Where do people see Google ads? Most people know that ads appear in Google search results, but Google has several other major outlets and networks where ads can be served. And although Google Ads may not be the only advertising platform around (there’s Microsoft Ads, Meta Ads, Twitter Ads, etc.), it certainly offers the widest variety of ad targeting and delivery options. Here’s an overview of the major ad outlets and networks Google offers:

Google Search

Google is the world’s most popular search engine, receiving around 5.6 billion searches every day! If a search query is commercial in nature and there’s a business that’s advertising for the relevant keywords, ads will likely show at the top and/or bottom of the search results page. If anyone clicks on those ads, the advertiser will be charged a fee.

Benefits of running Google Search ads

Ads in search are very different than other types of advertising because people are actively looking for what they need at the moment. While other types of advertising might involve targeting by demographics or interests, you could say that ads in search are “self-targeted” based on the keywords the searcher uses. There is no better ad targeting possible than self-targeting. Because the targeting is so good, it’s usually more expensive. Businesses must compete for exposure with other businesses by bidding in an auction. The higher the bid, the more likely the ad will be served (although other factors are also part of the equation – see Quality Score).

When to use Google Search ads?

Google search ads are used to get exposure in searches, which can lead to clicks, calls, leads, or online purchases. Although it’s an ingenious and powerful system, it’s much better for some types of businesses than others. Overly competitive businesses can be problematic because of the bidding competition in the auction – i.e., prices per click can get very expensive. Also, keyword clarity can be an issue with some types of businesses. If you can focus your ads on straightforward keywords that have commercial intent, it’s better. For example, the search “shingle roof repair service” is fairly direct and implies wanting to do business (although the person searching could be looking for a job with a roof repair company rather than trying to hire one). Some types of businesses involve more ambiguous keywords, which can be a problem. The sweet spot for search ads is when there is clarity about keywords people search, commercial intent can be implied and distinguished to a degree, and the competition is not so fierce that it drives the auction price up too high. Also, there should be enough profit in what you’re selling to justify the ad cost. Low-profit products and services are not well suited for search ads.

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Google Display Network

The Google Display Network (GDN) for advertising is probably the largest ad network on Earth that you’ve never heard of. In fact, it is actually the largest ad network on Earth! It reaches 90% of global Internet users, including 94% of all US Internet users.

The GDN is a network of millions of websites and thousands of mobile apps that partner with Google to show Google ads. It includes many large publishing companies, like Yahoo, the New York Times, CNN, and many more. Why do they partner with Google? Because Google’s display network has been a proven money maker. Whenever anyone clicks on an ad, both Google and the publisher (website or app owner) make money. It also includes Google’s own high-traffic properties, like YouTube.

Benefits of advertising on the GDN

The primary benefit of advertising on the GDN is its massive reach. Almost everyone sees GDN ads regularly next to content on the web or in apps. The ads can show in various attractive formats, some of which are highly visual. Also, advertisers have a wide array of options for how those ads are targeted, such as by gender, age bracket, parental status, household income, topics, placement, location area, and more.

When to use the GDN for ads?

By far, the more beneficial way to run ads over the GDN is for remarketing. Remarketing is when you run ads to people who have recently visited your website. With the help of browser cookies, Google Ads can build a list of visitors who visit your website within a defined time period (such as the last twenty-five days, or six months, etc.) and lets you target an ad only to those people. It’s great for staying top of mind or trying to attract business by offering a limited-time discount.


YouTube is a massively popular video website (and mobile app) with staggering usage statistics. It’s the second most searched website in the world, after Google.com. Owned by Google since 2006, YouTube is now one of the best advertising platforms for getting a message out in an affordable way.

YouTube ads can be set up and managed through the Google Ads interface.

Benefits of YouTube ads:

YouTube ads are a great vehicle for advertising because a large number of people can be reached at a low cost. There are several different ad formats available. Some involve playing a video ad before, during, or after another YouTube video. Some involve a static graphical ad that gets placed over a YouTube video that’s playing. In the case of ad videos, some types can be skipped by the viewer after the first five seconds. Others can’t be skipped, so the viewer must watch the ad to completion in order to see the video they selected to see.

