Google display network ad planner


That is, the Display Planner was a standalone tool designed to help businesses extend the reach of their Display Campaigns and target relevant users.

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But the Display Planner no longer exists on its own. Google has integrated it with the ‘core functionality’ of the Google Ads Experience.

“Display Planner is now discontinued in favor of the forecasts offered when creating Google Display Campaigns”

Now, you need to actively create a campaign to use Google’s forecasting features.

According to Google, this simplifies the process for ad creators. In the new Google Ads Experience, you no longer have to jump between Planner and Google Ads to complete tasks.

Plus (and this is a very important plus) Google tells us they’ve upgraded the experience on top of that.

Advertisers now have access to better targeting options and ad formats.

Which means that Google can get away with saying this like this:

“Display Ad forecasts will now be more accurate”


Yep, we’re all searching for… better prediction metrics – image source

This sounds promising, so let’s take a look at these new and improved forecasting measures and see how you can use them to create more effective Google Display Ad campaigns.

But before we move on, can we talk a bit about Display Advertising in general? And why the Google Display Network is arguably the best place to show your ads?

Display Advertising – Is It Worth The Effort?

‘It is a truth universally acknowledged’ that display ads get far lower click-through-rates than search ads, on both desktop and mobile. Plus there’s the well-documented increase in ‘banner blindness’. And let’s not even get started on ad blockers.

So why would any sane person want to get involved in Display Advertising?

Maybe because of statistics like these:


Why Display Advertising Could Be Worth Your While

With search ads, you’re capturing people who are actively searching under your keywords so naturally, the chances of conversion are high.

Display ads, on the other hand, allow your ads to show to people who aren’t actively searching for your keywords. They’re responding to ads as they browse websites, blogs, apps or watch videos – they’re in no particular hurry to buy. However – it’s important to consider PPC traffic temperature when measuring the efficacy of a direct response display campaign.

“Depending on which keywords you’re targeting and where your audience lies in the buying funnel, display might just be your conversion trigger point.”

Display ads are ideal for companies who need to get their name out in front of potentially millions of new people – fast. While they don’t have as high a CPC rate they come with a reasonably priced CPM pricing model – meaning they’re relatively easy to test out.

Display Ads Can Look Like This

Display ads come in a wide variety of formats including text, image, interactive and video.


Here’s a nice example of an ad:


For more information about the relative merits of display ads, click here.

Why Opt For The Google Display Network?

There are several Display Networks you can choose to show your ads on. Google’s is usually the safest bet, however, for a lot of reasons.

For starters it has the widest reach of all, enabling you to place ads on both Google’s own properties e.g. YouTube, Gmail, etc., as well as more than two million partner websites and apps.

According to Google, their sites reach 90% of internet users worldwide.

You can show your ads to people as they’re reading their favorite news sites, blogs or apps.

Or reconnect with users who’ve left your website and are browsing elsewhere.

Google offers you some real ‘deep-dive’ targeting options that the likes of Facebook cannot – enabling you to pin down your ideal audiences based on everything from demographics and interests to intent.

And the platform is also miles ahead of the competition when it comes to metrics and tracking performance. You can get measurable clicks, impressions, and conversions right from your Google Analytics account.

Google Display Ads Are Now ‘Responsive’

Google has made Display Ads ‘responsive’.

Now, this doesn’t mean all display ads are now responsive. But you do have the option to select ‘responsive ads’ from the list of static, video, etc. And this makes life a lot easier especially for time-poor SMBs since you don’t have to test out endless formats to suit different sites and positions.

Using machine learning Google automatically adjusts ads to test different combinations of images, logos, descriptions, and headlines — and then displays the best-performing combinations.

To learn more about the Google Display Network, click here.

Now we’ve covered the basics, let’s move on to what this post is really all about, Google Ads Display Planner

What Do Display Forecasts (aka Google Ads Display Planner) Actually Forecast?

Google’s newly integrated forecast features help you choose where to show your ads on the Display Network.

This should:

“Ensure you’re serving Display Ads to people who will notice them”

You can generate new ideas for ad groups and see real-time forecasts.

Ideas come with impressions and reach estimates as well as historical costs so you can create effective campaigns.

