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Google Discovery Ads Dos and Don’ts For More Successful Campaigns



Google Discovery Ads Dos and Don'ts For More Successful Campaigns

When Google Discovery campaigns first came on the scene in 2019, I was skeptical they would amount to much.

Their available inventory across Gmail, YouTube, and the Discovery feed seemed too small to amount to anything of significance for most advertisers.

As Google has iterated and expanded, though, I’ve changed my tune.

While not as scalable as standard Google Display or YouTube campaigns, I now know the value that these campaigns can have, and work to incorporate them for most of the accounts I am involved in.

So – what does it take to find success with Google Discovery Ads?

The foundation is all about serving the right message, to the right person, at the right time.

Lucky for Discovery users, that ad unit has several advantages over standard Google Display campaigns (and search, too).


Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:

  • Discovery’s #1 Targeting Differentiator.
  • Layering Targeting in Discovery Campaigns.
  • Discovery + Retargeting.
  • Optimized Targeting.
  • Discovery Ad 101s + Dos and Don’ts.

Discovery’s #1 Differentiator: Targeting

With its ability to serve impressions at the moment of intent (the search), Paid search is generally the most efficient Google advertising product.

With Google Display, you can run ads to retargeting and similar to audiences based on a pool of past paid search clickers, but you cannot explicitly target a cohort of people who searched for specific terms before.

With Discovery, you can.

Within Discovery campaigns, Custom Segments allow you to explicitly target based on Google search activity.

Never before have you been able to create an ad group that only targets searchers of select keywords within YouTube, Gmail, and the Discovery feed.

This is really powerful.

This targeting unlocks a wedge intent stage between display prospecting and paid search unique to Google Ads.

Custom Segments: How To Set Them Up

Because Google owns all properties (Discovery, Gmail, YouTube) that Discovery Ads show on, you can ensure that keyword targeting serves impressions to past searches of your keyword variants.


Setup is easy.

When creating your ad group, select New Custom Segment.

Screenshot taken by author from Google Ads, March 2022

From there, select the People who searched for any of these terms on Google radio button, and input your keywords.

Targeting Google Searches with Custom AudiencesScreenshot taken by author from Google Ads, March 2022

By doing this, you will serve ads to anyone who searches for these terms on Google.

One note.

Assume these keywords are treated as broad match.

Nonetheless, this targeting option is Discovery’s differentiator – and it is a good one.

Pro Tip: Segment this targeting out into its own ad groups/campaigns to ensure you have the control you need on things like spend, budget, bid strategy, etc.

You will likely want to maximize reach and frequency to this audience subset and differentiate the experience from your other display campaigns.

Hone In By Layering Targeting Criteria

Like Google Display, Discovery supports affinity, in-market, life event, and demographic targeting options.


And like Google Display, these targeting options can layer on top of each other.

One of my favorite combinations is Custom Audiences + Targeted demographics, given the personalization opportunities with imagery in the responsive display ad units.

For example, if I’m targeting high net worth individuals, I could layer on the top 10% of HHI via Demographics targeting.

Selecting high earners with Google Ads Demographic targeting settingsScreenshot taken by author from Google Ads, March 2022

Pro Tip: With Discovery, you can serve “display” ads to people interested in your competitors.

Use keywords, key competitor pages (login, pricing), and apps to digitally surround competitor prospects and customers with a personalized pre/post experience.

The visual element of Discovery makes it a great tactic for these conquesting campaigns.

Discovery Retargeting Is A Must

If you run standard display retargeting campaigns, Discovery retargeting campaigns are a no-brainer.

Discovery offers inventory not available through standard display.

Given that retargeting campaigns often hold the best ROI for advertisers, maximizing impressions as much as possible makes sense.


In addition to the extra inventory, Discovery’s 4:5 aspect ratio ads and carousels are unique to the campaign type. They provide an opportunity for a differentiated experience compared to standard display.

Pro Tip: Use Customer Match lists to target lead ad customer lists with ungated brand content relevant to them.

People engaging with the Discovery feed are looking for content to consume.

If you have content you want to push out to a high-value first-party data list, this is a great way to do it.

This poses an excellent opportunity for you to showcase your expertise, communicate a value proposition, explain a feature, share a past client story, talk through the onboarding process, etc.

