • Use sentence-case capitalization
  • Use detail to describe your product or service
  • Clearly articulate the value proposition

Understanding the Google ad network and how it functions is just the beginning. To truly succeed, you must delve deeper. This involves analyzing your competitors and leveraging their strategies. Tools like AdClarity can provide invaluable assistance by:

  • Offering detailed analysis of competitors’ digital campaigns
  • Revealing competitors’ ad expenditures and strategies
  • Comparing and benchmarking your strategies against competitors’
  • Providing insights into top-performing advertisers’ tactics
  • Accessing a vast database of 650,000 advertisers across 50+ global markets

After studying your competitors’ ads, consider using an audience intelligence tool. This tool can provide insights into your audience’s online behavior, allowing you to tailor your messaging, identify optimal promotional channels, and more.