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Sarah Vlietstra
Google Discovery Ads

How to Run Google Discovery Ads: Tips, Tricks, Ideas, & Campaign Setup

How to Run Google Discovery Ads: Tips, Tricks, Ideas, & Campaign Setup

10/25/19 UPDATE: Hello Facebook Agency Visitor Person!  We’re delighted to have you visit this awesome post. About a year ago, ZATO stopped offering Facebook Ads solutions so we could focus solely on what we do best: Google Ads. Because of this, we’re always interested in partnerships with great Social Advertising agencies (like yourself, wink wink!) and we offer referral fees for signed clients!  Anyway, back to it, and happy reading…

Post Summary

What on earth are Google Discovery Ads? 

As one of Google’s newest campaign formats, it’s really something you want to consider utilizing in your marketing efforts.  Discovery campaigns are a combo effort. 

With one campaign you can target audiences across the YouTube Home and Watch Next feeds, Gmail, and the Google Discover Feed (which is like a scrolling news site that automatically populates stories that interest you - think Apple News for all you iOS users out there).  We all know how addictive never-ending scrolling can be.  In fact, Google recently announced that their SERP will even become continuous scrolling.  This gives us the opportunity to reach interested audiences who are in a laid-back content consuming mode, akin to social media. 

If you’re looking to expand outside of search and shopping, Discovery Ads are a good route to start.  Here at ZATO, we like to run remarketing and prospecting Discovery campaigns because we like them so much.  Also, it’s surprising the level of engagement you get from a Discovery remarketing campaign versus a standard Display remarketing campaign.  

How do I create one?

Discovery campaigns may be one of the easiest campaign types to setup.  

1) Select Sales, Leads, Website Traffic or “Create a Campaign without a Goal’s Guidance”

2) Then, select “Discovery.”

3) On the next page, you will have the option to choose your geographic targeting, budget and bidding.

4) I don’t recommend setting a target CPA to start.  This is something you will want to focus on later, once your campaign has started to generate conversions and historical data. 

5) You also have the option to set a campaign level conversion action on this screen.  I like to use conversion actions sets for Discovery campaigns which encompass a variety of actions because, while we’d like all of our campaigns to result in direct sales or leads, Discovery campaigns won’t always function this way to a cold audience. 

Pro Tip: If you are using Discovery campaigns for remarketing (which I’ve seen work remarkably well), then you may want to select a more valuable conversion action to target.

6) You do have an option to create an ad schedule. However, there is no option to add any additional content exclusions or even view placements for this campaign type.  

7) Unlike other display network campaigns, you can only target via audiences and demographics within Discovery campaigns. This makes sense considering the usage of the Google Discover feed.  

8) Now, and this is important, the system will automatically opt you into Optimized Targeting.

What is optimized targeting you ask?  Google indicates that optimized targeting “can help you reach new and relevant audiences that are likely to convert.  Optimized targeting looks beyond manually selected audience segments in your campaign to find audience segments that you may have missed to improve the campaign’s performance (from this support article).”

This may be beneficial in scenarios where you are going after a cold audience anyway and are ok with giving Google some more control with targeting.  Or - you could just leave the entire targeting section blank and Google will do all the targeting for you.  However, you may want to just target your remarketing audience, in which case, I recommend turning it off.  You only have the option to turn off optimized targeting once you’ve selected another audience to target. 

Once that has been completed, a nifty little check mark box will appear.

You can definitely layer more than one targeting method but keep in mind that the system will combine all this targeting together in a campaign.  You can also only create one ad group per Discovery campaign, so there’s that as well.

9) The last step is creating your ads.  We'll discuss this in detail next.

Discovery Ad Best Practices & Creation


Discovery campaigns have two different formats, Carousel Ads & Discovery Ads.  

A Discovery Ad is very similar to a Responsive Display Ad.  You can include images, logos, up to 5 headlines and up to 5 description lines, along with your business name and a call to action text (which can be automated). 

A Discovery Carousel Ad is quite a bit different.  For these ads, you will create cards that the user can scroll through featuring a different product or service.  You can add multiple images per card, but they will only show one image when being served.  

But can I optimize it?

The short answer is, kind of.  

Discovery Ad Optimization

When reviewing statistics in relation to your Discovery campaigns, take into consideration things like click through rate, along with view through conversions (which are counted for any conversion action you have in your account, even ones that aren’t included in conversions).  

Your biggest opportunity with this ad format will be your ability to optimize ad copy and experiment with the Discovery Ads versus the Discovery Carousel Ads.  

If you have multiple products, carousel ads can work quite well.  Google has a great best practices Discovery Ads article (article here) that advocates utilizing Carousel Ads and Discovery Ads together.  Ad copy (and audience) testing will be the bread and butter of getting your Discovery campaigns to perform effectively.  

Connect em & Storify em

In addition to showcasing multiple products, Google recommends utilizing the carousel ads to tell a story about your brand that develops as the cards are scrolled.  This will encourage further engagement with the ad and help coax the user to visit your site (and perhaps make a purchase).  However, it is important to note again that we don’t see a ton of direct conversion actions from cold audiences across Discovery campaigns, they still are an important part of building brand awareness and consideration.  


Ad schedule creation and reporting is something we still have the opportunity to review within Discovery Ads, so I highly recommend dayparting, so you can exclude times of day that may not be profitable for your business.

Once you’ve had a chance to gain some historical conversion data - preferably in relation to your conversion action sets or targeted campaign level conversion actions, you have the opportunity to set a target CPA.  Set this CPA target at or around what Google recommends, you can always lower it in 20% increments once your campaign has exited the learning period.  However, setting the CPA target too low initially could result in your Discovery campaign choking incoming traffic and flatlining.  

Lastly, you can always create a new Discovery campaign with a different audience target.  I like to get audience information from top performing and engaged audiences I see across Analytics.  Sometimes, it’s surprising how an audience that wouldn’t naturally seem to coincide with your brand actually works very effectively.  

Well, there you have it, the (albeit, few) ways you can effectively optimize a Discovery campaign for performance.  While the pitfalls of this campaign type are the lack of placement or channel reporting, we’ve still found them to be very effective in engaging users with your brand.

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Sarah Vlietstra
Senior Paid Search Strategist

Sarah started her career in digital marketing by working as a contractor at Google for 6 years before joining ZATO.

During that time, she worked with thousands of Google Ads accounts, gathering specific insight into industry benchmarks, trends and data. Because of her time representing Google, she excels at implementing Google Ads best practices in ZATO clients to maximize machine learning applied intelligently through a human framework.

Sarah is also passionate about educating others regarding Paid Search products, and actually taught the existing ZATO team about a specific product on her first day ever working at ZATO!

Sarah lives in Kalamazoo, Michigan with her husband, two sons and dog.  She enjoys spending time with her family, beautifying her house, and visiting new places.

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