Discovery campaigns offer potential access to billions of people across Google platforms to help you reach your goals.

Here, you’ll find:

  • What Google Discovery Ads are
  • Benefits of these campaigns
  • How to set up a Google Discovery campaign
  • Tips to optimize your Discovery campaign

Google never sleeps, y’all. 

Besides making continued improvements for users, the search giant is constantly creating and tweaking its advertising tools. One of those tools you may not be super familiar with is Google Discovery Ads.

While these ads are relatively new, many experts agree they’re worth your attention – and ad budget.

By exploring Google Discovery ads, you may be able to improve lead generation tactics and create demand from an otherwise hard-to-reach audience.  

Let’s take a closer look at what Google Discovery campaigns are all about.

google ads discovery campaign youtube

An ad on the YouTube homepage. (Image: YouTube)

What are Google Discovery Ads?

Google Discovery Ads are immersive, interactive, and visually rich ads that appear on various Google platforms. These platforms include:

  • The Google Discover feed – This is where searchers can view the latest news, events, and other topics. In response to the user’s query, this highly personalized feed displays content that aligns with the searcher’s needs.
  • YouTube home feed, mobile home feed, and “Watch Next” – These highly visible spots are excellent for catching viewers’ attention and generating demand.
  • Gmail – Placed in the Social and Promotions tab, Discovery Ads don’t look salesy or obtrusive. However, they still stand out from other ads in Gmail.

Google Discovery Ads are designed to catch the prospects’ attention even if they aren’t looking for anything related at the moment.

Put another way, “rather than responding to a pre-existing demand, they generate demand,” according to The Drum.

YouTube is the second most popular search engine in the world. And with 90% of people using YouTube to discover new brands or products, Discovery Ads are excellent for lead generation purposes. Meanwhile, over 800 million people take advantage of Google Discover monthly, giving you access to a wide audience.

Google Discovery Ad formats

Google Discovery Ads come in two formats:

  • Image ads – a single image with a headline and description. You have to give Google several assets to work with. It will use artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) to create custom ads that suit users best.
  • Carousel ads – multiple images with a headline and description. In this variant, Google displays all of your images in a carousel format, allowing the user to browse the entire collection.

To place Discovery Ads in front of your target audience, Google uses the “power of intent.” Its bots analyze the user’s browsing history, web downloads, watched videos, and map searches to figure out whether they can benefit from your ad.

What’s the difference between Discovery Ads and Display ads?

Discovery Ads uses an algorithm to reach an audience that shows high-intent behaviors. Display doesn’t have the same ability to focus on intent and instead works better for brand awareness.

At first glance, it may seem like Discovery Ads are just another Display campaign, but that’s not the case. Not only is the targeting more robust in a Discovery campaign, but there’s also more coverage. When you use a Display campaign, you’re limited to the Google Display Network. 

But, as mentioned before, you get coverage across Youtube, Gmail Promotions and Social tabs, and the Google Discover feed, giving you more eyeballs for your money. In short, Discovery Ads give you another campaign to generate new customers and not just new impressions.

Search Ads vs. Discovery Ads: Which is better?

This question is a bit less straightforward than the previous one. Google Search is only one of Google’s networks, but it’s powerful. It allows you to target potential clients with intent-driven keywords. 

You can tailor your campaigns to any part of the funnel based on the keywords you use. For instance, “buy wayfair loveseat” would be appropriate for a bottom-funnel campaign, and “what is the best loveseat brand” would be perfect for a top-funnel campaign.

Discovery Ads allow you access to more Google properties than Google Search does, but they don’t offer you the control that Search’s keywords do. 

Search Ads don’t let you take advantage of in-market signals that Google’s ML reads and uses for Discovery Ads. When you work with digital marketing campaigns, you have to choose the right campaign type for the job.

Bidding strategies

You can take advantage of two bidding strategies.

For “maximize conversions,” Google spends the campaign budget to maximize conversions. It automatically determines the optimal CPC bid. For “target CPA,” Google places ads that convert to meet your CPA goals. It avoids using ads that don’t convert.  

While this may not seem like many options, the approach saves time, allowing you to focus on other campaigns.

Audience targeting options

Google ads campaigns have a wealth of targeting options these days. Here are a few of the options you can leverage in your campaigns.

Custom intent: These are also known as custom segments. They allow you to target people researching distinct products, topics, and businesses. You can target people with specific purchase intentions, interests, search terms, websites (URLs), or apps. One advantage of custom segments is that you target users who visit your competitors’ websites, not just interests and topics.

In-market audiences: In-market audiences are people who have shown purchase intent. They are actively researching a product or service and have signaled (based on ML) that they are ready to buy. This option allows you to reach more potential customers and drive conversions.

Your data: Another option you have is to use your own data. These would be considered remarketing audiences because they have interacted with your website in some way. Your data can be anything from a product page view to converters.

You can also use affinity, life events, and detailed demographics for ad targeting.

Smiling young woman sitting on chair holding mobile phone using cell at home.

Google ads campaigns have a wealth of targeting options these days. (Image: Adobe Stock)

Benefits of Google Discovery Ads

It’s easy to overlook this ad type, since it does give Google a lot of control. After all, with Discovery Ads, you can’t select the delivery method, contextual targeting, ad rotation, or device targeting. Additionally, manual bidding strategies are off-limits.

