Gmail Ads vs. Discovery Ads: Which Should You Leverage?

Like Gmail Ads, Discovery Ads are placed on the Gmail UI. However, we’ve seen Discovery Ads drive 7x more clicks than Gmail Ads at a -29% lower CPC and +90% higher CVR.

So the question begs to be asked - is it time to ditch Gmail Ads for something better?

Gmail Ads

What are Gmail Ads?

Gmail ads are interactive ads that show in the Promotions and Social tabs of the Gmail inbox. When a person clicks one of these ads, it may expand just like an email. The expanded ad can include images, video, or embedded forms.

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This ad format enables users to play video, fill out a form, click to go to your website and more.

Why Use Gmail Ads?

The advantages Gmail Ads offers include email & mobile compatibility, and GDN targeting. More below:

  • Email ready: People can star, save, and forward Gmail ads in the same manner as regular emails.
  • Mobile friendly: Gmail Ad layouts automatically optimize for the mobile experience.
  • GDN Targeting: Gmail Ads offer the same targeting options as regular Google Display Ads including, Affinity, Custom Intent, Customer Match, In-Market, Life Events, and Remarketing.

When to Use Gmail Ads:

At Seer, we’ve seen success with Gmail Ads for engaging users, promoting special offers, and remarketing. Below is an example of a Seer client who offers its services nationwide to a specific professional audience.


Our client, who focuses on B2B Lead Generation, was looking to connect with potential customers who run a small business to grow lead volume. With the account already optimized and structured for maximum, efficient paid search lead generation, we needed a new avenue to reach an engaged, targeted audience.


Seer built a Gmail campaign to support lead generation and drive people to its general sales webpage. To entice potential customers to sign up for its services, we promoted a ‘Free Trial’ offer.

We recommended targeting:

  • Life Events: recently started a business
  • In Market: financial services, and insurance
  • Similar Audiences: similar to converters
  • Keyword: competitor names

With a testing period of one month and audiences indicative of high intent, the Gmail campaign saw...

One Month Test Results:

CTR 16.56% 0.79%
CPC $0.43 $0.76
CVR 0.12% 0.36%
CPA $413.05 $228.84

Discovery Ads

While Gmail Ads are great for driving traffic for some of our client’s, they aren’t always the most efficient when compared to average GDN performance (excluding Gmail). To scale efforts at a low cost, however, recommend leveraging Google Discovery Ads.

Google Discovery is a new ad format within the GDN that shows in more premium placements compared to traditional display including search (discover page), YouTube homepage, and Gmail.

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Discovery Ads offer similar benefits to Gmail Ads (appears on Gmail UI, optimized for mobile and offers GDN audience targeting), however, Discovery Ads are designed to reach a greater number of people at an efficient cost.

For example, last month for the same client mentioned above, the Discovery Ads drove 62,116 more clicks at a -29% lower CPC than Gmail Ads. Moreover, visitors generated by the Discovery Ads converted at a +90% higher rate than Gmail Ads.

One Month Test Results

Impr. +936.78%
Clicks +591.02%
CTR -33.41%
CPC -29.03%
CVR +90.91%
CPA -86.21%

We believe this difference in performance stems from the innate advantages of Discovery Ads, such as its engaging creative format, seamless native placements, and less-competitive inventory.

Based on this and other successful tests, we recommend testing Google Discovery Ads in your campaign mix.

The key is to closely monitor Discovery placements (which may be disproportionately on the Gmail UI) and performance relative to Gmail Ads.

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