Introducing New Smart Display Campaigns in AdWords


The Google Display Network includes over 3 million websites and apps and offers almost as many ways to target your display ads across the web. While all of this targeting gives sophisticated advertisers plenty of control over their ads’ performance, it can be intimidating to find the best way to start advertising or optimize your display ads.

Google hopes to make this ad targeting conundrum easier with its brand new Smart Display campaigns, which are rolling out of beta to all advertisers now. Google’s new smart display campaigns allow advertisers to target their ads to audiences and placements that are most likely to drive conversions for their business without requiring any set targeting. All advertisers need to do is select a CPA goal and upload some ad assets and then Google handles the rest.

How to Set Up Smart Display Campaigns

Creating a Smart Display campaign is simple. Create a display campaign within AdWords and when prompted to select a marketing objective, choose any option under the “Drive Action” header (excluding “Install your mobile app” or “Engage with your mobile app”). After choosing a marketing objective, the option to create a Smart Display campaign will appear. Check this box to get started.

adwords smart display campaigns

After creating your campaign, you’ll be asked to give the campaign a budget and a target CPA goal. Afterwards, you’ll be prompted to create your first smart display ad.

Unlike creating a traditional display ad, you won’t have to upload a completed image ad to reach the display network with a smart display ad. Instead, Google will ask for several different assets and then automatically create a series of responsive ads for your campaign to test. Alternatively, you can have Google scan your website for images to use in your ads.

how to set up a smart display campaign

Google’s smart display ad assets are simple to create:

smart display campaigns specs      

Once you’ve created your ads – you’re done! Google will automatically target your ads and attempt to get you as many conversions as possible within your CPA goal. Google will report your smart ad assets’ performance as “Best,” “Good,” or “Low.”

smart display campaigns

Potential Downsides of Smart Display Campaigns

Smart display campaigns aren’t a great option for those customers that want greater control over their ad creative, and for smart campaigns to work, advertisers need to have at least 50 conversions on the Display network or at least 100 conversions from Search ads in the past 30 days (which smaller advertisers may not have), and set daily budgets at least 10-15X the target CPA bid (as noted by Ginny at Marketing Land).

Optimizing Your Smart Display Campaign

Google’s automated smart display campaigns leave little control in the hands of advertisers; however, advertisers still have power over five important settings:

1. Campaign Budget

Advertisers always have the power of the purse within AdWords. Scaling a successful smart display campaign is as easy as giving the campaign more budget! A struggling campaign, however, can have its budget restricted until performance improves.

2. Target CPA

Although advertisers can’t set a CPC or CPM bid within a smart display campaign, they can always adjust their target CPA. If you’re disappointed by the CPA of your smart display campaign, lower your target CPA!

3. Ad assets

It can be easy to forget to test new ad creative in a smart display campaign, but don’t neglect the importance of ad copy testing! Routinely check your ad assets and replace any headlines, descriptions, or images with “Low” performance.

4. Ad Placement

Although you don’t select which websites and apps your ads will run on initially in a smart display campaign, you can still exclude individual placements from showing your ad. Be sure to regularly review your placement report and exclude poorly performing placements from your campaign to save your ad dollars in the future. You can also exclude individual placements to prevent your ads from serving on sites with content that doesn’t align with your brand. To exclude placements from a smart display campaign, you’ll need to create a campaign exclusion list in your account’s shared library.

About the author:

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream with a background in SEM, SEO, and Statistical Modeling. He was named the 14th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2016 by PPC Hero. You can follow him on TwitterLinkedIn, and Google +.

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May 01, 2017

Hi Mark,

Thank you for the informative article.

I tried to create a smart display campaign but not able to see the option to create. Just wondering is there any minimum number of conversion (search/display) to create the smart campaign?

Mark Irvine
May 02, 2017

Hi Anoop,

Yes, the smart display campaigns do require a good number of conversions in your account before you can run a smart display campaign - at least 50 conversions on the Display network or at least 100 conversions from Search ads in the past 30 days

Tessa Kawamura
May 02, 2017

Thank-you for sharing such an amazing tips to boost the conversion rates, i will surely apply these techniques to maximize my profits and get valuable customers.

Emarket Education
May 08, 2017

Hi Mark,

Great informative article. However as an PPC expert and Instructor, I feel such dynamic techniques just minimise the need for a Digital Marketer and everything is automated. The real fun of digital marketing lies in optimising it and running a non dynamic campaign. For companies having great depth in their product line, such tools are a great asset.

May 08, 2017

Hi Mark,

How can you exclude demographics? I tried to exclude an age range or parental status but pops up a message saying that the action was not permitted.


Mark Irvine
May 10, 2017

Hi Mar,

That's odd, it looks like that functionality doesn't exist yet. We've updated the post to reflect that.

Dennis Dieball
May 08, 2017

Hi Mark,
Thanks for this great article about smart display campaigns. But I think two things are not correct. IMHO you can't exclude placements or demographics from smart campaigns. I have tried it and always got the error message that this campaign type does not allow such exclusions.
Or is there maybe a way, that I just did not see?

Mark Irvine
May 10, 2017

Hi Dennis!

You're right, it's not possible to exclude demographics from these campaigns yet. Thanks for troubleshooting this - we've updated the post to reflect that.
You can still exclude placements from the smart campaign, but it may be a little more difficult. You'll have to create a campaign exclusion list in your accounts shared library and apply it to your smart campaigns from there.

May 23, 2017

No Mark,

In fact, this facility is again not available yet. If you do so, you won't be able to save, when you apply placement exclusion list to Smart Display Campaign.

Mark Irvine
Jun 01, 2017

Hi Shitali,

It's true that this is unavailable at the campaign level. However, you can still apply exclusions via a shared list between multiple campaigns or via an account placement exclusion.

Aug 04, 2017

Just used this for my adwords campagin. Thanks guys

image editing
Sep 27, 2017

Thanks for this great article about smart display campaigns. great article, and most informative.

Nov 09, 2017


How can we exclude demographics-certain age in Smart Display campaign?

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