Your Display Targeting Options With The New Google Ads Experience

Check out the updated targeting options in the new Google Ads Display Planner:

The new Google Ads experience lets you target via word, phrase or URLAdd audiences, topics, placements and keywords to get ads seen in the ‘context’ of certain content or on certain websitesGet your ads seen by people who’ve visited your site (remarketing) or people likely to be in the market for your productReach individual users based on their interests or intentTarget via demographics — age, gender, parental status, etc. (e.g. young mothers)

This screenshot gives you a useful overview of the different audience types you can use for targeting in your campaigns:


Get Started With Audience Insights First

You can start your initial exploration of the Google Display Planner tool by using the Audience Manager to see where you might have some display advertising opportunities.

You can find your Audience Manager under the ‘tools’ wrench in the upper navigation menu:

Click into your Audience Manager and you should see a screen that looks something like the screenshot below:

Here you can see which of your ads are performing best by demographic, location, and more. This can help you decide how to prioritize your display ad campaign development.

And speaking of prioritizing your plans, looking at your performance forecasts is a great next step to look at.

Get Performance Forecasts

Throughout the campaign creation process, as you’re developing ideas, you can access performance forecasts to determine how your campaign might perform.

Next we’ll get onto figuring out how this works in practice by demonstrating how you get started with Display Planner. Then introduce you to some targeting options and related forecasts.

Getting Started With Display Planner/Forecasts

Up until recently you clicked tools to access the planner. Now you’ll now see that the old Display Planner is grayed out (under PLANNING).


To access forecasts nowadays, you need to create a new blank campaign. Click the Blue + sign to get started:


And click ‘new campaign’:


OK, so far, easy peasy.

Now let’s select the goal that’s appropriate to you. For example, if increasing sales is a priority (and when is it not?), select this as your goal.


Then, since we’re creating a Display Ad, click ‘Display’:


You’ll now be asked to enter a sub-type for your campaign. For the purposes of this walkthrough, we’ll select ‘Standard display campaign’.

Once you’ve selected this option, you’ll be asked how you want to achieve your goal. If your aim is to drive sales by converting more traffic on your website, enter your website URL here.

Similarly, you can craft a special landing page for users to land on after clicking your ad. Then you can list that URL here, etc. You get the picture…


Ad Locations

Next, select the location of where you want your ad to serve. (You’ll see the estimated reach in terms of impressions for your selected location on the right side of the page.) You can also enter a location to exclude.


Language And Bidding Preferences

Set language and bidding preferences. For example, if you want to focus on conversions based off your campaign goal and want to pay on a CPC basis set these as your preferences.

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Then set your budget. Now, to the right, you’ll see weekly estimates for clicks along with an average CPC rate based on this. You can also see what your reach is based on — so far, it’s your selected location and language.


Create your ad group:


OK, time to decide who you want your ads to reach (target):

1) Using Audiences

There are numerous ways to do this.

Let’s look at one example:

Click ‘Search’ and enter keywords or URLs for ideas. For example, if I input the keyword ‘Business Services,’ it brings me two types of audiences — those actively researching (In-Market audiences) and those who have interests and habits that relate to that keyword (Affinity audiences).


If I select those actively researching in the top box, you’ll see that the reach has gone down considerably — from 820M to 350M:


This is a short introduction to using Ads Planner for ‘audiences’.

When you’re creating a real campaign, make sure you take the time to try out all the various options and see the impact they have on reach and CPC forecasts.

For example, using remarketing can really up your conversion rates.

(Click here to access Google support for setting up a Display remarketing campaign.)

For now, though, let’s look at why.

2) Content Targeting



Select ‘Keywords,’ then type in your website or product or service. You’ll get keyword ideas, including the most relevant ones for your business — along with reach and CPC estimates.



You can add all your ideas to the left and get estimated impressions for your selections:


At the bottom you’ll be asked which keyword setting you prefer:

Tip: Use the Audience Setting if you want to show your ads to people who’ve shown an interest in your keywords.

These are likely to be more qualified than using content related to your keywords, which could mean they’re browsing websites related to your field but may not be interested in your specific offering.

If you choose audiences, you’ll target people with an interest in your keywords who may be browsing on unrelated websites.


