GDN Ads Targeting Methods



GDN Ads Targeting Methods
02 July 2021
Methods of targeting on the display network. Find out how to apply them more effectively.



Google Display Network reaches over 96% of Internet users (GEMIUS data from October 2017). This percentage includes its own services such as Gmail, YouTube, or Bloger and platforms of its partners. GDN ads are ideal for building brand recognition, acquiring customers at an early stage of the sales funnel, improving customer loyalty, increasing website traffic, sales, and the number of application downloads. With a properly configured campaign, you’ve huge chances to reach your target group.

Google Display Network - what is it?

Apart from the search network, Google Display Network is the primary channel for reaching potential customers or users in the right place at the right time. Virtually any website owner who meets the content quality guidelines can join the display network. It’s worth mentioning that Google Display Network is the most renowned platform of this type. Display network campaigns are settled similarly to those in the search network. With Google Display Network, you can create campaigns based on cost per click (CPC), cost per thousand impressions (CPM), enhanced CPC (eCPC), target cost per action (TCPA) or target ROAS. Automated rate-setting strategies also include Automatic Click Maximization which optimizes rates and ad relevance to increase the number of visits to a site as well as TROAS or TCPA-based conversion rate automation which aim at optimizing rates and ad relevance to achieve a target return on ad spend or a specified action/conversion cost. Of course, to be able to benefit from automated rate-setting strategies that improve conversion you need to set up conversion tracking and have at least 15 conversions per month to ensure sufficient effectiveness of the strategy. To ensure that you’re able to reach customers, Google provides detailed GDN ads targeting settings. Each of the targeting methods will be described in today’s entry. We can divide them into two main types: behavioral and contextual which means that you can reach users based on collected information or browsed websites (as well as apps and videos).

Behavioral GDN targeting

Behavioral targeting is about directing ads at specific user groups. You can reach people with particular interests, in specific locations and of given gender or age. Wondering how Google knows about us so much? Unless you provide some of the data voluntarily, most of it is assigned to you based on your online behavior that’s constantly monitored and analyzed. Wishing to find out how Google sees you? Check it out by logging into your account: To access more information on data collection methods used by Google go to: The main methods of behavioral targeting in Google Ads include targeting based on audience, keywords and demographics. This type can usually boast better effectiveness when compared to contextual targeting.
  1. Recipients
    1. Recipients with similar interests
    2. In-market audience
    3. Remarketing
  2. Keywords
  3. Demographic data
    1. Age
    2. Gender
    3. Location
    4. Parental status
    5. Household income

1. Audience

Audience targeting (formerly known as interest targeting) makes it possible to target ads directly to users with specific interests who browse given websites, movies, or applications. Audience targeting can be categorized according to:
  • Users’ interests and customs,
  • Things they’re looking for or planning,
  • The way they started interacting with your company.
GDN ads targeting audience

Recipients with similar interests

This type of advertising was created for companies that promote themselves on TV and want to increase their online reach. Such campaigns are recommended for businesses conducting offline activities or focusing on branding. In case of sales campaigns, you reach customers at an early stage of the funnel. Taking into consideration user preferences allows you to target your ads precisely. Basic categories include:
  • Shopping
  • Banking & finance
  • Home & garden
  • Cooking
  • Media & entertainment
  • Technology
  • Traveling
  • Vehicles & transport
  • Sports & fitness
  • Lifestyle & hobbies
  • Beauty & wellness
  • News & politics
All categories and subcategories are available in the Ads panel.

Custom recipients with similar interests

The list of categories prepared by Google is helpful, however, to ensure greater accuracy of conducted activities we would suggest creating individual databases of recipients with similar interests. You can define users’ preferences based on the persona, information from Google Analytics or knowledge related to hobbies, URLs of browsed pages, places, or applications. custom audience gdn ads targeting
Example: When launching a new sportswear brand, you may want to target gym enthusiasts. Then, when filling out “interests”, you select gyms or training plans. When it comes to URLs, enter addresses of gyms, specific names of gym networks, applications like Endomondo, My Fitness Pal, or Garmin. Thanks to this information, the algorithm will be able to target the ad at the right group of recipients matching your settings.

