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Google Discovery Ads: All about this new Google Ads format

by Sorbaioli
Google Discovery Ads: all about this new Google Ads format

Table of Contents

In 2020, Google launched a new type of campaign for all Google Ads advertisers: Discovery Ads. Since it’s my job to open and manage Google Ads accounts all day, I’ve had the pleasure of launching, testing and optimizing many Discovery Ads campaigns.

Today, I’m telling you all about Discovery Ads, the good news and the bad… And to back up my words, I’ll use real campaign statistics.

  • But first, let’s start by getting Discovery Ads right.
  • Then, we will discuss the pros and cons of the format.
  • I will then give you some good practices, validated by my experience.
  • Finally, you will learn how to launch Discovery Ads campaigns from your Google Ads account.

What does a Discovery Ads ad look like?

An advertising format designed for mobile, close to what we find on social networks

Discovery Ads are intended to be visual, with a “native” look and harmonious with the inventory on which they are distributed.

It is an ad format designed for mobile, reminiscent of what is found on Facebook or Instagram.

Exemple d’annonces Discovery Ads

Concretely, the announcement is composed as follows:

  • 40 character title
  • Description of 90 characters
  • Your company name
  • Between 2 and 10 “Carousels” which present several square images (1200 x 1200) or landscapes (1200 x 628) within the same ad
  • Your company logo
  • A call to action button that you can choose from an already established list
  • destination URL to send clickers to your landing page

The ad can also be complemented by the “Form for prospects” extension, which will then allow you to capture leads directly from your ad, without forcing the Internet user to go to your site to convert. This extension can trigger on mobile or tablet, only. It is also available for campaigns on the search network and for YouTube campaigns.

Google Ads Prospect Form extension for Search, YouTube and Discovery Ads campaigns

Where are Discovery Ads shown?

The particularity of Discovery Ads is that they will allow you, with a single campaign, to broadcast your advertisements on several inventories specific to Google:

  • YouTube (on the home page and in the “Videos to watch next” module)
  • le flux Discover de Google (ex Google Now)
  • Gmail (“Promotions” and “Social Networks” tabs)

By combining these 3 destinations within the same campaign, Discovery Ads ads allow you to reach up to 3 billion Internet users!

It should also be noted that Discovery Ads differs from the classic display to really get closer to the advertising experience of social networks. Indeed, the places where the ads are shown are literally where there is a feed:

  • YouTube video feed
  • the Google Discover news feed
  • the Gmail email feed.

What targeting options are available with Discovery Ads?

Discovery Ads campaigns can use all of the audiences that Google makes available in the Google Ads platform:

  • Demographic data
  • Affinity audience
  • In- market audiences
  • Custom intent audience
  • Remarketing Audiences & Lookalike Audiences
  • Customer match (import of a list of customers or prospects)
Types of audiences available in Google Ads, by marketing funnel

The benefits of Discovery Ads campaigns

Discovery Ads is the only way to advertise on the Google Discover feed

What makes Discovery Ads unique is that it’s the only campaign type that lets you advertise on the Google Discover feed. What is Google Discover?

Google Discover presents users with content relevant to their interests, based on their web and app activity.

Unlike the search engine, the user does not need to type in a query; the content is automatically pushed to it according to what the algorithm considers to be the person’s interests. The experience is reminiscent of any social media feed.

Never heard of it? However, there are many people who use it. According to Whats New In Publishing, Google Discover has at least 800 million users every month. Google Discover is available in the Google app (on iPhone) and natively in most Android smartphones.

Simplicity: one Google Ads campaign = several inventories

One of the strengths of Discovery Ads campaigns is that they are multi-network in nature.

You no longer need to create several different types of campaigns to appear on the different Google inventories (ex: create a first TrueView campaign to appear on YouTube, then create a second Gmail campaign to appear in your audience’s inbox).

This will undeniably simplify the implementation of your advertising campaigns, but also their management and optimization. Indeed, rather than having to optimize several campaigns and ad groups in silos, you will be able to optimize a single entity, to optimize your aggregate performance on all networks.

