Blog

For over a decade, email marketing has been the household staple for many marketing professionals to increase brand awareness and boost their return on investment (ROI). This isn’t without merit – the ROI of email marketing is undeniable, at a whopping 3,700% on average. Similarly, email marketing conversion rates blow other tactics out of the water – consumers are twice as likely to sign up for your email list than they are to interact with your Facebook page, and email marketing has higher conversion rates than social media and search advertising combined. Not to mention, you can easily reach a mobile audience, since 88% of smartphone users check their email on their phone. (Source)

But what if we told you there was a fresh way to reach this same audience, in a way that yields similar results, and through a channel that most of your competitors aren’t utilizing? Enter Gmail ads. While Gmail ads have been around since 2013 in beta form, Google has since rolled them out to all AdWords accounts (in 2015) and has made several updates and enhancements to bring you the powerful Gmail ads product available to you today.

So what exactly are Gmail ads, and why should you want to use them to market your business? Let’s start with the basics.

What are Gmail Ads?

Gmail ads are promoted ads that mimic email marketing campaigns. The ads are delivered to the top of the Social and Promotions inboxes of a standard Gmail account. With over one billion active monthly users on Gmail, and considering most of these users check their emails multiple times a day, you have the ability to target a huge and robust consumer pool right at your fingertips. And considering email marketing has such a high ROI, Gmail ads could be the missing ingredient to your marketing spend.

Gmail ads appearing at the top of an individual's Gmail inbox

What do Gmail Ads Look Like?

In the most basic sense, Gmail ads are a form of expandable ads. The collapsed ad version displays just as a regular email would, with a subject line and a brief description. The only difference in appearance between a collapsed Gmail ad and a regular email is the “Ad” text indicator next to the Gmail ads (just like you see with your paid search ads). Once clicked, the Gmail ad expands to show the full ad, which looks similar to an email blast, with images, text, advertiser info, a call-to-action, and buttons allowing consumers to save the ad or forward it on to a friend. The appearance of Gmail ads is completely customizable, and our skilled creative team can help you come up with a look and feel that seamlessly matches your other marketing efforts and adheres to your brand guidelines.

an example of a Gmail ad that has been expended with a click

How are Gmail Ads Delivered?

Gmail ads allow advertisers to both find new customers and to retarget customers with whom they have already engaged.

The Gmail ads retargeting feature utilizes all the usual AdWords retargeting methods based on users who have already visited the site, but advertisers can also upload their current email list(s) and retarget their current customers. This allows advertisers to target their customers without running the risk of increasing their database unsubscribe rate.

There are four main methods for Gmail ads to help advertisers find new customers:

Keyword Targeting

These keywords work just like targeted display keywords (broad match only) and are targeted based on the contents of the user’s Gmail account. Essentially, advertisers can specify the keyword list in their campaign, and Google will search a user’s previous emails to find keyword matches in their Social and Promotions inboxes. At that point, a user becomes part of the targeting pool, and thereby a candidate for your ad. A great use of keyword targeting is including competing brands in your keyword list. This allows you not only to target those who are receiving/sending emails to your competitors, but it also targets those who may be talking about those competing brands with others. Another way to think of it is having the ability to target the product or service consumers, as well as the influencers, all in one fell swoop. This, combined with a variety of other smartly generated keywords, is a sure win.

Topic Targeting

If you’d like to narrow your audience, but want a quicker match than keyword targeting, then topic targeting may be a valuable strategy addition to your Gmail ads campaign. These topics (based on user search history or Gmail inbox contents) are broad industry topics that can be used to filter your Gmail ads to more defined audiences. Think topics such as Auto & Vehicles, Finance, Food & Drink, Health, Real Estate, Shopping, Sports, etc. Each of these broad topics contain many subtopics as well to help you further narrow your audience. For example, Shopping is an extremely broad topic for those in retail to target. However, this topic can be narrowed down to a retailer’s specific industry based on product, such as swimwear, outerwear, eyewear, flowers, luxury goods, etc.

