Display Ads: The Complete Guide to Digital Display Advertising

Display Ads: The Complete Guide to Digital Display Advertising
Article by DesignRush DesignRush
Last Updated: November 25, 2022

Whether your goal is increasing brand awareness or generating leads, display ads, one of the most popular online advertisements, can get you there.

This article will introduce you to digital display ads, including ways to create appealing and engaging ads, target the right demographics and put it all together in a marketing funnel that produces results.

Before we go any deeper, let’s define what display advertising is and how it contributes to the growth of your business.

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What Are Display Ads?

Display ads have the same goal as every other marketing strategy: to attract a visitor with appealing content to perform the desired action.

Their content usually consists of image or video advertisements followed by persuasive text. Clicking on the call-to-action (CTA) button leads to a landing page where a visitor can make a purchase, learn about promotions or subscribe to the brand’s newsletter.

Digital display ads fall under search engine marketing (SEM) paid strategies, bringing measurable results in your business’s growth.

They mainly work on a cost-per-click (CPC) principle — every time a visitor clicks on your ad, you get charged a predefined fee.

You can use them to target and eventually retarget the audience groups.

A digital display ad may appear in various sizes, types, and formats.

They can be displayed on dedicated platforms, social media, websites and apps.

After an overview of display ads, let’s explore deeper and find out how to create an appealing display advertising campaign that will attract and convert visitors!

Display Ads Formats

Display ads can come in the following designs:

  • Banner ads are the oldest and most widespread form of advertising. Typically, you’ll see banners at the top or sides of websites. Banner ads come in the form of a static image or animation, whose role is to interest the visitor and serve as a link to your landing pages.
  • Interstitial ads appear as full-screen ads that cover the original page a user intends to visit. If the user clicks on the ad’s body, they will end up on the landing page; clicking on “X” shuts the ad down.
  • Rich media ads contain multimedia features: clickable audio and video elements, images and textual content. They are appealing, interactive and engaging and have 267% better performances than banner ads.
  • Video ads are attractive and convincing, which is why 52% of marketers say they bring the biggest return on investment (ROI). Video ads are usually displayed on YouTube and all social media networks.

With all these options at your disposal, you can create a digital display ad that captivates your audience and appears on the platform where they spend the most time.

4 Types of Display Ads

There are four types of display ads. Each of them has unique performances and targets different audience groups, and we’ll explain them all:

1. Retargeting Ads

Retargeting ads are the most common type of display ads. They allow you to target the leads who visited your website but didn’t convert — i.e., didn’t purchase, subscribe to the newsletter or fill out the contact form.

Retargeting ads are based on personalization, which is a big deal among users since 91% of consumers are likelier to buy from a brand that gives them personalized recommendations.

Use Google Analytics and/or Google Search Console to get insights about consumer interests and behavior on your website.

According to the collected data about consumer's’ interests, categorize them into different targeting groups and create compelling advertising messages for each.

Create retargeting ads and send them to ad groups.

A retargeting campaign will convert prospects who are already interested in your products.

2. Personalized Ads

Personalized or interest-based ads target customers by their demographic characteristics and online behavior. Customized ads are relevant, provide a positive user experience and bring increased ROI.

Retargeting ads are personalized ad subcategories. Besides them, Google states four other personalized ad groups based on user interests and preferences:

Affinity targeting ads target users who show an active interest in your products. These ads target broad affinity groups. Users don't necessarily have to be your customers — they could be sports car enthusiasts, for example.

Custom affinity group ads target users with more specific interests — for example, the ones interested in Lamborghini sports cars. These ads reach to smaller audience group.

Custom intent and in-market ads target users actively seeking products similar to the ones you offer. This target group is narrower, but the users you reach are likelier to convert.

Similar audience ads target internet users with common interests or characteristics as your visitors. Google looks for commonalities between people on your retargeting list and other internet users and puts them in a similar audience group when it finds them.

3. Contextually Targeted Ads

Contextually targeted ads are website-oriented. Here are the criteria they follow:

  • Ad’s topic and keywords
  • Preferred language and location
  • Your website theme
  • Visitor’s recent browsing history

You can conduct topic targeting by yourself or let Google do it.

If you decide to do it by yourself, pick topics that are most fitting to your ads. Google will match your ad with relevant pages on Display Network or YouTube.