A 100% “automatic” campaign at the service of your conversions, boosted with artificial intelligence

Discovery Ads campaigns are intended to be “Conversion” oriented. Therefore, the only bid strategies you can use with Discovery Ads are:

  • Maximize conversions
  • CPA cible

Once you have chosen your strategy, Google’s algorithm will automatically manage the bids for you, with the sole objective of achieving the performance constraints you set for it.

Disadvantages of Discovery Ads campaigns

100% automatic campaigns that leave no control

The rise of artificial intelligence in online advertising is a double-edged sword:

  • on the one hand, the algorithms are able to optimize hundreds of signals in real time, which is clearly impossible for a human
  • on the other, advertisers are gradually being deprived of the control they used to have over their advertising (in terms of auctions, ads, broadcast context, etc.)

Although it is foolish to totally oppose any form of automation in advertising, the fact remains that many Google Ads professionals regret this loss of control, which is the cause for them of a certain “waste” of budget, because the algorithm is still far from always making the best decisions, 100% of the time.

A “blackbox” reporting, which requires respecting the Google philosophy behind Discovery Ads

In the vein of the previous paragraph, we regret that the reporting of Discovery Ads campaigns sometimes lacks transparency. This is especially true when you want to know “where exactly our ads were shown”.

It is legitimate for optimization and budget allocation purposes to ask whether Discovery Ads campaigns are spending more on YouTube, Google Discover, or Gmail, and how well each network performs. Unfortunately, this is not possible to know, because Google Ads does not give you the possibility to segment your statistics by network.

This lack of transparency is embarrassing for advertisers, but it is also Google’s way of enforcing the original philosophy of the product : you say at what price you want to generate conversions on your site, and that’s it.

Business performance is therefore the only metric that is valid for this type of campaign, and worrying about knowing exactly on which inventory the Discovery Ads ads are broadcast does not matter in the end.

Especially since Discovery Ads is intended to be a rather “full funnel” solution, which means that there are synergies that you might not capture by looking at a report that “silots” the distribution networks (ex: Google Discover may not drive conversions directly, but it builds brand awareness so once on YouTube, when your audience sees your ads again, they’re more likely to engage with it and convert).

The lack of control over the inventory where Discovery Ads are served can raise fears of a brand safety risk

Since you don’t know precisely where your Discovery Ads appeared, another question arises: have my ads always been shown on spaces / content that do not harm my brand image? For example, an advertisement for a beauty brand that appears next to a video that fights clinical trials on animals, it can be a bit of a task…

Since your ad placements are entirely managed by the algorithm, you may have this fear. Especially since, unlike other traditional campaigns, you cannot exclude certain types of content from your Discovery Ads campaigns (e.g. parked domains, violent content, coarse content, etc.)

However, Google ensures that Discovery Ads campaigns automatically apply exclusions to show your ads next to advertiser-friendly content (for example, Discovery ads won’t show next to very vulgar or strong content). sexual character, nor next to violent images).

A format that aims to be conversion-oriented, but which is rather mid-funnel

As we have seen, Google’s intention with Discovery Ads is to provide a “sexy”, multi-channel format, and optimized to generate conversions based on the advertiser’s target CPA. The approach is benevolent, and resonates with marketers who expect their ads to generate concrete returns for their business.

However, the reality is that depending on the case, Discovery Ads campaigns sometimes struggle to convert/perform better than Facebook Ads or even YouTube Ads.

Let’s take a concrete case, that of a site that does lead generation. The “macro conversion” is making an appointment with a sales representative, from the site. There are also two other “micro conversions” (using an online tool and downloading a lead magnet).

  • We can see in the following table that Discovery Ads was better than other comparable formats when it comes to micro conversions (rather middle of the funnel)
  • But on the other hand, Discovery Ads is far behind Youtube and Facebook Ads when it comes to macro conversions (even the “classic” display does better).

Conversion rates for different conversions (micro and macro)

Discovery Ads Display YouTube Ads Facebook Ads
Using an online tool 0.26% 0.03% 0.16% 0.10%
Downloading a lead magnet 0.07% 0.01% 0.04% 0.06%
Pure Lead (VR Plug) 0.02% 0.06% 1.76% 0.97%

We therefore deduce that, despite Google’s good intentions, Discovery Ads is rather a lever that will be more suitable to improve the consideration of your brand (middle of the funnel), rather than to generate “pure and hard” conversions.

