The Google Ad Formats and Campaign Types Guide for South Africans
Google Ads campaigns and the respective ad formats present various opportunities for business owners to reach their ideal audiences. You’ve likely seen them on Google search results, websites, apps, YouTube and Google Maps.
Understanding the different Google Ad formats, and how they can help drive your business goals, will ensure that you get the desired results from your Google Ads spend.
There are 5 different campaign types available on Google’s advertising platform, but we’ll look at the 4 most popular campaign types in South Africa:
Google Search Campaigns and its Ad Formats
Google Search campaigns are set up to target specific keywords (or landing pages) related to your product or service. The benefit of these campaigns is that your ads can appear in front of users when they are actively looking for your products or services.
These ads appear on Google Search results pages either above, below, or next to other search results on any of Google’s search platforms (google.co.za, Google Play Store, Google Maps, and Google Search Partners)
Types of Search as Available in South Africa
- Text ads
- Dynamic search ads
- Call-only ads
1. Text Ads and Best Practices
Text ads are the easiest to set up, and consist of at least one headline, a display URL, and one description. They appear on Google search results pages and Search Partner websites.
In the example above, the ad contains three headlines (identified in blue) and 2 descriptions (the grey text beneath the display URL).
Each of the fields in a text ad has a limited amount of characters:
- Headlines – 30 characters each
- Descriptions – 90 characters each
- Paths – 15 characters each
The best practices to writing successful text ads are:
- Include your keywords in the titles and descriptions of your ads,
- Highlight what makes your business unique,
- Where relevant, include prices, promotions, and exclusive deals,
- Match your ads with your landing page,
- Empower customers to act by adding a call to action, and
- Experiment with different types of ad copy.
2. Dynamic Search Ads and Best Practices
To the end-user, Dynamic Search Ads look exactly like a Search text ad. It consists of two headlines and two descriptions. However, when creating your Dynamic Search Ad, you will provide Google with a template containing the descriptions and Google will generate the headlines based on the user’s search query.
To set up Dynamic Search Ads, you’ll provide Google with your website URL and specify whether the Search Engine should target your existing landing pages, specified URLs on your website, or categories related to your website. Google will then show your ads to users who complete searches closely related to the title, and frequently used phrases on your website.
For the best results on Dynamic Search Ads, implement the following best practices:
- Improve your website with Search Engine Optimisation. Google needs to easily understand what your pages are about if you want your ads to appear for the relevant searches,
- Write great descriptions for your ads,
- Ensure that your website is mobile friendly, and
- Review your Search Terms Reports regularly – this report will show you what users searched before they clicked on your ads.
3. Call-only Ads and Best Practices
As the name suggests, these ads are designed to encourage customers to call your business. This is an essential ad for businesses that offer emergency or urgent services (plumbers, electricians, cabs, etc.).
When you create your ads, you'll be asked to enter the following information:
- Two headlines (optional, but recommended)
- Your business name,
- Your phone number,
- Two lines of description text,
- A display path (optional),
- A final URL (optional, but recommended. If provided, will show a user-facing link to the webpage)
- A verification URL, which is the URL of a webpage that includes your business phone number.
- Write compelling ad copy that showcases your company’s values
- Schedule your ads to show when someone is available to answer the calls
- Use insights from call reporting to make informed decisions about staff scheduling
Google Display Campaigns and Ad Formats
Unlike Google Search ads that appear on Google’s search results pages, Display Ads appear across more than two million websites, apps and videos that are part of the Google Display Network. Instead of targeting users by bidding on keywords, you can bid on audiences in your Display campaign to reach your ideal audience.
Targeting Options Available in Display Campaigns
Google’s Display targeting features have become more refined in the last two years, expanding on the types of audiences you can target and refining segments within these audiences. With these refinements, you can now target the following audiences:
- Affinity Audiences: People who’ve shown an active interest in a particular topic; for example: outdoor enthusiasts, cricket enthusiasts, fashionistas, dog lovers (and more).
- In-Market Audiences: People who are actively shopping for certain products and services. For example: motor vehicles (new, used, by type or by brand), home and garden services, business services and more.
