How to use Display Advertising to target your key customers

Alex Minchin
Alex Minchin

The key to effective marketing on the display network is relevancy. To find out how to use display advertising to target your key customers, read on.

I went to the cinema on Saturday night to see the concluding chapter of Hollywood’s most recent Planet of the Apes trilogy. I own the first two films on DVD and have had something of a soft spot for the anthropomorphic chimps since the moment James Franco first smuggled baby Caesar home from his research labs in a big cardboard box.

The competence of Franco’s security teams is a discussion for another time, but that’s not to say I didn’t have a few other questions when I left the cinema, sticky with popcorn and Pepsi.

  1. Was that Woody Harrelson or Marlon Brando abseiling down waterfalls?
  2. Can one horse really bear the combined weight of a gorilla and a chimpanzee?
  3. And was almost thirty minutes of adverts before the film started really necessary?

The load-bearing capacity of horses aside, this last question really got me thinking.

Sure, there was some effort made to tailor the trailers to the film, and if I’d been in the market for a new car, a few of the adverts might have distracted me for more than a cursory second from my extortionate snacks.

But I wasn’t and it didn’t. In fact, they had the opposite effect, leaving me bored and disinterested. I suspect I wasn’t alone.

The key to effective marketing is relevancy, and nowhere is this more apparent than display advertising.

You’re familiar with PPC advertising but you might not have given much thought to the wide range of targeting options available on the display network and how you could use these to really narrow down who’s seeing and engaging with your ads.

To find out how to use display advertising to target your key customers, read on.


  1. Target by topic
  2. Switch from automatic placements to managed placements
  3. Get granular with audience targeting
  4. Target specific audiences by location or language
  5. Introduce device targeting

Target by topic

Topic targeting is another example of how you can use your insights into your key customers to better target them with your display ads.

Google AdWords Audiences

Your most valuable customers may well have interests in niche topics that go over the heads of your wider customer base. Perhaps these interests relate directly to the kinds of services you provide them or perhaps you can intuit topics from their audience personas.

Whichever is true, optimising your display adverts to target by these topics is a great way of segmenting and targeting your key customers.

What to do: Your Audience > Interests Report in Google Analytics will be able to shed light on where some of your customers are spending their time online before finding you. For a more direct link between your key customers and their topics of interest, work backwards from the kinds of products or services they typically buy. This will give you a much clearer idea of the kinds of topics they are interested in and what you can target.

Switch from automatic placements to managed placements

If you know exactly where your key customers spends their time online, you can get very precise targeting very quickly by switching to managed placements and identifying specific websites where you want your ads to show.

Google Adwords Managed Placements

This bypasses the need for keyword targeting altogether, putting your ads exactly where you want them to be seen. Just make sure you’re certain your key customers use the sites you’ve specified.

What to do: Switch from contextual to managed placements in your display advertising settings and enter the addresses of the site where you would like your ads to show. You can even specify certain sections of websites, if you know there are particular pages or areas your key customers frequent.

Get granular with audience targeting

The two best options for targeting your key customers using audience targeting are remarketing and in-market audiences.

With remarketing, you can target your display ads to appear to users who have already visited your site. You can also choose to remarket to visitors of specific pages. Typically, remarketing is used to encourage non-buyers back to your website, but by remarketing to visitors of your key products or services, you can use it to re-engage your most valuable visitors.

Google AdWords In-Market Targeting

With in-market targeting, you can actively target customers with a high intent to purchase based on Google’s data.

In both cases, this gives your ads a better chance of being seen by an audience that is more likely to convert.

What to do: You’ll need to create a remarketing list or an audience before you can target them. AdWords Help walks you through both processes here and here.

Target specific audiences by location or language

Does your key audience occupy a certain country or city? Display advertising gives you the option to target them specifically according to their location and language.

PPC Audience Targeting

Of course, this depends on you knowing where—if anywhere—your key customers are located. It is not always the case that your most valuable audience is converged around a common location.

If they are, however, you can use location or language targeting to make your ad specific, engaging, and visible to that unique location and your key customers there.

What to do: Examine historical sales data to identify trends in purchasing habits and location. This is a reliable way of seeing if customers from certain areas spend more than your average customer.

Introduce device targeting

Finally, are your key customers using mobile or desktop? You can target your ads to trigger one over the other, so you’re only seen by your most valuable audience.

This targeting method depends on your ability to identify which device your key customers are using. Mobile might outperform desktop for engagement, for example, but are those small, on-the-go purchases compared to weightier, more valuable desktop transactions?

What to do: To engage key customers, identify where your biggest sales are coming from and test ads targeted solely at that device.

Zest strategy icon


You don’t have to choose between these targeting methods. The more you add, the smaller and more specific your audience becomes. By stacking them, you can really narrow down exactly who you want to see your ads.

The scope for targeting is huge. When you couple this with digital’s measurability, you can quickly see it’s not just the chimps that have evolved.

Cinema advertising survives because it presents businesses with a captive audience focused on a screen. But all the production assets in the world mean nothing if, like me, elbow-deep in my popcorn, the audience isn’t captive or focused.

Traditional marketing continues to have its place, especially for global brands with budget to burn, but to target your key customers, you’re better off getting smart and going for its more evolved cousin.

If you’re struggling to manage your PPC budget effectively, perhaps it’s worth speaking to a Certified Google and Bing Partner PPC Agency to see how we might be able to help your business.

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