On this week’s episode of Polishing Your Digital Marketing, we sit down with Shawn Walker, VP of Strategy and Product Development at Symphonic Digital. Shawn is a digital marketing expert and the mind behind all of the great digital marketing campaigns we develop for our clients.

We decided to focus this episode on Google Discovery Ads and how they can be leveraged in your digital marketing. Discovery Ads were announced as a new format last May, during a Google Live event, and were originally only available to beta testers. However, they were made available to the public in April of this year. Since this is a new ad format, we thought it would be great to talk about it and share the knowledge that we’ve collected over the last couple of months with our listeners.

We chat further with Shawn about:

  • Google Discover and what Discovery Ads are
  • The differences between display ads and Discovery Ads
  • What businesses/industries Discovery Ads would be best-suited to
  • The positive and negative aspects of this new ad format
  • And more

Listen now…

Mentioned in this episode:



Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast. Today, we’re bringing you a new episode from our series, Polishing Your Digital Marketing. Here with me is Shawn Walker, who is VP of Strategy at Symphonic Digital. He is the mind behind all the great digital marketing campaigns we develop for our clients. Shawn, thanks for joining me again.

Shawn Walker: Good to be here.

Steffen: Well, obviously today we decided to talk about leveraging Google Discovery ads. Last May, Google announced discovery ads at their Google marketing live event. Originally, it was only available to beta testers. However, in April this year, they made it available for everyone. So obviously, because it’s a new ad format, we thought it would be great to talk about it to share the knowledge that we’ve collected over the last couple months with our listeners. So Shawn, let’s start off with talking about what are Google Discovery ads?

Google Discovery Ads: The Lowdown

Shawn: Yeah, no worries. So let’s break down what Google Discover is first. So Google Discover is a placement on if you have, let’s say, a Google Pixel, if you go to the left of your phone, let’s say when you scroll over, that’s your discover feed. It’s similar to Facebook’s feed, right? Where based off of your search history, based off of what websites you go to, based off of your logged in information and other triggers, like your demographic, things like that.

Then the feed is going to be catered to what you like, right? And you can go in there and if you don’t like an article, you can say exclude me out of this. And over time, it’s going to optimize a feed that’s really relevant to you. And it’s not just that, right? So it’s not just the Google Discover feed on Android phones.

But if you have an iOS, let’s say, like, you know, an iPhone, if you have the Google app, there’s also a little icon that says Google Discover, right? So it’s not just for Android, it’s for iOS as well. So a lot of people I don’t even think know that they’re on Google Discover when they’re on it. But like I said, it’s very similar to Facebook, except you don’t get the feed coming from your buddies, right? It’s pretty much all articles, blogs, things like that. So to me, in my opinion, it’s a little bit cleaner. For what you need.

Steffen: Yeah. Obviously, there’s a distinction, right? If you want to get news information, so discovery feed might be what you should be using. If you want to see what your clients, what your friends are doing and you want to make sure of information then Facebook probably suits you better.

Shawn: Right, exactly. And, you know, if you want like a funny story or something like that, because what I’ve seen is, I almost would say that Google Discovery placement is more like LinkedIn actually, now I’m thinking about it because LinkedIn is a little bit more professional, right? So maybe I’d go there, or maybe it’s a blend between Facebook and LinkedIn where you can get some funny stories or some good YouTube videos and things like that but it’s also mixed in with content that really matters to you that isn’t from random people or your buddies.

But, you know, on top of that, too, it’s not just the Discover feed. So Google Discovery ads package in this discover feed with YouTube and Gmail as well. So they used to split this out just the same as they had universal app campaigns where they tried to squeeze everything together, right? You’d have the app extensions, you would have YouTube as well with universal and display. This is Google’s version of that, in a sense, right?

Where if you buy discovery ads, you can show up on the Discover feed, you can show up on YouTube. And you could show up in Gmail under the sponsored promotions, right? The promotions tab. So they kind of aggregate everything. And I don’t believe that there’s a way to exclude YouTube or Gmail yet, but maybe in future iterations, you’ll have like placement exclusion.

Steffen: It’s almost like that you can select the network from where you want to or where you want to engage with people, whether it’s only YouTube or Gmail or the Discover feed.

Shawn: Right. And, I mean, that sounds better to me. But we’ll see what happens. I know when Google rolls out products like this, it’s pretty broad to begin with and then they give you more features, right? Depending on if it works well because we’ve also seen products like this disappear because they just didn’t go well.

Steffen: Yeah. It makes sense that they have more areas where basically, you know, their Discovery ads are displayed because I would assume that the universe of people that use the Discovery feed is probably more limited to Android users. And then the question is, how many of Android users are actually using Discovery feeds. Although it’s available on iOS, the question really becomes, how known is that, as you said earlier. So having YouTube as well as Gmail in there as kind of a network where ads could be or are displayed, definitely gives them more reach.