Thus, Discovery Ads seems to be more of a “Full funnel” lever than a “Conversion” lever.

A mobile format too?

When you dig to try to understand why the conversion rate of Discovery Ads is lower than other comparable formats, you make some interesting discoveries.

In particular the fact that Discovery Ads generates VERY (too?) mobile traffic. I was able to see with the campaigns on which I was able to work that the format drained more than 98% of mobile users. This is 8% more than Facebook in the following case!

How is this a disadvantage? Typically, conversion rates on mobile are lower than on other devices. As a result, in terms of “macro conversions”, as we saw in the previous paragraph, Discovery Ads campaigns sometimes do less well than Facebook, YouTube or classic Display (for which we have better control of the devices on which the advertising is broadcast).

Discovery Ads Best Practices

Give the algorithm time to stabilize and start with a conservative target CPA

If Discovery Ads campaigns are powered by artificial intelligence, then that means you need to allow the algorithm to learn, as you click, how to achieve the cost per conversion you want.

There will be no point in activating a Discovery Ads campaign for a few days, or spending only €5 per day on this format… The algorithm will not be able to learn enough to achieve your objectives.

Also, don’t start your campaign with an overly aggressive Target CPA bid. Otherwise, your campaign will very quickly deliver only a few dozen impressions per day.

Instead, start with a slightly higher cost per conversion than other Display or YouTube campaigns. Then, as soon as your Discovery Ads campaign manages to reach the CPA you entered, gradually lower your bids (by 1% or 5% max) until you reach the “true” target CPA you are aiming for.

Optimize your campaigns for a “micro-conversion” and not a “macro-conversion”

As a consequence of what we mentioned above (Discovery Ads is a rather mid-funnel format), you will certainly have better results with Discovery Ads if you optimize the campaign for a micro conversion (ex: addition to cart) rather than for a outright conversion (e.g. e-commerce transaction).

The main reason is that Discovery Ads generate traffic that is still in the consideration phase, and not necessarily ready to release the credit card right after clicking on your ad.

You can always rework this “middle of the funnel” audience in another way if necessary:

  • with remarketing on the display for example,
  • or by bidding on more keywords for traffic that has already engaged with your Discovery Ads.
  • If your micro-conversion allows you to capture a lead, you can also continue to nurture this qualified traffic by email or with advertisements on social networks.

Finally, as Discovery Ads is a format that uses 100% automation, optimizing your campaign on a micro conversion allows you to send a larger volume of signals to the algorithm. This will speed up its learning phase and therefore take you less time to reach the level of performance you expect.

Target lower funnel audiences first, then gradually expand your targeting

Since Discovery Ads campaigns seek to optimize for conversion, it’s good practice to start targeting “near to convert” audiences :

  • your prospects and customers (CRM)
  • visitors to your site (Remarketing)
  • “In-Market” labeled audiences for your product category

Once these audiences are reached, you can expand the reach of your campaign by adding audiences that fit more in the middle of the funnel:

  • Audiences « in-market » custom
  • Audiences similar to your CRM database or to Internet users who have converted
  • Audience similar to the qualified traffic you receive for your site.

Finally, if you want to reach an even wider target, you can then start targeting audiences of the “affinity segment” type, or even a pure demographic target (eg women under 35).

By gradually expanding the targeting of your campaign, and starting first with audiences close to converting, you will be able to generate better performance and have better control over the delivery of your campaign.

Exclude previously converted audiences and your customer list if you want to recruit new customers

If the only objective of your Discovery Ads campaigns is to recruit new customers, consider excluding from your campaigns the audience of all users who have already been converted, and contacts who are already in your CRM.

Indeed, as Discovery Ads seeks to optimize the campaign for conversions, it is certain that the campaign will reach visitors that you already know, because usually, the costs per conversion are more interesting on this type of audience (remarketing). However, this will not interest you if you are only looking to have new customers, and it will therefore be a waste of your budget.

You can easily create a segment of all converts in Google Analytics, import it into Google Ads, and add it to your campaigns’ “exclusive audiences” (this is one of the techniques I show from A to Z in Google Ads training).

To exclude people who have already entered your CRM, you can export the email address of your contacts and upload it to Google Ads as a “Client list”. Again, all you need to do is add this list of customers as an audience to exclude in your campaign.

