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  • By Diana Tavares

Google Display Ads Guide: Campaign Set Up and Best Practices

Learn how to set up effective Google Display Ads with this step-by-step guide.

Display Ads

This post was last updated on May 21, 2021.

If you're looking to expand your digital marketing channels and reach potential customers along all stages of the customer journey, then Google Display Ads may be a good option for you.

Are Google Display Ads Worth It?

According to Google, with Google Display Ads, you can reach over 90% of global Internet users across more than two million apps and websites.

Display advertising can be quite effective for reaching new users to introduce your brand or services, as well as retargeting website visitors by showing them ads with the products they saw when visiting your website.

In this post, we will show you how to set up effective Google Display Ads by selecting the right objectives, bid strategies and audiences, as well as share best practices. Keep reading to learn more.

Jump ahead:

Google Display Ads vs Search Ads

With Google Search Ads, you conduct keyword research and set up a series of campaigns, ad groups and ads targeted at those specific keywords.

Google Search Ads are text-only ads that appear on search results every time you win the auction for that specific keyword.

Google Display Ads are banners that appear in the Google Display Network – a large collection of websites, mobile apps and video content.

Unlike Google Search Ads, Display Ads consist of a combination of images and text. You can reach audiences based on their demographics, location, interests or behaviours.

How To Set Up Google Display Ads

Step 1. Select a Campaign Goal

This is the first step when setting up a Google Display campaign and one of the most important factors for it to be effective.

Choose the goal that best aligns with your business and marketing objectives:

  • Brand Awareness and Reach helps to increase awareness for your brand, products or services, as well as promote a new product or service release.

  • Website Traffic is a good option if you want to increase traffic to your website.

  • Leads works well if you want to collect email addresses, sign-ups or other relevant contact information from people interested in your business.

  • Sales is a good option if you want to drive sales online, in app, by phone or in store.

Step 2. Choose a Campaign Subtype

If you select the traffic, leads or sales goals, the next step is to define the campaign subtype.

There are three campaign subtypes:

  1. Google Smart Display Campaigns are fully automated. They automatically adjust bids, creatives and target audience (combining a mix of remarketing and prospecting audiences based on website visitors, landing page insights and your search campaigns best-performing keywords).

  2. Google Standard Display Campaigns allow you to have full control over all aspects of your campaign. You can manually select your targeting, bidding and ad formats.

  3. Gmail Campaigns allow you to display interactive ads to people as they browse their emails. However, as of the 1st of July 2021, you won't be able to create or edit Gmail campaigns and ads. You can create a Discovery campaign to show ads on Gmail, YouTube and Discover.

To be eligible to set up a Smart Display campaign, you need to have obtained at least 50 conversions on Display, or at least 100 conversions on Search in the last 30 days. So, if you're just starting with Google Display Ads, this campaign type is not yet available to you.

You can have a Smart Display campaign running continuously throughout the year while choosing to launch a Standard Display campaign at designated times, such as to promote temporary discounts or announce a new product, collection or service.

Step 3. Determine a Bid Strategy Based on Your Goals

Google Ads offers several bid strategies. You can focus on clicks, impressions and conversions, to name a few.

Choose the bid strategy that best aligns with your campaign goal:

  • Brand Awareness and Reach: With this campaign goal you want to reach the maximum people possible, so you should focus on impressions. Cost per thousand viewable impressions (vCPM) would be the right bidding for your campaign.

  • Website Traffic: With this campaign goal, you want to attract traffic to your website, therefore cost-per-click (CPC) bidding may be the right bidding for your campaign. You may opt for manual CPC bidding or ‘Maximise Clicks’, an automated bid strategy.

  • Leads and Sales: With each of the campaign goals, you want users to take direct action on your site, therefore you should focus on conversions. ‘Maximise Conversions’ will optimise your campaign to get the most conversions within your budget, target cost-per-acquisition (CPA) will optimise to get the most conversions possible while reaching your average CPA goal and finally, target return on ad spend (ROAS) will optimise to get the most conversion value while maintaining your ROAS goal.

Step 4. Define the Right Google Display Audiences

When setting up a standard Google Display campaign, you have full control of your targeting, so it's important that you get it right and reach the most relevant audiences for your business.

The Best Google Display Audiences for each Stage of the Funnel

Awareness: At this stage, you want to reach a broader audience to build brand awareness and introduce your products or services to potential customers.

The best audiences to target with upper-funnel campaigns are:

  • Broad audiences based on demographics and location: gender, age, parental status and location.

  • Affinity Audiences based on people's interests and habits. For example, ‘Beauty & Wellness’ to reach people who regularly purchase beauty products and are interested in makeup or styling tips.

  • Custom Affinity Audiences based on people’s interests and visited websites or apps. This targeting option is great for when you want to reach a niche audience.

Consideration: At this stage, you want to engage with users who are actively searching for products or services.

To increase traffic or drive leads or sales, you should define high-qualified audiences such as:

  • In-Market Audiences based on users who are actively searching for the types of products/services you offer. For example, ‘Beauty & Personal Care’ would include people interested in purchasing beauty or personal care products or services.

  • Custom Intent Audiences are similar to custom affinity audiences. You define this audience by adding relevant keywords or URLs. It is ideal for reaching niche audiences who are actively searching for products or services similar to yours.

  • Similar Audiences based on users who are similar to your clients, website visitors or any other relevant sources.

Action: At this stage, you want to re-engage with users that have already shown interest in your brand (by visiting your website, subscribing to a newsletter, purchasing, etc.) – remarketing audiences.

In this case, you may use Standard Display ads when you want to reach them with a specific creative, or opt for dynamic remarketing, to show display ads with product data pulled from your product feed.

Google Ads audiences for each stage of the conversion funnel
Google Ads audiences for each stage of the conversion funnel

Google Display Ads Best Practices

Create separate ad groups for each audience. This way, you can evaluate later which ones had the best results.

Adapt your message to your audience and each stage of the funnel. The way you communicate with users who have never heard from your brand shouldn't be the same way you communicate with those who already know it.

Use Responsive Display Ads when possible. They are a great option, as they enable you to upload several creative assets as well as headlines and descriptions. Google uses machine learning to determine the optimal combination of assets and copy based on predictions built from your account performance history.

If you need more creative control, create Uploaded Ads. This ad type enables you to upload your own display ads. To create your own designs, you can use the Google Web Designer tool or other tools, such as Canva.


By adding display campaigns into your digital marketing channels, you can reach customers along all stages of the customer journey.

When creating a new campaign, it is important that you select the right goals, bidding strategies and target audiences.

Divide each target audience per ad group and adapt your copy and creative to each audience.

Display campaigns are all about your message and visuals, therefore all creative assets should be of top quality, meet all guidelines and be aligned with your brand's look and feel.

Last, but not least, make sure your landing page is relevant to what you are advertising.

Feel free to share with us your thoughts on display advertising, and don't hesitate to reach out in case you need help setting up your campaigns.


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