- Life-Events: Reach users when they are in the midst of important life milestones. For example: Moving, becoming a parent, opening a business, university graduation, or retirement.
- Detailed Demographics: Target audiences based on parental status, marital status, education and homeownership status.
- Remarketing and Similar Audiences: Remarket to your past website visitors by showing them ads for related products or services if they did not complete a transaction on your site. With similar audiences, Google will score an audience based on your remarketing list and show your ads to users who show the same online behaviour as your ideal audience.
Types of Google Display Ad Format Types:
- Text ads – though not as enticing as their visual counterparts, text ads are the cheapest type of ad on the Display Network. They appear within content displaying a headline, a description, your website URL, and the call-to-action.
- Rich media ads – Using HTML5, these ads can use a combination of images, videos and audio that encourages the viewer to interact or engage with the ad.
- Image Ads – These ads can either be static images or use HTML 5 or GIF formats to create animated marketing messages that appear on a site.
- Responsive Ads – These ads automatically adjust their size, appearance and format to fit in the available ad spaces. You can provide various assets including images (or videos), headlines, descriptions, and a final landing page. Google will combine these assets to create the most effective ad for the ad space and your audience.
- Gmail ads - These are interactive ads that show in the Promotions and Social tabs of your inbox. Some of these ads are expandable. When you click one of these ads, it may expand just like an email. The expanded ad can include images, video, or embedded forms. Gmail ads help you connect with potential customers in a more personal format.
The 5 Best Performing Banner Ad Sizes for Image and Rich Media Ads
- 300×250 – Medium rectangle
- 336×280 – Large rectangle
- 728×90 – Leader-board
- 320×50 – Mobile leader-board
- 300×600 – Half page or large skyscraper
Best Practices for Creating Effective Display Ads
- Use text, images, and colour schemes to effectively communicate your brand value,
- Experiment with different ad types and messaging,
- Use clear and compelling headlines, text and calls to action,
- Include prices, promotions, and exclusives where relevant,
- Ensure that you send traffic to the relevant landing page, and
- Create 3 to 4 ads per ad group.
YouTube Campaigns and Ad Formats
Using similar targeting methods to Display Campaigns, YouTube presents the opportunity to build brand awareness and tell a business’ story. One of the key benefits of YouTube advertising, compared to TV advertising, is that you can reach your intended audiences through Google’s various audience targeting methods.
For smaller businesses, it is also a more affordable option compared to TV advertising. The advertiser only pays if the user watches your whole ad, or the first 30 seconds if the ad is longer than 30 seconds.
All you need to start is a marketable video that is hosted on YouTube and a Google Ads account.
The YouTube Ad Formats Available in South Africa
- Skippable in-stream ads
- Non-skippable in-stream ads
- Video discovery ads
- YouTube Masthead ads
- Bumper ads
- Outstream ads
1. Skippable in-stream ads
Your video ad plays before, during or after a posted video. After five seconds of viewing, the user can elect to skip the rest of the advertisement or continue watching.
You can use skippable in-stream ads for any of the following campaign goals:
- Increase brand awareness and reach
- Generate sales through remarketing campaigns
- Generate leads by creating interest with prospective audiences
2. Non-skippable in-stream ads
These ads appear the same as skippable in-stream ads, but the user does not have the option to skip. Non-skippable ads must be 15 seconds or shorter.
This ad format appears on YouTube videos and across websites and apps running on Google video partners. Non-skippable in-stream ads should be used when your primary campaign goal is to drive brand awareness and reach.
3. Video discovery ads
Video discovery ads appear with a thumbnail image from your video, with some text, alongside related videos when a user searches for a video. These ads only appear on YouTube search results, alongside related YouTube videos and on the YouTube mobile homepage.
Unlike the other video ad formats, you’ll only be charged if the user chooses to watch your ad by clicking on the thumbnail.
You can use this a format if you want to raise brand awareness or increase your channel engagement and subscriptions.
4. Bumper ads
Bumper ads are 6 seconds (or shorter) and play before, during, or after another video. Viewers don't have the option to skip the ad, making them ideal for brand awareness campaigns.
