Have You Tried AdWords Smart Display Campaigns? You Should!

Published on: 22/12/2019 Last Modified on: 29/01/2020

Google AdWords is considered by many as the best weapon in a marketer’s arsenal and this is true to a large extent.

AdWords is a very powerful tool which also happens to be one of the most complex marketing tools ever devised. Even many long-time users of the platform are not aware of several of its features due to the complexity.

Smart Display Campaigns are one of the most attractive features of AdWords, but few people understand how smart display marketing works and even fewer have used this feature.

So, in this article, we will discuss AdWords Smart Display Campaigns in detail and will shed some light on why you must use AdWords Smart Display Marketing for increasing your conversion rate.

What is Smart Display Marketing?

Smart Display Marketing can be considered a glimpse into the future of marketing as it uses cutting-edge technologies developed by Google.

At its core, Smart Display Marketing is all about artificial intelligence and marketing automation. The basic idea behind this revolutionising concept is to automate everything such as bidding, targeting and ad creation.

Marketers can significantly reduce the time which they spend in creating and optimising AdWords campaigns with smart display marketing as it requires a minimum amount of time to manage and delivers superior returns on investment thanks to Google’s AI (Artificial Intelligence) and algorithms.

Let’s discuss how bidding, targeting and creatives are automated with smart display marketing before proceeding further.

How Does it Work?

Smart Display advertising uses marketing automation to reduce the amount of time you must spend in optimising your campaign, as now Google’s algorithms and artificial intelligence will optimise your AdWords campaign for you.

AdWords Smart Display campaigns automate three important parts of a PPC campaign, namely Bidding, Targeting, and a Creative portion of ads which essentially includes your ad copy, images, and call to actions etc.

Automatic Bidding

Unlike normal display ads, Smart Display ads work backwards in that you don’t have to set a bid for your ad campaign in the beginning.

Instead, you provide AdWords the CPA or cost per action which you’d like to achieve and AdWords itself decides an ideal bid amount for your ads after considering all the factors.

Smart Display ads use a special form of automatic bidding which is known as target CPA bidding. All you need to do is to give the AdWords a target CPA and AdWords algorithm will bid based on the data.

So, it will bid aggressively when data suggests that there is a chance of high conversion and will bid for a lower amount of data suggests that chances of a conversion are low.

Now the natural question arises what data the algorithm will use for automatically placing bids, as the success of your Smart Display Campaign rests on the data which is used for bidding.

AdWords considers several factors when calculating the ideal bid cost such as if a user has been on your website in the past or not, their online behaviour, which sites they have visited in the past and what they are interested in.

Although, a note of caution here as AdWords may bid quite high and low and you must be prepared to see a lot of volatility in your bid prices as it’s not uncommon for Smart Display Campaigns to bid as high as $10 or as low as $1 per click.

But in the end, high and low bids will cancel each other, and your overall conversion cost will be equal to or near to your target CPA.

Automatic Targeting

Smart Display campaigns use a similar automated approach when it comes to targeting and use data from your previous campaigns along with several other bits and pieces of information to target users who are most likely to convert.

AdWords will automatically re-market to users who have visited your site in the past using the best bids and ads which are likely to convert. The main idea of automatic targeting is to catch visitors in mid-funnel when they haven’t decided between you and your competitor.

AdWords will also consider the correlation between your main keyword and any other associated keyword when targeting these visitors.

For example, you sell car insurance and Google’s algorithm determines that people who are looking to buy a new car also search for car insurance quotes. So, AdWords will automatically target users who are searching for new car prices as these are much more likely to need car insurance which you are selling.

Google is quite secretive about how smart targeting works and only the above details are known about automated targeting which often drives marketers crazy as due to its automated nature you can’t control bidding or targeting.

Although it sits perfectly well with the stated aim of smart display campaigns as the main goal here is to reduce the time and effort which marketers spend in optimizing their ad campaigns.

Automatic Creative

Another salient feature of Smart Display Campaigns is the ability to automate the ad creation process.