Things To Avoid: Optimized Targeting

Optimized Targeting, previously known as Audience Expansion, is a feature Google enables by default when setting up new campaigns and ad groups.

Google will tell you that they identify signals of likely converters to give you more leads at a similar CPL as your non-“optimized” initiatives.

The collective experience of colleagues and coworkers has been that there is very little case to keep this setting enabled.


Most advertisers should avoid it.

It provides very little visibility or control with targeting, meaning limited optimization opportunity.

With retargeting campaigns, it should be avoided 100% of the time, given that it changes the campaign to target beyond reengagement.

Discovery Ad 101 + Dos and Don’ts

Discovery’s targeting is unique, but ad units also offer up some unique opportunities.

Like Display, Discovery Ads are responsive. You give it a series of image and text inputs, and the algorithms determine the optimal ad to serve, depending on the user’s demographics and behaviors.

While they are nearly identical to Google Display responsive display ads, there are a few differences between those and Discovery ads.


  • Discovery ads do not support video.
  • Discovery ads do offer a responsive carousel ad format.
  • Discovery ads do offer a mobile, newsfeed friendly 4:5 aspect ratio.

Foundational principles of display ads apply to Discovery as well. It all comes down to personalizing the pre/post click experience with content of interest and/or value and capitalizing on the unique features that ad type offers.

Discovery Ad Dos

  • Do utilize the 4:5 aspect ratio. Google’s tool can help, or you can hire a freelancer to resize your existing banner for less than a dollar (when done in batch).
  • Do maximize the images, headlines, and descriptions used for each ad. The more you can give Google to test, the better your ad strength will be.
  • Do utilize creative learnings from your social channels. The mindset of the Discovery ad viewer is very similar to that of someone scrolling social feeds.
  • Do use images with people in them. They typically drive better CTAs than images without people.
  • Do consider tying a lead gen form to your discovery ad – especially for warm audiences. Extra credit if you integrate your CRM to automate lead flow.
  • Do monitor your asset level reports for indicators your ad text and image components are resonating.

Discovery Ad Dont’s

  • Don’t imply interactivity (e.g. Add a CTA button). Google is more strict on that compared to standard display campaigns
  • Don’t use much overlay text in your images. It leads to lower CTRs on average. It also leads to sub-optimally formatted ad units for certain inventory
  • Don’t overuse low-funnel KPIs with cold audiences. Like other display and social tactics, you’ll generally want to warm your audience up before offering up a low funnel call-to-action
  • Don’t utilize Discovery campaigns before you have conversion tracking set up. Bid strategies for Discovery all utilize conversion data.


Discovery Ads are a new(ish) format to Google Ads that is becoming increasingly important to utilize as privacy takes center stage.

They offer several unique advantages over other ad types across Google Ads and beyond, including search keyword-level targeting.


By keeping marketing best practices at the top of your mind during campaign setup and optimization, Discovery will become a staple component of your digital marketing efforts.

More resources:

Featured Image: art GALA/Shutterstock

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In-house SEO vs outsourced agency talent: Who wins the debate?



In-house SEO vs outsourced agency talent Who wins the debate

30-second summary:

  • SEO involves a lot of tasks, processes, and technicalities that are hard to master and manage
  • Investing in an in-house team can have lots of advantages, like building specialized talent, greater control over performance, productivity, brand and process alignment
  • However, outsourcing to an SEO agency may not deliver the above-mentioned benefits but can be easier on your marketing budget and overheads
  • So, how do you identify the right fit for your business?

There are too many parts of SEO and many of those parts are constantly moving and changing. The more a site grows, the more challenging SEO is going to be. So what’s a better approach: to start building your own in-house SEO team or rely on an agency or freelancers?

Let’s see…

Pros and cons of building your own team

Pro #1: You build your own internal talent and knowledge

Your team is your biggest asset. Your company is only as good as the people behind it. These are all cliches but they hold true.

Having an in-house team to rely on makes your SEO strategy more consistent and aligned with your company’s culture and your product positioning strategy. Plus, there is a smoother flow of ideas and communication that leads to better results. You also stand to gain from the cross-pollination of talent that feeds into innovation and greater problem-solving.

Con #1: Talents tend to move on

There’s one huge issue with talented people: They tend to overgrow their employing businesses, and they do that pretty quickly.