In-market audience

This GDN ad targeting method is particularly recommended for those who want to increase the number of orders, sign-ups or other activities on the website. In-market recipients are potentially interested, they search for products in a shop or look for a job. Main categories include:
  • Tickets for parties and events
  • Home & garden
  • Education
  • Electronics
  • Computers & peripherals
  • Real estate
  • Beauty products & services
  • Cars and other vehicles
  • Sports & fitness
  • Telecommunication
  • Gifts & occasions
  • Business services
  • Financial services
  • Dating services
  • Employment

Custom recipients with similar intents

Create your perfect group of recipients! If the number of categories offered by Google isn’t sufficient (we’d advise using the search function), you can create your own group of recipients with similar intents. In this case, you need to provide keywords and URLs related to particular products or services.
Example: You start your e-business adventure by setting up your first online store. You aim at reaching customers of your market rivals. It’s a piece of cake! Just provide a list of URLs of your competitors. Based on that information, Google Ads will display your ads to users who visited specified websites.

Life events

When it comes to YouTube and Gmail, you can target advertisements based on life events. The most important categories in this type include:
  • Moving out
  • Graduating
  • Getting married
Example: Knowing about important events from lives of your recipients allows you to personalize messages or benefit from direct targeting and advertise products ideal for given circumstances. This type of targeting is commonly used in the real estate market.


It’s possible to target campaigns to people who visited your website or performed a specific activity. Remarketing is one of the most effective tools of performance marketing. Your recipients can be thoroughly defined thanks to both Google Analytics and Google Ads data. To learn more about remarketing, go to our previous entry: Things you need to know about Google Ads remarketing. Remarketing targeting can be divided into:
  • Website users
  • App users
  • YouTube users
  • Customer lists (new in Customer Match)
  • Custom combinations
Remarketing is usually the most effective GDN targeting method of reaching customers.

Similar recipients

Based on your remarketing list, this type of targeting determines groups of similar recipients. This functionality is also known thanks to Facebook and its lookalike.

2. Keywords

Keyword targeting is about displaying ads to users who have been searching for given products and services on websites with keywords specified by you. It’s crucial to provide only rough keywords, they don’t have to be as detailed as in the case of the search network. Your customers’ interests are determined based on the phrases. Currently, custom audiences with similar interests are a more detailed form of targeting, just after Display Select Keywords.
Example: Search network campaigns have a high CPC, if your CPA is too high you can’t compete effectively. You can set up a campaign with keyword targeting. Users searching for given phrases will see ads in Google Display Network, not in the search network. However, it’s important to mention that this effect can be achieved also by creating a list of custom recipients with similar interests.

3. Demographic data

The last method of GDN ads targeting is based on demographic data. It’s possible to mix all available types by adding targeting or observation. Demographics are usually used to narrow down the range of your advertisements. You can also set rates for specific age groups or genders. This type of data is estimated and created based on information Google obtains from its partners or service networks. demographic targeting gdn ads

For whom?

Behavioral GDN targeting is a method recommended for publishers willing to personalize and tailor messages to information about the recipients. It can be used to improve brand recognition (custom audiences with similar interests) or to generate sales (custom audiences with similar intents). Google is constantly developing its behavioral targeting methods thanks to which you can precisely define groups of recipients.

Contextual targeting

When it comes to contextual targeting, you have a great opportunity to precisely select websites, subpages, applications or YouTube videos where you want your ads to be displayed. Contextual targeting can be set up by:
  • Topic targeting,
  • Placement targeting,
  • Keyword targeting,
  • Display expansion on search campaigns.
Each of the abovementioned targeting methods is applied in different situations, however, it can include the same functionalities. Different types of targeting can be mixed together to include the most suitable placement websites. Of course, you’ll be the most thorough if you decide to manually upload a list of pages where your ads are supposed to be displayed. However, ads may not be shown if the audience is small.


