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There’s a common misconception that Display (banner) ads are just for “awareness” or “branding”, not for conversions. Nothing could be further than the truth.

Of course it depends how you use them. You can use them in an awareness kind of way (just promoting a brand or logo without encouraging a call to action), or you can use them in a conversion kind of way.

Using them in a conversion kind of way means promoting something that you want people to buy or sign up to, OR by encouraging them to engage with you in a way that will ultimately lead to a conversion once they trust you enough. For example, promoting content that is part of an early stage sales funnel.

The problem is, a lot of people don’t click Display ads. It’s like people think there is something icky about clicking them, but that doesn’t mean they don’t work.

So how do you measure how successful they are, when people are not clicking on them?

There’s a couple of things we need to unpack here:

1) How to measure the success of a Display ad
2) How to encourage people to convert from a Display ad

The trick with Display ads, and I have to admit this is something I only learned recently, is that you need to use “Website” conversion tags in your list of conversions, not conversions imported from Google Analytics. This is because the “Website” conversion tags include view-through conversions and cross-device conversions.

These are hugely important to track if you use Display.

Definition – View-through conversions: View-through conversions are the conversions you get attributed to your Google Ads advertising if someone views your Display or Video ads and converts without ever clicking on them. The period of time that is counted towards the View-through conversion is defined in your conversion settings, for each conversion separately. It is called the view-through conversion lookback window.

Definition – Cross-device conversions: Cross-device conversions are the conversions you get attributed to your Google Ads advertising if someone clicks an ad on one device and then converts on a different device.

I was looking at a client’s account yesterday, and when you look at the Display ads without considering view-through conversions, most of them appear to be doing very poorly. (Return On Ad Spend = 0). But when you consider view-through conversions and cross-device conversions, all of a sudden these Display ads jump up significantly in conversion power. One of these Display ads had a Return On Ad Spend as high as 7.5X. I’m sure other advertisers could get higher; this particular advertiser had an average ROAS of 2.5X and a highly competitive market. So the Display ad had 3X the conversion power of the Shopping and text ads.

This is not a huge surprise to me because of the following secret.

Are you waiting to hear the secret?

In this Display ad, I targeted people who had been to the competitors website or had searched the competitors’ brand terms. Yup, good old guerrilla tactics. You can do this with custom in-market audiences.

These people visited my clients’ competitor’s website and then all of a sudden they were seeing ads for my client’s brand. Of course they wanted to check out the difference between the two products. They might have seen the ad on their phone, later jumped on their computer, searched for my client’s product and then decided to buy it. Never clicking the Display ad once!

This brings us to the tip about encouraging people to convert from a Display ad. The #1 secret here is targeting. In your Display ad audiences you want to target very niche audiences. Either remarketing audiences, similar audiences, or specific in-market, custom intent or custom affinity audiences. Then, use that ad to promote a product (for retail), a landing page (for B2B) or content marketing such as a blog article (B2B).

To see the results, you need to ensure you have “Include View-through conversions in All conv. column” ticked and then use ‘All conv. value’ as your metric of choice. As long as you are using Website conversions and you have them installed correctly, you will see the view through and cross-device conversions show up in your revenue and leads.

Google Ads conversion settings

Ian Gale - Sleepwise Clinic

Petra was instrumental in pulling all our clinic's web analytics into one easy to read, dynamic report that's accessible to me at any time, and works with our EXACT booking system.

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Charles Marois CEO, Olsa Tools Ecommerce Google Ads April 23, 2020

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Sophie Abnett Digital Marketing Project Manager at 1834 Hotels Ecommerce / Hotel Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager & Google Data Studio Integration April 23, 2020