It often becomes hard (and expensive) to keep the talent, even if your organization was the one that grew it.


Pro #2: You hold someone responsible

If you are good at hiring, you will likely find someone responsible who will take their training and tasks seriously. The person will have clear ownership which makes everyone’s lives easier and your business more effective. 

Any business initiative is going to be successful only if there’s someone inside the company to “own” it.

In-house teams are easier to control, you can ask for and obtain reports within a day. You can ask for clarifications without running out of your billable hours.

Con #2: It is expensive

Not many businesses can afford to have an internal SEO that has nothing but SEO… Apart from regular and inevitable payroll, there are also HR processes that contribute to the overall expenses. And let’s not forget about employee insurance and other benefits.

Yes, growing your own team is generally a great investment but only if your budget allows it. Plus, there’s always a risk your investment will simply leave your company one day (see above).

Pro #3: You own your data

Privacy is a big issue when it comes to letting anyone do marketing for you. On the other hand, you can also control the technology and privacy much more efficiently ensuring that your data is accessible to your internal team only.

Additionally, when you outsource anything, you will inevitably miss lots of data, like contacts that were acquired, templates that worked better, and other assets.

When you have the work done internally, you end up accumulating contacts you can rely on going forward. You also eventually build your own data and find innovative ways to build it into your search marketing strategy.


Con #4: It is slower

Unless you have a huge team, SEO tasks will pile up. They are very hard to organize and scale without outside help because there are too many variables and most of them are done on a continuous and regular basis.

Relying on freelancers to outsource SEO tasks is often the only way to get things done and free some time for looking into analytics to align your SEO strategy better.

Pro #5: The process can be better integrated

SEO is no longer an island. It can only be really effective if it is well-integrated into all processes within an organization, including product development, IT, sales, and customer support.

The intersection of digital and physical consumer experiences is also a strong reason as to why SEO needs to have strong integration with digital marketing, martech, and sales. Your business can achieve its goals only if it has a unified footprint.

Con #5: You cannot build a team that is good at everything

The biggest problem with SEO is that there are several moving parts that require absolutely different training and skill sets.

Remember the graph?

SEO graph and relativitySource: Anthony Palomarez

SEO always includes content creation and optimization, technical support, and link building (which normally includes email outreach, relationship building, and linkable asset creation which, in turn, involves graphic design or video production tasks).

If you need to understand all of these moving parts better, I have a simplified flow chart for you:

the scope of SEO

Let’s not forget that many of those parts will have to evolve based on ever-changing Google guidelines and ever-developing search algorithms that are hard to keep up with.


With such a variety of skills required, building a team that would handle almost everything is next to impossible, even for corporate entities.

Of course, today’s technology makes it much easier. You don’t have a web developer to build a landing page, or handle on-page SEO essentials. You don’t have to be a graphic designer to create visuals, or even put together an effective lead magnet.

But even with smart technology, to handle all the parts of an SEO strategy you will need a pretty huge team, which is – again – expensive.

The truth is somewhere in the middle

The takeaway from the above is somewhat of a dilemma: You want a team to control something that you may never be able to control.

The best solution is usually in the middle:

  • Hire an SEO manager who has thorough SEO knowledge
  • Let that SEO manager find companies and freelancers to outsource different moving parts to

This means having an SEO manager who is brilliant at both SEO and project management.

Yes, it will take time to find the right person but finding the right person is never easy. 

It is well worth your time though:

  • Your in-house person will be able to “translate” any SEO jargon to you whenever you need to understand what is going on
  • You will have someone owning the strategy and process 
  • There will be a person who will be inside your company to ensure your SEO strategy is aligned with your overall product positioning strategy and include other teams in the SEO processes

In reality, if you want your SEO strategy to deliver results, you need both: An internal person (or a team) and someone outside your company to rely on. This is not a question of choosing one.


Managing SEO is hard. Don’t feel discouraged. There’s no valid alternative to organic search traffic. Find the right person who will be able to manage the process for you and find reliable partners to outsource different SEO tasks to. This way you will keep the strategy under control while still being able to afford it. Good luck!


Ann Smarty is the Founder of Viral Content Bee, Brand and Community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. She can be found on Twitter @seosmarty.

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