Programmatic Google Ads

Marketers are projected to spend more than $460 billion in 2024 on digital advertising and automated advertising now makes up more than 80% of the total digital display advertising expenditure in the United States.

While the opportunities are immense, it can sometimes be challenging to understand and choose between programmatic advertising and Google Ads when developing an advertising strategy.

Our goal with this article is for you to understand the differences and similarities between programmatic ads and the Google Display Network and help you be able to figure out which one is better for your business.

The New Way to Advertise Online

Before automatic advertising became popular, advertisers had to make deals with website owners, bloggers, and app makers to show their ads.

The problem with the old way is that it was hard and took a lot of effort. Sometimes, advertisers didn’t even know which website or app was the right fit for their ads.

Enter programmatic advertising and the Google Display Network, which makes it much easier. You set the rules at the start, and then everything else happens by itself (programmatically).

The Power of the Google Display Network

The Google Display Network (GDN) works together with websites, YouTube, emails, blogs, and mobile apps that team up with Google.

The GDN sends Google Ads to over 2 million websites, YouTube videos, and apps. This means that advertisers can potentially show their ads to up to 90% of the people who use the internet worldwide.

Since it’s an automatic ad network, it displays ads to people when they visit a website.

The ads you see are chosen based on what the advertiser wants, like the age, gender, interests, and more of the people who might see the ads.

A cool thing about the GDN is that you can also use other Google services like Google Calendar or Google Docs/Sheets in your advertising campaigns.

Choosing the Right Audience for Your Google Display Network Ads

On the Google Display Network, advertisers can pick who they want to show their ads to. They can choose things like how old the people should be, what they like, if they are male or female, and where they live. All of this decides which ads show up.

Since the websites in the ad network are connected to Google, advertisers can also look at what people search for on Google. This helps them find the right audience based on what people search for and who they are.

When you get your targeting right, your ads will show up on websites that are related to your business. That way, people who visit those sites might be interested in what you’re selling.

To advertise on GDN, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Go to “Campaigns” and click on “New Campaign.”
  3. Choose “Display Network only” for your campaign type.

After that, pick the types of targeting you want for your campaign.

Ads on the GDN are sold in auctions. Advertisers bid on them, either paying for each click their ad gets (CPC) or for every thousand times their ad is seen (CPM). The winner pays just enough to beat the next advertiser.

Understanding Programmatic Advertising

Just like the Google Display Network (GDN), programmatic ads are automatic. This means you don’t have to talk to lots of different people to put your ads out there. But, there are some differences.

Unlike the GDN, programmatic ads involve a bunch of other ad places and networks, including the GDN itself. They can also include something called “native ads.”

Advertisers use something called Demand Side Platforms (DSPs) to buy space for their ads and create ad campaigns. On the flip side, publishers use Supply Side Platforms (SSPs) to let people know they have space for ads.

The cool thing is that DSPs and SSPs make it super quick to connect advertisers and publishers. They do this without needing to talk to each other directly. Because everything is automated, programmatic ads help advertisers reach the right people at the right time and for the right price.

How Advertising Follows Online Behavior, and Why It’s Changing

Behavioral advertising is when ads try to show you stuff based on what you do online. It looks at things like what you buy to decide what ads to show you.

But, not many people like this anymore. There are rules to protect your privacy, like GDPR, which makes it harder to do this kind of advertising.

So, now, programmatic ads are using different ways to show you ads, like looking at the content of the websites you visit. That’s becoming a better choice.

How Programmatic Ads Work

Programmatic ad campaigns are a bit different from those on the Google Display Network (GDN). They’re broader because they can include lots of different platforms, including the GDN itself.

To make all of this happen, programmatic advertising uses special software. This software lets advertisers (the people who want to show ads) and publishers (the people who have space for ads) quickly connect on places like Google Ad Exchange, Rubicon Project, and AppNexus.

These programmatic ad places get information from other places called data management platforms (DMPs), like Cloudera, Oracle and Salesforce DMP.

In the old days, buying space for digital ads was really tricky, but programmatic ad buying makes it easier. Advertisers use something called real-time bidding (RTB) to bid for spots where they want to show their ads.

The advertiser who offers the most money gets to show their ad first, but other advertisers can still get other spots later on.

There are different types of deals that programmatic advertising offers:

  • Open Auction: This is the most common auction, and it uses RTB.
  • Private Auction: It’s like an open auction, but publishers can limit who gets to bid.
  • Preferred Deal: Publishers use this when they want to sell really good ad space at a fixed price.
  • Programmatic Guaranteed: Here, one advertiser makes a deal with a publisher without any auctions.

When it comes to paying for programmatic advertising, it’s based on something called CPM, which means advertisers pay for every thousand times their ad is shown.

Similarities of GDN and Programmatic Advertising

The Google Display Network (GDN) and programmatic advertising have a lot in common. They both use automation, which means they can do things automatically. They also let you put ads in different places, have some basic options for choosing who sees your ads, and support different types of ads.

While they are a bit different in terms of how many people they can reach, both GDN and programmatic advertising are quite similar. They can both be really useful for businesses when they want to make a good marketing plan.

Differences between GDN and Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising and the Google Display Network (GDN) might seem pretty similar, but there are some important differences you should know to make the best marketing choice.


First, let’s talk about money. GDN doesn’t need as much budget as programmatic advertising. It offers three payment models that can be less expensive:

  • Cost per click (CPC)
  • Cost per mille (CPM)
  • Cost per action (CPA)

On the other hand, programmatic advertising only uses the CPM model.


Both of these methods are cost-effective because they’re automated. But programmatic advertising does something called “real-time bidding” to reach more people in a neutral environment. That might make it a bit pricier.

So, the choice between the two depends on your marketing budget and who you want to reach.

Video Advertising

If you want to use video ads, programmatic advertising is the way to go. You can also choose whether or not you want your ads to show up on YouTube.

How Do I Choose Between Programmatic Advertising and Google Display Network?

Both programmatic advertising and the Google Display Network (GDN) can be effective, but programmatic advertising has some advantages when it comes to reaching more people, offering different types of ads, and having more options for making deals. However, it’s important to know that using programmatic advertising can be more expensive and riskier if you don’t have experience in it.

If you’re new to digital advertising and just starting out, it might be a good idea to stick with GDN for now. Once you get the hang of things and your business grows, you can think about setting aside some money to try programmatic advertising and see how it works for you.