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Demystifying Google Discovery Ads Vs. Display Ads: An In-depth Guide + Expert Tips For Making The Right Choice

Are you considering expanding your Google Ads strategy? If you’re looking to expand your Google Ads strategy beyond search, there’s a campaign type worth exploring: image-based campaigns. And there are two options to consider – Google Discovery or Display.

However, business owners and practitioners seem to be confused about the similarities and differences between Display and Discovery ads. Let’s get to the bottom of it.

It’s important to note that Display and Discovery ads are not interchangeable. They serve different purposes, and understanding when to use each is crucial.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the key differences between Google Discovery ads and Display campaigns. We’ll compare these two Google Ads campaign types in terms of the following:

  • Targeting options
  • Ad formats
  • Placement opportunities
  • Performance metrics

Continue reading to acquire all the necessary information before incorporating these ad types into your paid media strategy.



The Difference Between Google Discovery Ads Vs. Display: Appearance

Google Discovery ads and Display campaigns share the commonality of being image-based formats in Google Ads. With Responsive Display ads, Discovery ads, and Discovery carousel ads, you provide headlines, descriptions, and images, which Google then adapts for different ad placements, similar to Responsive Search Ads. If you need assistance setting up a campaign using these formats, you may want to consider working with a PPC Beast to ensure you’re getting the most out of your advertising budget.

Here are five subtle distinctions in the appearance of Discovery ads compared to Display ads:

1. Text specifications:¬†Discovery ads allow headlines with up to 40 characters, while Display ads have a limit of 30 characters (similar to search ads). Google’s best practices for Discovery ads recommend using “medium-length headlines,” so it is not necessary to use all the extra characters available.

2. Image specifications: Display and Discovery ads accept square (1:1) and landscape (1.91:1) images. However, Discovery campaigns additionally support portrait (4:5) images. This flexibility in image formats is intentional as Discovery campaigns were designed to accommodate Meta Ads assets. Advertisers often begin Discovery campaigns by utilizing ad creatives from their successful Facebook and Instagram ads.

3. Video specifications: While video assets can be included in Display ads, Google announced plans to introduce this feature for Discovery ads at Google Marketing Live 2022. However, as of now, video assets are not yet compatible with Discovery ads.

4. Shopping feed:¬†Display campaigns are commonly used for dynamic remarketing, where the Google Merchant Center feed is connected to the campaign, enabling personalized ad creative based on users’ past website behavior. Likewise, Discovery campaigns have recently launched a beta program that allows advertisers to connect a feed. However, unlike just dynamic remarketing, Discovery campaigns leverage feed data for prospecting and remarketing purposes.

5. Ad Format:¬†Comparison shows that Discovery campaigns allow you to produce Discovery carousel ads, which contain multiple images, headlines, and links in one ad unit to offer an interactive and fascinating advertising experience, similar to Meta. On the other hand, Display campaigns don’t provide Carousel ads; they instead have a broad range of ad formats, such as banners, images, text, interactive ads, and video ads.



Display and Discovery Ads Serve Different Purposes

The main distinction between Google Ads Display and Discovery campaigns lies in their ad placement. Display campaigns showcase ads throughout the extensive Google Display Network, which includes numerous websites and apps that utilize Google AdSense. On the other hand, Discovery campaigns focus specifically on displaying ads on Google-owned platforms. This distinction is important in the field of digital marketing as it helps advertisers, especially a PPC agency, choose the right ad placement strategy for their campaigns..

To explain further, the Google Display Network functions similarly to other audience networks such as the Microsoft Audience Network, LinkedIn Audience Network, and Facebook Audience Network. This network includes millions of websites and apps where your Display ads can be presented. Examples of these sites include,, and, as well as apps like MyFitnessPal, TextNow, and Wordle. It’s worth noting that YouTube, along with Google Ads Manager, is also part of the Google Display Network.

