The Google Display program has always been the ugly stepsister to the Google Search program. Most people seem to be either unfamiliar with it or if they do, believe it’s of no value. Yet, done properly it can be a way to generate more business for your company at a lower overall cost.

People new to AdWords often don’t realize they are using the Display network. They sign up to their account, pick out some keywords and start their campaign. Then after it’s been up a while they realize that I’m getting a lot of clicks, but not really seeing anything out of it. Then they become frustrated or turn off the campaign or hopefully realize their mistake and adjust their campaign. The knee jerk reaction is to shut off display, which is why there are so many searches on how to shut off the display setting.

A better option is to simply lower the cost per click for the display network. The best option, however, is to create a campaign specifically designed for display.

The display setting is called the content network by some. Ads are run on millions of sites and Google tries to align the content of these sites with ads related to them. If you’re an amateur cook you might see ads related to cooking on AOL, YouTube, the Food Network or the site of your local news channel. It could appear on a cooking forum or a blog done by your favorite chef. This means a display ad could be exposed to thousands of people or just a handful.

Why even pay attention the display network? For one, it involves so much of what people are doing online. The one stat often mentioned is that only 5 percent of page views are of content people found using search. The rest of the time they are on social media sites, participating in forums, or reading periodicals. With display you can reach many of these people. Unfortunately, why they are reading an article may be hard to discern. If they are on Google searching for microwave ovens, it’s likely they are looking to buy one. If they’re reading an article on microwave ovens, however, it could be they are looking for recipes or how to repair them. Or they’re searching for reviews in anticipation of buying one. For this reason, its best to go with a lower cost per click. A good number don’t know what they want and while they may click on your ad, they could be a way off from buying.

Target your display ads

If you’re currently running an AdWords campaign with most of the keywords you’re targeting, disable the display settings. Then just create a second campaign with the same words, but with only the display setting marked. An easy way to do this is through Google AdWords Editor. You can duplicate your current campaign, rename it, and then change the setting from search to display.

With the new campaign consider adding more keywords. While in search its best to go with longer tail keywords to focus on intent, with display you can go with more general words. With search if you target a one-word phrase like widget, you’ll blow through your money pretty quickly with clicks that are of little value. With display you can do this to reach a larger audience.

With display you can target your audience through your settings. For example, you can target specific types of magazines or even target specific periodicals such as the New York Times. Another valuable setting is targeting audience members with specific interests. Google has more than 1,000 different interest categories, from auto enthusiasts to travel enthusiasts. If you’re in the travel industry, wouldn’t it make sense to target those interested in travel.

While it is currently possible to target by demographic on certain sites, this option is ending March 21. This means you can no longer target specific age groups. This may change in the future, particularly as they develop more information on visitors through Google+. You still have the option of targeting specific locations or running ads during certain periods of the day. This means you could target readers of a specific newspaper, living in a specific location and during a specific time of the day and who are only interested in automobiles.

With display you want to set a much lower cost per click as your likely to see a lot more clicks. Yet, in the long run it could be more cost effective. Think of it this way. If you’re currently bidding 5 dollars a click on the content network and get approximately one client for every 50 clicks your spending 250 dollars per conversion. If you’re running a display campaign with words set at 5 cents, but seeing only 1 client for every 1,000 your overall cost per conversion is just 50 dollars. Granted both of these examples may seem a little too good to be true, you can still see the potential.

In the next half of this article I’ll focus on 5 ways to get the most out of a display campaign.