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SEMrush Toolbox #10: Display Advertising report




Craig: Hi and welcome to today's SEMrush webinar. I am going to be showing you guys how to use the Display Advertising tool and I'm going to be joined by Joel Bondorowsky. Hopefully, Joel will be able to give some good tips and insights into how he uses the Display Advertising tool, so that's what we've got on for today.

For anyone who doesn't know Joel; Joel do you want to give people a brief introduction as to who you are, what you've done, previous experience and all that kind of thing?

Joel: For the past year or so I've been pretty involved with SEMrush and the aspect of education and webinars, my background is in pay-per-click advertising, I've been at it for a while, I've got a lot of experience, and I'm very, very happy to have found SEMrush as a platform to use, to help me express my ideas, my thoughts, my strategies, and share my experience I've got along the way with everyone out there, because I do hope and think that it gives everyone value so I'm here to do that.

Craig: Good stuff. There's quite a lot of people now in the chat so I think what we'll do is I'll get ready and start sharing my screen and I'll show you guys where to find the tool and some of the basics that it does and then we'll let Joel share the in-depth knowledge.

SEMrush Display Advertising Tool Overview

First things first, where do you find the tool? Once you log into SEMrush you've got your options in the top left-hand corner and if you select the Competitive Research Toolkit option it will take you to this page and then down here you've got. Advertising. You've got Advertising Research; Display Advertising which is the one we're going to talk about and PLA Research.

Just click on Display Advertising and you'll be faced with a nice, simple, easy to use dashboard and it will tell you, just figures here, total ads, total publishers, total advertisers and stuff like that. You can scroll down and it'll tell you how the tool works. What SEMrush have cleverly done is built in this feature where you can actually see what your competitor’s ad is looking like; the publishers and everything else that can help you either replicate or do a similar type of campaign.

It's very simple and easy to use, all you need to do is stick in a domain or a keyword into the search bar, which is here, and then click Explore. I'm going to use Amazon.co.uk. Amazon has got a ton of display advertising ads on there, so they're as good as any for me to be able to show you the data that pools together.

You put the domain name in and click Explore. You're now then faced with a nice simple and easy to understand dashboard. It will show you the location; you've got your different options here; locations worldwide, we can obviously look at the UK, Canada, the US, whatever it might be. We'll just keep it on worldwide for now. You can look at desktop, apple, android, different devices. And you can look at the different periods as well. If you upgrade to the business account you can view data for a specific time period as well.

With Amazon, we have 14,600 ads, we can click on here and it'll show all the different kind of ads whether images, HTML or text. You scroll down and it'll show you all the ads, which is obviously the next tab along from the overview. I'll go back a second, it'll show you the ads, the publishers, the times these ads have been seen, when the ads were first seen and when they were last seen, so you've got all that data there.

I've also got audience targeting, so you can see male and female, audience targeting ages and obviously with Amazon I would always expect the ages to go right across the board from 18 to 65 plus. The top audience interests will probably not be a surprise, media and entertainment 58%, 40% technology, 29% shoppers. Top audience interest is obviously giving you an idea of what kind of interest people have when they're looking at Amazon and media and entertainment is the biggest one.

But as we look at the overview here, you also have different tabs here like, ads, landing pages, and publishers. I'm going to go back to Overview because it all integrates into each other.  

You can export that data to a zip file as well if you want to show that data to a client or whatever it may be. But what you've also got with SEMrush is a similar dashboard to the organic search where it will show you, a nice graph there of what's going on.

The blue line being image ads, the orange line being line would be HTML ads and the green line being text ads. You can filter around here and just look at the HTML ads and the text. You can work through this data to see what type of ads, whether it’s image ads or whatever is working well for Amazon etc.

The next tab along that we have here is landing pages. What is really important and I'm sure Joel will go into all this kind of stuff in more detail, is landing people on the right landing pages when you're serving an ad.

There's no point in serving an ad for, you know, iPads and they land on some generic technology page. People want to be seeing iPads so you can see the kind of landing pages that your competitors are using as well. Again how many times those ads have been seen and all that kinda stuff as well. Landing pages tab is quite important.

