HomeBlog5 Things You Need to Know About Discovery Ads

5 Things You Need to Know About Discovery Ads

Author: Gordon Donnelly
Last Updated: December 18, 2023 | Paid Search Marketing

Google Marketing Live was a smash this year—and it wasn’t just because Katy Perry was in the house. In addition to doubling down on last year’s themes of trust, transparency, privacy, and machine learning, Google also used its Ads Innovation Keynote to introduce a ton of exciting new product features and announcements.

From Gallery Ads, which allow advertisers to combine compelling images and copy to serve interactive visual ads on the search network, to the bumper machine, which allows business owners and marketers to simply enter their URL and create multiple 6-second YouTube bumper ads, to the merging of custom affinity audiences and custom intent audiences to create, quite simply, custom audiences—there was no shortage of excitement and novelty.

But for me, the announcement that took the cake was Discovery ads, a super handy new ad type in which advertisers serve immersive carousel ads to prospects precisely when they’re most open to finding something new.

Discovery Ads GML

Our very own Tony Testaverde snuck into a front row seat for the announcement.

But what exactly does that look like? And what are the implications for advertisers? We’ll help you out: Here are 5 things you need to know about Discovery ads.

Note: Google announced Discovery Ads will be upgraded to Demand Gen campaigns in early 2024. We cover what you need to know here.

1. Discovery ads are immersive and interactive

In addition to Display, Shopping, and YouTube, Google advertisers will now have yet another way to show prospects tangible images, and tell visual stories about their products.

Discovery Ads Format

Advertisers who leverage Discovery ads will have the ability to showcase a single image of their product or service, or multiple images in a swipeable carousel format. Google is taking a page out of Facebook’s playbook here. Facebook has, for years, allowed advertisers to engage passive browsers with engaging image creative and attract qualified traffic at the top of the funnel. Advertisers can now do the same thing on Google—eschew search intent for a combination of audience targeting, greater reach, and the ability to tell a brand story with compelling image creative and attract qualified new prospects.

2. Machine learning plays a key role in Discovery ads

When advertisers go to set up Discovery ads, they’ll enter one landing page URL, at least one image, a logo, and up to five headlines and five descriptions. Here’s a snapshot of what that setup will look like.

Discovery Ads Setup

From there, Google will use machine learning to serve the best combinations of your headlines, descriptions, and image creative to your prospects—across the best-performing placements (which we’ll get into in a second). In the mold of responsive search ads, this is yet another way Google is trying to automate the ad optimization process for advertisers to target more relevant users with more relevant creative and messaging (all while maintaining standards of privacy). It’s a fine balance to strike, but advertisers should relish the opportunity to once again take advantage of Google’s algorithm and show more click-worthy ads.

3. Google Discover is now armed and ready for ads

Speaking of placements—where will Discovery ads live?

The fact that Google came hot out of the gate with Discovery ads (it was their first product announcement) should tell you two things—one, it’s a good opportunity for advertisers, and two, it’s going to be an important ad format for Google. The reason Discovery ads are going to be important for Google is that it gives them a wholly unique way to monetize Google Discover, which replaced Google Feed just last year.

Google Discover

Google introduced Discover to contend with three fundamental shifts in search behavior—the shift from answers to journeys, from queries to the queryless, and from the text-based to the visually-inspiring. Users have the ability to toggle a “more/less” ticker when a piece of content does or doesn’t appeal to them, giving Google the ability to use machine learning to further tailor the feed to a given user’s tastes and specifications.

Discover now reaches 800 million users globally—a pretty monstrous number, given the fact that it’s been around for just six months or so. This is an entirely new pool of potential prospects for advertisers to target.

4. Discovery ads’ reach goes beyond Discover

Speaking of reach: It’s not just Discover’s 800 million global users that advertisers will have access to when they leverage Discovery ads. They’ll also be able to serve Discovery ads on YouTube’s mobile home feed, and in Gmail’s social and promotions tabs. Here’s a look at all three placements:

Discovery Ads Placements

From left to right: YouTube, Google Discover, and Gmail.

Discovery ads are native and in-feed, with YouTube allowing for an additional CTA banner on top of your image, headline, and description. Multi-channel placements means more reach, and a larger net to cast over your pool of potential prospects. Huzzah!

5. New campaign type, same targeting

Another indicator that Discovery ads are going to be important for Google? It has its own campaign type. So you’ll need to run a Discovery campaign if you want to use Discovery ads. Again, this is a pretty plug and play process—after selecting your campaign type, you’re merely uploading and inputting your creative. Google handles optimization and delivery of your ads across multiple placements.

As I mentioned earlier: Because Discovery ads live in feeds, and not on search, search intent is not going to be in play here. This is not fundamentally bad—it just means you lose some of that commercial intent, so your strategy is going to be different. Discovery ads advertisers will have at their disposal much of the same audience targeting traditionally available on Display—in-market, interest, and the newly congealed custom audiences.

In the absence of search intent, effective audience targeting becomes vitally important, as does compelling creative. But again, having the ability to leverage those audiences while telling a visual brand story gives you the power to engage net new prospects on a massive scale, making Discovery ads tailor made for brand awareness plays.

Related: Want to know the different between Google Discovery Ads vs. Display Ads? We’ve got you covered!

When do Discovery ads drop?

Later this year! Google did not announce a specific date, but advertisers should look for the Discovery campaign type to pop up in the Google Ads UI soon. So if you’re already a cross-platform advertiser (or even if you’re not!), you can look forward to adding a shiny new wrinkle to your full-funnel playbook before the year is out.

Update: As of June 2020, Google Discovery ads are now available to all accounts.

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Meet The Author

Gordon Donnelly

Gordon Donnelly is an SEO jedi who proudly honed his chops at WordStream for 5+ years. Today, you’ll find him at home in Boston, building Triple Whale’s world-class e-commerce analytics platform, or helping businesses of all sizes grow through SEO, advertising, and content marketing.


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