Exclude the ones that are a mismatch with your message.

4. Site-Placed Ads

If you’d like to personally choose websites hosting your ad, use website placement targeting. Choose a specific page within a website or just select a website and let Google decide which page is the most appropriate.

How to Create an Effective Digital Display Advertising Campaign in 8 Steps

Display ad campaigns, like PPC strategies, require using tried-and-true techniques to convert and deliver excellent ROI:

Step #1: Set Your Goals

Every marketing campaign follows a strategy that leads it toward the desired goal.

To create an action plan, you must first define your goals and see if the display ads strategy suits their realization.

Would you like to:

  • Increase brand awareness and brand visibility?
  • Generate more quality leads?
  • Retarget leads who didn't convert?
  • Get more conversions?

In this place should be our photo with the same design. I told Andrej that we need it.

As you can see, display ads show significant success in raising brand awareness, recall and loyalty. However, it would be better to use search ads for consideration and conversion.

Step #2: Highlight Your Brand’s Competitive Advantage

What does your brand offer that competitors don't?

It could be a great price, gift or success rate you’re promising.

Concentrate on this unique value and make it hard to resist ad. You have only one chance for a first impression; make it count.

Step #3: Target the Right Audience

Targeting directly impacts conversions — if you target people interested in your products, your advertising campaign will be successful, and vice versa.

Luckily, display ads allow you many targeting options:

  • Keyword targeting - Google will serve keywords you specify with content on websites containing those keywords.
  • Audience targeting, or retargeting, allows you to target leads that didn’t convert.
  • Demographics targeting enables you to target a specific audience based on their demographics.
  • Interest targeting serves ads according to users' interests, aka queries they enter into the search engine.
  • Placement targeting allows you to choose the websites your ads will appear on.
  • Topic targeting enables visitors to target websites that cover a specific topic.

Step #4: Create Simple and Effective Ads

Marketers often oversee the display ad's size and stuff them with unnecessary elements. Your ads should be simple and effective, not distractive so that the audience can get through your message.

Here are four tips for creating an attractive digital display ad:

  1. Ensure your audience can comprehend your advertisement,; speak in their language.
  2. Create catchy and appealing copy and enrich it with a sense of urgency.
  3. Use high-resolution, clutter-free images in attention-grabbing colors.
  4. Add a straightforward call to action!

Step #5: Use a Strong and Convincing CTA

CTA is crucial for your display ads — so important that it deserves a separate chapter.

CTA comes at the ad's end, telling people what action they should perform and what you expect them to do.

Don't ruin all the hard work by using generic phrases such as “click here” or “read more.”

Create bold, persuasive, benefit-oriented CTA with a sense of urgency. For example:

“Buy in the next two hours and get 30% off!”

Also, highlight your CTA button so no one can miss it.

Step #6: Create Landing Page that Boosts Conversions

A landing page is a final destination where users decide whether to convert or not.

Follow landing page best practices to influence their decision in your favor:

  • The landing page should have one purpose.
  • Include an attractive image that illustrates the offer.
  • Write short, simple and compelling copy.
  • Highlight the CTA button.
  • Include clear and concise CTA.
  • Make your offer hard to resist.
  • Remove the navigation menu from the landing page.
  • Use lead forms above the fold and require only necessary information.

Step #7: Provide Positive User Experience

The main downside of all ads is that some people find them annoying. Suppose you use autoplay videos with a strong sound, pop-ups, or interstitial ads that cover the entire page user is trying to see.

Your ad will get attention, but a negative one, not the one you want.

Instead, provide a pleasant user experience and place ads on one-third of the screen, on the edge, or within the site’s text.

Step #8: Test Your Ads

One of the biggest mistakes you can commit is assuming you know what your audience likes. Use A/B testing to discover how users react to your advertising campaign. Use gained insights to adjust your ads and improve their effectiveness.

5 Key Metrics for Measuring Display Ad Performances

Monitoring your display advertising campaign results gives you insight into its effectiveness. If results aren't satisfying, you can easily adjust parameters to improve targeting and increase reach and conversions.

Digital advertising uses some of the same metrics as PPC tracking:

1. Impressions

Every time a website displays your ad, it counts as an impression. You'll get insight into your ad performance by comparing the number of impressions and click-through rate (CTR).