The basic method of contextual targeting is about displaying ads according to the subject of a website. Google analyzes pages in terms of content and link or language structure. Based on that it can determine the main subject of the page. Categories include:
  • House and garden
  • Encyclopaedias and dictionaries
  • Finance
  • Games
  • Hobby & leisure
  • Internet and telecommunication
  • Computers & electronics
  • Books & literature
  • People and society
  • Places of the world
  • Science
  • Real estate
  • Beauty & fitness
  • Travel
  • Work & education
  • Law & administration
  • Cars & vehicles
  • Sport
  • Online communities
  • Arts & entertainment
  • Business and industrial services
  • News
  • Shopping
  • Health
  • Wild and domestic animals
  • Food & drinks
Each of these categories has a number of more detailed subcategories. gdn ads targeting Ads can be set as targeting and observation. It’s possible to limit the display of your ads within a category or modify the rates for relevant groups.
Example: You’ve an apartment for rent. You can display your ads on websites related to “Apartments for rent” or "Vacation rentals & short-term stays". If your campaign is directed at people planning holidays, you can display ads on websites with travel guides or diaries, sightseeing tours or travel offers.


Placements are specific URLs of websites, Youtube channels, Youtube videos, apps or app categories. placements gdn ads targeting An entire website or its part can be a placement. Placements can be set up as targeting or observation. It’s possible to modify rates for individual platforms.
Example: If you specialize in selling real estate, you can display your ads on advertising websites. It’s also beneficial to provide YouTube channels and videos discussing real estate sales tips.


Keyword targeting is a more thorough method than topic targeting. To benefit from this option, you must select content-based targeting. Ads will be displayed solely on Google and partner websites, movies and apps related to given phrases. Keywords in the display network work more generally and don’t include as many types as the search network.
Example: If you work as a university recruiter, you can implement keyword targeting for phrases: universities, studies, non-public universities, public universities, university ranking, full-time studies, extramural studies and so on. This way, websites containing these words or their close synonyms will be taken into account as placements.

Display expansion on search campaigns

Although this targeting method is still recommended by Google, it’s not frequently chosen by our agency. Very often, such broad targeting translates into low effectiveness results with too high an amount of resources allocated to the display network. This type works similarly to keyword targeting, however, it uses the same settings as the campaign targeted at the search network.
Example: A small entrepreneur running a local business wants to reach many recipients at low costs. These activities aim at acquiring traffic. Content publishers willing to generate traffic are another example. This targeting method may allow you to obtain a much lower CPC than other solutions.
Note: When benefiting from display expansion on search campaigns, you need to apply precise negative keywords.

Negative keywords

Targeting methods can be used to create negative keywords. You can select words you don’t want to be shown on in the display network or you can provide specific platforms and YouTube channels you want to exclude. Apart from taking advantage of content settings for the campaign, it’s an extra way to narrow down GDN ad targeting.

For whom?

Contextual targeting is an ideal way to reach recipients browsing websites devoted to particular topics or containing particular content. Based on the analysis of data on the effectiveness of specific placements, you can create individual campaigns for particular groups. This type of targeting should help companies wanting to improve their brand recognition or attract customers to given products at a very early decision-making stage. For example, furniture manufacturers can display their ads on interior design websites.

The takeaway

A properly configured campaign can generate many sales. There are sectors like SAAS products for businesses, human resources, events or B2B sales where it’s possible to obtain much higher conversion when compared to the search network. It’s worth keeping in mind that GDN usually doesn’t generate more sales than the search network. When analyzing conversion, it’s possible to notice that it has a higher CPA and worse ROAS. However, a properly executed campaign in the display network supports sales through all channels. Moreover, such activities are recommended for most e-businesses, brands, and manufacturers. All of the abovementioned ad targeting types can be combined as targeting or observation. You can narrow down the groups of recipients and places where ads are displayed or modify the rates for given groups.


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