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Sarah Vlietstra
Google Discovery Ads

How to Win with Google Discovery Ads in the Holiday Season

How to Win with Google Discovery Ads in the Holiday Season

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

It’s that time of the year again, when digital marketers put on their blue light blocking glasses and put in some serious screen time preparing for the most wonderful time of the year.  The great - and dreaded - BFCM (that’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday for those of you impervious to acronyms).  

Cat Reaction GIF

Discovery campaigns can be an excellent tool to grow and scale volume during this time with users both familiar and unfamiliar with your brand.  With reach across the YouTube Home, Watch Next Feeds, Discover Feed and Gmail Promotions and Social tabs, you can reach up to 3 billion people monthly.

Per my previous article, we have minimal control over Discovery campaigns in general, however, there are a few different levers in this campaign type you will want to pay close attention to as we get closer to BFCM.

It is worth noting, that we've seen Discovery ads work well for many different kinds of budgets, but for smaller budgets I'd recommend using a Customer Match list or remarketing audience. As with anything, be cautious if you haven't tested these yet since the Black Friday season can be somewhat unforgiving, especially if these don't end up being a good fit for you.

Discovery Campaign Bidding/Budgets

For holiday sales & seasonality, especially BFCM, make sure to increase volume as much as possible to allow for traffic.  You can do this by increasing your tCPA target or decreasing your tROAS target.  It seems counterintuitive, but it’s an easy way to tell the system that you are willing to either 1.) spend more to acquire a lead or 2.) attain less ROAS to achieve a sale.  

Making these adjustments are especially important as we near holiday sales.  You will want to attain as much volume as possible, knowing that conversion rate will increase if you’re running seasonal sales or promotions.  

Another thing to keep in mind is your allotted budget.  The default bid strategy on Discovery campaigns is Maximize Conversions.  You can increase your bids on Maximize Conversions by increasing your budget.  However, I do recommend you set a target if you have a long-running campaign with good historical data.  

If you are running a flighted campaign, specifically to highlight a short term promotion, Google’s recommendation is to start your campaign on tCPA and set bids 2-3 times higher than usual (compared to your other Display campaign tCPA) with a budget at least 20x your tCPA.  If you or your client aren't made of money, then aim for a slightly higher tCPA target with enough budget to capture adequate volume for the flighted event.

Excited Make It Rain GIF by DoSomething

Discovery Campaign Assets

Asset Management will be another important part of managing your BFCM strategy.  Make sure you include the maximum amount of headlines and one unified description with a landing page that is in alignment with your marketing message.  

Google also recommends you have a variety of differently sized images.  You can use the same image across multiple sizes and crop it to fit, if feasible. However I’ve found having different images selected for portrait and landscape tend to result in better formatting across the ad

Make sure to include a square logo as well or you won’t be able to save your ad. 

Once your images and text have been selected, don’t change them out frequently, rather utilize the asset report ( to get loads of additional valuable data regarding how your assets are performing.  Review these reports regularly and be sure to change out lower performing assets. 

Low quality assets will not be used by Google, thus reducing the performance of the ad within your campaign. 

Discovery Campaign Audiences:

Targeting the right audiences is an important part of your BFCM strategy.  You will want to have a separate message for users familiar with your brand versus those who have never heard of your brand.  Here, we always segment out remarketing and prospecting campaigns, and I encourage you to do the same. 

However, it is important to not mix and match audiences within the same ad group in a Discovery campaign.  Make sure to segment out upper, middle, and lower funnel audiences.  This will enable the automation to perform more effectively towards the targeted audience.  

If you are seeing a lot of traffic from one particular audience to the detriment of another, then create a separate campaign for each audience to more directly target ad spend.  This time of year, I encourage you to make use of custom audiences who have expressed interest in your product or service, but may not be familiar with your brand. 

Another good option will be the seasonal audiences that Google rolls out this time of year, such as “Christmas Shopping,” or “Black Friday Deals.” On the remarketing end, now is a good time to target some of your YouTube audiences who may have watched one of your videos earlier in the year, but haven’t interacted with your brand recently - especially if you have a particularly compelling gift guide or site that is heavily promoting your product or service as a need for this season. 

Unwrapping Arts And Crafts GIF by Nickelodeon

Ultimately, with this year being one for the books in terms of inventory supply chain and inflation - we can only anticipate that BFCM will be a very high volume event.  Capture as much traffic as you can while people are out there looking for gifting opportunities. 

Happy holidays..and may the auctions be ever in your favor.  

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Sarah Vlietstra
Senior Paid Search Strategist

Sarah started her career in digital marketing by working as a contractor at Google.

Over the last 6 years, she has 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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