10 minutes read

Display Advertising – The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

Understanding the basics of online display advertising is easier than you think. But getting your display ads to work for your business will be a tough challenge. If done right, a display campaign will bring you more benefits than you might think.

Follow this guide and by the time you are done with it, you will know how to create a strong online display campaign, and how to properly measure, report and optimize your future ad campaigns.





Section A

What is Display Advertising?

Display advertising is defined by banner ads (graphic or text), that appear in specifically designated areas of a website or social media platform (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Digital display advertising comes in a variety of different forms, but at its core, it revolves around the same principle.

Although you can advertise with plain text-based ads and still call it a display campaign, you can get much more out of your campaigns if you use images, videos, HTML5 animations or any other rich media elements that can help you get your message to your targeted audience. It’s all about display marketing.

Banners used as display ads come in different shapes and sizes.

Your only limitations are the requirements of the network you are running your campaign through. For example, Google Adwords allows a wide range of display ad sizes as you can see from the list below:

1. Standard Google Display Ad Sizes:

Top performing ad sizes​

  • 300 x 250 – Medium Rectangle
  • 336 x 280 – Large Rectangle
  • 728 x 90 – Leaderboard
  • 300 x 600 – Half Page
  • 320 x 100 – Large Mobile Banner

Regional ad sizes

  • 240 x 400 – Vertical Rectangle
  • 980 x 120 – Panorama
  • 250 x 360 – Triple Widescreen
  • 930 x 180 – Top Banner
  • 580 x 400 – Netboard

Other supported ad sizes

  • 320 x 50 – Mobile Leaderboard
  • 468 x 60 – Banner
  • 234 x 60 – Half Banner
  • 120 x 600 – Skyscraper
  • 120 x 240 – Vertical Banner
  • 160 x 600 – Wide Skyscraper
  • 300 x 1050 – Portrait
  • 970 x 90 – Large Leaderboard
  • 970 x 250 – Billboard
  • 250 x 250 – Square
  • 200 x 200 – Small Square
  • 180 x 150 – Small Rectangle
  • 125 x 125 – Button

You don’t need to create a banner for every single size. This is entirely up to you and your specific needs. To make things easier check out this guide to ad sizes from Google in order to find out the top performing ad sizes and a more in-depth description.

As for the accepted formats, most ad networks accept JPEG, JPG, PNG, and GIF. Not all networks accept HTML5, but all the major players do, including Google AdWords. Animated banners come with their own technical specifications, while image banners only need to be under 150 kb in size, and of course, be compliant.

The easiest way to get animated banners for your campaign is through Creatopy’s banner maker feature. We already have a full gallery of animated banner templates, all of them compliant with the AdWords display ads. At the same time, you can create your unique designs and animations within minutes.

We make sure that the final product will be a valid asset and if kept within the AdWords guidelines, you won’t have any problems using the banner.

2. Display Advertising Examples

So what is a banner ad?

Here are a few display ad examples from different brands, in 3 formats: static image banners, GIF, and Animated HTML5.

Static Image banners (scroll left or right)

Banner example


Image banner example


Static banner example


Static image banner example


Static image banner

GIF ads

Animated ad example
Animated banner ad

Animated HTML5 Ads

HTML5 ad example
HTML5 banner example
HTML5 banner

3. Types of Display Advertising

Based on the role they fulfill there are 3 main types of display advertising campaigns:

Regardless of the platform, you are running your display ads on, the 3 main campaign types of campaigns are the same.

Section B

What is retargeting in marketing?

As you probably guessed already, the retargeting campaign does exactly what the name says it does, it retargets your audience. The main goal of a retargeting campaign is to get your customers to re-engage with your product.

Retargeting is also known as behavioral remarketing and it relies on custom segmentation in order to deliver highly relevant ads to your audience. Your retargeting lists are build from your website’s user base, lists that build up in real-time and grow with every user that fits your segment criteria.

