Are you using the latest feature from Google: Discovery Ads? You should get in on this beta and beat out your competitors.

The newest ad format from Google is Discovery Ads, which has been in beta since May. Before that it was in alpha since Fall 2018 as Google tested the ad format with a few larger brands. The team at Google made a big splash with the ad format at Google Marketing Live in June.

One of the reasons we know that it’s going to be a key ad format for Google is that it’s getting its own category breakout in Google ads; similar to Search, Shopping and Display. Plus the ad format is already reaching 800 million people (according to google).

What Are Discover Ads?

The image above is a good example of what discovery ads can look like. There are a few different layouts your ad can take as placements can run across Google Discover Feed, Gmail and YouTube Home Feed. You can also start to see Discovery Ads in your YouTube Watch Next space.

Google Discovery Ads session at SMX East 2019.

The key for all 4 placements is that your ads are going to be more visual. They are kinda like if text ads and display ads merged together. I tend to see the Google Discovery ads more as I’m on a Pixel phone. Though, if you spend a lot of time on YouTube, then you’ll see that ad format more.

I’m willing to bet that a lot of what you see for Discovery ads will be based on your past behaviour and what Google thinks you will respond to. A lot of machine learning at play. This means the sites you visit, apps you use and any signal Google can use to under what you are into will come into play.

Discovery Campaign Targeting

Speaking of machines, a lot targeting for discovery ads is decided for you. Google is going to look at account settings and how we use different Google properties, device information, and past history to decide what to show each person.

The reason for this is because you are limited to using audiences for targeting. You can use audience like custom intent, affinity, and in-market audiences for targeting. This is one reason we see more people say Google is shifting away from keywords and cares about audiences more.

Making sure you have custom and super focused audiences is going to help you setup the right creative. I’m going to spend the rest of this article talking about targeting and creative.

What Audience Targeting Should I Use?

With Google relying heavily on machine learn and audience targeting to manage discovery ads, it’s important to setup and maintain a list of audiences in you Google Ads account. Creating audiences lists of people who visit your confirmation page, add to cart or other key conversion pages on your site.

This will help Google build similar audiences, that you can also use with Discovery Ads (beyond the options below). Lets run through custom intent, affinity and in-market audiences.

Custom Intent

What It Is?
Use keywords to target people who show an interest in a product, activity or hobby that aligns with what you sell. Building audiences based on people searching for your competitors, best selling products or top converting search queries is the best place to start.

This way you know you are either targeting people who are aware of your competitors but might not know about you yet. Or you are going after people searched for your products in the past. If you find volume for lot for custom intent audience, then look at affinity and in-market audiences.


Target people who are passionate about a category of interest. Google looks at where we spend our time online to decide what affinity groups we belong to. You can belong to a fashionista category or even a toys & games category if you have kids. You can also be associated to a luxury shoppers affinity.

Similar to in-market audiences below, it’s a good idea to dig through the different lists as Google does not always group affinity audiences together in a way that makes sense. For example, Fashionistas is in the Lifestyle & Hobbies category even though there is a Shopper category.


Select people who are researching a new product to purchase. There are 19 In-Market categories to choose from. Each category has different sub-categories you can pick from.

A good example is the Apparel & Accessories category. You can reach people researching Jewelry & Watch, Luggage, Men’s Apparel, Shoes, or even Swimwear to name just a few of the Apparel & Accessories sub-categories.

What Ad Creative Should You Use?

There are a few different ways you can use discovery ads. How you use Discovery ads comes down to what you sell and what you want to move in your store.

Checkout Google’s discovery guidelines first. They are strongly encouraging us to think of these as lifestyle ads and higher up in the funnel. Here are some ways we are using them with clients.

Popular Brands

If you sell another brand’s product, like our client Rose & Rex does. One of the first approaches is to look at making your ads based on popular or top selling brands. Each ad will focus on a single brand and your URL should lead to the category page for that brand.

In our case we made ads for Maileg since it’s a popular toy brand in North America and Europe. You may have to play with what images you use and brands you market but this is the first place we started.

Popular Product Categories

If you make and sell your own products, then I would make ads based on your most popular products. A lot of women’s brands sell a ton of dresses or tops. If you are White + Warren, then you might make an ad based on your travel wrap.

You want to pick products that are going to help attract more of the type of customers you find profitable for your business. Keep your ads clean and not too busy. You want people to be able to understand what is going on in the picture. Again it’ll lead to a category or even a product description page (PDP)

Holidays & Celebrations

This idea requires some planning but is doable. If you sell a product that only goes on sale during the holidays or a time people will celebrate, why not create a discovery campaign 30 days out.

This works beyond Christmas and Black Friday. You have Halloween, Back To School, Valentines Days and even Easter. Most brands will have a category or some sort of collection page for these products. Why not advertise them? This can help fill your funnel and go beyond your search and shopping campaign efforts.

It’s early days but we are seeing success with Discovery Ads. The key is testing who you are targeting and what creative you show them. That is it for this week. See you next time.