Publishers tab is the last one here. It will show you all the different types of publishers, publishing ads, how many times those ads have been seen, the monthly visits and for some of the data.

You can filter them down using the kind of filtering options to include or exclude certain things or specific words.

You can really delve down into all of this data and see the publishers that your competitors are using, the landing pages, the ads and everything else which just makes life a hell of a lot easier. You can basically use this to create your own campaign and then follow suit.

You don't want to be replicating what Amazon do because there's no point in replicating Amazon unless you've got the same amount of money and stuff to burn, but you can certainly cherrypick a lot of good information with data like this and it's all handed to you on a plate.

Very simple and easy to use as I say and you can export a lot of the information here if you want to run that past the client or whatever. Up at the top here you will also see, top 30 publishers and advertisers. Joel will go into the different tactics and techniques and everything else that is out there but I think setting up and getting the correct data is always the best starting point, and that's what the display advertising tool essentially does.

Joel: Before I begin I want to talk a little about doing advertising on the Google display network, really I would divide the work into three separate tasks. The display advertising tool; well what a tool does is it helps complete certain tasks or jobs better.

The Importance of Research in your Display Advertising Strategy

As anyone knows, if you do display advertising, it's not just one discipline, there's a lot of different things you have to take care of. Before you launch any campaign you need to do some research, and this is something the display advertising tool helps you do very well, next you need to plan your campaign and afterward you need to optimize your campaign.

I'll begin with researching and we'll talk about how this tool can help you do that. Let’s say you want to understand if display advertising can be viable for whatever industry you're in, you can use the competitor publishers report to understand if that's that case.


Let’s say you're selling a particular product, like wallets online, and there is a competitor of yours that's doing something very similar. You could then look them up on this tool and if their report looks flat over a long period of time, you can feel confident that they're successful at it because they're trying it, it's working and it continues to work.

Or else, why else would they be advertising in this manner? If that's the case then you can feel more confident doing it as well because it shows that selling this particular product can work with Google display advertising.

If I'm taking on a new client and I'm trying to understand what their competitors are doing, if they're very successful at it, then I will feel more confident to let them know that these other guys are doing it. They're taking a great share of the market, taking advantage of the Google display network.

Getting their ads out there on one of millions of websites in front of possibly billions of impressions a month; it can work for you too if it can work for them. It's a good way to figure out viability when doing research into what you want to, how you want to advertise.

You can find out where they're advertising as well. If a competitor is selling a particular retail product it is good to see what their top countries are. By using the demographic report which is on the main page, the display ads report, you can get some insight into that.


Planning a Display Ads Campaign

Now when it comes to planning, there are really three elements to planning. You need to plan your targeting, which is where you're going to show your ads and how you're going to target your ads. There is also the creator itself and the landing pages, the sales funnel, where you drive users. These are all important elements that you need in order to build your campaign and that is something this tool does for you.

For targeting, let’s say I'm doing research and promoting a particular product and I find that there is a very, very, very strong competitor that's been doing it for a while. I will then use him as an example and I will first try and figure out what websites to target by the category of site.

For those of you who are experienced with the Google display network, you'll know that you can reach users on it by website topics, individual sites themselves, and also by people; by audiences and then broken up by demographics.

Really the first place you're going to want to look at are the types of websites that the successful advertiser is doing the best at driving traffic that converts. I took a screenshot of the category report and right now I'm seeing that this particular advertiser is very heavy on these topics of sites, this will help me figure out that if I'm launching my first campaigns, the first traffic that I'm going to drive to figure out what the value of the traffic is, is going to be of the health topic, business/industrial and so on.

The topic report doesn't give you all the information you need though. It is really good actually to look at the publishers themselves. If you look at the publishers themselves you can actually really see what these websites are, which helps give you insight into where your ads will be. I think it is a horrible idea for advertisers when they launch campaigns and they don't actually look at where the ads are going to be shown.


Your advertising will be much stronger if you're able to do that. Google discontinued its display advertising tool. They used to actually help you figure out where the ads will go. Because that's gone, the SEMrush Display Ads report is a great resource for understanding if I'm targeting these topics of sites, what publishers will my ads be seen on?

