February 24

Leveraging Google Discovery Ads for Higher Education


Are you already using Google Discovery Ads? If you are using traditional Google Ad campaigns, you should consider this unique campaign type. Here’s why.

Late 2018, Google began showing its Google feed by default on mobile devices.

The Google feed works very much like a Facebook feed showing you what Google thinks you’ll be interested in seeing next. 

This is a huge shift from what Google has always been: a text-driven digital encyclopedia.

Now, instead of waiting for you to type in what you want Google to look for, Google offers up what it thinks you’ll want to see.

And instead of being text-driven, it’s all about visual content. 

Here's a GIF from Google's blog showing what Google Discovery Ads look like in the Google feed.

Now, Facebook mainly decides what to show you in your feed based on what Facebook Pages you like, your demographic data, and what Facebook Pages your friends like.

But Google works a little differently.

Unless you’ve intentionally unplugged from Google’s services (which is almost impossible to do and not recommended), they’re almost everywhere collecting data on you, and they use that data to curate what you “discover” in your Google feed.

Here is a list of the data sources Google uses to decide what to show users:

    • Your Web & App Activity
      • App info from your devices. 
      • Contact info from your devices.
    • Location History 
    • Location settings: Some updates in Discover are shown based on your home location. If your home location isn’t available, Google may use your work location or your device’s current location. 

That’s the information on the Google feed…

But what about Google Discovery Ads?

Early in 2019, Google opened the door for Google Ads users to start using this new kind of campaign. 

Google Discovery Ads are an automated, multi-channel campaign type. To run discovery ads, you have to launch a Discovery campaign in your Google Ads account. 

Searchengineland.com has a few more details about setting up Google Discovery Ads:

Setting up Discover ads… You enter a landing page URL, upload at least one landscape image and one logo image. Images can’t be blurry, poorly cropped or include calls to action or clickbait.

You may enter up to 5 headlines and up to five descriptions for testing. A preview shows how the ad will look as you enter components.

How are they charged? Discovery ads are charged on a cost-per-click basis.

When you launch a Discovery campaign, Google Discovery Ads should show up for users in their YouTube home feed, Google Discover feed, and Gmail promotions tab.

So why do I think enrollment marketers should consider Google Discovery Ads?

Mobile Search is a growing trend.

Google claims, “Over 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product while conducting a search on their smartphone.” 

That means more and more people are using mobile searches to find answers to their questions

And the best part? 

One of the main demographics who use mobile search is Gen Z, your target audience.

Google Discovery Ads consider user location when offering content.

As you already know, I’m a fan of geotargeting ads and retargeting.

Getting your ads (which are relevant to their questions, desires, and tastes) in front of prospective students where they are is one of the marvels of being an enrollment marketer today. 

Taking this strategy a little further, any prospective student who happens to be coming through your geographical area could “discover” you through your Google Discovery Ads.

It’s like Google is helping you set up serendipitous meetings with potential students. 

Google Discovery Ads are visual.

Just scrolling through the Google feed is visually appealing. It feels like you’re scrolling through an Instagram or Pinterest feed seeing all of these amazing photos.

The visual element is what grabs the eye of your prospective student first. Then, your headline copy needs to pull them in and motivate them to click. 

Relevant, appealing photos invite clicks. It doesn’t feel salesy.

Your Gen Z target audience grew up with screens and video content being the main source of information. Google Discovery Ads were specifically designed for this kind of user in mind.

Perfect for enrollment marketing. 

Google Discovery Ads allow for horizontal scrolling.

Facebook has long been using horizontal scrolling in its news feed with great success.

Amazon also uses horizontal scrolling when offering you other products similar to what you’ve been browsing or have purchased. 

This allows you to continue to scroll down for more information or discover more about the post right in front of you. 

In your Google Discovery Ads, you could offer a variety of student stories in one ad allowing the user to swipe left or right to choose the one they like, or you could offer different programs, or use any other list of content you could offer up in one discovery ad.

Google Discovery Ads target by audience and interest more than keywords.

Paid media consultant, Irina Holliday writes about Google Discovery Ads targeting options in her article in thedrum.com

Much like the Google Display Network, Google Discover allows you to target custom, affinity and in-market audiences. You can also target remarketing audiences, which is a great way to re-engage with your existing website audience through the use of another medium.

The majority of the targeting rules of Google’s Display Network apply to Google Discover; with the idea being to target people based on their interests, or what they’re searching for. [emphasis mine]

This is the most attractive part about Google Discovery Ads for me – they work a whole lot like content marketing.

Google Discovery Ads fit hand in glove with content marketing. 

You earn prospective students’ trust by offering relevant, helpful content that they’d want to click on whether or not it had anything to do with your institution.

I also like the fact that the traffic you would get from these kinds of ads are from people who are very interested in finding out more about your education brand because they’re actively searching for answers about their education journey.

This means you should expect higher quality traffic from your Google Discovery Ads campaigns with people who are ready to click to find out more.

So should you launch a Google Discovery Ad?

I can’t answer that question for you. But I do think you need to look into them.

As with other Google Ads, you can set a daily budget on them so they don’t get out of hand. Set your budget low (say, $50 per day) in the first few weeks to test out whether they work for you.

Of course, make sure that you’re offering them content they want to see. 

Spend time choosing or creating the photo you feature. Don’t use a generic stock photo. I recommend original photography that showcases your campus, your students, and your faculty (Just make sure it’s professionally done and not blurry.)

As with any new strategy or tool, start slow, measure your results, and pick up the pace once you see things going well.

Google Discovery Ads could be one of your best new enrollment marketing tools yet.

Not sure if your PPC strategy — including Google Ads — is working at full capacity? 

Contact us today for an audit of your current Pay Per Click campaign.

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Smart Phone gif via Google Blog

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