Paid SEM advertisers have often resorted to Google’s Display Network for awareness campaigns designed to grow the top of the funnel.

The problem many advertisers run into when doing this is that the quality of traffic can be questionable at best and dismal at worst.

Some of this is to be expected when expanding advertising outside of search as you’re less likely to show an ad to someone lower down the funnel with less reliable intent signals than a search query. This means your site usage metrics aren’t going to be as good as they are in your paid search campaigns.

However, it can be deflating for an advertiser to browse through their display placement report and see most of the domains and mobile apps appear irrelevant and/or spam.

Realising this, Google sought a solution that would allow advertisers to use more robust, visually appealing display ad units and keep them on properties that were more likely to attract a higher-quality – or at least a more reliable – user.

In doing so, Google created campaigns for a new ad unit they called Discovery Ads. These ad units were designed to fit a mobile-friendly environment and appear only on three apps owned by Google: Gmail, YouTube, and the Google app.

What Are Google Discovery Ads?

Let’s start by discussing what Discovery Ads are. Discovery Ads were launched in 2019 and are similar to Display Ads.

Image Credit | Google

However, unlike Display Ads, which appear across a wide range of inventory – such as publisher websites – Discovery Ads specifically utilise Google-based properties, like Gmail and YouTube.

Although you may think that Discovery Ads have a smaller potential reach due to its more restrictive inventory, however, Google says Discovery Ads can reach an audience of up to 3 billion people.

What Are the Benefits of Google Discovery Ads?

So, apart from the fairly substantial potential audience, what other benefits do Discovery Ads provide? Well perhaps unsurprisingly, Discovery Ads leverage Google’s machine learning algorithms to determine when and who should be served one of your ads.

Image Credit | Google

In addition, Discovery Ads serve on Google properties, which are usually visually rich, as they’re rendered natively. All of these advantages mean that you can save time setting up the ads, while your audience is served visually rich native ads.

This can help you to spark customer interest in your product or services.

The Dos & Don’ts of Discovery Ads

Now, that we’ve established what Discovery Ads are and why you might want to use them, let’s review the dos and don'ts of this unique ad unit.

The Dos

1. Use Images

    You can use up to 20 images and 5 logos. The more images you can provide to Google’s algorithm the better. Google’s machine learning algorithms will then be able to test and learn which asset images perform best with certain users at different times.

    2. Utilise All 3 image Aspect Ratios, Including 4:5 (Portrait)

      You can use three image aspect ratios within Discovery Ads. These ratios are 4:5 (portrait), 1:1 (square) and 1.91:1 (landscape).

      We recommend using the same image in all 3 aspect ratios, this allows this creative to be served natively across all Google properties.

      Please also note that it's important in a mobile-first world to use the 4:5 portrait creative.

      3. Maximise Headline & Description Copy Used for Each Ad

        The more you can use, the more Google can test. You’re currently allowed to use up to 5 headlines and 5 different descriptions. Make sure that all the copy you use is relevant but also varied.

        4. Monitor the Performance of Your Various Assets Via the Asset Level Reports

          Check that your headlines, descriptions, and images are resonating. You can also assess whether you need to replace ‘low’ performing assets.

          5. Make Use of Creative Learnings from Social Channels

            Discovery has similar elements to different social channels, with users usually scrolling through their feeds. Look to apply any learnings from social channels to discovery and test whether your ads remain eye-catching.

            6. Do Test Images that Include People

              Typically, images that contain people tend to track higher CTRs.

              7. Consider Using Lead Forms with Your Discovery Ads

                We recommended using lead forms more for lower-funnel audiences, who may take action. You can also look to integrate your CRM to align lead flow.

                The Don'ts

                1. Blurry & Unclear Images

                  Google will usually flag any creative that is blurry, cropped poorly, or unclear.

                  2. Implied Interactivity e.g. Add a CTA Button to Your Images

                    Google can flag and even disapprove any image assets that imply interactivity. When you’re creating a Discovery Ad you can choose a specific CTA or select automated.

                    3. Adding Too Much Text Overlays to Your Images

                      If your ads are unclear or too text-heavy this can result in a lower average CTR.

                      4. The Fear of Testing New Images, Headlines & Descriptions

                        Continue to review the performance of your assets and update any assets that continue to be classed as ‘low’ performing.

                        5. Forgetting to Set Up Conversion Tracking

                          Discovery campaigns leverage bid strategies that require conversion data.

                          6. Overusing Lower-Funnel KPIs

                            Although you can leverage different audience types including, in-market, affinity, demographic, and first-party audiences, you should think of discovery in a similar way to display and some social strategies, where you usually want to warm your audience up first.

                            7. Preparing Video Creative for Discovery

                              Although similar to responsive Display Ads, Discovery Ads are slightly different, with one major difference being that you can’t currently use video assets. So, don’t waste your time making videos for this ad form.

                              Final Thoughts

                              Discovery Ads can be a great way to reach a broad audience with visually appealing, native creative, as well as targeting specific audiences with tailored content.

                              However, to ensure your Discovery Ads are a success, you need to put the groundwork in. Optimising your ads to ensure they make maximum impact is the name of the game.

                              If you follow the dos and don'ts above, you’ll be able to properly utilise this unique ad unit and see the results you desire.