Create and manage Smart display campaigns

Smart display campaigns automate and then optimize targeting, bidding, and ads. Harnessing the power of machine learning, a Smart display campaign can automatically find customers likely to convert, efficiently bid for them, and show them your ads responsively in almost type ad space.

When they show, Smart display campaigns combine your assets—headlines, images, and so on—to create image and text ads. They can even transform into native ads, blending seamlessly into the fonts and feel of publishers’ sites. Over time, your ads optimize based on what wins you conversions.

This article gives tells you how to create and manage Smart display campaigns. Learn more about Smart display campaigns.

Before you begin

  • Make sure that you’ve set up conversion tracking and that you meet the conversion-based eligibility requirements. To set up a Smart display campaign, you need to have gotten at least 50 conversions on the Display Network—or at least 100 conversions on the Search Network—in the last 30 days.
  • Make sure you have sufficient daily budget to account for at least 20 times your target CPA bid.
  • Gather your ad's assets like headlines, descriptions, images and logos.
Additional controls available to you: 
While targeting within Smart display campaigns is automated, AdWords offers additional controls to help you manage where your ads appear. You can create account-level placement exclusions to prevent your ad from showing on specific sites. You can also create site category and content exclusions.

Best practices if you already use remarketing:

  • If your existing remarketing tracks conversions deep in your site, such as purchases or a paid subscription, set up a second conversion such as engaging with your site or filling out a form. This helps scale your Smart display campaign by giving it additional conversion volume to optimize on.
  • If your existing remarketing is not particularly complex (for instance, it only involves one user list), consider using a Smart display campaign instead of a specific remarketing campaign, since Smart display campaigns include remarketing. You can even link your feed for dynamic remarketing.


Choose the AdWords experience you're using. Learn more

Step 1. Planning: determine how to structure your Smart campaigns

Here are guidelines for structuring your Smart campaigns:

  • Create separate Smart display campaigns when you need to have separate budgets for each
  • Create separate ad groups within Smart display campaigns when you’re targeting a different product or service to a different audience
  • Create separate Smart display ads within your ad groups to group assets that work well with each other

Step 2. Planning: determine what a conversion is worth

Bid based on the amount you're willing to pay for each conversion. So if you're focused on generating leads, set a CPA bid that reflects the value new leads bring to your business. If you're focused on generating sales, set a CPA bid that reflects the value each new order brings to your business. The rule of thumb:

  1. Determine how much a conversion is worth.
  2. Based on your value-per-conversion, determine how much you’re willing to pay to get that conversion in the first place.

If you’re selling electronics, for example, and you have an average profit margin of $200 per sale, you may choose to have a relatively high bid for each transaction (such as, say, $100).

If you're collecting leads for your spa services, and each lead, on average, results in a $5 profit, you may choose to set a CPA bid of $1.00 for each lead submitted.

The numbers above will vary based on your business—experiment with bids around the amount you want to pay and adjust them over time based on what works best for you.

Learn more About target CPA bids.

Step 3. Set up your campaign

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account.
  2. Click your Campaigns tab.
  3. Click +Campaign and select Display Network Only.
  4. Name your campaign.
  5. Under marketing objectives, pick one of the first four objectives under “Drive Action.”
  6. Scroll down and check Smart display campaign.
  7. Pick your geographic and language targeting for this campaign.
  8. Enter your daily budget and CPA bid.
  9. Click Save and Continue.

Step 4. Enter your assets

Enter several assets per category—that is, at least 3 headlines, descriptions, logos, and images. Enter one landing page. Important: your assets must be fully interchangeable within each given Smart display ad. Any headline, for example, could be paired with any description. Here are the guidelines for each type of asset:

  • Headlines: Your headlines are the first line of your ad. Headlines can be up to 25 characters. Write headlines that make sense combined with any of your descriptions, any of your images, and your landing page.
  • Description: Your descriptions add to your headline and invites people to take action. They can be up to 70 characters. Write descriptions that make sense combined with any of your headlines, any of your images, and your landing page.
  • Logos: Upload 1:1 square logos. The recommended dimensions are 1200 × 1200, but logos can be as small as 128 × 128. In addition, if applicable, upload a landscape logo with an aspect ratio of 4:1. The recommended dimensions for a landscape logo are 512 × 128. A transparent background is best, as long as the logo is centered. Upload logos that combine well with any of your headlines, descriptions, and images. The maximum file size is 1MB, and most common non-.gif formats are accepted.
  • Images: To get the greatest reach, upload multiple 1.91:1 landscape images. The recommended dimensions are 1200 x 627 and 1200 × 1200, but images can be as small as 600 × 314 and 600 × 600.  Upload images that work well with your logo and make sense combined with any of your headlines, any of your descriptions, and your landing page. The maximum file size is 1MB, and most common non-.gif formats are accepted.

If you'd like to generate a second set of asset pairings, you can create a new ad later on. The assets you provide in each ad are used interchangeably only within that ad.

Step 5. Let the system optimize for conversions

Smart display campaigns can take some time to scale and stabilize depending on how many conversions you’re getting (a higher conversion volume typically yields faster optimization). Let the system learn which assets and strategies work best. This can take about 2 weeks, if your campaign has a few conversions a day—a good rule of thumb is to wait for about 40–50 conversions unless you’re not achieving any at all. In that case, consider raising your target CPA bid until conversions start coming in.

Step 6. Check your performance report

Click View asset details in your “Ads” tab to see a report about how each of your assets are performing. Assets are ranked relative to each other as "best," "good," and "low,” based on how well they've generated conversions. A status of "waiting" means that your asset has not yet been reviewed and approved, and a status of "learning" means the system is still gathering data.

Step 7. Use your report to make small, incremental changes

After you check your asset report for a new campaign, you may choose to remove “low” assets and replace them with assets more like your “best” performing ones. After those assets generate enough performance data to be ranked, which can take up to 2 weeks, you may choose to again remove “low” performing assets.

Keep in mind that assets are ranked relative to each other. As you make small changes, don’t be surprised if assets that used to be ranked as “good” now rank as “low”—even if their absolute performance hasn’t changed.

Important: to avoid volatility and enhance optimization, don’t make big, sweeping changes to your campaign.

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