Critical Insights About Display Advertising in 2020 Explained

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What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the words “Google” and “Marketing”?

Well, I bet that’s a no-brainer since we’re all crazy about SEO. It’s pretty evident that ecommerce relies greatly on SEO. And SEO, come to think of it, is now a thing thanks to the exceedingly-growing levels of competition between ecommerce websites.

Fair enough. But, here’s the thing. Google is not entirely about SEO. While organic marketing has proven to be extremely crucial to your online store’s overall ranking, it’s just one part of the overall traffic generation equation.

Let’s face it. Today’s competitive ecommerce environment requires a much more holistic approach if you intend to maintain a persistent flow of leads. So, have you ever considered supplementing your organic framework with Google’s paid marketing tactics?

Ok, I know you’ve probably heard that suggestion before. And it might not seem feasible at first because who pays attention to paid ads in 2019?

Now, admittedly, paid marketing might not be at the top of your digital marketing to-do list. And that’s totally understandable, especially considering the challenges that often come with it.

But, you know what? Google’s paid marketing framework is ripe with way more potential than you imagine.

Or is it?

About The Google Display Network

Ok, let’s cut to the chase and evaluate the largest of them of all – Google’s Display Ads. In essence, Google’s Display Network (GDN) alone is currently reaching out to 90% of all web users globally.

Let that sink in for a minute. With such an expansive footprint, Google is capable of publishing your display ads on more than 650,000 apps, as well as over 2 million different websites.

That essentially translates to limitless marketing opportunities. You can hunt for prospects anywhere and then connect with them in many different ways.

To help you with that, SEMrush published a detailed report after analyzing about 23 million ad impressions from the leading GDN ecommerce publishers, as well as over 40 million impressions made by the dominant GDN ecommerce advertisers.

In case you haven’t heard about them yet, SEMrush is a renowned SaaS company that provides an all-in-one toolkit for comprehensive analysis plus tracking of your entire digital marketing framework. You get to learn all about your site’s SEO, PPC, social media, and content marketing health, as well as generate valuable competitive insights.

So far, SEMrush has built quite an extensive intelligence system across all the marketing channels on Google. It continues to compile relevant data in large volumes to improve its overall analytical accuracy.

And as a result, it managed to take advantage of its Display Advertising Tool to dig up all that GDN data we’ve mentioned, and subsequently assess the corresponding variables in detail.

Ultimately, SEMrush established all the critical insights you might need to perfect your display advertising strategy.

This piece provides all that info as well as the accompanying best practices. But before we delve into that, let’s first discuss what display advertising entails, for the sake of clarity.

What Is Display Advertising?

Display advertising is a marketing system that engages audiences through visuals like videos and images. The banners are essentially published on third-party websites and apps frequented by your target audience.

When we dive deeper, it turns out there are several varying approaches you could use for your display ads. The three principal categories include:

  • Site Placement Advertising – You get to select the sites you’d like to have your display ads published.
  • Contextual Advertising – On its network, the system automatically identifies relevant third-party platforms and publishes your display ads accordingly. If you’re selling cat food, for instance, you might have your ad placed on a pet adoption site.
  • Remarketing – This type of display ads target audiences who’ve already visited your site, but then left before they were fully converted

All things considered, therefore, Google’s Display Network is built to purposefully target internet surfers based on their behaviors, interests, and demographics. It allows you to set up a dynamic lead generation system that follows prospects around as they surf.

However, don’t mistake search ads for display advertising. While the latter relies on a push approach, the former fundamentally uses a pull approach to target search engine users who are actively seeking items related to yours.

That said, let’s proceed to the big question. Which of the 2019 display advertising stats published by SEMrush are particularly outstanding? How can you use the resultant insights to your advantage?

Most Important Takeaways on Modern Display Advertising Trends

Audience Targeting

At the core of your display advertising framework is audience targeting. The impact you eventually create on the ad’s viewers significantly depends on the type of audience you choose to target in the first place.

For the best possible results, GDN allows you to define your target audience based on their relationship to you, demographics, interests, as well as their sales funnel stages. Get these parameters wrong, and you might as well forget about generating solid leads. In short, therefore, audience targeting is a make-or-break procedure.

So, what’s the best possible approach here?

Well, going by SEMrush’s analytics, two elements that are predominantly considered by advertisers are gender plus age. And on reviewing the corresponding numbers, it was revealed that both age and gender substantially affect how audiences receive and react to display ads.

Women, for instance, are increasingly more responsive than men. They tend to shop more from ecommerce sites, and their accompanying click-through rates are higher by about 30%.

Quite an interesting phenomenon there, I have to say. Well, according to SEMrush, a lot of it has to do with how women perceive shopping. Unlike their male counterparts, women consider shopping to be a fun leisure activity. Consequently, they are bound to respond better to your display ads.

But where does this leave men?

Well, fortunately, it’s not all gloom for male-oriented online stores. If men form the bulk of your target audience, you might want to adorn your ads with brighter colors. Men exceedingly fancy such banners while women are more inclined towards soft colors.

Another area where men outshine women is cross-device shopping. So, you can go ahead and optimize your display ads for different devices if you’re selling men’s products.

Now, when it comes to age, 54% of ecommerce display ad viewers are between the ages of 25 and 44. For increased conversion, therefore, you should prioritize on this specific category by choosing banners they’d find most appealing.