This effectively means that AdWords algorithm will use headlines, images, ad copy and call to actions provided by you to create an ad which the algorithm and the artificial intelligence believes to have a higher chance of converting.

AdWords will ask you for creative assets which will be combined for creating an ad when you create your first smart display campaign.

Another advantage is the fact that AdWords will itself test several combinations of the creative assets provided by you and decide based on the results which image works with which headline.

So, you also don’t need to worry about A/B testing here as smart display ads will do this for you.

How Can I Take Advantage?

You can drastically need the amount of time and effort which you currently spend on optimizing your campaigns as Google will do this for you if you decide to use AdWords smart display campaigns.

And the best part is that you can structure a campaign around a target CPA which suits you.

Google’s algorithm will utilize information gleaned from tremendous amount of data collected by it to decide how to best use your money for driving visitors to your site.

A Smart Display Campaign, unlike a normal display one, requires little maintenance and the whole process is automated thanks to the AdWords algorithm, Artificial Intelligence and Machine learning.

You will find that your conversions become better with time as machine learning allows AdWords to learn from its mistake and it uses the data gathered to use even better ads and targeting.

What Stays the Same with Smart Display Marketing?

Smart Display Marketing can help you in minimising the time spent on optimising AdWords Campaigns, but there are several other aspects of marketing which will remain unchanged.

Building a recognisable brand along with winning the trust of a website visitor is a slow process and you can’t speed it up even with the miraculous power of smart display marketing.

Another factor to consider is the fact that ad blindness among the internet savvy population is at record high levels and conversion rates of less than 0.5% are a testament to this.

People have become increasingly efficient to ignore a display ad and smart display campaigns can’t help you with this.

Designing a landing page, website, and a sales funnel all take time and are essential if you want to benefit from smart display campaigns as without a well-designed sales-funnel AdWords or any other advertising platform is not going to help your business.

You must also consider some potential downsides of Smart Display marketing such as lack of control over bidding, targeting and ads which are shown to prospects.

Google designed this feature with the aim of removing human intervention and supervision, but this also means that you will not have as much control as you used to have with normal display marketing. Instead, you are trusting Google’s algorithm and artificial intelligence to make these decisions on your behalf.

Also, keep in mind that Smart Display Campaigns are just a marketing tool which will not replace several other things which make a marketing campaign successful and must be used in a strategic way along with other marketing tactics.

How to Set up an AdWords Smart Display Campaign?

Before setting up an AdWords smart display campaign you must take note of the fact that Google has specified an eligibility criterion for Smart Display campaigns which at present is 50 conversions on display or 100 on search advertising in the last 30 days. If you don’t meet this criterion, then you will not be able to run Smart Display ads.

For this article, we’ll assume that you meet the eligibility requirements for Smart Display Campaigns.

Now all you need to do is to go to the campaign section in your AdWords account and follow these instructions…

After heading to the campaigns section, you must create a new display campaign as usual and you will see the following screen:

Now you will be asked to select a marketing objective from the list under “Drive Action” as shown in the above image.

All you need to do is select any option other than “Install your Mobile App” or “Engage with your mobile app”.

After selecting the objective, you will see another section showing the option to create a Smart Display Campaign. You must check this box to create your own smart display campaign.

After this step, you will be asked to provide your campaign with a daily budget, similar to normal display campaigns. You will also need to provide a target CPA at this stage.

Once you’ve completed these steps, AdWords will ask you for creative assets which work differently than normal display campaigns.

You’ll see the following screen:

As you can see in this image, you can give several headlines, descriptions and images to AdWords, which will itself create the ideal ad for your smart display campaign after combining all these assets and testing which variations works the best.

You must also keep in mind the restrictions placed over the size of creative assets, which are shown in the table below:

  • Headline (25 characters)

These need to work well with any of your descriptions, images and landing pages.

  • Description (70 characters)

Your descriptions add to your headline and invite people to take action. Make sure they work with any headline, image or landing page.

