How Google Display Ads Work: Explained Simply


Well-designed and engaging imagery tend to remain in a person’s mind for longer than even the catchiest tagline. We focus on what we can see, and even the subtlest visual cues can trigger our memory. So, when it comes to advertising, using eye-catching and aesthetically pleasing visuals is a no-brainer.

Google Display ads utilise this characteristic, enabling businesses to serve memorable ads to their ideal customers across the Internet (and not just on their own website). Let’s take a closer look at how this works.

Display vs Search & the Google Display Network

Google ads are separated into two parts: Display Ads and Search Ads. Search ads show up near search results when a customer uses a keyword related to your advertisement. The ads are purely text and labelled “Ad” on the search results page.

Display Ads, on the other hand, are different. These are image-based ads that appear in many places across the internet, not just the search results page, collectively known as the Google Display Network.

The Display Network is a collection of over two million websites and apps that can host your ad, helping you to reach all but the remaining ten per cent of the Internet citizens out there. You can use images and video alongside text to make a visual impact, hence the term “Display Network”.

What kind of ads can you display?

Thanks to the Google Display Network, the internet is your oyster. Some of the ad creatives (i.e. creative assets) you can go with are as follows.

  • Responsive Display AdsUse your own imagery and text, enter it into the system, and let Google do the rest. These optimise for performance, meaning the higher-performing ads are shown more regularly.
  • Image Ads Plain image ads that display exactly what you upload.
  • Engagement Ads – These can be video or image ads served across the Display Network, including YouTube.
  • Gmail AdsYou can even create expandable Gmail ads that appear in the top tabs of a person’s inbox.

Why Use Google Display Ads?

You can choose to show your ads on specific websites and in certain contexts (e.g. on travel websites, if you sell luggage), and you can also blacklist websites you don’t want your ads to appear on. In addition, the system is very intuitive and easily managed, so everything from a small business to a large corporation can benefit from these ads.

Furthermore, advertisers can use the detailed measurements and metrics provided by Google to optimise their ads for future performance, and even tailor what their business offers to people. Knowing what your customers are after is invaluable, and this system can lay it out for you in a neat graph, ready to use.