Using Google Display Ads for startup research

Validating a startup is tricky. I’m a man of many failed startup attempts. In the past I never stopped and asked, how will I go to market and who are my customers?

I would launch a product then wait for a unique market of customers to come to me. My last project was very successful in… India. An unknown market and group of customers found after launching. A problem occurred when I couldn’t find a way to monetize that traffic. The US traffic generated a great display ads CPM close to $3 but, India, where 90% of my traffic came from, had a CPM of $0.01. In the end, the project was shut down because of server cost vs advertising revenue.


My new project Pinlogger is completely different than anything else I’ve created. It’s my first attempt at reaching a more general audience instead of photographers and web developers like myself.

Collect articles, videos, images, tweets, and more. Organize your favorite content with unlimited tags. The fastest way to save things for later.

I say that this new project is for the general audience. How I do prove this? Enter Google Display Ads. Google is the web leader in display ads and has a very wide reach of customers for research purposes.

The research started with creating a new campaign with a budget of $50 targeting only people in the United States. With display advertisements, you can’t target by keywords instead you have the option to target by gender, age, and audiences.

300x250 Display Ad
  • Location: United States
  • Audience: Everyone
  • Ages: Everyone
  • Budget $50
  • Optimized for clicks

After set up, Google targeted everyone in the US. I set up a special URL for conversion tracking using Google Tag Manager. I highly recommend you do the same or you’ll be without full filling knowledge in the end.

The results after day one

Hello, Fashionistas and Family Focused audiences. I was expecting to appeal to a Pinterest audience which is the Custom Affinity Audience. A custom audience allows you to target people who visited a website. Crazy right?

I’m happy with the conversions on day one. Someone I don’t know gave me their email. As the weeks went on I paused audiences that didn’t work. After spending $200 I received 17 sign-ups for Pinlogger. $11 per conversion.

Part of my event tracking was collecting the Operating System of each sign-up. 100% of the sign-ups came from people using an Android phone. Building an Android app was part of my Phase 2 rollout. My new plan is to launch the iOS and Android apps at the same time. iOS is my current MVP platform.

Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be adjusting the marketing copy and testing new display ads targeting a larger lifestyle audience with a public beta.

I found this test to be helpful is so many ways. With a better understanding of my audience I can build a better product. My confidence in the project has grown as well. The idea is validated.