Another way you can target your users on the Google display network is by keywords. If you're wanting to launch keyword targeted campaigns on the display network, this is a way to find the words that you're going to want to target initially. Looking at the publishers helps you figure that out.

Now a really cool feature that the display advertising report has is it allows you to export this report, the full report, into an excel. When doing so I recommend that you will give the most significance to the publishers that have the ads seen the most times. It means that that is a very significant source of traffic, sort by the number of times seen from top to down and also look for the ones that have the highest number of ads and also the most monthly visits.

Those are the ones that are the most successful or most significant for the competitor that you're researching. They are an example of something that is working in your industry. Like I said that's kind of how we started with this whole thing, you look, you find competitors, you find competitors where this works and you can use them to help guide you to move in the right direction from the start.

When it comes to targeting the display network, besides targeting websites based on their content, or websites based on their topic or the websites themselves, you could also target people. You could target audiences, the display ads tool shows you the top audiences by interest, in the example that I took a screenshot of, which you could see of the dash, you could see the top interest.

In this case, it's beauty and wellness, media and entertainment, technology, shoppers, food and dining, so a good idea might be to start these new campaigns by crossing the targeting of people who are interested in beauty and wellness with one of the top topics that we saw before.

In addition to that, when it comes to who the people are, there's also their demographics, such as you know, their age, their gender, etc, so you could help understand that. That way when you launch your campaigns, in this situation over here I am seeing that biggest percentage tends to be, like 18 to 24-year-olds and people over 65 are not working out so well. Probably the reason for that is that the best converter for my competitors are people who are more middle-aged.

I talked about, initially, you want to understand, you want to do research, you want to understand the viability of your campaigns, you want to understand how to target your campaigns so that you can plan them effectively. When you launch, you're more likely to reach the right people faster.

You don't have to start off spending money in all this traffic that isn't converting, you have to start excluding, you have to start filtering, you know it can be very, very expensive. This is a way to start off doing it much, much cheaper.

Creating an Effective Ad

Next, creatives; creative is very important. I mean, the ad is you know, how good the ad is a big component in how successful or not your campaigns are.

There's no real winning formula for creatives, you shouldn't copy your competitors, but if you have a competitor that is successful, using them as a guide for what can or cannot work does help. I mean, never actually just take what they do and duplicate it, but understand, okay their message is short, simple, to the point, clear call to action as Geico is doing here.

Before I launch a campaign, when I'm planning what creative I'm going to use, I try not to look at competitors ads before I think of some ideas on my own. I kind of sometimes feel that I get more fresh ideas if I think about it with like a clear mind before actually becoming exposed to other people’s ideas.

Now, the ads they are extremely important, there the first impression that people often have of your company, of your product, of what you're selling. It's a way to take users off of whatever they're reading, off of whatever they're doing online and get them into your all-important sales funnel; this tool helps you understand how your competitors are doing just that.

It shows you their landing pages, most sophisticated advertisers. Most large campaigns are not driving traffic to their homepage, they're driving traffic to well-planned funnels that drive users down the path they want them to take, from that ad all the way down to becoming a sale.


If you got their attention from that ad follow it up with a landing page that kind of continues your message and gets them to really take interest in what you have to offer, desire it and finally take action and buy it.

You're not going to find these landing pages just browsing through your competitor's websites; these landing pages are only accessed through ads. They're also accessed through this report; this report will allow you to look up a competitor and find out where they are driving their traffic.

Understanding if your competitor is doing this and how your competitor is doing this is a great way to understand what you might want to do in order to build a successful strategy.

Optimizing Your Display Ad Strategy for Success

Finally, I'm going to get to optimization. If you're advertising on the Google display network, there are many different ad sizes, there are also different devices. Let’s say you launch your campaigns and your traffic is 80% on desktop and maybe on 20% on mobile and you research on your competitors who are successful at it and you see that their split is 50/50, well you know what? Maybe you're not doing something right on mobile.


