If you’ve ever advertised on Google’s Display Network (formerly called the content network), then your story probably sounds something like this: you launch a campaign with high hopes, it burns through enough cash to buy a used car, and you reel in horror at the dismal ROI it brought in and you pause it in disgust, refusing to spend another dime there ever again.

But guess what? Your competitors are making it profitable; with ease, no less.

This is why it’s absolutely crucial that you have a solid strategy for advertising on the Display Network. After all, people spend 95% of their time browsing websites, not scrolling through the Google search results.

An entire book could be written on how to most efficiently launch and optimize various Display Network campaigns, but we’ll focus on a few tools and strategies that will help you succeed.

Predict The Future

Throughout 2010, Google introduced a whole slew of new tools and features to help ecommerce advertisers become more profitable, but most of the popular features are related to the search network.

While everyone was drooling over product listing ads, sitelinks, modified broad match, call metrics, and automated rules, people seemed to overlook the invaluable Contextual Targeting Tool for the Display Network.

Imagine if you could type in a handful of your best keywords, click a few buttons, and create dozens of tightly-themed ad groups within a campaign, complete with bid suggestions and a prediction of where your ads will show on the Display Network down to the URL level. That’s extremely powerful!

The new Contextual Targeting Tool does just that and handily gives you an edge over your competitors using the old strategy of “launch and hope for the best”. Let them waste their money.

The visibility into the potential websites on which your ads will show means you can block particular domains or URLs before you even take your ads live, saving you money and frustration while giving more budget to relevant and potentially profitable placements.

The Placement Tool also allows you to view potential placements where your ad would show. While this tool isn’t necessarily new, it has certainly been improved as of late. Just enter some of your top keywords into the tool and it will show you relevant placements where your ad is likely to show, along with impression estimates, which ad types are supported, and one-click access to view that website’s profile in Ad Planner.

The advantage here is that you can filter by category and type of placement (site, video, mobile, etc). If you sell “swings”, that can be pretty ambiguous. Are you selling a toy? Swings for babies? Fitness swings? The Placement Tool lets you narrow this down to filter out the junk, letting you focus on what’s important.

Make Them Remember You

Remarketing was also released last year and is a powerful way to make your brand appear bigger than it really is. Gone are the days where you have to launch an expensive multi-channel marketing strategy involving TV, radio, and print in order for people to think “wow, I see them everywhere!”

While there’s dozens of remarketing strategies to capitalize on, a simple yet powerful strategy is to target anyone who has been to your website within the past 7 days but not purchased yet. The default remarketing length is 30 days, but by changing it to just 7 days (or less), you can spend a short burst of funds at a slightly higher bid to keep your brand top of mind while the prospect is making their purchase decision.

Test Cool Ads

Google has also been quietly improving their Display Ad Builder tool to allow advertisers to easily create customized robust image ads in 7 sizes with ease.

In particular, the Retail templates allow ecommerce advertisers to offer a way for shoppers to browse multiple product offerings from within an ad. The great part is that you don’t even pay until that person clicks the product they want and are taken to your site. Combined with remarketing, these templates can be extremely powerful.

Google also offers seasonal templates that allow you to keep your brand topical and up to date. The Summer-themed templates just might get a better response.

Get Those Customers!

The Display Network should be an essential part of every advertiser’s strategy. If you’re not using it effectively, then you’re leaving money on the table and allowing your competitors to scoop up new customers in a cost-effective manner. Take some time to reevaluate your Display Network strategy and ask yourself if you’re really maximizing your profits, or if it’s your competitors that are the ones cleaning house.