One of the newest types of advertising offered by Google is called Discovery ads. These ads provide a much different approach than methods Google has previously offered. Several characteristics distinguish them, but the two most important are:

    • Discovery ads appear in feeds, showing “natively.” (“Native” means blended with other content in a seemingly natural way.)
    • They use Google’s machine-learning analysis to target those exhibiting high-intent behavior. In other words, the system is selective for who will see particular ads based on their interests and the probability rate that they’ll take action.

The striking thing to me about Discovery ads is how serious Google is about driving results. They don’t want these ads to simply be seen or to be clicked on. They want them to be a vehicle for converting customers. Everything from the ad creation process, targeting system, and bidding setup is engineered to give the best chance of success. Attempting to promote quality is not new for Google, however. Google has always been focused on a win-win-win scenario for ads (a win for the ad viewer, a win for the advertiser, and a win Google’s coiffures from ad click revenue), but the newer features have a “take no prisoners” approach. Google is now controlling more aspects of the process, forcing a higher level of input from advertisers.

What are Google “Discover 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 Discover attempts to deliver information you’re interested in before you search — beating you to the punch. It won’t normally work like that, realistically. But this is the angle Google is pursuing with Discover. 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.

Who Could Benefit from Them?

Discover feeds offer a new category of inventory for ad impressions. Before Discovery ads were offered as a category, the major channels for ad exposure were:

  • Google Search (where ads appear along with search results)
  • The Google Display Network (where ads appear next to content)
  • YouTube (where ads appear in and around videos)

Adding Discover as a new category opens up an opportunity that certain types of businesses could benefit from. According to Google, 2.8 billion users are reachable through Discover feeds worldwide.

Discovery ads are not the perfect vehicle for every advertiser but could be worth testing to see if the results are favorable. Google suggests they might be right for you in the following cases:

  • You have visually rich media that could stand out and draw interest when seen in a Discover feed.
  • You want more opportunities to reconnect with your most valuable customers. (This can be done by targeting audience segments, such as remarketing lists or your data lists.)
  • You want to drive interest and conversions with your visual media at scale, with a high volume of visibility.

How to Create a Discovery Campaign?

Here are the general steps to creating a Discovery campaign in Google Ads:

  1. Click the blue button to create a new campaign
  2. For the objective, choose “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance”
  3. Select a campaign type “Discovery”
  4. Select the conversion goal to be used for performance optimization (this tells the system how to define success)
  5. Select the location(s) to target
  6. Select the language(s) to target
  7. Select the bidding method. Here you can set a target cost-per-action (the amount you’d like the system to attempt to pay per action).
  8. Select the daily budget
  9. Under advanced settings, you can choose to run the ad on a schedule for particular times of the day and/or days of the week, set a start and end date for the ad, or add a tracking template for your URL.
  10. Make your targeting selections based on three categories — Audience Segments (groups that are defined from remarketing lists, interests, or detailed demographics), Demographics (gender, age bracket, parental status, and income level), and Optimized Targeting (letting Google expand your selections to target more people).
  11. Add the elements to be included in your ads, such as images, logos, headlines, descriptions, and URL.

Setup Limitations

Discovery ads are designed to take advantage of Google’s machine learning abilities, so the advertiser places their trust in Google to achieve the desired conversion results. This means that certain controls remain out of the advertiser’s hands.

Here is a list of settings that advertisers will not be able to control with Discovery ads:

  • Manual bid strategies
  • Frequency capping
  • Ad rotation
  • Method of delivery
  • Device targeting
  • Placement targeting
  • Contextual targeting

Best Practices

Here are some best practices recommended by Google for successful Discovery ads:

  • There is a selection of call-to-action text to choose from, or you can choose “Automated,” which means Google will choose a CTA for you. Be sure to select an option that makes sense for your business.
  • Add creative elements that speak to a particular interest or niche.
  • Avoid having too much text or other elements incorporated into your images.
  • Use wording that is as impactful as possible.
  • Consider testing both the single image option as well as the multi-image carousel for your ads.
  • Try to tell a story about your company or products.
  • Only use images that are high resolution – at least 1200 pixels wide, and at least 628 pixels tall.
  • Aim for strong visual contrast with your creative elements.
  • Avoid stock photography in favor of more authentic images.
  • Write ad copy that aims for a conversion, not just a click.
  • Use sentence case for your ad text.
  • Set a budget that allows for volume and allow time for the campaign to ramp up.