Shawn: Right. Yeah, and that’s probably why they did that.

Steffen: Yeah. Okay. So, we talked about where are they visible. Are there any statistics available on what the inventory opportunities are? Does that matter or differ a lot the industry in the type of offering that you promote?

Shawn: To be candid, I’m not quite sure what the universe is for, like how many impressions you can get for Google Discover. I mean, including YouTube, you know, YouTube is, I think, in the top three search engines. So you can imagine the volume is enormous if you decide to target everybody, right? But, you know, this Discover feed, because it’s kind of a new thing and the Gmail sponsored promotions, I mean, that doesn’t really pop up into your inbox unless you actually look at the promotions tab and decide to click on it.

So, you know, off the top,= of my head, I’d say Google Discover is probably somewhere in the middle of YouTube and Gmail, right? And the inventory is, it’s a bit different with how it shows up, right? So the ads on Google Discover our native, right? So you wouldn’t be able to tell unless you just see the ads icon, right? So that’s kind of the same as Gmail as well, they have the ad icon. And the same as YouTube. So this is really, it’s native advertising. They’re just calling it something different.

Steffen: It nicely blends in with the rest of the continent is being displayed. Yeah. So, you know, we obviously have display ads on YouTube. How do these Discovery ads differ from those kind of display ads in regards to, you know, pricing, for example? Maybe even how they are, I mean, you said they’re native and they look integrated, but from a pricing perspective, how are you different?

Display Ads vs Discovery Ads

Shawn: Yeah, so let’s talk about targeting for a second. So targeting is the same, right? So you have demographic targeting, you have in-market audience targeting, you have search keyword targeting, you have to, you know, customize and build that out, but the same targeting that’s available for display is available for Discover. So, one for one. The creative is totally different, right? So you don’t necessarily have as much control over Google Discover ads, just the same as Facebook, right? They have their certain ad units and you have to stick to that.

Where Google Display Network or GDN, there’s so many different sizes that, you know, you have, you can have like 1000 different iterations, right? The difference I think there is it just looks better. If you use the same ad in GDN as you did on Google Discover, it just looks more premium. It looks nicer, regardless of what your creative is it’s just the boundaries that you can work in are a bit better. Where GDN is kind of all over the place. On top of that, too, it’s where you’re posting it, right? Google Discover versus GDN, it’s vast. GDN could show up on a bunch of random sites, maybe that you don’t want to be in.

And you have to have placement exclusions and things like that. So I would say the inventory of Google Discover is a lot more premium, where GDN, you have to kind of know what you’re doing to show up on sites that had better quality. You know, if you’re like me, if you’ve ever gone to a site that’s bit of clickbait, you might see a GDN ad kind of poke up at the bottom that just looks crappy, or, you know, you try to close the box out and it doesn’t close. That is where we come into some, you know, issues where I think, actually Google Discover does a little bit better. So that’s creative.

That’s targeted. The next is bidding, right? So where it differs here is Google Discover is kind of on autopilot, where you have two settings where you can target a cost per customer acquisition, right? So a CPA, or you can maximize conversions. And I will probably caveat both of those to death because if you have, let’s say $100 daily budget, if you maximize conversions, it can go over this. That’s one thing I don’t think people realize is, Google will do what it takes in the beginning to kind of machine learn, right? Figure it out. And if it costs more to do so, it will do it. You know, you could spend 200 or $300 in some cases.

Steffen: And, Shawn, just sorry to jump in here but, you know, when we talk about machine learning, there’s obviously, one important factor here, which is data, right? In order for a system for software to start learning and optimizing and getting the most out of the budget, it needs a sufficient amount of data to function well. And I assume that’s one of the reasons why, you know, this budget topic you just talked about, you know, exists. Because otherwise, if you spent a really small amount, it might take you forever to allow the system to have the right information to make decisions on what works best.

Shawn: Yeah, absolutely, right? So that depends what vertical you’re in too, right? If you’re selling well, especially in this time, right now, if you’re selling, you know, premium airline seats to Dubai right now or something like that, and you only get one conversion that day and you celebrate, versus, you know, something on Amazon, let’s say, you know, trash bags, something that isn’t as involved, you might get 100 conversions a day.

So you’re right in that it would figure out the trash bag scenario much quicker than it would Dubai airline tickets. So in that case, it might take the system, you know, a day or two to figure out versus a couple weeks. And in those couple weeks, you might waste a ton of dollars trying to get there. So that is a huge factor to consider, you know, when doing these kind of autopilot tests.

