Gmail Ads: What’s New (And Not New) With This Native Ad Type
Gmail Ads, formerly known as Gmail Sponsored Promotions, are now a standard part of the AdWords toolbox. Columnist Susan Waldes explains how they work so that you can start taking advantage of them.
In March, I wrote a two-part series on Marketing Land about my experience with Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) and best practices for utilizing the platform.
Part 1 focused on the basics of the ad type, where it shows up, what kind of results advertisers should expect, and how to set up a campaign.
Part 2 focused on strategies to build successful creative and more advanced targeting best practices.
Not long after, on June 1, Google retired the original GSP platform and moved the targeting type into the AdWords interface and back into beta status. Earlier this month, GSP was finally released to all AdWords accounts with a new name, “Gmail Ads.”
Much of the information from my original posts still stands. With the new platform for execution, reporting and creative, I want to revisit Gmail Ads in their current iteration. What’s changed? What hasn’t changed? And how can you best use this new advertising format to drive incremental profit?
What Has Changed?
Moving Gmail Ads into the AdWords interface came along with a few notable changes to implementation, reporting and features. The biggest difference is that within the familiar AdWords framework, most SEMs will feel much more comfortable with setting the targeting, analyzing the reporting and executing optimizations.
All the odd nomenclature from my original posts is now gone. A device is a device now, rather than a “client,” and the alarming but useless “Missed Opportunities” report has been put to rest.
The standard AdWords campaign format also comes along with some new functionality that the old platform did not have. I’m most excited about the ability to schedule/daypart the ads, which was sorely lacking from the old UI. Other functionality, like standard bid modifiers for device and geography, streamline launching and optimizing the campaigns.
Also new, in the “Ad Gallery,” are WYSIWYG tools for creating certain standardized ad units. Though these creative tools do simplify getting a Gmail Ads campaign live, they don’t necessarily provide the best framework for the kind of creative unit that will drive performance similar to what you are used to in the AdWords platform.
What Hasn’t Changed?
In my original GSP post, I talked about how the ads appear to users in their Gmail boxes. Nothing notable about the user experience has changed. All of the updates are on the advertiser/implementation side of things.
We are still targeting the same group of people, in the same way and in the same environment. Everything I initially wrote about what kinds of advertisers and strategic goals are a best fit for Gmail Ads still stands as a result. Two of the new WYSIWYG ad types are e-commerce-oriented, but I would still caution against expecting people to pull out their credit cards in droves. It’s yet to be seen if the holiday season will see these e-commerce-oriented expanded ad types driving high purchase conversion rates.
How To Set Up The New Gmail Ads
The simple mechanics of getting a campaign set up are different in the new system. Gmail Ads are technically a Display campaign, so begin by setting up a Display Network Only campaign shell or creating a new ad group within your existing Display Campaigns.
While the old platform had unique targeting and reporting nomenclature, the new AdWords iteration handles most targeting in exactly the same way as any display campaign. There are only three factors that make an ad group a “Gmail Ads” one:
- You need to target a managed placement of: mail.google.com.
- You have to use Gmail Ads specific creative units.
- There are some unique reporting columns that only apply to Gmail Ads, such as the number of saves and forwards. You can access these stats in the “Gmail Ads” set of columns.
The New Targeting
Targeted audiences are created with the normal set of display campaign targeting capabilities, such as keyword/contextual, topic targeting and affinity targeting. These are layered onto an ad group once the mail.google.com placement is already in place.
The job title and purchasers targeting have been retired, which is just as well, as in my experience, neither drove dependable volume.
The normal display options of Remarketing Audiences and “In Market Audiences” are not available targets within Gmail Ads and likely will not be in the future, due to regulations around personally identifiable information related to email marketing.
You can approximate a remarketing audience by targeting your own domain, effectively remarketing to your email subscribers and/or past purchasers. You won’t find a “Domain Targeting” section in the new interface; however, the capability is still there. To target your own domain, competitor domains or any other site your target receives email from, simply enter the domain names as targets in the keyword tab.
The New Creative
I mentioned some new WYSIWYG tools, and the most likely question about that is, “Where are they?”
To create the ad unit for your GSP campaign, go to the “Ads” tab within your ad group. Pull down the “+Ads” button to “Ad Gallery” and select “Gmail Ads.”
You’ll have the choice of four ad types:
- Gmail image template: This is essentially a big banner ad with only one associated landing page opportunity. I cautioned against this “Big Old Banner” strategy in my initial series. As Gmail users become more accustomed to seeing and interacting with these ads, I am seeing somewhat better results from well-executed “Big Banners.”
- Gmail single promotion template: A WYSIWYG editor that allows you to upload one larger image with associated ad copy and a customizable call-to-action button.
- Gmail multi-product template: Also a WYSIWYG editor that creates an ad unit very much like an ecommerce category page that displays multiple products, each linking out to a more detailed product page on your website.
- Gmail custom HTML upload: This is essentially the same type of ad upload from the old platform. The ad must be formatted as a zip file to the specifications here. This ad type allows for the most creative possibilities, including embedded videos, forms and click-to-call capabilities.
Though the new WYSIWYG tools make execution easier for smaller advertisers and SEM professionals, the custom HTML is the one most likely to get the best results, due to the more diverse set of goals allowed, the ability to fully retain your brand’s style and the ability to the ability to create a true “native ad unit” within the email environment.
As I discussed in my original posts, tweaking tested successful creative from other marketing efforts and taking advantage of the “Native Environment” has the highest chance of success.
Gmail Ads, the ads formerly known as “GSP,” are now a standard part of the AdWords toolbox. Standardizing the campaign creation into the AdWords platform reduced much of the friction associated with the former platform, and more and more advertisers will be testing and discovering ways to make this ad type work for them.
For now, the costs are still quite low, and it’s a great time to experiment within the platform. That said, the highest chance of success requires serious strategic planning and a likely a commitment to developing creative that goes beyond the current “plug and play” tools Google has so far provided.