Moving Along the Sales Funnel with Google Ads: A Focus on Display

April 09, 2019

Often times when thinking of Google Ads, people tend to only recall the paid ads section atop the search results page. However, the paid ads section is just the tip of the iceberg. Google Ads gives you the ability to advertise across the Google Display Network, which varies from search partners, to blog sites, GMail, YouTube, and phone applications. If you were using Google to find your next pair of shoes, product pictures could even be served within the sponsored section, shown and highlighted below. This form of advertising, known as Google Shopping, is especially effective for E-Commerce. Each of these channels are unique and each holds a place in helping move customers through your Sales Funnel.

The Basic Sales Funnel

Not every search query will be an ‘end-of-funnel’ brand specific like “nike killshots.” An unbranded, general search could look something like “online clothing store,” placing the searcher higher up in the sales funnel. Depending on the specifics or lack thereof, you can deduce the level of intent in which they are searching. The level of intent dictates where they reside within the sales funnel. Using this knowledge we are able to use the Google Ads platform to reach anyone, regardless of where they are in the sales funnel, and drive actions for your business. Following this basic sales funnel, we can explore the different marketing opportunities we can take advantage of through Google Ads:

Awareness – This is the very top of the funnel. At this early point of the sales funnel, potential customers may not be aware of your brand or even the need for it. These customers are best reached through display ads and broad match type keywords. (e.g. “online clothing store” or “computer parts”)

Interest – Potential customers move into this point of the sales funnel when they are aware of your brand and have a need for it. They are actively searching, so providing search ads with attractive content can capitalize on this behaviour. However, they need more information and are probably considering other options as well. Remarketing is especially important at this step to re-engage your audience or further engage with content that they have expressed initial interest in already. People that reside in this level may be searching for terms such as “Victorinox 8 in knife review” or “hp envy product demo.” In other words, they’re looking for more information because they’re interested in a product.

Decision – As people progress towards this lower portion of the sales funnel, they are close to taking an action. Search campaigns can be highly targeted for brand specific items or search terms that communicate high levels of intent. A few example keywords you could be bidding on are “where to buy kitchen cabinets” or “where to buy high end shoes.”  YouTube is a great channel to advertise to this audience as well, since they could watch videos about reviews, how-to’s, etc. to make an informed decision. Again, remarketing can be utilized, set to target specifically people that have abandoned carts or exited the site towards the end of a conversion process.

Action – The last step in the basic sales funnel. Generally speaking, people here are on the verge of taking action and they’re going to find that on your site or somewhere else. It’s worth noting now that they have interacted with your brand, they can re-enter the funnel in regards to other products of your brand. This relationship can be fostered with re-marketing and other forms of communication like email marketing. As far as search marketing goes, sometimes people skip moving from one level to the next because they’ve already made an action on your website previously! If they’re already aware of your brand, creating a separate branded campaign is exactly what you would need. If I was already aware of the Project Rock collection, but had not already decided where to purchase it since I had never purchased something from his collection before, I would turn to Google and search “underarmour the rock collection.”

See in the image above how Under Armour is actively bidding on their line of clothing? Had they not been advertising, perhaps another retail seller could have been shown in this space instead of Under Armour directly. I would have seen those retailer listings instead of Under Armour directly and been likely to make my purchase from them. Why allow a middle man to eat into your profits when you could easily be capturing those purchases with something as easy as setting up a branded campaign?

For the sake of not repeating myself and perhaps forcing you to read the same info twice, I am linking you to a previous blog where I discussed how shopping ads can be tailored to address different levels of the sales funnel. In this blog, low intent would be at the high level of the funnel (awareness) and high intent would be at the low end of the funnel (decision). Beyond this point I will only be discussing Display Ads, and explore other channels that were previously mentioned in a later blog.

Promoting Awareness Through Display Ads

At the beginning of the sales funnel, awareness, marketing goals are exactly what it sounds like: creating awareness around a brand or product to capture as many leads as possible! Display ads are incredibly effective in creating awareness, since viewers don’t need to be actively searching for something to be exposed to your brand.

