Wasting Money on the Google Display Network? Try Smart Display


The Google Display Network can be complicated, especially when the goal is to drive conversions and revenue. Luckily Google has made Display advertising easier by creating Smart Display campaigns.  The Smart Display campaigns use Google’s machine learning to automatically create image, native and text ads across the GDN in any size or format. Google also automatically sets bids for your ads to meet your goals.

According to Google’s internal data, advertisers who use Smart Display campaigns are seeing an average 20% increase in conversions at the same CPA compared to other display campaigns.

How to Set Up Your Smart Display Campaigns

Create a new display campaign with “Smart display campaign” selected

You can focus on either conversions or conversion value (revenue).  If you choose conversions, Google will automate your campaign to get the most conversions while spending your full budget with the option to have a target CPA.  If you choose conversions value, Google will help you get the most revenue at your targets ROAS.

The targeting settings for these campaigns are easy to understand and set up.  The most important update to the Smart display campaigns is the option to select the event that you want to be charged for.  Traditionally PPC campaigns have always been pay per click meaning that to start gathering data and optimizing your campaigns, you must spend money first.  Smart display campaigns have the option to pay per conversions which is a huge update to the industry.

To use the pay per conversion feature, your account must have more than 100 conversions in the last 30 days. Also, 90% of your conversions need to occur within 7 days after someone clicks your ads.

Creating Your Smart Display Ads

Google will take your images, a headline and description and come up with multiple different versions of the ad to fit the different spots and pages within the display network. Google will show these ads where they believe will result in an high value conversion. Below are the guidelines to follow when creating your ads, some of which are required, others suggested.

  • Image
    • 5+ Marketing Images with aspect ratios of:
      • 1.91:1 (landscape) – required
      • Ideally more than 1200px on the long side – suggested
    • Logo with aspect ratios of:
      • 1:1 or 4:1 (landscape) depending on if your logo is square or horizontal – required
      • Ideally more than 600px on the long side – suggested
      • Transparent background, if applicable – suggested
  • Text
    • 3-5 short headlines (max 25 characters)
    • 3-5 short descriptions (max 70 characters)
    • Note: all headlines and descriptions should be interchangeable, they will mix and match as part of our testing
    • Also note: the character limit for descriptions is the equivalent of two lines for regular text ads. Please use all the available characters to provide compelling descriptions.


After the ads are created, Google will begin automatically targeting your ads to meet the goals that you specified.  Google will report your assets (images, headlines, descriptions) performance as “Best”, “Good” or “Low”.

What to Watch Out For When Running Smart Display Campaigns

Make sure that you continually check the placements of your ads to exclude poor performing placements where your ads are showing. Initially your ads could potentially show across the entire Google Display Network. If you already run display campaigns, create a shared exclusion list and apply it to your new display campaign.

Google will be constantly mixing and matching different components of your display ads.  If you need to have more control over your ads and messaging, consider using traditional display campaigns.

About the Author

Steve Cozzolongo

Steve Cozzolongo

Steve joined Digital Position as a Partner in the business. Stephen offers over 10 years of experience in all things PPC. Steve has also worked with recognizable brands such as Dick's Sporting Goods, Field & Stream, Golf Galaxy and Century21.

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