Steffen: Yeah. I mean, what you just said kind of brings up the next question is like, so who is this for? Based on, you know, based on the fact that this is a system that needs data to make smart decisions and generate, you know, reasonable cost per acquisition or whatever the goal is, it might not work for every industry, for every company, that, you know, that ad format.

Who is This For?

Shawn: Right. Exactly. You know, or, let’s just say even though it’s working with conversions, say you just want awareness, it’s not to say you can’t have a CPA goal and just, you know, put it up to the sky and get a bunch of impressions, you know? But let’s do like three scenarios. Let’s say you’re promoting a movie, right? Where the click isn’t as important, right? If you’re saying the new batman is coming out on July 2021, that’s it. That’s kind of all you need to tell people and they’ll go out and buy tickets.

You know, it’s not the same as you need to click to go to a website to purchase something, right? Maybe people buy tickets online, but for the most part, it’s just kind of an update. It’s more of an awareness play. Versus let’s talk about ecommerce, right? Say you need to buy some, I don’t know, let’s say gardening tools. You want to buy a shovel and there’s a site that sells all kinds of shovels.

In that case, you might be going for, you know, a positive return on ad spend. Which, this doesn’t have that feature, right? So you kind of have to reverse engineer your math to figure out well, what should my CPA be to get a profitable return on ad spend? Versus a third scenario, which is say I work in real estate and I’m trying to get leads to lease out, you know, a house, an apartment, something like that.

Where it’s not ecommerce, it’s more, how many leads can I get and I want to maximize my leads within a given budget, then I’m thinking something like this fits a little bit better because it fits the parameters of the CPA targeting and it’s premium as well, right? But the caveat, like before when we’re talking about data is you can’t do it for someone who gets one lead a day. This is probably not going to work that way. He probably wants this product to work for high volume leads, right? That don’t necessarily have a $1 amount attached to them.

Steffen: Yeah, that makes sense. I interrupted you earlier when you were talking about ad bidding options. I think, you know, you started off talking about target CPA, I just want to, you know, before we move on to the next point, I just want to go back to that part. So, Shawn, one bidding option, target CPA, can you give a little bit more information about that?

Shawn: If you’re targeting a CPA, you know, you can set it at $5, $10, $100, right? You have to know, you almost have to know what you’ve been operating at to set what your goal is, or, like we said before, you have to reverse engineer to figure out when is it profitable? That’s important to know, you know, when running a lead program because you have to figure out what’s the average lifetime value of my consumer, right? From there, you can kind of reverse engineer and say, at a target acquisition, maybe it’s, you know, $10, or maybe it’s hundred dollars.

Point is, is you have to figure that out ahead of time. You can’t just guess and throw a number in there because that’s not really going to work for you. At the same time, you kind of have to compare it to what else is working. If you know your CPA for Facebook is $10, you might want to have a program that mimics that or mirrors that. And then you could put $10 in Google Discovery ads, right? Or sorry, a $10 target. It really depends what you’re going for.

Or if this is the sole placement, this is the only tactic you’re doing and you don’t have any idea of average lifetime value or anything. What you might want to do is start with a lower cost per action, or cost per acquisition, and maybe raise it up every week to figure out, okay, When am I going to start showing? Because a lot of times, if you bid too low, you just won’t, you won’t show up. So there’s a lot of scenarios. I guess it’s not like a clean answer. But it’s best if you have data before you start doing this to figure it out.

Steffen: This makes it really important for companies to make sure that you have the math right. I mean, we talked to a lot of companies throughout a week about their challenges, etc, and, I mean, I wouldn’t say all the time, but a high number of companies, they struggle a little bit identifying cost pair acquisition. You know, how much can they afford to get a new customer, etc. So it feels like that’s another point in time where companies really need to make sure they got the numbers correct.

Take the Time to Figure Out Where You Can Be Profitable

Shawn: Oh, absolutely. I mean, that’s even outside of this, right? It’s just good to know what your goals are. And it sounds kind of crazy for me to even say that right now but a lot of the times people don’t know they don’t have goals. They just want to try something new, which isn’t great. It’s better to spend the time to figure out where you can be profitable, you know? What’s your CPA to make you profitable?

Or what’s your return on ad spend to make you profitable? Or maybe, you know, another thing too, is the other option, which is maximize conversions. Say you’re working with a big client, right? Multimillion-dollar spend and maybe they’re a successful startup, right? That just needs to grow, grow, grow. And maybe the first year isn’t about profit, maybe it’s just about reaching everyone you can, then you might just want to open up your daily budgets and set it to maximize conversions, right?