Discovery campaigns have a more limited range in terms of ad placement, appearing exclusively in three locations: YouTube, Gmail, and the Discover feed. These platforms are all Google-owned and primarily cater to signed-in users. Due to the concentrated nature of these placements, audience targeting in Discovery campaigns tends to be significantly more precise when compared to Display campaigns. Additionally, the traffic quality in Discovery campaigns is often higher. A google ads specialist can help you make the most of these placements by optimizing your audience targeting and maximizing the quality of your traffic.

It is important to note, however, that Discovery campaigns lack a specific placement report. As a result, you won’t have access to detailed information about where exactly your ads were displayed. In contrast, Display campaigns offer a comprehensive “Where ads showed” report, providing valuable insights into ad placements.



The Difference Between Google Discovery Ads and Display in Targeting

When comparing Google Discovery ads to Display ads in terms of targeting, there are a few important points to consider:

Google Display campaigns offer a wide range of audience and content targeting options, allowing you to customize your reach based on your specific objectives in online marketing. With Google Ads, you can target a broad audience or refine your targeting to reach specific groups based on your campaign goals and objectives.

Google recently made a change to how content targeting works in Display campaigns. If you add Placements, Topics, and/or Keywords to your content targeting, Google Ads will treat them as “OR” options instead of “AND.” This means that if you add five Topics and five Keywords to your ad group, your Display ad can appear on any of those five topics OR any of those five keywords.

It’s important to note that audience targeting has always had an “OR” relationship. If you add multiple audiences to your ad group targeting, Google Ads will show your ads to any of those audiences. It would help if you created a Combined segment to create an “AND” relationship between audiences.

When it comes to Google Discovery campaigns, content targeting is not available. Instead, you have the option to utilize audience targeting. Fortunately, plenty of options are at your disposal to reach your desired audience with the help of a PPC agency. You can choose from various targeting criteria such as demographics, affinity, in-market, life events, data segments, custom segments, and combined segments.

It’s important to note that both Google Discovery and Display campaigns have optimized targeting enabled by default. However, you can turn off this feature if you prefer. Adjust your audience settings accordingly to turn off optimized targeting.



Comparisons Between Display and Discovery Ads: Performance

If you’re accustomed to using pay-per-click (PPC) metrics for search and shopping campaigns, navigating the performance of image-based formats can be challenging. While you’re probably knowledgeable about key performance metrics such as click-through rate (CTR) and cost per click (CPC), you might need to become more familiar with other important metrics such as interaction rate or cost per engagement.



In Google Ads, a “click” pertains to a paid interaction where users are directed to your website after clicking on a search or display ad. You are charged for this click by Google.

On the other hand, an “interaction” encompasses any paid click in Google Ads, even if it doesn’t lead the user directly to your website. For instance, if someone clicks on a Gmail ad, it opens the associated email instead of taking the user to your website. To reach your website, the user should read the email and, if interested, click the pay-per-click call-to-action button.

Due to this distinction, a Gmail open is considered an “interaction” rather than a “click.” Since Gmail is one of the three Discovery placements, it is important to monitor not only your clicks, click-through rate (CTR), and cost-per-click but also your interactions, interaction rate, and cost per interaction. This will give you a more comprehensive understanding of the Performance of your Gmail ads.



Engagements refer to valuable actions that users take, which are neither classified as clicks nor interactions. For instance, if a user watches at least 10 seconds of your video, it counts as an engagement. However, it’s important to note that you are only charged once someone watches at least 30 seconds of your video or reaches the end of the video, depending on which comes first. This is a common metric used by PPC agencies to measure user engagement.

Similarly, if a user forwards your Gmail ad to a friend or “likes” your Discovery ad, these actions are considered engagements. Although I don’t typically focus on the engagement, engagement rate, and cost per engagement columns, they can be useful for troubleshooting. These metrics give insights into how users interact with your ads beyond clicks and interactions.

