google display network worth it

Is the Google Display Network Worth It For Your PPC Campaigns?

Neil Andrew

Neil Andrew

December 1st, 2020

Neil is Scottish so when he's not writing for PPC Protect he's eating haggis and watching Braveheart.

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If you’re running campaigns on the Google Display Network, be sure to check out our free Display Exclusions List here and automatically remove junk traffic!

Pay per click advertising is an incredibly popular online marketing strategy that has grown to become the go-to place for many internet advertisers. Thanks to Google and its powerful Google Ads platform, advertisers can now reach millions of users worldwide from a range of different backgrounds and countries.

In 2003, three years after the launch of their AdWords platform, Google introduced a new feature dubbed the Google “display network” to their existing platform. With the ability to reach millions of additional users for a much lower cost than the Google search network, it instantly became a huge hit with advertisers.

The Google display network might seem like a haven for lower cost per click and a wider audience reach, but is everything as it seems?

If it is truly as good as people make it out to be, then surely everyone would be using it? But, that’s clearly not the case. With some experts telling you to use it and others telling you to avoid it at all costs, who should you listen to? Well, we’re here to find out.

Before we can explore the advantages and disadvantages of the display network, we first need to understand how it works and the participants involved. By understanding how the Google display network works first, it’s much easier to make a decision on if it’s worth using or avoiding.

Let’s start with an in-depth look into what the display network is and how it works.

What Is the Google Display Network?

google display network example

Launched in 2003, the Google display network was an extension to the existing AdWords platform. Originally, when AdWords was released back in the year 2000, it could only display ads on Google’s own search engine. This meant that in order to view ads from Google, you had to visit their website and conduct a search for a particular keyword.

With that in mind, it doesn’t take a genius to work out Google’s potential user reach was the same figure as their monthly visitors. If 100 million people visited Google every month to perform a search, then this is how many users Google could potentially monetize.

Google being Google, wanted to expand its horizons and target even more users online. To do this, they had to come up with a brand new idea.
After running the AdWords platform for a few years, Google noticed that certain keywords quickly became overcrowded.

Popular keywords such as “insurance” and “mortgages” attracted so much competition that cost per click prices quickly rose to ridiculous figures. Interestingly enough, these advertisers were still ok with paying these super inflated prices.

In order to make their advertising platform more profitable and powerful for advertisers, Google decided to launch their display network. This new system allowed Google to display their ads on external third-party websites, which is something they had never done before. By giving publishers a cut of the average cost per click, publishers had an incentive to put ads on their website while Google vastly increased their user reach.

Today, users can sign up for Google’s display network partnership through the AdSense program. By meeting certain website criteria, webmasters can start showing Google’s ad on their website in a matter of days. Currently, the network has over 2 million participants and boasts reaching 90% of people on the internet. If you’re an online advertiser, then you should be rubbing your hands in excitement!

This introduction of a new advertising channel gave businesses a whole new way to advertise and target users. No longer where advertisers limited to Google search traffic, instead they could now target users who had never even been on Google. With cheaper cost per clicks and a larger audience reach, this allowed more advertisers to compete for the same keywords without having to pay extortionate prices.

But those aren’t the only benefits of Google’s display network. The new advertising format allowed businesses to advertise in ways that they have never done before. Including a range of impressive features such as remarketing and visual ads, there are plenty of benefits of why advertisers use the display network today. Here are some of the top benefits.

The Benefits of the Google Display Network

advantages of google display network graph

Now you have a good understanding of how the display network works; it’s time to look at the various benefits. Truth be told, there are actually numerous benefits to using the display network, but here are some of the ones that stand out the most.

Larger Audience Reach

The first and most obvious benefit of the Google display network is its reach. With over 2 million websites in their display network, this greatly increases the exposure and reach of your adverts.

When using the standard Google Ads platform, ads are only shown to users who visit Google and search for certain keywords. If you use the display network, then your ads can be shown to users who have never done a Google search in their lives.

This is clearly a huge benefit as it helps increase your exposure and ultimately get your adverts seen by even more people.

Cheaper Cost Per Clicks

Compared to the default Google search platform, the cost per click on the display network is almost always cheaper. This means you can still target users who are interested in your product without having to pay extortionate fees.

With some costs per click on the search network costing over £10, the display network is a great alternative for advertisers who are looking to get more out of their money.

Different Pricing Models

Pay per click might be the payment model many advertisers are used to, but with Google’s display network, it’s possible to change it to CPM. Known as cost per mile, CPM can sometimes benefit certain advertisers as the cost per 1000 views can sometimes work out cheaper than the cost per click.

If you’re paying 90p per click, but the CPM works out at £10, then as long as you get more than 12 clicks you’ll be better off using the CPM model. This is a great way to save money and improve your ROI with high performing ads.

Visual Ads

Unlike the standard Google search ads which are entirely text, the display network allows you to use much more engaging visual ads. Not only are these ads visual, but they can also be animated to make them even more effective.

When placed on the right website, these visual ads can significantly increase click-through rates and generally receive higher conversions than text ads.

Remarketing Ads

One of the most powerful features on the Google display network is their remarketing ads. If you’ve never used remarketing ads before, then you’re missing out. Not only do they increase your chances of getting converting customers, but they’re also ridiculously cheap.

If a user visits your website through a PPC ad but doesn’t convert, then many advertisers believe them to be a lost lead. They’ve already paid for the click and but didn’t get a conversion, so time to move on to the next user right?


With the power of remarketing ads you can create a new campaign that only targets users who have been on your website. Using the Google display network, the site tracks the users via cookies and displays them your ads after they visit your site.