  • Images

The maximum file size is 1MB, and most common non-.gif formats are accepted. You will need to supply two logos, one 1:1 ratio (1200 x 1200 recommended) and one horizontal logo at 4:1 (512 × 128). A transparent background is best, but a white background will work fine, as long as the logo is centred.

Smart Display Campaigns also restrict the length of your headlines, descriptions, images and logos.

Once you finish this step, you are done with Smart Display Campaigns, as from now onwards Google’s algorithm and artificial intelligence will take over.

AdWords will itself create and test various ads based on the creative assets provided by you and within a week or two, you must be able to see the results.

You must also be a bit cautious about the daily ad budget as several experts suggest that your daily budget must be at least 10x-15x of your target CPA to generate enough number of impressions and conversions.

Be sure to add site-category exclusions to prevent tarnishing your brand or message.

In addition to reports such as Display Summary Report, Smart Display Campaigns will provide you with an Assets Report which ranks your creative assets as “Best”, “Good”, or “Low” based on the number of conversions these assets drive as compared to one another.

If AdWords algorithm and artificial intelligence feel that the campaign needs further conversions to optimize, then your ads will receive a learning rating which essentially means that AdWords is still learning about your campaigns and you must give it more time to optimize your Smart Display Ads.

Top Tips for Creating Smart Display Campaigns

Here are some tips for creating an ideal smart display campaign:

  • You must provide at least 5 headlines, 5 descriptions, and 5 images as this will allow AdWords to test a variety of combinations. You can even provide a larger number as the high number of creative assets have a positive correlation with better conversions.
  • Smart display ads also allow you to add your existing product feed which means that prospects will directly see the products being sold on your site and this is a helpful feature for eCommerce sites.
  • If you must make changes to your target CPA, then make sure you don’t make sudden large changes as AdWords algorithm takes some time to adjust to large changes. Ideally, you must keep the changes in CPA value within 20% and must resist the urge to revise it more than 20% as this may decrease your current conversions with Smart Display Campaigns.
  • Also, provide a logo if you have one as this will increase the number of placements for which you are eligible.

Pros and Cons

Like anything else in life, Smart Display Campaigns have their own pros and cons and the ability to optimize your campaigns on an automated basis also means that you will have to make some trade-offs.

So, let’s consider the pros and cons of Smart Display Campaigns.


  • Minimal optimisation required due to the automated nature of Smart Ads.
  • Allows you to benefit from the cutting-edge artificial intelligence developed by Google as Google scouts for new clients instead of you and has a whole bunch of data to decide who is more likely to convert.
  • No need to spend time in analysing data for bidding or targeting as everything is automated.
  • Smart Display Campaigns create several variations of ads based on the creative assets provided by you and test these to discover the best converting variation.
  • Ability to exclude the sites where you don’t want your ads to appear.


  • You lost control in exchange for automation as there are few elements of a smart display campaign which you can control.
  • You will not be able to know who is being targeted due to the black box nature of the Smart Display Campaign’s algorithm.
  • Smart Display Campaigns take much longer than normal campaigns to optimize as AdWords artificial intelligence and machine learning will need some time to learn what is working and this time may be anywhere from 2 weeks to months.


Smart Display Campaigns are a great tool if used in the correct way. Ideally, you must use them as a complement to your regular display campaigns and other marketing tactics as they have their own pros and cons and work best in combination with other AdWords campaigns.

More importantly, they serve as a reminder of what marketing will look like in the future.

As there is an ongoing shift towards machine learning and artificial intelligence which will utilise big data for marketing decisions and it’s highly likely that soon we will see some other smart advertising options from Google which will be built using Smart Display Campaigns as a template.

Smart Display Campaigns must be run for at least a period of 2-3 weeks before deciding whether they are for you or not as even artificial intelligence and AdWords algorithm need some time for optimising a campaign.

Meaningful data can be gathered only when a campaign has been run for a few weeks and it may be too early to stop a campaign after just a week if you don’t see any result.

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