PPC Beast also provides a comprehensive set of tools and features to help you optimize your PPC campaigns. We can help you analyze and identify the most relevant keywords for your ads, ensuring that you reach the right audience.


To Enhance the Performance of your Display and Discovery Campaigns

 You can leverage various performance levers such as bid strategy, budget, targeting, campaign settings, etc. However, the most crucial factor that determines success is the ad creative that you use.

While bids, budgets, and targeting are vital, ad creativity can make a significant difference. This sentiment may not be new to people that run Meta Ads or TikTok Ads. However, mastering ad creative can be tricky for Google Ads practitioners, primarily used to text-based formats.

Google researched to determine the most effective types of text and image assets for a successful Discovery campaign. The good news is that these best practices apply to your Performance Max campaigns since Discovery is part of Performance Max.

Here are some of the highlights of the research:

1. Images should focus on a single object that is centrally framed.

2. Images should depict real humans using your products/services in actual contexts.

3. Overlaid text on images should be minimal and avoided where possible.

4. Headlines and descriptions should be medium-length, specific, and include a clear call to action.

5. Ad copy emphasizing special offers often performs well, while using time pressure/FOMO (fear of missing out) doesn’t.

You can explore additional excellent ad copy within these Google Ads examples.

Whenever you have doubts, it’s crucial to conduct extensive testing. By consistently testing, you will receive performance ratings at the asset level for both Display and Discovery campaigns.



Deciding Between Display and Discovery Ads: Choosing the Right Approach

Are you trying to determine the best use case for Discovery ads versus Display ads? Let’s delve into it.


When is it Appropriate to Use Discovery Campaigns?

Google Ads Discovery campaigns are designed explicitly for conversion-based Smart Bidding strategies, such as Maximize Conversions (with an optional target CPA) or Maximize Conversion Value (with an optional ROAS).

Given their optimization capabilities focused on the bottom of the funnel and the ability to drive high-quality traffic and target audiences, I suggest testing Discovery campaigns before Display campaigns. Anecdotally, PPC Beast’s Discovery’s cost per click tends to be higher than Display’s. However, I have also noticed higher conversion rates and better lead quality with PPC Beast, which makes it worthwhile to try them out.

If you wish to utilize Discovery campaigns for an awareness objective, you can “cheat the system” by creating a conversion action based on page views. This transforms your Maximize Conversions bid strategy into a Maximize Clicks bid strategy, enabling you to leverage Discovery campaigns for awareness goals.


Determining the Ideal Scenario for Using Display Ads

Google Ads Display campaigns offer a broader range of applications than Discovery ads, as they can be used with impression-, click-, or conversion-based bid strategies. This flexibility makes Display campaigns suitable for various campaign objectives:

Top of the funnel: Viewable CPM

Middle of the funnel: Manual CPC (with optional enhanced CPC), Maximize Clicks

Bottom of the funnel: Maximize Conversions (with optional target CPA) or Maximize Conversion Value (with optional target ROAS)

Some individuals prefer to opt for Display campaigns due to their unique feature of pay-per-conversion bidding. While there are certain limitations and rules surrounding the usage of pay-per-conversion bidding, it could be an avenue worth exploring for performance advertisers, including PPC agencies, to determine whether Display campaigns align with their conversion objectives.



If You’re Searching for a Nearby PPC Agency, Make Sure to Check Out PPC Beast

Arrange a consultation with PPC Beast, a premier PPC agency specializing in online marketing and digital advertising. Take the opportunity today to explore how we can support your venture into the realm of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.

As a dedicated PPC agency, our team comprises Google Ads specialists who are wholeheartedly devoted to aiding you in achieving your goals. We’re committed to assisting you in expanding your business through potent online marketing strategies. These strategies, harnessed with tools like Google Ads Manager, can amplify your online presence and drive your business forward. Let’s join forces to turn your entrepreneurial aspirations into a prosperous reality!

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