There are countless advertising networks that offer display advertising, but not all ad networks are created equal. How do you choose the right one for your business?

Some are huge, some are small, some are broad, some are targeted, some are specialized, and some are general. In addition to these factors, there are definitely certain metrics you should look at when evaluating candidates, such as market share, cost, compensation models, audience size, and so forth.

But before you look at the ad networks, look at your marketing needs.


Evaluating Your Needs

Your business and marketing needs will play a large role in determining which display advertising network is the best choice in a given situation. Just because Google has the largest ad network market share doesn’t mean it is the best choice – bigger isn’t always better.

Look at these things to better qualify what you need from a network:

Target Audience Take note of your audience’s demographics, from age group and interests to location and preferred operating systems. Also gauge the size of your audience and whether it is a B2B or B2C audience.

Niche – This will play a large role in determining which network is best for you. Often, the more general the niche, the more general the network.

Budget – This shouldn’t be as big a concern as your target audience and your niche. In cases where the budget is limited, though, this will help you weed out certain networks. As soon as you have a more flexible budget, however, you will want to transition to the highest quality, most appropriate networks for your campaigns.

Once you’ve determined your business needs, you’ll be in a better position to evaluate potential networks.

Criteria for Ad Network Selection

For the purposes of this article, there are two types of ad networks and one type of tool that you can use: specialized ad networks, general ad networks, and promotion platforms. In brief:

Specialized Ad Networks – These could also be called “niche” networks, in the same way that a specialized topic blog is called a niche blog. Specialized ad networks are focused networks that specifically target an industry or niche. Certain display advertising networks, for instance, specifically target software advertisers, publishers, and developers. Such specialized networks usually consist of exclusive, high-converting inventories.

General Ad Networks – Unlike specialized ad networks, these networks are very large and very broad. These networks, such as those that belong to Google and Facebook, bring enormous audiences of consumers to the table, along with extensive, detailed customer data.

Promotion Platforms – These toolboxes give you access to multiple ad networks, ad exchanges, and marketing resources. Promotion platforms help you choose ad networks, manage multiple campaigns, access marketing resources, calculate marketing costs, and optimize your marketing from a holistic perspective. As the marketing world becomes more complex and difficult to manage, these tools are becoming more and more necessary.

Making the Choice

To make the right choice, take all the information above and use it to do two things: weed out irrelevant networks and find the relevant ones.

A few basic searches will bring up list after list, but that is only useful if you know what you’re looking for. Most of these lists contain details about each networks and what they offer. However, search engines are perfect research tools, so why not use them?

When you do your research, you’ll get better results if you qualify your search terms. Preface your research with information about the three business needs mentioned above – that is, with information about the budget, your niche, and your audience.

If you have a specific niche, then hunt down candidates that are best suited to that niche. If, for instance, you are serving a specific B2B niche, then search for relevant ad networks that serve that niche or your target audience.

Knowing your audience will help you find ad networks that serve that audience. For instance, if you are promoting software to an audience that consists primarily of Mac OS X users, then targeted solutions such as pay-per-install programs would be an excellent way to find a highly qualified audience.

A large audience of fitness fanatics, on the other hand, may be better served by a large ad network.

Using the information you know about your audience and your niche, you should be able to use these qualifications to aid your research:

  • Relevant social media
  • Websites frequented or websites you want to target
  • Operating systems
  • Devices
  • Location
  • Interests
  • Demographics
  • Ad spaces you want to target

And so forth. Chances are, you will already know some specifics that will help you find the right network for your needs. After you’ve found a few networks that might fit, test them out to see how they impact your budget and what kinds of returns they bring.

Finding the right display ad network isn’t rocket science, but it does take some thoughtful research. The wrong network can cost you conversions and money, while the right one can boost both. Do your research before committing too many resources to any one network.

Please share with us if you have any comments on display ads and how you select your optimal display ad partners…