3) Targeting ‘Topics’ For Forecasts

Simply enter a keyword, e.g. ‘graphic design’, and you’ll see a list of broad topics related to your field:


Tip: Topics are like targeting ‘broad match’ keywords on the Search Network. You’re leaving things open to interpretation – for example, if you select ‘desktop publishing’ in our example above, it could turn up anywhere on the internet. And it might not be directly related to people you’re trying to target.

Given this, Topics might not be something you’d find that useful.

4) What About ‘Placements’ And Display Forecasting?

Placements used to be the backbone of the Display Planner and were considered very useful for finding relevant places to run ads, e.g. on websites, apps, and YouTube channels.

We recently found out that:

“Top placements/suggested managed placements are no longer available in the new Google Ads experience since it’s not considered a best practice for Display campaigns.”

Whether you found this useful or not doesn’t matter. (Sorry.) Display forecasting can still bring up valuable reach and CPC estimates based on the placements you input.

Enter your URL and you will be presented with different websites, YouTube channels, YouTube videos apps, and app categories where you can run your advertisement.

Click on ‘websites’ if these are of most interest for relevant suggestions and estimates:


Click on a website you think might be most relevant to see the reach you could achieve with that particular site:


Similarly, you can select YouTube channels that have potential. Placing your ads on YouTube can be an effective way to advertise because people tend to be highly engaged with what they’re watching. They don’t tend to land on YouTube videos by accident.


You can also select specific videos to show your ads on, which can also be highly relevant:


Then you can go back in and select apps and app categories and add them to the list of selected placements.

5) The New ‘Targeting Expansion’ Tool

In the previous version of Display Planner, the screen below gave you the option to use ‘no automated targeting’, ‘conservative targeting’ or ‘aggressive targeting’.


This has been replaced with the ‘Targeting Expansion’ tool, which allows you to be more nuanced in your targeting approach.


If you move the slider to the right, you can reach more people similar to the ones you’re already targeting via audiences and keywords.

If you move the slider to the left you’ll limit targeting to people you’re targeting through keywords and audiences.


The further to the right you move the slider, the more aggressive will be your targeting approach.

Hopefully, you have a better idea of how forecasts can help you plan your Display Campaigns. But before you go, we’ve collected a few pointers that might also be of use.

Consider This When Using Google Display Planner (Forecasts)

We’ve just scratched the surface of the Google Ads Display Planner’s capabilities. To maximize Google forecasts, play around with the varied targeting options. You will inevitably get highly relevant ideas.

If you’re just getting started, keep your budget small. Especially if, at first, you find you have a small reach.

Find optimal levels of conversion by adding keywords, audiences, demographics and then maybe narrow down the demographics as you add extra audiences and so on.

Troubleshooting Audience Reach

When you’re adding content targeting you’re opening up your reach to a wider audience. Counter this by making sure you add in placements.

In contrast, when you’re adding in lots of audiences and demographics, you can narrow your reach too much. Keep an eye on your forecasts to make sure you have enough impressions to make your campaigns worthwhile.

If your reach looks too low, check out how it is defined. In this example, the reach is really low (less than 1K). You can see what’s defining reach on the right.


In this example, it’s probably placements keeping it low. I’ve only selected a few placements, so I could go back in and add a lot more to big up my targeting reach.

Also, don’t just refer to your own landing pages for ideas. Put in different URLs — e.g. Wikipedia pages or competitor pages — or other information-rich sources to give Display Planner enough data to analyze.

With targeting expansion you’ll reach people you wouldn’t otherwise have reached. This can give you additional conversions you wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Aggressive automation, however, is really for people who are not too precious about where their ads appear. It’s also more suitable for advertisers with large budgets. If you don’t have a very large budget, stick to the middle ground, or to the targeting you set yourself by moving the slider to the left.

Last but not least, set conversion tracking! If you don’t, you won’t know what’s worked and what hasn’t!

Takeaways – Google Ads Display Planner

Even though you can’t use Display Planner for free anymore, the new forecasts you can access provide top-notch market research.

The new Google Ads Experience offers you in-depth, intuitive estimates based on your campaign targets. Make sure you use forecasts early on to generate ideas.

Once you’re feeling more confident around your targeting options, run a campaign based on your forecasts for a week to a month. Then analyze your results and use them as a baseline for your campaigns going forward.

Best of luck with the Google Ads Display Planner! Let us know what your experiences are with the new interface in the comments below.