To ensure the best results, make your message memorable enough to influence the viewer’s consideration of your brand, service, or product.
5. Out-stream ads
These are mobile-only (cell phones and tablet devices) video ads that play on partner websites through AdSense and plays within apps. These ads start by playing with the sound off, and the user can choose to unmute the video. Outstream ads have been designed by Google to increase your video reach at an efficient cost.
6. YouTube Masthead Ads
Appearing at the top of users’ YouTube homepages, masthead ads attract a lot of eyes. The video starts playing automatically (without sound) as soon as someone loads the YouTube.com page.
You can use this format if you want to drive awareness for a new product or reach a massive audience in a short period of time. These ads are similar to TV advertising in the sense that you do not target a specific audience, but rather a specific page on YouTube which will be seen by all the users who land on that page (for example, the YouTube homepage).
Because Masthead ads are only available on a reservation basis, you’re charged on a fixed cost-per-day (CPD) or cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM) basis. You can work with the Google advertising team to get a rate estimate and campaign impression goals.
Best Practices for Creating Effective YouTube Ads
- Keep your video relatively short; between 15 and 60 seconds if it isn’t a non-skippable or a bumper ad,
- Make sure you hook the audience within the first five seconds,
- Insert your brand name or logo early in the video,
- Tell a story, don’t just sell, and
- Add a call to action at the end of your video to help guide the user on what to do next.
Shopping campaigns are ideally suited for retailers (and small businesses) to promote and sell their online products. These ads appear alongside search ads and Google’s Organic results with a picture of the product, its price, a description, and the name of the retailer selling it.
Benefits of Shopping Ads
You’ll get better quality traffic (and leads) because users can see the products before they click on your ad.
- Instead of using keywords, Shopping ads use the attributes you defined in your Merchant Centre data feed, making your campaign management easier,
- If relevant, more than one of your Shopping Ads can appear for a given search, and
- You’ll have insightful data about your inventory’s performance, enabling you to adjust your bids, budgets, and catalogues to increase ROI.
Types of shopping Ads
There are two types of Shopping Ads available in South Africa now:
- Product shopping ads, and
- Showcase shopping ads.
5. Product Shopping Ads
Product Shopping ads allow you to include an image, title, price, and your store or business name inside your ads, without the need for you to create unique ads for each product you sell.
To set up a Shopping Campaign, you will need to create a Google Merchant account and a Google Ads account and link these together.
In your Google Merchant account, you will need to create a product feed with up-to-date information about your products.
Information that needs to be included in your Merchant Feed:
- ID – the ID you use to uniquely identify your product,
- Title – the name of your product; this will be the text that is shown when your ad is served,
- Description – this text describes your product and will be shown when your ad is clicked,
- Product category – choose from Google's predefined categories,
- Product type – defined by you,
- Link to item's page on your website,
- Availability status (in stock or not),
- Price, and
- Sale price (if applicable)
For your ads to appear, Google has set out strict requirements to ensure the best results for users. These requirements can be viewed on Google Support.
7. Showcase Shopping Ads
A Showcase Shopping ad appears on Google when someone searches using a more general term, such as “backpacks”. Then, Showcase Shopping ads show relevant products together with lifestyle images that you choose to represent your brand or business.
When someone clicks a Showcase Shopping ad, it expands revealing your products that are most relevant to the search terms they’ve used, which you connect to the ad using product groups. You can advertise a few dozen products or a whole category of your inventory with your Showcase Shopping ad.
Shopping Ads Best Practices
- Create relational ad/product group divisions in a tiered, broad-to-narrow structure,
- Regularly review your search terms report to cut out unwanted clicks,
- Monitor your products’ performance regularly and subdivide your groups into top performing products,
- Segment campaigns to use different bidding strategies to achieve your marketing goals, and
- Make use of audience lists to layer your campaign’s bids for the various target audiences.
A Final Word for South Africans Google Ads Formats
Google is a powerful platform any business can use to drive their desired marketing goals. Selecting the right type of campaign andusing the right ad type can result in an impressive return on investment.
However, it is important to keep in mind that Google’s Advertising products are complex and can cause immeasurable losses if not managed appropriately.