That's something you might want to work on, you could also maybe find that, hey you know what, none of my ads besides 728x90 are really running, you could use this tool to see your competitors ad and think, look at that, wow, they have a whole wide variety of sizes, 320x50 is working great for them. There're tons of sizes.

Demographics as well, maybe you find that you're doing better with one age group, or let’s say you find that you can't possibly sell to people from 18 to 24, but you find that a competitor of yours is? Maybe there's something they're doing differently.

I think I covered all the bases there.

Craig: Thank you, Joel! I've got questions. One of the questions is from William Rock. When optimizing by device do you play with bid adjustments?

Joel: I do bid adjustments. If your product absolutely converts very, very, very poorly on mobile and you want to get campaigns to a profitable spot, I might initially suggest start running only desktop.

In the beginning, before your campaigns make you money, you're losing money on them. You need to optimize these campaigns so that way you're able to spend less than you receive. That is best done by really focusing on what works the best.

If the mobile traffic converts really poorly, I might just think you know what, I've got a limited budget here. I'm going to focus on desktop for now and once we get things working well for desktop we'll start introducing mobile. The way I might do that is with bid adjustments.

What Types of Services/Companies Should Use Display Ads?

Craig: Thank you for that, the next question we have is from GoatCloud Communications. So he's saying, what do you think about competitors not using display? Do we run for the hill or see that as an opportunity?

Joel: Well look, just because someone’s not doing it successfully doesn't mean it can't be done successfully. By the way, display doesn't work for everybody, that's not everybody, I mean every type of service. Why? Display doesn't really grab people who are expressing intent at that moment, it's grabbing people who may want something.

Search advertising gets people who are like, okay right now I want this, I'm searching for it, I want to buy it.

Let’s say you're an emergency locksmith. You're never going to show an ad to someone who's going to be like you know what, I've got to get into my house, unlock now! Display advertising will never work for that type of industry, display advertising works if you have something that people want, and they don't know that they want it.

Display advertising works if your ad is able to spark curiosity from people who don't realize they want this product, bring them into your landing page and then you landing page is able to then spark their interest, make them think that they want it to the point that they're actually going to take action and buy it.

Craig: The next question is from Heather Griffin. Heather's asking, Heather's top competitor display ads by country has 33%, where it says “Others”, what does that mean exactly? It's 33% showing as others, not actually country-specific, what does that mean?

Joel: I think that means they're advertising in a lot of countries and each country is only a small percentage, so instead of showing a lot of 2, 3, 4 and 7%'s you just group them all together and say others.

Craig: Another question I've got here is, on the creatives of the ads, are there any tools that you could easily create the ads, or is this a graphic designers job?

Joel: Well actually Google now lets you create whatever, create ads, responsive ads that actually kind of design themselves, you put in an image, you put in some copy, and you choose what call to action you want to use and they will reorganize the ads for the different ad sizes. That way they look all right and it can be quite effective.

The ads that perform the best are usually the ones that are most simple, by most simple, simply like an image that expresses an idea and clear text. When from a designers' perspective they start looking too good and too complicated, people lose focus of the message and they just are kind of like blinded by like a pretty image; the best performing ads are very rarely the most beautiful and stuff designs.

Craig: Is display advertising cheaper and most cost-effective in other countries for example, like Israel?

Joel: Yeah, prices do vary by geography and that often is determined by how quick those people are to monetize from as themselves. Inside of the United States I've actually seen differences with this like for example, California, Los Angeles, Southern California, people are spending a lot more online, cost per clicks are higher there, they're high in New York City, they’re cheaper in other states and, I don't even know if this out for everyone but actually SEMrush has a bit simulating tool to kind of show you how click prices vary across the United States, it's something interesting they might want to check out, if it's there.

How to Approach Bid Adjustments

Craig: William Rock was talking in the live chat about bid adjustments and stuff, but basically GoatCloud Communications are looking to hear how you approach bid adjustments.

Joel: Okay, well, it's quite simple... let’s say that you see that mobile converts half as well as desktop, that means the value of their traffic is half as good, so give it a negative 50% bid adjustment. The approach there, that's pretty simple and straightforward.