You can create segments based on specific user behavior and interactions, for example, users that reach your pricing or checkout page but did not finish the order.

Let’s say you have an online store and you want to retarget users that have more than one session and are viewing a specific product or products from the same category. This would be an ideal case for your retargeting campaign, as you can follow them around with specific ads at the right time in an attempt to get them back on your site and buy the product or service that you’re selling.

1. How to Build a Remarketing List

The basis of a remarketing/retargeting list is the same on every digital display advertising platform. Basically, you can choose to include in a remarketing list all the visitors that land on a specific page. Let’s be more specific!

Here’s how you can set up a remarketing list in Google AdWords, step by step:

Click the tools and settings icon and go to Audience Manager under the Shared Library Tab.

a. To create a new audience by clicking the blue + sign in the top left corner.

b. From the drop-down menu, select the source you want your list to be built on, your options being:

  • Website Visitors (Users that have visited your website or any landing page)
  • App users (Users that downloaded your mobile app)
  • Youtube Users (Users based on channel or video interactions)
  • Customer list (The list is based on collected customer data)
  • Custom combinations (Created from multiple retargeting lists)

Create audience Adwords

Once your list is created, you need to give it some time in order for it to be populated with users matching your exact rules.

For Google Display Network, the remarketing lists must have a minimum of 100 active users within the last 30 days. Your ads will be displayed only after your list reaches 100 active users.

2. How to Create a Remarketing List in Google Analytics

Another way of creating remarketing lists is through Google Analytics. Personally, I prefer this approach, as it gives me more options to be more creative when it comes to creating a custom audience for my campaigns.

The only inconvenience with this method is that you need to link your AdWords account with Analytics, before you can build an audience and use it in AdWords, but if you’re serious about online display advertising and Analytics, this is a step you should not skip.

Assuming AdWords and Analytics are already linked, here’s what you need to do in order to create and import a custom audience from Analytics to AdWords:

  1. Click on the + Add Segment button
  2. After the drop-down loads, click on the red + New Segment button.

You have now opened the segment builder that lets you create filters based on Analytics dimensions and metrics. The segment builder is easy to use and should be self-explanatory at this stage. In order to create more intricate segments, you will require a more advanced knowledge of Google Analytics.

After you created your segment, click on the Actions drop-down button from the segments menu and then click Build Audience. A step by step guide will load, thus helping you to import your segment into AdWords as a retargeting list.

Build Audience Analytics

Section C

Google dynamic remarketing display ads​

Another feature worth mentioning is dynamic remarketing. A feature that automatically creates display ads that include images, price, and a text of your choice, all based on your users’ behavior.

Dynamic ads are very common for e-commerce sites, giving them the possibility to re-target their audience based on the actual product or service viewed on the website.

Basically, the banner ad layout is based on a template and all other information is added dynamically from a data feed. The data feed is a list of all the products or services which includes all the required attributes for a banner to be created.

You can look at a more in-depth guide regarding dynamic ads and remarketing, right here.

1. Acquisition

Acquisition through display advertising is probably the biggest trap a small or new business can fall into. With no advertising experience or an unpolished product or service, you can end up spending huge amounts of money with no significant results.

Banner ads are more invisible than they ever were.

Overlooking the problems generated by Ad Block, we’ve learned to ignore banners so well, that they are practically becoming invisible for most of us. They really need to be in your face in order to get noticed, but being too aggressive won’t necessarily help you either.

Leaving all the negativity behind, there’s still a light at the end of the tunnel regarding this type of display advertising campaigns. So, the question is: do acquisition campaigns work? The answer is yes if done right, but not for everyone.

1.1. Measuring the performance of a display acquisition campaign.

The easiest way to measure the performance of a display acquisition campaign is to look directly at how much money you spend and how much you get out of it. However, you will have a hard time breaking even on this type of campaign, as the costs of running such campaigns can be really high.

