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What you should know about Google Discovery ads

27 Feb 2020
By Alwin
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Here, we explore Google Discovery ads, and how it has been performing for us and our clients. We also suggest what you should look out for if you’re considering using a Discovery campaign, including how to prevent automatic expansion.

What are Google discovery ads?

Google discovery ads were launched by Google in beta at the end of last year, allowing users to take advantage of their machine learning and “audience and customer intent signals” to reach audiences that show intent to engage with brands. The ads are native and appear in the feed in each placement as shown below, making them a desirable campaign format.

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Discovery Ads can appear in the Youtube mobile homepage feed, Gmail Promotions and Social tabs, and most importantly, Google Discover. Google Discover is the updated version of Google Feed and is the homepage of the Google app. This is significant, as Google estimated (back in 2018) that 800 million users use the feed every month, which is sure to have grown over the years.

Although the capabilities of discovery campaigns are exciting, it is important to keep in mind that it is not possible to target or exclude placements through this campaign type. This is a shame, as this can cause an overlap with existing Youtube and Gmail campaigns targeting the same audiences.

How to make discovery ads work

For one of our clients, we found a lower average CPC than past display activity in that account. 

For another, we found that when we compared targeting the same audiences in Gmail / GSP ads and Discovery, the latter showed a significantly higher conversion rate, while also converting at a lower cost per acquisition. This indicated to us that discovery campaigns are capable of successfully identifying and targeting users that showed a higher intent to convert. 

What to watch out for with Discovery campaigns

Discovery campaigns (and display campaigns) have a troublesome setting that could drain your budget. Audience expansion or automatic targeting is a setting that shows your ads to users outside of your chosen audience. This is activated by default, meaning a campaign you initially thought was highly targeted will start appearing to potentially irrelevant users, and driving up your spend. We have also found that automatic targeting sometimes takes a few days to kick-in, meaning it could catch you unawares and start spending your precious budget.

You can see the spend and performance metrics of this expanded audience if you navigate to Campaigns > Audiences, where this is segmented:

In order to switch automatic targeting off, navigate to the ad group level and edit the audience targeting; audience expansion will appear as below. Here, you can toggle the expansion off.

Another potential pitfall we found was a significant discrepancy between the number of clicks from discovery campaigns and the resulting sessions. We believe that this is due to a large proportion of ads appearing in Gmail, where clicks to expand the ad is seen as a click, but does not necessarily lead to a click through to the site. 

Hopefully once Discovery campaigns are out of beta, there will be more transparency around placements!

Looking to implement Discovery campaigns in your Google Ads account and don’t know where to start? Get in touch with us and we’d be more than happy to get you started.

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