Smart Display Campaigns

Do They Really Work?

Jan 16, 2019

Display campaigns have been solely used for brand awareness or to target specific audiences such as converters, all visitors, cart abandoners, people who submitted a form, among others. We usually recommend this type of campaigns to generate brand awareness at a low cost but we let them know that they have a low probability of actually converting.

This is what would happen to me: I would create the campaign, choose the targeting option, create banner ads or responsive ads and let it run. What would happen? The cost would increase, affecting CPA goal. Therefore lowering performance and having the end client on my back.

In my experience, I found to have the most success using the targeting option of custom intent, but still then it would not perform well enough to help improve conversions and lower CPA.

Finally, Google answered our prayers by launching Smart Display Campaigns.

What are Smart Display Campaigns?

“In Google’s words, Smart Display campaigns offer a simple, intelligent solution to managing the complex variables of display advertising, and maybe the most effortless way to broaden your customer base and win new conversions. Use a Smart Display campaign to show ads in almost all formats across the Google Display Network, reaching people at all stages in the buying cycle—from people with demonstrated interests to customers just about to buy”.

But, do Smart Display campaigns have the potential they say they do? In this post, we will figure that out.

Smart Display campaigns combine 3 optimization technologies:

Automated bidding.
Using Target CPA as a basis, Smart Display campaigns aim to set your bids according to the likelihood of conversion in each and every ad auction, seeking to give you the best possible value. Don’t be afraid of automated bidding, in my experience it has been very helpful and who’s better to assist you in this than Google’s algorithm insights (which we will never have access to.)

Automated targeting.
Targeting is optimized as your campaign runs, which means that your ads will show more often where they will get you the most business. Where applicable, Smart Display campaigns use dynamic prospecting to match your feed to the likeliest converters. This is the most important aspect of the Smart Display campaign in my opinion. It removes the headache of manually excluding thousands of websites that have nothing to do with your target audience. Waste of time, effort and money.

Automated ad creation.
Ads are automatically generated from the building blocks you provide, like headlines, descriptions, logos, and images. They responsively fit into almost all ad spaces across the Display Network.

I was assigned a client that had very good converting campaigns. All it needed was a little restructuring plus an extensive list of negative keywords. I read that Google was going to come out with a new display campaign focused on target CPA, basically in conversions (Very important as a strategist to read and be up to date). This is when I came upon the smart display campaign.

As any other advertiser would do, I wanted to see how well smart display campaigns would perform and decided to try it out.

As many of you will see, Smart Display does not come up as an option when you create a campaign. What you have to do is set up a meeting with a Google Rep and they will assist you in authorizing and creating it. Once they create it, you have to check the target CPA and the ads. Normally the ads are not that great.

Below are the results of running a smart display campaign. Our target CPA was $30: 

The initial idea was to run the campaign for a month to see the results. As time progressed, the CPA started to get closer to the target I had placed. Our CPA started around $46 and as you see above, it went down to $36.23.

So it worked! Raise the roof!

As you can see, you don’t have to put in endless hours of work to run a successful display campaign; hence the name ”Smart Display Campaign”.

Give Smart Display Campaigns a Go

I would definitely recommend using this type of campaign. Don’t get me wrong, I am not telling you to pause all your regular display campaigns. They are still great for campaigns tailored to a specific audience you decide to target. But you can use the Smart Display settings to help further increase your conversions and reach your goals.


Brianny Chamorro

Inbound Marketing Coordinator

Passionate about Marketing. Constantly looking for growth opportunities. Sports enthusiast. Taekwondo Black Belt. 1st RU Miss Nicaragua 2016 and 3rd RU Miss International 2016 - Japan. Family is everything.



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