To get the most amount of leads or most amount of sales, things like that. So that’s probably a rare scenario, or maybe that’s more for bigger agencies, bigger clients, things like that. I don’t know if it would be the best idea to run maximize conversions for SMBs. You can but, you know, you run into the problem of you could double, triple your daily budget, you know, which might end up being your whole budget for the month. You just have to be careful when you do any of these autopilot settings.

Steffen: Yeah, that makes sense. You know, earlier I asked you about how is this new ad formats being charged. You know, you kind of push that a little bit to the side, which makes a lot of sense to me because you wanted to talk about targeting and bidding, etc. But let’s go there. Now, how is Google charging companies that want to use this ad format?

Shawn: So although you have your maximize conversions, bidding strategy, or target cost per action, or acquisition, let’s say, it’s not guaranteed that your target cost per action is going to be whatever you set. It could be 10, $20 a goal, but you might be paying 50 or 60. And the whole reason for that is because Google Discovery ads actually charge on a CPC. It’s not a CPA guarantee, right?

Steffen: That’s interesting. Shawn, we talked about, it sounds that this is a great ad format. Has a  more premium feel to it. But are there any negative aspects to this new ad format from your perspective?

Current Drawbacks of Google Discovery

Shawn: Well, the first thing is, I guess it’s untested, right? Sure they have some bigger advertisers talking about it. IProspect said that they had a 48% better cost per acquisition compared to social at one point. I think, you know, we’ve pitched this a couple times to clients and I think just the same when there’s other new tactics out there or brand new channels, people are apprehensive to try new things, right? You need those people to jump first. And once enough people jump, then other people come in.

So I would say the negative thing is, this is just it’s new. It’s untested. And we don’t know, you know? What worked for iprospect may not work for everyone. So it really depends. It’s not a guarantee, right? The other part of this is they don’t give you any other options besides maximize conversions and target CPA. Which, like I said, you need to reverse engineer. If you have a row as a goal, you need to figure this out. You know, Google isn’t going to figure it out for you. You need to figure it out yourself.

Steffen: That makes sense.

Shawn: It’s, yeah, it’s also limited to Google discover, right? Which, right now, we know the reach isn’t going to be as big as Facebook. So, like you said earlier, that’s probably why they’re throwing in YouTube and Gmail as a placement as well. But maybe we don’t want to do that, because we already have YouTube campaigns running. So, you know, negative thing there is we can exclude YouTube yet.

If they allow us to in the future, let’s say, and this has been tested more case studies, then there’s a little bit more confidence of this working. But if advertisers want to take the first jump, then they could see some pretty big gains. You know, it’s possible. You know,  everything has to be tested at one point. Facebook ads had the same issue to start off with, and now everyone uses them, you know? So confidence comes in time and testing.

Steffen: Yeah, I mean, for me, peers there is there’s actually also reward there which we haven’t talked about yet. It’s like, with any new advertising format or platform there, obviously, it takes time for companies to adopt it. And when companies don’t adopt this quickly, it means that inventory could be undervalued, which means you can get add inventory at a much lower price than it will be in the future because competition is not that great.

Shawn: Oh, absolutely. I mean, think about the price per brand terms for Google and Bing. You used to be able to get it for, I see on average, it’s more than $1 which is insane. You’re buying your own brand. So I hundred percent agree with you. It’s, you get some kind of benefit just like you do in the stock market, right? If you buy unknown stock, it could go up 1000% or it could also go down 1,000%.

So I think it’s sure greater risk. But with greater risk, you can have greater rewards. And I think there’s something to be said about being an early adopter, where if I see an ad on Google Discover, because it’s so new and fresh, my eyes go there much quicker than Facebook ads because I’ve seen Facebook ads a million times, but I haven’t seen Google Discovery ads that often. So when they do pop up, you know, this is survey of one here, but when they do pop up, it just looks way more interesting to me because I’m just not used to it.

Steffen: Well, I mean, Shawn, I think we’ve come to the end here of today’s podcast episode. I think for companies or for business leaders out there that listen to this podcast episode, I would probably say you know what, whether this solution is right or is an opportunity for your company, talk to your internal marketing team, talk to you agency, see what their opinion is. If you want to have a second opinion on it, you can also reach out to us.

We’ll be happy to take a look at what you are doing. And if this could be an additional opportunity to drive more business. But yeah, have a chat with the people that you trust with your marketing. And if it is an option, try it. I think, as Shawn just said, now’s a good time to give it a shot, while inventory is still undervalued, and you might get a deal on that. If you want to be part of one of our next episodes, for example, we talked about in the last few episodes, that we would love to have a guest here and talk about potential challenges that you might have.

Just drop us an email to contact@symphonicdigital.com and tell us about the challenge or challenges you have and you would like us to talk about. Otherwise, thanks, everyone for listening. If you like the Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.