In-Market Audience Targeting

Similar to topic targeting, in-market audience targeting allows advertisers to reach shoppers who are actively researching and comparing products and services similar to theirs. Google uses a variety of data to qualify a consumer with this tactic, including the content of pages visited, the frequency with which a consumer visits those pages, clicks on related ads, subsequent conversions on those ads, etc. Because consumers are actively doing research and comparing goods and services, this is often a successful tactic for consumers who may be closer to making a purchase.

Affinity Audience Targeting

This strategy allows advertisers to reach consumers in large numbers based on their long-term interests. Again, like the previous tactics, affinity audience targeting allows you to start with a broader audience based on interests, and narrow it down using several different layers of criteria and qualifiers.

Regardless of tactic, Gmail ads allow even further segmentation based on gender, device, language, geography, and age. This segmentation allows us to really refine your campaigns and zero in on demographics that are bringing conversions. Not only that, but it gives advertisers the ability to be limber and flexible in an ever-changing environment, allowing for quick optimizations that shift your strategy to one that garners even more success.

How are Gmail Ads Priced?

Because Gmail ads are technically part of Google AdWords, the pricing model works the same. Advertisers are only charged when a user clicks and opens a Gmail ad – not when the ad is delivered (known as an impression). Gmail ads can be built with custom creative, allowing advertisers the ability to closely align their Gmail ads campaign with existing email marketing efforts. As stated previously, ROI tends to be higher for email marketing campaigns than any other type of marketing tactic, and finding any other way to tap into that pool, while maybe not effective for everyone, is a strategy that should be tested.

How Can I Measure the Success of my Gmail Ads Campaign?

Gmail ads reporting allows you to break out your data into useful, well-organized columns. The primary columns that should matter to advertisers are saves (when a consumer saves your ad to their inbox, just as they would an email), forwards (the number of times your ad is forwarded to someone else by the originally targeted consumers), and clicks to website. This is the most important method to track, as this is the number that allows you to track your true cost per click (CPC). Of course, our paid search team is here to take the guesswork out of reporting – not only will we provide you with additional data beyond the standard metrics mentioned here, we’ll also help you read and interpret all of this data to measure success and determine what optimizations to make, if any.

Why Should I use Gmail Ads?

While there are many advantages to adding Gmail ads to your marketing mix, we’ll highlight some of the main reasons you should be wielding this valuable tool.

They’re ideal for generating cost-effective conversions.

Gmail ads, because they are known as a “push” tactic, are great for heightening general brand awareness. However, they can yield a high conversion rate by sending more qualified consumers to your site. Consumers have to perform multiple clicks within the ad to ultimately land on your site, so if they’ve gone through that process to hit your landing page, they’re much more likely to convert.

Their creative format is customizable.

You have a number of different options to choose from when crafting the look of your Gmail ads. You can choose from a single promotion template, a multi-product template, a catalog template, and, with our help, you can even create your own template. This allows for high levels of customization. Plus, you can format your Gmail ads to closely mimic your current email marketing efforts, making it a seamless transition from one ad format to the other.

a screenshot of creative template options for Gmail ads

Their cost per click (CPC) is relatively low.

In the world of digital marketing, Gmail ads are still a very new marketing tactic. This translates to relatively low competition overall, which can ultimately lead to a lower CPC, as well as a lower cost per acquisition (CPA) on your website. Also, Gmail ads are similar enough to email marketing that they often achieve a similar ROI.

The proof is in the pudding – one of the nation’s largest multimedia financial services company was able to lower its cost per lead with Gmail ads by 21%, while driving 352% more impressions overall. That boost in customer reach garnered a 170% increase in sales. If you need more convincing, here’s another one for you. A large online retailer of smartphone accessories implemented demographic segments and customer matching into their Gmail ads campaign to re-engage with high-value consumers, doubling their conversion rates and driving a 95% increase in ROI. Those are some pretty convincing numbers.

They have robust targeting options.

As explained above, there are many different ways to leverage the targeting tactics of Gmail ads. With a smart strategy driving this innovative tool, Gmail ads can be a huge asset to your marketing mix. If this sounds like something you want to take advantage of (and it should be!), contact our team of digital marketing experts. We’ll craft a great strategy that promotes brand awareness and garners conversions.