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Choosing the Right Google Ad Format for You

AdWords campaign types

Google AdWords has a learning curve so steep it’s almost vertical. This is fine for us seasoned search marketers who’ve been working with AdWords for the best part of a decade, but for newbies the sheer volume of jargon, buttons and settings is often overwhelming. Even a simple objective such as ‘I want more customers at my garage’ becomes hazy and distant through the fog of endless options. Google knows this and has introduced AdWords Express as a shortcut for onboarding newbies, which is all fine and good if you only want basic search text ads, but new advertisers are still missing out on some potentially incredible ad formats for their business.

Everyone knows what a basic Google text ad looks like. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of this classic format and all other available Google ad formats.

Text Ads

text ad


  • Your ad can be the first people see on the search results page.
  • Your ad can capture people who are already willing to buy or sign up.
  • This is the simplest ad format and the quickest to get up and running.
  • Dynamic keyword insertion lets you display the user’s search term in your ad.
  • There’s a huge choice of customisation for your text ads, including many extensions to suit all types of business.


  • Often highly competitive and expensive clicks for popular keywords.
  • Strict character limits and textual content policies.

Display Ads



  • Often very cheap compared to search ads.
  • You can use your own images for the ads or build your own ads via the Google display ad builder. You can also generate ads from the content on your site. Lightboxes also allow for attractive rollover video ads.
  • You can target your ads by locations, keywords, placements, topics, interests and demographics.
  • You can display real time content from your site within your ads.
  • An excellent choice for branding campaigns.


  • You are relying on users to convert by impulse rather than by their own choice, unlike search ads which capture users when they’re showing willing to convert.
  • You may have difficulty finding the right kinds of sites to host your ads.

Video Ads



  • Similar pros to display ads.
  • Share button encourages viral spread of ad.
  • A video can do so much more than an image.
  • With TrueView YouTube ads, you only pay when someone has finished watching your video or has watched 30 seconds of it, whichever comes first.


  • Similar cons to display ads.
  • We all know how annoying video ads can be, especially on YouTube when they interrupt our desired content.

Product Listing Ads

Product Listing Ads


  • Places your products at the top of the search results page.
  • Some users respond better to an image of a product rather than a textual description.


  • You must display your product’s price. If it isn’t competitive, you aren’t going to see great results.
  • Can be time-intensive to manage a constantly changing product catalogue.
  • Difficult to set up for newbies.

More Google Campaign Types

Google’s table shows the features of each campaign type.

campaign type table

Search Network with Display Select

Google will place your text ads on both the search results page and relevant third party sites as display ads. Not recommended, as it ‘s better to have separate campaigns for Search and Display.

Call Only

A type of search ad that only allows click-to-call and only displays on mobile devices. This is great if calls are your only objective but has the potential to scare phone-shy customers off.

Mobile App Installs

Similar to call only, this type of ad only allows click-to-app-installs and only displays on mobile devices. Test this with caution as it has the potential to be annoying to some users.

Dynamic Search Ads

Generates ads automatically based on your site content. Set the custom URL parameters carefully and monitor the results as it has the potential to produce ads that aren’t exactly what you had in mind. Fantastic for huge websites with tons of content, not so good for sites with rapidly-changing content.


Target an audience that has visited your website before, specifying users that have converted or not, or even everyone that has previously visited your site. For a lead gen campaign, you can bring non-converters back to try and have them sign up again. For an ecommerce campaign, you can target one-time buyers and turn them into repeat customers.


Google offers something for every business. With a little research you might be surprised at how relevant to your business some of the less known ad formats are. This article offers a general summary of the core ad formats and campaign types, but Google’s AdWords support site offers a far richer source of information. If you have something in mind, it’s probably there; Google AdWords has been around for a long time and the minds behind it are great and many.

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Jonny Holmes

When it comes to PPC, SEO and CRO, Jonny's skill and attention to detail make for consistently great insights. His work makes a measurable contribution to the business

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