Take care and test your visuals: this is 50% of the success of a Discovery Ads ad

Your images will be the first thing people notice when they come across your Discovery ads, so be sure to use the highest image resolution possible.

Also, highlight your product or service to help people instantly understand what you offer. Often, visuals that show people using your product will work best with Discovery Ads.

Do not add text overlaying your visuals. Because your ads are served across different networks and devices, text may not come out correctly in all situations.

Finally, since Discovery Ads are heavily visualized, it’s important to test different image types to boost performance. To do this, feel free to use the “draft and test” feature of your Google Ads account.

Repurpose your best social ads

As we saw at the beginning of the article, Discovery Ads tries to recreate the experience of an advertisement on a social network.

As the look and feel is substantially the same, it is interesting to take the visuals & advertisements that have performed very well on Facebook or Instagram, and test them with Discovery Ads.

On the Think With Google site, you can also find the case study of retailer Ted Baker who reused his Facebook ads to create Discovery Ads campaigns and who saw his income increase by 70% and his return on advertising spend (ROAS) by 62% in less than a year.

How to set up a Discovery Ads campaign?

When to launch this type of campaign, for what marketing objectives?

Discovery Ads are interesting to use in one of the following cases:

  • You want to “push” your products to a “mid funnel” audience, already interested in your product category, and generate a qualified audience capable of achieving a “soft” conversion (e.g. newsletter subscription, time spent on the site, use of a free online tool, etc.)
  • You already have good performance with your social ads (Facebook, Instagram) and you are looking to extend your reach to reach new audiences.
  • You already advertise on YouTube, and want to stay in the minds of people who have already seen your advertising videos.
  • Your products are visual by nature, where showing them “in action” brings a real plus and allows consumers to better understand your offer or to be interested in it more easily.
  • You want to appear in the Google Discover feed of your audiences (new, or those who have already interacted with your site)

Create a Discovery Ads campaign

Creating a Discovery Ads campaign is done in much the same way as any other Google Ads campaign.

  1. In the page menu on the left, click Campaigns.
  2. Click the “more” button, then select New Campaign.
  3. After selecting the objective you want for your campaign, select the Discovery campaign type and click “Continue”.

Then follow the steps that appear on the screen to set:

  • your daily budget,
  • geographical and linguistic targeting of the campaign
  • audiences to target
  • your bidding strategy

You can then create your first Discovery ad (title, description, images).

The rules relating to the visuals of your advertising

With Discovery Ads, you must follow certain guidelines regarding your ad visuals.

The images that you add to your “files” must have a landscape and/or square format.

Be sure to upload high resolution visuals, preferably already cropped to the recommended dimensions (1200 x 628 for landscape format and 1200 x 1200 for square format).

Your logo (which appears as circles in the ad preview) must be square.

Please note that your images must not represent:

  • inappropriate or shocking content (nudity, medical intervention, sexuality, etc.)
  • a negative life event (divorce, foreclosure, natural disaster, funeral, etc.)
  • implicit interactivity (an action button on the visual, a new message alert, etc.)
  • un selfie
  • a poor quality image (blurred, distorted or poorly framed image)


FAQ Google Discovery Ads


Discovery Ads is an ad format available in Google Ads. It is an advertising format designed for mobile, similar to what is found in advertisements on social networks. Discovery Ads are intended to be visual, with a “native” look and harmonious with the inventory on which they are distributed.


The particularity of Discovery Ads is that they will allow you, with a single campaign, to broadcast your advertisements on several inventories specific to Google:

  • YouTube  (in the home page and the “Videos to watch next” module)
  • le flux Discover de Google (ex Google Now)
  • Gmail  (“Promotions” and “Social Networks” tabs)


Your Discovery Ads images must be in landscape format (recommended size 1200 x 628 px) and/or square format (recommended size 1200 x 1200 px)


Yes, it is possible to create Discovery Ads campaigns in DV360 (Google Marketing Platform DSP).


Google Discover (formerly Google Now and Google Feed) is the news feed offered on mobiles from the Google application (and natively on certain Android mobiles). The content and articles highlighted in this feed depend on the user’s centers of interest.

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