The total number of impressions should grow as your ad campaign progresses. If it drops, that is a sign you need to readjust targeting, ad copy or even the landing page.

2. Click-Through Rate

Divide the number of clicks on your ad and the number of impressions, and you’ll get the click-through rate (CTR).

CTR is always shown in percentages that show what ratio of people clicked on your ad. If your CTR is low, that means your ad effectiveness is poor.

Experiment with copy and formats to create more attractive and convincing ad people will find appealing.

Wonder what is considered good CTR?

The average CTR on the Google Ads search network is 1.91%, but only 0.35% on the display network. Retargeter, on the other hand, created a retargeting campaign that produced an ROI of 486%.

3. Conversion Rate

The main goal of every advertising campaign and marketing effort is conversion — the customer performs the desired action, whether to purchase, subscribe, register or similar.

The conversion rate shows the percentage of people who converted by clicking on your ad. Your conversion rate should grow but check your targeting and landing page if it drops.

4. Reach

Reach is often interchangeably used with the term impression. While the impression is the number of times an ad appeared on the website, reach is the number of times people actually saw the ad.

5. Cost

Measure ad campaign costs to find the most effective way to improve ad performance. You can track the campaign's overall operating expenses, cost per click (CPC), and cost per thousand impressions (CPM). Display advertising primarily uses CPM metrics.

Best Display Advertising Platforms

Here are some of the most prominent platforms where your digital ad display can go live:

Google Display Network

The Google Display Network (GDN) is the most popular display platform. Considering that Google generated 97% of advertising — solely in 2021, it collected $209.49 billion — you may be sure Google takes advertising seriously and your ad is in the best place to be seen.

You can choose among 2 million websites and apps where your ads can appear, various ad formats and targeting demographics.

Facebook Audience Network

With every third or fourth post on your Facebook feed being sponsored, it's clear this platform naturally incorporates ads to target the audience's attention.

Regarding ads, Google's greatest rival is Facebook Audience Network. In 2022, Facebook will have 2.96 billion active users, making it the ideal platform for advertising. Bonus: It provides your display advertising with just as many targeting and formatting possibilities.

Twitter Audience Platform

The number of Twitter’s active users is growing; currently, it’s 237.8 million, making it another excellent advertising option for increasing reach and sales.

Twitter for business provides a lot of ad formats — video, image, textual or a combination of all three — depending on your business goals. Also, Twitter offers unique targeting options. Target conversations, events or audience groups to expand your ads reach.


AdRoll is a display ad retargeting platform. It puts a code in the visitor's URL and provides their online behavior to “remind” users who showed interest but didn’t finish the conversion.

AdRoll partners with over 500 networks (eBay, Microsoft Advertising Exchange, and AdThrive) and exchanges (AppNexus, Facebook,. DoubleClick, Yahoo, Rubicon) and provides excellent reach for your display ads.

Display Ads: Pros and Cons

Display advertising has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s start with the positive sides:

  • Various ad styles. Display ads are available in many types, formats, and sizes. Great diversity lets you choose the kind that will complement your marketing goals.
  • Attractiveness. Display ads are primarily visual; therefore, they are attractive and grab people's attention, which means they easily convey your message.
  • Great reach potential. GDN offers more than 200 million websites to display your ad, and there are more engaging platforms with high reach — for example, Facebook, Twitter and AdRoll.
  • Diverse targeting. You can target the desired audiences according to their geolocation, demographics, social media activity, and many other options.
  • Measurable success. Monitor key metrics and adjust your advertising strategy to extend the reach of your campaign and achieve more conversions.

Digital display advertising has only one downside:

People don't like ads.

They find ad campaigns intrusive, repetitive and annoying which is why they use ad blockers. However, many websites have figured out how to overcome this obstacle; they offer the possibility to turn ad blockers down or subscribe to keep reading their content.

Despite this downside, display ads are still very effective, especially if you set them right.

Display Ads: Final Word

Display ads are dynamic multimedia solutions for raising brand awareness, building identity, and creating a relationship of trust with your users.

Like all other forms of advertising, display ads require a deliberate strategy to reach their maximum potential. Consider the uniqueness of your brand and choose the proper demographic for whom your message will resonate.

An appealing offer and satisfying user experience will help you reach your display advertising campaign goals.

Get connected with the right PPC agency for your project.
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