Home » PPC Optimization: Smart Display Campaigns

PPC Optimization: Smart Display Campaigns


Like Smart Search Campaigns do for Search Campaigns, Smart Display Campaigns automate much of the semi-manual process of setting up and running a regular display campaign in Google Ads. The Google Display network has a vast reach of over 2 million sites reaching 90% of the people on the Internet. Display ads appear in many different formats …

Read more

Like Smart Search Campaigns do for Search Campaigns, Smart Display Campaigns automate much of the semi-manual process of setting up and running a regular display campaign in Google Ads. The Google Display network has a vast reach of over 2 million sites reaching 90% of the people on the Internet. Display ads appear in many different formats targeted at your desired audience or content and context.

Pull vs. Push Approach to Advertising

Unlike search campaigns that advertise to people already interested in your products or services searching on specific keyphrases (pull), display ads show earlier in the buying process to people more likely to be interested in your products or services (push). Display ads are generally much lower cost per click than search ads, and are akin to smart banner ads or billboards along the information superhighway (couldn’t help myself). Generally, if a client has enough budget, we’ll set up both search campaigns and display campaigns for the broadest reach. Display campaigns are generally viewed as branding campaigns, while search campaigns are much more focused on specific products or services.

Display vs. Smart Display Campaigns

In a conventional display campaign you enter your graphic display ads in various sizes, as well as responsive display ads that auto-optimize from different headlines, graphics and vidoes. You set up your targeting with relevant audiences, demographics, ad schedule, and advanced bid adjustments. You set a bid strategy of manual bidding, enhanced CPC, maximize conversions or ROAS. We’ve found that display campaign conversions are generally lower cost than search conversions.

Smart Display campaigns automate much of the process including targeting, bidding and even ad creation. Using Google’s artificial intelligence, smart disply campaigns automatically find new and existing customers, set optimized bids, and create engaging ads that adapt to any screen or ad space across the web and applications. Google reports that advertisers that use Smart Display campaign have seen 20% more conversions at the same cost per action (CPA) when compared to conventional display campaigns. Note that there are fewer options for Smart Display campaigns for example your ads will be scheduled to run 24 hrs a day.

“Automated targeting uses website visitor, landing page insights, and your search campaigns best performing keywords to automatically target customers across the web.” – Google

Smart display campaigns combine your assets – headlines, descriptions, images, and videos into responsive display ads. These ads can even transform themsleves into native ads. Over time using Target CPA, smart display ads optimize based on what best wins you conversions.

Setting Up a Smart Display Campaign

To set up a smart display campaign go to the campaign level and click on the big blue plus sign. Select New Campaign. In this case we select a goal of Sales. Click on Display then Smart Display campaign (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Smart Display Campaign Setup

Next you set various options like locations to target and exclude, bidding (maximize conversions, target CPA), and budget (daily).

Next you set up responsive display ads. Enter at least 1 landscape image and 1 square image. Ideally enter at least 1 video. Enter 5 headlines (currently 30 characters maximum), a long headline (90 characters max), and 5 descriptions and your business name.

Google lets you enter images and videos from multiple sources, scan websites (your own, social media channels), upload, and stock images (provided by Google). Once you’ve loaded up your assets hit save and watch the magic happen. Google automatically targets, bids, and combines assets to maximize conversions at near your target Cost Per Acquisition (CPA).

We’ve found that smart display campaigns tend to have lower CPC and lower cost/conversion than display ads (even responsive) which in turn have lower CPC and cost/conversion than search campaigns.

Next time we’ll look at how to optimize the performance of smart display campaigns using data provided by Google.


You can optimize Google’s Smart Campaigns with the proper setup and maintenance. Start with a limited number of text ads and product or service categories and prune undesired search phrases as necessary.

Further Reading

  • PPC Optimization: Abbreviate Ad Text
    Abbreviating key phrases in PPC text ads can lower CPC and the cost per conversion. Our otherwise identical text ad with “Michigan” abbreviated to “Mich” decreased the cost per call by more than 35%, and increased the conversion rate by 33 percentage points.
  • PPC Optimization: Ad Text Position
    Leading with benefits can improve PPC text ad conversion rates. We show a case study that improves conversion rates by 1.8X.
  • PPC Optimization: Ad Title Tweaking
    Learn how small changes in ad text can make big changes in performance. By varying our Ad Title text we improved ad position from 2.4 to 1.0.
  • PPC Optimization: Age Range Targeting
    You can target specific age ranges in Google Adwords to optimize conversion rates. By tweaking the bids on high performing age ranges you can tilt your campaigns to those folks more likely to convert.
  • PPC Optimization: Average Income Targeting
    Targeting your desired audience within particular geographic area using income is a powerful tool you can use to improve your conversion rates. Average household income is just the first demographic that Google has rolled out for that purpose. Coming soon are gender, age, and parental status which could be used to further refine your campaigns.
  • PPC Optimization: Be Specific
    Using specific copy in your PPC ad text can improve conversion rates. Giving searchers ad text that more closely matches their search queries gives them results that more closely match their goals.
  • PPC Optimization: Call Only Ad Extensions
    Adding ad extensions to Call Only campaigns can boost click-through and conversion rates.
  • PPC Optimization: Dayparting Display Ads
    Dayparting your PPC ads can make your campaigns more efficient. Learn how to schedule your display campaigns for the times when people are most likely to convert.
  • PPC Optimization: Display URL Expansion
    By including keywords or calls to action in your display URLs you can boost text ad performance in Google Adwords. This article shows a real-world example of display URL optimization.
  • PPC Optimization: Early Warning
    In Google Adwords, you can use phone call metrics as an early warning system to optimize text ad conversion performance. Avoid scary PPC ad spend using fast-reported phone calls.
  • PPC Optimization: Exluding ZIP Codes by Income
    Excluding lower income ZIP codes is a more precise way than Google’s household income method. This article shows how to exclude lower income ZIP codes within your target geography in Google Ads.
  • PPC Optimization: Experiments in Punctuation
    By varying the punctuation and plurals within your text ads, you can optimize their conversion rate and cost per conversion. This article shows a case study of call only text ad optimization.
  • PPC Optimization: Gender Targeting
    In Google Adwords you can optimize conversion rates using gender targeting. Learn how to squeeze more leads out of your PPC spend by targeting high performing demographics singly or in combination.
  • PPC Optimization: Strange Attraction
    Learn how using strange attraction in your ad text can lower CPC and boost CTR and conversions. Grab attention with letter and symbol combinations to optimize PPC campaigns.
  • PPC Optimization: Using Call Only Ads in Search Campaigns
    Learn how to mix call-only ads with text ads in Google Ads. Boost quality scores and leads with this PPC ad mixing technique.
  • PPC Optimization: Wordplay and Humor
    Humor and wordplay can make your advertising stand out from the crowd. Unexpected word combinations and humor attract valuable attention and can garner higher PPC click-through and conversion rates.
  • PPC Optimization: ZIP Code Targeting
    Learn how to add ZIP code targeting to your PPC campaigns to boost conversion rates. By optimizing the performance of individual demographics and locations, you can improve conversion rates to squeeze more leads out your AdWords spend.
  • Supercharge Your Call Only Ads with Ad Extensions
    Google shows which ad extensions can be used with Call Only ads.