Give Your GDN Campaigns an Energy Boost

Are some of your Google Display Network (GDN) campaigns a little anemic and just not getting the volume of traffic you expected? Did you ever put a lot of time and effort into creating controlled, segmented, beautifully architected campaigns and after you launched them you were disappointed with lackluster impressions? You are not alone. Nearly 2 years ago, I wrote a post on extending your reach using GDN (then called Google Content Network) and most of my recommendations still hold true, especially my last point – Bids matter.

We’ve recently tested some advanced bidding strategies on several accounts to give our impression volumes on GDN campaigns an ENERGY BOOST and I wanted to share some tips that have worked for us.

Set Daily Campaign Budgets High Enough

The increased ability to target and segment your campaigns to better control and optimize your traffic from Google display network is fantastic.  You can do KCT (keyword contextual targeting) PT (placement targeting), or CT (interest category targeting) and I’m sure there are many other types of variations/layering. You can also segment your traffic by various devices – computers, tablets, cell phones, even down to the carrier. To learn more about how to do precision targeting for Google Display Network, read this AdWords blog or watch this AdWords webinar.

However, if you create hundreds of GDN campaigns in order to effectively target and try to fragment your overall daily budget across all those campaigns, your budgets will not be high enough for GDN’s system to identify you as a legitimate contender in the auction. Basically, you need to raise your hand high in the air for your priority campaigns, shouting “I’m here” and make sure you are seen as a player.

Switch from CPC to CPM Bidding (Temporarily)

If you are seeing little or no traffic on your GDN campaigns, consider switching to CPM bidding for at least one week to unthrottle the campaign, get it serving, and build up performance data, and positive history.

You need to change this setting in the AdWords UI for each individual campaign in the Bidding and Budgeting section of the Campaign tab (Note: you can’t copy this setting down through editting multiple campaigns like other campaign settings and you can’t change it in the current Editor version 9.5.1. You have to do each campaign individually which is probably a good thing to avoid application on too many campaigns). Here’s what it looks like:

Bidding and Budget

$3-$5 cpm bids were recommended to us, you might have to even go higher if you are in a competitive bid landscape, but do what you are comfortable with given your budget goals.

Other Campaign Settings that are Important

Accelerated ad delivery

(if you run out of budget early in the day, use ad scheduling to get the impressions in the daypart you want). You will likely hit your campaign daily budget consistently during this period.

Optimize for clicks

I know this sounds counter-intuitive given the CPM bidding, but if you have multiple ad copy variations, you want to serve the ad most frequently with the best CTR for QS reasons.

Be Patient

Schedule a reminder for yourself to change the campaign back to CPC bidding and try to stick to that schedule.  You’ll need to be patient and overlook some really high cpc’s for a few days. This is where your daily budgets are critical; make sure you are working with some budget that you can afford to “lose.” In our experience, we first got a ton of impressions the first day or so and very few clicks. Clicks were delayed a day or two, so the first day or so it was really hard to look at the data. Ride it out, clicks will increase.

Change back to CPC bidding

Use max CPC bids that are higher than your avg. cpc for the the cpm bidding period.  You don’t want to shock the system with low cpc bids and derail the new history you’ve established. If you still need to reduce the cpc further, come down gradually, and then start to optimize to your original metrics.

Plan and Prioritize

The first step in this whole strategy is to identify a few campaigns that are most important to you and come up with a game plan, including possible temporarily high daily budgets, CPCs and CPMs that you can live with that are comparable to other contextual advertising you are doing, and an expected timeline or schedule (knowing that pushing through and seeing changes on GDN always takes longer and more patience than search).  This strategy is just that, an energy boost to give your GDN campaigns some lift in impressions; it is not a long-term strategy that is sustainable, especially at the cpc’s I’ve seen.


  • As you may be able to tell, I don’t like CPM bidding, not at all. As a performance-driven marketer, I hate paying for impressions or eyeballs. I used to buy broadcast media and hated the whole rating points system. I like to connect the dots between impressions, clicks, and conversion actions on sites, so this CPM bidding pushes my comfort zone, but in reality, sometimes you have to bite the bullet and pay to play.
  • I do not own a site or make any income from AdSense. Honestly, there are no vested interests in these recommendations.
  • This strategy is not for anyone who is super-sensitive about cpc’s.  You need to temporarily stomach high cpc’s in order to gain some traffic momentum to then optimize towards a reasonable cpc later once you are getting the desired volume of impressions.

Good luck!

Lisa Sanner About the author
  • Great points, especially about CPC and CPM bidding strategies.

    September 25, 2011 at 4:09 pm

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