Not only are these ads incredibly cheap to run, but they can also bring back these “lost leads” and turn them into converting customers. By continually reminding them about your product and following them around the web, you greatly increase your chances of getting a conversion.

The Disadvantages of the Google Display Network

negative chart display network

As you can see from the benefits of the display network, there are plenty of reasons why an advertiser might decide to use the display network in conjunction with other platforms. However, before you run off and start setting up your campaigns, it’s important to look at the drawbacks of the display network.

Like most things in life, not everything is always as they seem and Google’s display network is no exception. Here are some of the major drawbacks and disadvantages to consider before running ads on the display network.

No Control Of Ad Display

The first drawback of using the display network is that you don’t really have control over which websites display your adverts. Google try their best to match your ads with appropriate websites, but it doesn’t always get it right. This means that sometimes your ads can appear on inappropriate websites which you’d rather they not be displayed on.

Although it is possible to stop certain websites from showing your adverts you have to manually add them in your campaign settings. This means unless you want to check 2 million websites individually, then there is a chance your ads might be displayed on some bad websites.

Not only could this turn into a PR disaster, but it also means you might not get the highest quality traffic.

Not only could this turn into a PR disaster, but it also means you might not get the highest quality traffic.

Ads Might Not Be Relevant To The Website

In addition to not being able to control which websites your ads are displayed on, there is also the problem of relevancy. Google will try its best to determine what a web page is about and then show an appropriate advert. However, it doesn’t always get it right, and sometimes it will display something completely unrelated.

Unfortunately, there’s no way to get around this unless you specifically exclude that individual web page within your campaign settings. If you only want your ads to be displayed on relevant web pages, then it’s probably best to just buy banners from a particular website instead.

You Can’t Fine Tune Your Audience

Another problem with the display network is that it’s much harder to target specific users. Imagine you sell TVs; it’s much more likely you’ll get a better conversion rate if you focus on people looking to buy TVs as opposed to people looking up information about them.

On the search network, it’s as simple as adding the word “buy” to the search phrase. However, when it comes to the display network, it’s much harder to distinguish between the two and ultimately what the user is searching for. This means your ads will likely be shown to both types of users, which isn’t the best way to maximize your budget.

The Real Problem With the Display Network

click fraud google display network

These disadvantages of using the display network might be off-putting, but nothing comes close to this major problem which is costing advertisers billions a year.

Have you ever noticed a sharp rise in your click-through rate yet conversions stayed the same? If so, then it’s likely you’ve been a victim of the dreaded click fraud.

This type of fraud is predominantly experienced on pay per click networks where the user pays a fee for every click they receive. Although the majority of users that click your adverts will have the intention of learning more about what you have to offer, some users can be malicious.

These fraudsters, known as “click fraudsters” purposely click your ads in order to drain your budget, ramp up advertising costs, and create financial loss. Although this type of fraud is experienced across various different pay per click networks, it’s exceptionally high on the Google display network.
Why’s that? You might be asking. Well here’s the thing:

Webmasters who display Google’s ads on their website earn a percentage of the ad revenue every click. At the moment it’s around 66% of the price paid by the advertiser. Therefore, every time a user clicks on an advert with a cost per click of £1, the webmaster (or publisher) will receive around 66p. In order to make more money from their website, the webmaster only needs one thing: more clicks.

To get more clicks, there are several routes the webmaster can take. The first is to get more traffic, which is always easier said than done. While the second way is to try and increase their current conversion rate by optimising ad placement.

As both of these methods can be very time consuming, a webmaster might be inclined to click their own ads in order to generate more clicks. Surely a few clicks here and there won’t cause any trouble? Wrong! It’s these fraudulent clicks that are cost advertisers billions a year.

Combine this with the fact that other users such as competitors will be likely clicking on your ads, and the amount of fraud from the display network can be significant.

The main reason fraud is much higher on the display network compared to the standard search network is that webmasters have an incentive to click the ads. Compare this to the search network where only your competitors have an incentive to click them, and it’s easy to see why click fraud is much higher on the display network.

To put it simply, webmasters have an incentive to click their own ads in order to increase their profits. Now we’re not saying every webmaster is dishonest and does this, but it does happen a lot. This means if your ad is being displayed on several different websites then it greatly increases the chances that your ads will be clicked fraudulently.

The Solution

click fraud robot

Reducing the amount of click fraud on your adverts is relatively easy. As you might have guessed, it means ditching the display network altogether and only focusing on high-quality traffic.

Not only is the display network the primary reason for most of the fraud users receive, but the quality of traffic is far better on the organic search results when comparing the two.

Our advice is if you are planning on using the display network then only use it for remarketing. Remarketing is considerably cheaper than paying for normal placements, yet you still benefit from using large visual ads that grab the user’s attention. Compared to the normal search network, this is simply something it can’t and probably will never be able to do.

If you’re looking for brand new traffic to your website, then we suggest sticking to the Google organic search. You might end up paying a bit more per click compared to the display network, but the traffic will be of higher quality and will result in more conversions. If you want the most bang for your buck, stick to the organic search network.

If you truly want to stop wasting money on fraudulent clicks, then you need protection. PPC Protect is a revolutionary tool that protects your ads from fraud before it happens. Using its proprietary algorithm and huge database of blacklisted IP addresses, PPC Protect automatically hides your ads from suspected fraudsters. This means your ads disappear for fraudsters while staying active for other users to see.

Want To Protect Yourself From Fraudsters?

Be sure to check out our 60,000+ exclusions list for the Google Display network. We’ve taken the least profitable display placements from thousands of our client’s campaigns and complied the ultimate money-saving exclusion list.

Download the full list

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