Now, if at the same time you notice that certain age groups perform better than others, and you bid adjust them. Let’s say you bid adjust just mobile down 50% and then you bid adjust the age group 35-44 up 30% because it converts better and then you see that men are converting better than women,  you bid adjust men up 30%.

Then you see that you convert better in a certain city, you bid adjust that city up to a certain percentage, you're probably bidding way too much for men who are 40 years old in that city, on desktop.

Because the problem with bid adjustments is that they compound, if you're doing them in a lot of detail you could be giving yourself a math problem, which is not something I could explain how to solve right now, but it is something to keep in mind. If you are bid adjusting, and you’re bid adjusting on more than one dimension, keep it very light, keep it small because it'll compound with other bid adjustments.

Best Ad Sizes to Use on a Limited Budget

Craig: Perfect... if working within a limited budget, what are the best three to five ad sizes to start with in your opinion?

Joel: 250x250 is extremely popular, 300x250 is very popular on mobile, I think the most popular on desktop is 336x280, and then there's 728x90, like the really wide banner that you see, that they often see. The large banners like that, they're going to cost more

So what I'm trying to get as is, just stick to the smaller more popular sizes like 336x280 or 300x250 and optimize your traffic with it. Once you figure out the right traffic and optimize there you could then spread out, you see the thing is, the more things you target, the more you have to optimize.

The more ad sizes you have the more possibilities you have to target stuff, and the more data you need in order to become profitable. It's good in the beginning if you're on a low budget to keep it more focused and simple if you're less likely to convert with a certain demographic just cut them out at that moment.

Craig: When optimizing a campaign and trying to find the correct audience, what is your approach with using keywords, topics, and placements? Do you use them all in the beginning or fine-tune observation one by one?

Joel: Okay so this is a big challenge of the GDN. Search advertising is so easy by comparison because it's like keyword, search, ad, landing page. With a display network they give you tons of options, not only do they give you tons of options but they give you tons of ways to combine them and mix and match them.

I kind of play with it, like I will start off with, I'll have different groups set up, I'll have some groups that are more heavily targeted to the types of sites I think are the most relevant for people ready to take action.  I will do that with keywords and topics and I might refine them with audiences as well. At the same time, I'll experiment with spreading way out and targeting, you know, very wide audiences and then maybe doing bid adjustments with the topics that they bring.

By the way, something that you almost never want to do anymore, is start off by targeting individual placements themselves, Google's not really liking it that much if you micro-target, if you pick a particular website and say you want your ads to be there and also you're not going to be that effective, it's better to be a bit broader and target sites by their topic and so on.

Can You Make Much Money From Display Advertising?

Craig: Is display advertising still something that people make a lot of money from?

Joel: Display advertising is where people make the most money. Search advertising works to reach people who know to look for a particular product. If you conquer your competitors, if you best them with PPC search and SEO, you are conquering your market share.

However, if you successfully put up banners and advertise them to the right audiences, which see over a billion eyes on a regular basis, and you're able to successfully bring them in with a high return, you could then scale and the potential that you can scale is massive. When you do that you're not just like conquering your market share, you're actually growing it.

You're convincing people who don't know that they want something to buy something. If you're able to successfully take people and convince them they want to buy what you're selling with display ads, it's huge and it's not something that in theory happens, it's something that does happen.

Some of the largest campaigns I've seen, on any platform, have been in the Google display network, I've seen, you know I've personally managed display ads that are spending over two million dollars a month for one client, it works. It doesn't work for everyone though.

Craig: Cool, cool. Well, sadly, we're out of time Joel and everyone else in the webinar so, it's time to go now but it has been a pleasure again having you on and doing a webinar with you. Thanks to everyone who turned up, we will have the slides and everything else that Joe had underneath the YouTube channel later on.

Joel: Yeah, you're very welcome Craig, my pleasure. And by the way I don't mind keeping the dialogue going, feel free to hit me up on twitter, also LinkedIn as well, search for my name and, you know, it's good to talk, it's good to exchange ideas, I always learn from people as well and I'm very happy to do this.

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