How Discovery Ads Increased Conversions 1.5X Without Additional Budget

Discovery Campaigns are a relatively new Google ad format that became available to all advertisers in May 2020. Maria Sai, a specialist in the contextual advertising department of the iConText agency, tested the new format in the beta version and in this article talks about the features of the tool, the approach to testing and the results of the advertising campaign.

About the Discovery format

Discovery campaigns give advertisers the opportunity to both attract new users by talking about their product and bring back existing customers through remarketing. It is a responsive and smart bidding format that partially integrates and extends the familiar display formats of Display Network and Gmail.

Discovery ads can appear on three main placements:

  • YouTube home page feed;
  • Google Discover Feed, a personalized news feed for mobile users;
  • in the mail service Gmail.

On each of the placements, the appearance of Discovery ads is different: in the news feed and on the YouTube home page, it looks like a banner with a title and text; in Gmail, ads appear in the “Promotions” and “Social” sections as a closed and open letter.

There are two ad formats available to advertisers in Discovery campaigns:

  1. Carousel – A gallery of up to 10 square and widescreen images, a general title and description, and a description and title for each pair of images.
  2. A Discovery ad is a banner automatically generated from headings, descriptions, and images that are uploaded by a specialist. This format is similar to responsive display ads or ads in app campaigns.
Source: Google

In Discovery, you can choose one of two automated strategies: Target CPA (the strategy will attract the most conversions at a given price) or Maximum Conversions (the highest possible number of conversions for a given budget). At the same time, for effective training and operation of the strategy, the daily budget of the campaign must be 10 times more than the target cost per conversion.

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Discovery campaigns offer language and geographic targeting, several types of audience targeting: customer match, look-alike, special intent audiences (keywords only), remarketing, and interested buyer audiences.

Advertisers cannot limit frequency and placements, block ads near certain content, or select device types and influence ad rotation, as in a normal Display Network campaign. However, ads are shown to the user based on their interests in the personalized Discover and YouTube feed, which means they are relevant.

Case: how the Discovery format helped eBay achieve its cashback service goals

eBay Social is the official cashback service of eBay Inc. in Russia. Users can return up to 50% of their purchases on eBay and over 600 partner stores.

The agency’s team had the following goals:

  1. Increase the number of user transitions from the cashback service site to partner sites at a given price (clickouts) within a limited budget.
  2. Maintain the Retention Rate (% of users from cpc sources who then returned to the site and performed some action) at least the target value.

Before the launch of Discovery, we already used various Google Ads inventory: search and smart display campaigns with automatic bidding strategies.


Discovery approach

We used the Target Cost Per Conversion strategy. We started working with the format with a small budget, as the campaign’s efficiency increased, we redistributed it towards Discovery, while continuing to optimize other campaigns.

Discovery’s share in the channel’s budget in the first month of the campaign:

April budget

And its increase after a successful test:

May budget

In Discovery, to create individual special intent audiences, we used the most effective phrases from search campaigns and added an audience with key phrases of the client’s partner names: “Sportmaster”, “Liters”, “Citylink” and others. We also tested the customer match and LAL audience for it.

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Working with creatives was carried out in two directions. First, we used the main landing page and key USPs for the product in the same ad group. We regularly checked the performance report in the Google Ads interface (not available for discovery carousel), optimized the least effective elements by replacing images and rewriting texts, and also responded to seasonal demand by offering customers cashback for in-demand goods and services. Groups with similar settings but with test landing pages and creatives also worked in the campaign.

Second, we used Growth Marketing approaches – streaming hypothesis testing to find growth points with a relatively small investment – and worked in conjunction with a designer and colleagues from the iConText targeted advertising department. We tested hypotheses and found insights by launching landing pages and creatives in display ads with those USPs that have already shown effectiveness in social networks – both on sites with targeted advertising and in Discovery, algorithms take into account the interests of users when choosing advertisements.


Click out conversions from Discovery campaigns accounted for 21% of all Google Ads conversions in April (including the campaign training period) and 39% in May.

At the same time, month-on-month, the volume of conversions received using Discovery increased almost 3 times, and the total number of Clicks out across all campaigns in Google Ads increased 1.5 times.

Discovery’s average cost per conversion was 80% lower than what we received in our smart display campaign.

CPA by type

Discovery campaigns worked within the Retention Rate target. At the same time, most of the conversions were brought to us by an audience similar to the downloaded Customer match lists.

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Discovery campaigns are a great tool to help you achieve your performance goals, but since it’s a media format, the key to being effective is always working with creatives and audiences.

High cost per click per topic: what to do about it? Advertising – only with the right website, or What to check before launching campaigns

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