Google’s display network is huge and it reaches numerous people, but affinity audience targeting can be used to narrow down users relevant to your brand. Affinity audience targeting can utilize Google’s algorithms to specify what type of person to show ads based on various demographics. For example, if your company sells dirt biking gear, you would want to use keywords to target topics relating to dirt biking as an industry. In turn, Google’s algorithm would narrow down users that have an affinity for dirt biking based on things such as browsing history, past clicks, etc. This information is then used to target specific types of people and is not limited to a particular set of sites. In doing so, your ads can show anywhere a relevant user is browsing as long as the website or application is a part of the Google Display Network.

Other than contextual targeting, you can also use placement targeting to advertise on specific sites or segments of sites (i.e. the sports section of a news website) where you would want your ads to appear. Maybe you would rather advertise on a specific site that revolves around dirt biking and the latest news in the industry. Through contextual targeting, you are developing brand awareness to all users that visit a site or specific set of sites regardless of demographic.

Developing Interest into Decision with Display Ads

If a user is already has an interest in finding an answer to a problem they have or a need they are seeking to fulfill, the placement of your display ads can highly influence their decision to choose your brand! For instance, let’s say hypothetically the service you provide are SAT Prep courses. Our young high school student, Daniel, could be preparing for the SAT on YouTube by watching self help videos. Because of his viewing history, he would be considered in market for services like yours, SAT Prep courses. Your display ads could show off to the side as display ads, on the bottom of the videos as banners, before the video, or even in the middle of it!

Here’s an example I found below, where Daniel searched up “SAT Prep” in the search bar and clicked one of the first videos. He was shown this ad for Prep Scholar before he could continue on:

After a few seconds he was given the option to either skip the ad or click the “Read Now!” button that appeared. Should Daniel have been interested in Prep Scholar, he would click on the “Read Now!” button and be led to this landing page, where he would be encouraged to sign up to download their Ebook:

Within the realm of remarketing, display ads vary in size and can be tailored to target different audiences, but essentially they all serve the same purpose: to reinterest a person that has expressed initial interest in your brand, and encourage them to take action on your website. Different audiences are determined by how you segment your remarketing lists, this is extremely important because that can dictate how you choose to advertise. A person who clicks on your ad, lands  on your homepage and leaves immediately, has a different level of awareness or interest than say a person who continued past the homepage to a product page. For those users who made it further into our site, you could use this information to show the specific product they were previously viewing through a display ad, increasing relevance and the chances of re-engagement. This effectively brings users down into the “Decision” section of the sales funnel.

Driving Action with Display Ads

With further segmentation, you can use display ads to remarket to your audience that was on the verge of converting or making a sale. For E-Commerce, these are most likely going to be cart abandoners. At this point in the sales process, cart abandoners have already gone through the time to browse your website and pick out what they wanted to purchase, so they are on the verge of converting. Timing, unexpected costs, along with a multitude of other reasons could lead to cart abandonment, so split testing is still extremely important here! Perhaps you could offer free returns or periodic discounts to encourage them to come back, just to name a few ideas.

Additionally, you could use display ads and place them on websites that have reviews of your products. Users who are this far along the sales funnel already have an idea of what they want to purchase, and providing an extra nudge might be all they need to make their purchase. Afterall, about 90% of customers say buying decisions are influenced by online reviews!

Wouldn’t you want to encourage consumers to buy your products right when they’re already at the tipping point? Even if they aren’t immediately persuaded then and there, seeing your brand repeatedly will provide positive results. As I referenced before, Robert Zajonc’s study of mere exposure shows positive effects for brands and images that are seen over and over again.

Again, I have only explored display ads in this post, so there’s still so much more you can accomplish with the Google Ads platform! Even so, there are even smaller details such as how you segment your audiences, the overall design of your display ads, or even the sizing of your display ads that can affect how well or poorly your ads are received. With that in mind, I really hope you go out there to test, test, and test again; there’s no reason to remain stagnant.