You should know that your banner ads are competing for the same advertising space with highly targeted retargeting ads that have a much higher chance of converting, therefore raising the CPC to levels impossible to match by a broad acquisition campaign.

When looking at the profitability of your campaign, a good idea would be to look at your customer lifetime value and make sure that your cost per acquisition stays under the expected value.

2. Advertising for Brand Awareness

Brand awareness campaigns are another example of display advertising. Brand awareness is a type of campaign that focuses on the reach, rather than direct conversions. Their main goal is to reach as many relevant people as possible and influence them to get interested in your brand, and not necessarily have them perform a particular action.

Although a brand awareness campaign usually has a wider reach, you still need a relevant audience. You can segment your audience as you would for any acquisition campaigns but the metrics you need to follow will be different.

Awareness campaigns need to be carefully planned out and will require running for a longer period of time in order to be effective. If you want to start a brand focused campaign, money shouldn’t be a problem. You need to make sure that you can afford to spend a lot of money on a campaign that won’t have any direct and immediate results on your sales.

2.1.Measuring a Brand Awareness Campaign

You need to focus on metrics like impressions or reach, followed by engagement (if you are advertising on social platforms). Likes and shares further extend your reach, thus helping your campaign reach a greater audience.

However, the main goal of an awareness display campaign is to reach as many people as possible, so you always need to figure out ways to reach more people while staying within budget limits.

2.2 Experimenting with Banners

Let’s face it! Creating an ideal banner from the get-go, that will perform perfectly, is pretty much an impossible task. There’s no such thing as improving without adapting. Progress comes with change, and we all know what that means A/B testing. Experiment with all the elements of your online banners and see which one works best.

Play with the headline, CTA, the colors, the copy, and even the size of your banner.

Banner Design Inspiration

As long as you make sure you stick to your roots (your brand identity), you have plenty of rope to play around with your online banners.

Section D

D. The importance of a good landing page in online display advertising

First of all, having a dedicated landing page for any advertising campaign is crucial. You could get away with sending all your traffic to your homepage and still get some benefits from your display advertising campaigns. Having a custom landing page with tailored content specifically designed to work for your campaign will greatly increase the performance of your campaigns.

Think of your banner ads as an extension of your landing page. In terms of overall design, your banners and landing page should closely resemble each other, this way you prevent any confusion if someone clicks your banner and lands on your page. Use the same design, graphic elements, colors & fonts for both the banner and landing page designs.

The content on the landing page should be in sync with your messages on your banners.

After you grabbed your visitors’ attention, the landing page should explain the value of the offer in a clear manner.

Tools for Landing Page Creation

Here are 3 online tools you can use for landing page creation:

By using a third party tool to create and manage landing pages, you can easily test adjust and optimize your pages until you get the best performance out of them.

Set up A/B tests for both your banner ads and landing pages and test until you get the best results out of your display campaigns.

Landing Page In Display Advertising

Now that we pointed out the key “ingredients” of what makes a proper display advertising campaign successful, there’s nothing left to say but to keep trying new things. As the market evolves and your customers change, so do their behavior and so should you. Of course, you will learn as you go, so don’t you ever get discouraged. You know what they say, to each his own.

Two brands are never the same, and even though the guidelines mentioned above can and will give you a good perspective, you have to adapt them to your own brand.

Try new things > Optimize > Repeat

Create banner ads for your display advertising campaigns

Build display banners for your online advertising campaigns, banners containing HTML5 animation, or custom banners for your website or e-shop. We have templates that make designing easy, and helpful features like stock photos, font templates or font upload that make it easy to create personalized banners.

Sergiu Iacob
I've been working in digital marketing for over 8 years. My background is very diverse when it comes to SEM, and most of my experience involves financial products, B2B and B2C. I am highly motivated and enthusiastic about online marketing. I like to get involved as much as I can in SEO, Email Marketing, PPC advertising, Strategic Analysis and Planning.

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