How to reach high intent audiences with Discovery ads

Ellie Burns Written by Ellie Burns

5 min read   -  29th May, 2023

How to reach high intent audiences with Discovery ads

There’s so much more to paid search than Search ads alone. If you’re looking to reach customers with high intent, Discovery ads offer a fantastic opportunity for users to interact with your brand in a highly visual and engaging way.

Ready to unlock the potential to scale the reach of your ad campaigns and introduce your brand to new potential customers? Read on, and we’ll demystify everything Discovery ads have to offer:

  1. What are Discovery ads?
  2. Discovery Ads vs Display ads 
  3. Benefits of Discovery ads 
  4. How best to use Discovery ads 
  5. When to use Discovery ads 
  6. The cons of Discovery ads
  7. How to optimse your Discovery ads 
  8. Unlock the potential of automation

What Are Discovery ads?

Google Discovery ads are automated, interactive, immersive ads that use engaging visuals, appearing across many Google platforms, including the Google Discover feed, Gmail, and YouTube.

What do they do? 

They’re designed to grab people’s attention and get them interested as a new user, introduce them to your brand, and generate demand for your product or service.

What’s so special?

An awesome feature of Discovery ads is their use of Google’s infamous algorithm. Putting this mass of data and machine learning to use, Discovery campaigns take your digital assets and present them across the Internet in entirely new places. More on that, below!

Discovery Ads examples

Discovery ads vs Display ads

  • Placements: whilst Display ads showcase your campaign across the massive Google Display Network (globally, across over 2 million websites and apps), Discovery Ads are shown on YouTube, Gmail Promotions, and the Google Discover feed. 
  • Unlock new potential customers: it’s new territory. These placements could unlock potential customers that you previously hadn’t discovered. With placements on YouTube, Gmail, and Google Discover, your campaigns are now being presented where users are often more likely to buy. 
  • Focussed on high-intent audiences: we know Display ads are useful for brand awareness, and on the surface, Discovery ads may look the same. But Discovery ads are far more focused on high-intent audiences who are ready to buy. 

Benefits of Discovery ads

Higher ROAS

While this is not guaranteed, many companies have found a higher ROAS (return on ad spend) from Discovery ads. You won’t know until you try…


Let Google’s machine learning do the heavy lifting. These campaigns could unlock something new.

Potential for lower cost per conversion

By including Discovery ads as a part of your wider campaign strategy, working hand in hand with Search and Display campaigns, you have the potential to lower your cost per conversion overall.

Attention-grabbing content in an increasingly visual Internet

Discovery ads are some of the most engaging ads available online today. It’s time to stand out from the crowd.

How best to use Discovery ads

Let’s get down to business, here’s how you create Discovery ads. They come in two formats, Single-Image ads, and Carousel ads.

1. Choose your assets

Once you’ve chosen your format type, add in the best assets you have to represent your brand:

  • 1-5 headlines (40 characters)
  • 1-4 descriptions (90 characters each)
  • Your business name (25 characters max)
  • The URL of your landing page
  • Your Call-to-Action
  • Images
  • Logo

2. Set a bidding strategy

Then decide which bidding strategy you’d like to use. Again, there are two options:

  • Maximise Conversions: Google takes control of how your manually chosen budget is distributed to bids, to maximise conversions.
  • Target CPA: you choose your preferred cost per acquisition, which can be useful for maximising your return on investment/ROI.

When to use Discovery ads

  • A visual brand: if your brand is visual, with products and services that look good in images and video, Discovery ads could be really effective showcases. 
  • To discover new audiences: these types of ads work well if you’re looking to discover new audiences on mobile, smart TVs, and more visual digital mediums. YouTube alone is so pervasive, so don’t overlook its potential to transform your ROAS.
  • Storytelling campaigns: if you know that your campaigns are full of storytelling, make the most of carousel campaigns and tell that story in the most visual and engaging way. This also works well in Gmail and YouTube, where your audience is already focused and open to exploration and discovery.

The cons of Discovery ads

Higher cost per acquisition

Compared to Display ads, Discovery ads are sometimes more expensive. What's important to keep in mind here is the potential of these more engaged leads. Remember, the placement of these ads is very different from the Display Network’s more passive positioning.

Read more about Google Display Network ads

Less control

Any campaign that utilises Google’s machine learning and AI to place ads using the algorithm, is a campaign without the same level of control you may be used to with Search ads. Keep an eye on things and control what you can to ensure you can help sway the performance potential.


Ever heard of this? It’s debated that people have seen too many Display ads in their day-to-day. You have to work hard to stand out, so make the most of those assets!


Display ads are more prone to non-genuine clicks from bots. This is something that Google is addressing and constantly improving upon, but we’re still seeing faster results of this in the Search ad world compared to Display ads.

How to optimise your Discovery Ads 

Use your best assets

These will make or break the effectiveness of your campaign. Work closely with your creative team to ensure that the assets that you are paying to push out to your audience are as captivating as they can be.

Tell a story through carousels

We mentioned this earlier, but it’s just such a good opportunity it deserves a reminder! The amount of space carousels take up, paired with their opportunity for direct interaction with the user, could unlock some high-intent users. 

Be mobile friendly

It’s vital to remember how many people will be interacting with Discover ads on mobile devices. Ensure your campaigns are designed with mobile users in mind, to make the most of this placement.

Unlock the potential of automation

Google Discovery ads are best used when you want a high quantity of lead generation and aren’t just focused on closing in on conversions. Introducing people to your brand and making the most of the visual style of Discovery ads.

In summary 

Whether you’re looking to find new audiences, make the most of automation and the Google algorithm, or have a fantastic idea for a carousel campaign, Discovery ads have the potential to revolutionise how you connect with your audience.

With new placements available, improved efficiency thanks to the algorithm, and a focus on high-intent users, it’s an exciting opportunity that could forever change the impact of your campaigns. 


*Header image sourced by work experience students. Thank you

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.

Get in touch Get in touch

It starts with discovery

Speak to us today and let’s start growing your business.