And while you’re at it, you should particularly focus on the 25 to 34 years age bracket. They form the bulk of ecommerce site visitors at 31%. 35 to 44 year old shoppers come second with 23%, while 45 to 55 year olds come a distant third with 15%.

Finding Display Ad Topics

How you choose to structure your display ads determines their subsequent engagement levels. A perfect banner is not only designed attractively, but also features subjects that audiences would find interesting.

Fact is, your ad will consistently compete against many others for audience attention. And only the most engaging banners have the best shot at winning over the viewers.

Now, this is where you tweak your ad based on your target audience’s interests. If you’re trying to find an appropriate topic, for example, you might want to throw in a bit of beauty and fitness. This subject alone features prominently among ecommerce site visitors’ interests, with almost 36% of them showing a strong preference to it.

Sadly, there’s no alternative topic that can match up to that. The second most popular subject of interest is business and industrial, which only attracts about 15%. Hobbies and leisure comes third with 10%, while food and drink, plus home and garden complete the list with 6% and 5% respectively.

The Power of Cross-Device Targeting

Desktop vs mobile is one of the most recurrent debates in the ecommerce space. So, of course, it’s no surprise that it’s also a thing when it comes to display advertising.

That said, it’s worth noting that modern display advertising extends to all types of surfing devices. In essence, 20% of ad publishers are on desktop, 20% accommodate Android tablet systems, 21% handle Android mobile, 18% display on tablet iOS, while 21% adjust their ads to mobile iOS devices.

From these figures, it’s evident that there’s no dominant device platform among publishers. Every single ecosystem is supported by its fair share of ad publishers.

And the situation is similar when we switch over to the advertisers’ side. 22% of them are already displaying their ads on Android tablet, with 21% making impressions via Android mobile. Mobile iOS also takes up a 21% share, while tablet iOS falls slightly behind with 20%. Desktop then comes last with 16% of the display ads.

Fair enough. But which device platform should you prioritize on?

Well, the answer is none. If you intend to reach out to a wide audience base, your display ads should be distributed across all the devices. And for the best possible impressions, consider a cross-device targeting approach featuring dynamically-optimized ads.

Size Does Matter

According to SEMrush’s analysis of the best performing ad sizes revealed by Google, there’s no space for moderation in display advertising. Size does indeed matter here because it emerged that on average, the size of your banner is directly proportional to its potential impact.

Consequently, the most impactful display ads in 2019 are the biggest, which measure 728×90. They are huge enough to attract your viewers’ attention before they even proceed to the site’s actual content. This alone has made 728×90 “leaderboard” display ads exceptionally popular, and they’ve cumulatively contributed to 57% of the impressions this year.

The second most-influential display ads are the “medium rectangles”, which measure 300×250. Although they have a fairly decent amount of space, their popularity is nowhere close to leaderboard’s. The impression rate here is 27%, and the ads have proven to be particularly effective when published on text-heavy web pages.

“Banner” display ad format then comes in a distant third, with a popularity rate of 9% among advertisers. Considering they appear as thin rectangles, banners are suitable for salvaging missed opportunities. They are commonly positioned towards the top of the publisher’s web page for increased prominence and engagement.

That said, the least popular sizes among advertisers are 336×280 and 160×600. The former has a popularity of 4% while the latter can only manage 3%.

Now, when we switch over to publishers, it turns out the trend doesn’t change much. The biggest sizes are exceptionally popular while the smallest options feature on only a handful of pages.

Interestingly, however, the margins between the rates here are not that large. 728×90, for example, leads with 36% and 300×250 comes second with 24%.

Speaking of which, publishers acknowledge that the latter is more dynamic, and perfectly suited for cross-device targeting. Sadly, however, it doesn’t provide sufficient space for messages. So, in the end, most of the publishers settle for the much flexible leaderboard size.

Images Vs Responsive Ads

Barely two years ago, images were the undisputed kings of advertising. Responsive ads only took up 32% while images retained 68% popularity.

That might seem like a pretty huge difference. But, it took less than 24 months for the tables to turn completely. Going by the figures recorded in 2019, responsive ads are currently featured in 72% of the display ads while images have dropped to 28%.

This drastic change of events is attributed to, among other variables, today’s ecommerce needs. You see, many online store merchants are now trying to promote large volumes of products using limited resources and time. So, of course, they have no option but to leverage responsive ads instead of images.

The Bottom Line

Considering all the insights we’ve explored, display advertising best practices can be summarized as follows:

  • Take advantage of leaderboard ads when you need to capture attention.
  • Prioritize on responsive ads over images.
  • Target audiences based on tested and proven parameters.
  • Capitalize on cross-device targeting for extensive reach.

SEMrush confirms that these approaches are already generating great results for the top advertisers. So, you can proceed to implement them on your display ad campaigns and see how everything turns out.

But, before you ultimately roll out a new tactic, it’s extremely important to test it accordingly. Split-testing can help you identify areas that need additional fine-tuning for the best possible campaign results.


Davis Porter

Davis Porter is a B2B and B2C ecommerce pundit who’s particularly obsessed with digital selling platforms, online marketing, hosting solutions, web design, cloud tech, plus customer relationship management software. When he’s not testing out various applications, you’ll probably find him building a website, or cheering Arsenal F.C. on.

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