Google Smart Display Campaigns: What Are They & How Do They Work?

June 3, 2020
Posted in Paid Search
June 3, 2020 Jen Lopez

Google Smart Display Campaigns: What Are They & How Do They Work?

If you’re like many of our existing clients, you’ve probably experimented with Google Display campaigns in the past but haven’t found much success for the metrics that matter most – particularly if those metrics are conversion-focused. Google Display has never been a fantastic performer for direct conversions and many people who’ve tested it in the past, who are looking for more than just increased traffic and impressions, have found that display media dollars are better spent elsewhere on managed platforms like Criteo, SteelHouse, MediaMath and more. The problem with Google Display has always been that outside of Display Remarketing campaigns, it’s essentially an upper-funnel tactic. However, over the last couple of years, Google has added tons of new targeting options to help advertisers reach further down the buying cycle, particularly with the introduction of In-Market audiences and being able to layer on and combine custom segments and more audience data. 

As an agency that specializes in digital advertising, we often recommend that our clients give the Google Display Network another shot with our team at the helm. So many things are changing with Display, and quickly. There are no minimum spend requirements on Google Display either, which is not the case with many other managed platforms. Additionally, the conversions in your Google Display campaigns will automatically de-dupe against your Google Search campaigns if built in the same account, which makes attribution much simpler. Without an advertiser having an ad server in place, many managed platforms offering display advertising will actually take credit for conversions that have already been attributed to Google Search campaigns (or elsewhere), creating inflated sales numbers and unclear reporting.

So, outside of Google Display remarketing campaigns, where else should you start for more lower-funnel tactics? We’re recommending testing Google Smart Display campaigns, so long as you meet the eligibility requirements of either 50 display conversions or 100 search conversions in the last 30 days. 

What is Google Smart Display?

Google’s Smart Display campaigns are meant to save advertisers time and drive better performance by leveraging automated targeting, bidding and creative. According to Google’s blog, advertisers who use Smart Display campaigns have seen a 20% increase in conversion volume, while maintaining the same CPA as compared to manual display campaigns. 

How Does Google Smart Display Work?

Google’s Smart Display campaigns help automate the core components of bidding, targeting and ad creation.

  • Algorithmic, Automated Bidding – Google Smart Display campaigns use Target CPA, Maximize Conversions and Target ROAS bidding algorithms as their foundation and optimizes bids based on the likelihood of a conversion in each ad auction. Some advertisers are even eligible to select “Pay for Conversions” on their Target CPA setting within Google Smart Display campaigns, instead of just paying for clicks or impressions. If eligible within your account, we wholeheartedly recommend enabling this.
  • Automated Targeting – One fantastic thing about Google’s Smart Display campaigns is their intuitive targeting. Just like they adjust bids based on the likelihood of conversion, they also show your ads to those they believe are most likely to convert, by leveraging (and likely combining) nearly every display targeting type and feature available. Smart Display campaigns use a combination of remarketing, similar audiences, keywords, topics, placements and in-market audiences to best find your most likely converters across the web..
  • Automated Ads – One huge time saver for advertisers, is that Smart Display campaigns create and serve automated ads based on the assets that you provide, like headlines, descriptions, images and your logo. Using responsive design, Google combines the assets into tons of variations to serve across the Google Display Network. That’s right, no more needing to add tons of different creative sizes per adgroup – as a Smart Display campaign handles that for you.

Another benefit to Google’s Smart Display campaigns? The time to start seeing success! In our tests, we’ve found that most Smart Display campaigns start progressing quicker than manually built Display campaigns. If we had to nail it down, we expect to start seeing success from a Smart Display campaigns within a week or less (provided that there is enough account data to work with), and we find that other non-remarketing Display campaigns take a couple of weeks for us to analyze and optimize the data based on significance.

What are the Limitations?

As with most of the automation coming out of Google, we’re restricted from doing quite a bit with Google Smart Display campaigns so that Google can do its thing. While we can still set budgets, choose locations, when the campaign will run, and set and adjust the Target CPA goal, we cannot implement any manual bid strategies, device targeting or adjustments, any manual targeting or manually created ads. Additionally, settings like delivery method can’t be touched.

Have you tested a Google Smart Display campaign for your business or clients yet? Adoption seems to be slow, even though this campaign type has been around for a couple years now – the algorithms supporting it though, just keep getting smarter. Drop us a line to tell us: Success or Fail?

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