One of the most interesting advertising options with YouTube is called the TrueView Instream ad, which is skippable to the viewer after five seconds. With this format, the advertiser is not charged unless the viewer watches thirty seconds or more of the video or clicks the URL link of the ad. So, all views between five and twenty-nine seconds are free (unless there is a click). In cases where the ad video is less than thirty seconds long, the advertiser is charged when the video is watched to completion.

Again, low cost is a great feature of YouTube advertising. Why is the cost so low? Because of the ample supply of inventory. There are so many people watching so many YouTube videos, competition for many placements is not too extreme, which keeps auction prices affordable.

Another benefit of running YouTube ads is that you can use them to build a remarketing audience. This lets you run a future ad only to the people who engaged with your previous YouTube ad.

As for targeting, there are many options such as gender, age bracket, parental status, household income, topics, placement, location area, and more.

When to use:

Use YouTube ads when you want your brand to be seen and known. Consider them to be an introduction or reintroduction to what your business offers. They can be a low-cost way to get your message out to the public.

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Subject: Google vs. Meta for Marketing

Discovery Feeds

Google Discover feeds are scrollable information pages (or sections of pages) meant to grab your attention and engagement. They might contain news articles or content on subjects that you’ve recently searched about or read about on your mobile device. They are meant to be highly visual, with photos and videos as the most prominent features.

Discover feeds can be found in these places:

  • Google Search app
  • YouTube Home feed
  • YouTube Watch Next feed
  • Gmail Promotions tab
  • Gmail Social tab

Even though Discover feeds are nothing like search engine results, it’s helpful to consider a special relationship between them. You could say that Discovery attempts to deliver information you’re interested in before you search — beating you to the punch. It won’t usually work like that, realistically. But this is the angle Google is pursuing with Discovery. For example, if you have a favorite sports team or rock band, Google will try to show you the latest information it can about them in your feed.

Benefits of Google Discovery ads

One benefit of running Discovery ads is the extensive audience reach — Google claims that up to three billion people see Discovery ads every month worldwide. Another is that they are designed for engagement, not just visibility. Google applies AI resources to make Discovery ads a conversion-focused ad outlet.

When to use Google Discovery ads?

Discovery ads show in a feed, much like Facebook or Instagram ads. If you’ve had success with Facebook or Instagram ads, it could make sense to try Google’s Discovery ads. If you are already running Google ads in search, display, and YouTube, you might want to try Discovery ads as an additional way to reach people and hopefully drive results.


Gmail, Google’s email platform, is the most popular email platform in the world today. Not many people realize it, but Gmail is another channel for which Google ads can be displayed. In Gmail, ads show at the top of the Social or Promotion inbox tabs. When a user clicks or taps on an ad, it expands to the size of an email. Advertisers are changed when ads are clicked (or tapped) and expanded.

Although they used to be a separate option, Gmail ads have now been absorbed into the Discovery ad campaign type.

Benefits of using Gmail ads

Gmail ads can be beneficial because they can get a message across in a way that’s much different than other types of ads. They can stand out and be prominent at a time when the viewer is focused on getting things done.

When to use Gmail ads?

Use Gmail ads through Discovery feed ads when you want a message to be seen in various ways and in various places.

Google Maps

Google Maps is a hugely popular mapping platform that’s often used to find street directions, business locations, and other locations, such as parks, churches, and more. As a powerful location search engine, Google Maps is another channel where ads are displayed. Two key requirements for an ad to appear in Google Maps are:

  1. The business is listed in the Google Business Profiles system.
  2. A location extension is incorporated in Google Ads, which integrates the ad account with the Google Business Profile of the business.

Benefits of advertising in Google Maps

Ads in Google Maps can inform Google Map users about your business location. They might see your ad when they search Google Maps, or they might see your location on a map when nearby.

When to use ads in Google Maps?

If you have a physical business location that you want people to be aware of and perhaps visit, ads in Google maps would make sense for you.