However, this ad type comes with significant benefits as well. These include:

  • Excellent branding – You can get your ads in front of existing and potential audiences, helping them to get more familiar with your brand. 
  • Improved audience targeting – You can capture your potential prospects while they’re in search mode. In the Google Discover feed, users can manage their preferences, which gives you a better chance of reaching prospects with high conversion potential.
  • Automated ad formats – Similar to responsive search ads, you don’t have to worry about A/B testing your assets. Google’s AI and ML do it for you. While this somewhat reduces your control over the ad, it can also save you time and money.
  • Top-notch placement – Discover Feed and YouTube are among the most useful places to put your ads. Unlike other Google Ad types, Discovery Ads unite several highly important placement options under one campaign.
  • Convenient ad specs – Discovery Ad parameters are similar to Facebook’s in-feed image ads. If you already have a Facebook Ads campaign, you don’t have to work on new assets, so setting up a Discovery campaign is easy.
  • Lead form extensions – Unlike Google Display Ads, Discovery has the option to add in lead form extensions, which is key for lead gen purposes. (However, this is only for single image ads and isn’t supported by carousel ads.)

Expert insights on Google Ads Discovery campaigns

We asked one of our  PPC experts, NK Dionisio, what they felt some of the benefits of Discovery campaigns were for their clients. NK says one is that it’s a “flexible placement,” meaning it’s not strictly top, mid, or bottom of the funnel. 

Another benefit is that “It’s similar to Performance Max,” NK says. “It brings in a high quantity of lead volume.” Because of the high lead volume, they don’t feel it’s worth testing, “as long as you have a good sales team or a good CRM set up with the right filters.

Want to learn more about Google Ads from the experts? You’ve come to the right place.

How to set up a Google Discovery campaign

Setting up the Google Discovery campaign is relatively straightforward.

  • Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • Click “Campaigns” and use the “+” button to select a new campaign.
  • Choose a marketing goal (website traffic, leads, sales, or no goal).
  • Choose the Discovery campaign type (single image, carousel, or both).
  • Select target audience information.
  • Set up the daily budget and select the bidding strategy.

After you set up the campaign, you can move on to adding the right creative assets.

Required assets

To get your campaign set up and live, you’ll need to gather images, logos, and copy that fits the format and specifications for Discovery Ads. We’ll break these down by type of ad to make it easier for you to follow.

Single image ad

Single-image ads are composed of a single image. These ads combine one image with your headline and description copy to create an ad Google feels is most appropriate for the user. Ad asset specifications are as follows.

Final URL: You’ll need one final URL.

Headlines: Headlines can be 40 characters or less. You’ll need at least three, and the max is five. We recommend using all of the headlines at your disposal for the best results.

Description: These are 90 characters or less with a minimum of three and a maximum of five. Google recommends you use at least three to set yourself for success.

Call to action: You’ll choose from a list or select the automated option. You should pick the best fit because you can only pick one.

Business name: Enter your business name or an abbreviated version since you’ll have just 25 characters to do this.


  • Landscape image(s) with an aspect ratio of 1.91:1 and a minimum size of 600 x 314 pixels
  • Square image(s) with an aspect ratio of 1:1 and a minimum size of 300 x 300 pixels
  • A square logo with an aspect ratio of 1:1 and a minimum size of 128 x 127 pixels
  • Portrait image(s) are optional. They need to have an aspect ratio of 4 :5 and must be at least 480 x 600 pixels

Pro tip: All images have a maximum file size of 5 MB.

Multi-image carousel ads

These ads have the same specifications as single image ads for Final URL, headlines, descriptions, calls to action, and business name. They also allow you to add a mobile URL, which cannot be done for single images. Image requirements are a bit different, though.

Card images must have an aspect ratio of 1:1.91 or 1 :1, and the minimum sizes are 600 x 314 pixels and 128 x 128 pixels, respectively. You need to add at least two but can’t add more than 10 total.

Logos need an aspect ratio of 1:1, and the minimum file size is 128 x 128 pixels.

Campaign settings

Many of the campaign settings for Discovery Ads are automated. You can:

  • Choose the budget, objective, and bids (but Google will optimize many of the other aspects)
  • Add placement exclusions if there are some websites, ads, or YouTube channels you’d prefer not to show ads on
  • Add content exclusions to ensure brand safety

Here are the settings and features you won’t be able to adjust:

  • Delivery method
  • Device targeting
  • Frequency capping
  • Contextual targeting
  • Ad rotation
  • Placement targeting
  • Manual bid strategies

Google Discovery Ads: Best practices

Once you create your Google Discovery campaign, consider these useful tips and practices:

  • Use high-quality images. Make sure to study the specs to avoid subpar images. Add as many as you can to help with your branding efforts.
  • Get creative with headlines and descriptions. Give Google something to work with when it’s designing your custom ad.
  • Work to rank higher on Google Discover. Make sure your landing pages are highly relevant – this will improve the Google Discovery campaign.
  • Take advantage of audience expansion. As Google explains, “optimized targeting can help you reach new and relevant audiences that are likely to convert. ”
  • Repurpose other Google Ads assets for the Discovery campaign.
  • Showcase new products by connecting your product feed.

Pro tip: Take advantage of the Discovery Carousel Ad format to tell your brand’s story. As the user scrolls the cards, they can get to know your company. This can encourage higher engagement and bring more visitors to your website.

The takeaway

Google Discovery Ads are a useful ad format for advertisers who want to reach high-intent audiences, grow lead generation efforts, and improve brand awareness. The campaign is easy to set up, especially if you already have creative assets in place.

If you find the budget to give these ads a chance, they can become a worthwhile addition to your marketing campaign. As Dionisio says, “You could do a lot of low-cost Discovery Ads because, like other display campaigns, the CPC is pretty low compared to search, so it’s not that big of a risk.”

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