shoes in a line

Google Display Ads are a set of advertising options on the Google Display Network that all contain an image as part of the ad. Today we’re discussing when you might want to run Google Display Ads and what you should expect in return.

Let’s start with a hypothetical situation: you run an ecommerce store and your SEO and Google Ads account (running text ads) are running really well for you. You’re showing year over year growth and the return on investment (ROI) from your text ads is great. Someone on your team says, ‘we should expand into Google Display Ads’. You have some extra budget, so why not?

You design and launch your Google Display Ads, they run for 30 days at the same spend rate as your text ads and by the end of the month you have zero sales from Display ads. You’ve now spent twice as much in your Google Ads account and you have the same number of sales you usually have, so your ROI was cut in half. Google Display Ads didn’t work.

The problem here isn’t that Google Display Ads provide no value, it’s that in many cases, they can’t be used like text ads. Text ads bring in one kind of user (and sales rate) and Display ads bring in a different kind of user (and sales rate). It’s important to know the difference.

The main difference between text ads and Display ads is that text ads are shown to users who are looking for what you’re selling. Display ads are shown to users you target who might be looking for what you’re selling, or they might not. It’s the difference between trying to advertise your shoes for sale inside a shoe store, or advertising on a highway billboard.

Using our shoe store example again, if your message is:

‘We Sell Shoes’

…that can work fine as a text ad, but probably not as a Display ad. If your message is:

‘All Shoes are 50% Off This Week!’

…that might be worthy of a Display ad. You might be able to entice users who weren’t looking for shoes into the store with that added incentive. Display ads can be very effective when you’re making an extraordinary announcement. They tend to be less effective when you’re making an everyday announcement, like ‘we sell shoes’. A good rule is: use text ads for ‘all the time’ messaging and Display ads for ‘once in a while’ messaging.

One other quick note about Google Display Ads. They are run and tracked in the same account as all your other ads, but Display ads are harder to track. The reason is that the ad is shown on a website other than, and users rarely click Display ads. Instead, they tend to view them and then visit the site later. The lack of a click means it’s hard to track. Because of that, look in your Google Analytics data for an overall lift, rather than sales showing up directly in Google Ads.