Gmail Ads Strategies to Improve Your Campaigns

When Gmail ads first came out years ago, I initially was not a fan. But looking back, my incorrect opinion was my own fault. This is because I looked and set up Gmail ads with the same approach as I did my normal Display Network campaigns. Yes, Gmail is part of the Display Network, but the mentality of the user is completely different.

Showing up in someone’s inbox is very personal. No matter if we’re using Gmail placements as top of funnel or remarketing, the message we put in front of users is extremely important.

I will always acknowledge every account is different. This includes accounts within the same industry. That being said, I want to share strategies I have used on my Gmail campaigns in the past that have seen success in building the right awareness and also converting users.

Consider Blocking Gmail Placements from other Display Campaigns

If you are using Responsive Display ads in Google Ads, your ads can show up on Gmail. As with any Responsive Display ad, you can select a variety of images, videos, headlines, and descriptions. Google will then create and test Gmail ads in a variety of combinations.

Like I said in the introduction, we must be careful how we market to users on Gmail. For that reason, I like to create dedicated Gmail campaigns if I want my ads to be shown on that Google property. My goal is to do whatever I can to control the message and user experience. That is why I like to add Gmail as a placement exclusion in my other Display campaigns whenever I have a dedicated Gmail campaign running.

When you are in the Placements section in Google Ads, you can choose to review where your ads were shown. Advertisers then have the opportunity to exclude visible placements by the campaign or ad group level. If you want to be proactive, you could also add this URL to a placement exclusion list, then attach that list to all applicable Display campaigns where your Gmail placements could overlap. Now you can focus on crafting the proper experience on Gmail placements knowing your placements will most likely not mix with each other.

Be Picky with Your Gmail Ads Creative

I’m going to go anti-RDA again. The first image in this post shows you all the elements that can be added to a Responsive Display ad, but the Gmail ad template is not the same by any means. We don’t get a chance to add multiple headlines or descriptions to test (I’m not complaining at all). We also only get to select one main marketing image instead of a variety of images.

Instead of relying on the text to support the marketing image, you can craft a well-designed promo image to tell most of the story. We can also see in the image above that your headline and description will be the same in both the closed and opened versions of the ads. Another reason why it is so important to plan out what message you want to use because it has to make sense for both versions of the ad as well as the main images you are showing users.

Besides marketing images, we can also add videos as well as catalog images to promote specific products or services. Just because we can add these features, it doesn’t mean we have to add all of them. Sometimes adding everything makes your ads cluttered and confusing the user on what you want them to do.

In this fake ad example I quickly created, you can see how busy an ad that includes images, videos, and catalog links can be. And I didn’t even include the maximum amount of videos and catalog links we can include. Consider your audience.

Is it remarketing or not? Do the creative elements you include in your Gmail ad make sense with the audience’s intent? Will the user know what to do once they open the Gmail ad? These are the extremely important questions you should really spend the time mapping out. I say this because for standalone Gmail ads, you are only charged for the initial ad click when a user opens your ad. We want to make sure they take the additional, free action that sends them to your website. Planning is much more important with Gmail to make sure that click is worth it.

Monitor Your Engagement Metrics Differently Than Other Display Campaigns

If you are using standard performance columns for your Gmail campaigns, you will probably notice that your Gmail campaigns could have a better CTR than many of your Search Network campaigns. Sorry to break it to you, but you are probably not as awesome as you think. Click reporting for Gmail works differently than other Display campaigns.

As mentioned in the last section, advertisers only get charged for the first click, but the first click does not mean they made it to your website. Yes, I want to first have an engaging ad so my headline and description are important. But then I want to focus on deeper actions so I know how to better optimize my ads. This is where Gmail-specific columns in Google Ads come in.

When we look at “Gmail clicks to website,” we’ll see a different (and most likely lower) number than the regular “Clicks” column. If I see I’m not getting users to visit my site, I’ll know I need to improve the opened ad experience. The more I drive traffic to my site, the better my chances are of getting conversions from my Gmail campaigns.

If a user is not ready to convert, I can at least see if they forwarded my ad on to other users or saved the ad in their account to view later on. I will also add these columns in my Google Ads account because they are important. Depending on your product or service you are promoting, users may not be ready to convert right away. So if you are using Gmail from more of a top of funnel approach, you can at least see if your efforts helped influence users to take a top of funnel action.

You May Have to Test a Little Bit

As I’ve stated already, Gmail ads are different than your typical Display campaigns. You may have to play test this format a little longer than you are used to until you find out what engages your target audience.

I still prefer a dedicated Gmail campaign purely to control the message. We still get a lot of elements we can attach to these ads that regular Display campaigns don’t offer.

Research your audience. Plan your offer and your creative to match the audience. Then test out a variety of different Gmail ads per ad group to better understand what engages and hopefully converts the best.

Have you tested Gmail ads lately? We’d love to hear your tips and tricks in the comments below!