Types of Google Ads – Search, Shopping, Display & Video

Google Ads have been around for 20 years, and it has developed into a complex suite of ad types. These include:

  • Search. Text ads which appear alongside the Google search results
  • Display. Text, image or rich media ads which appear on Google search network.
  • Video. Video ads that appear on YouTube and other video partners
  • Shopping. Carousel ads which display products alongside the Google search results


Search ads can appear at the top and bottom of results pages on desktop and mobile. A maximum of four text ads appear at the top of mobile and desktop search results.

Creating a search campaign has the following stages:

  • Campaign structure. As discussed above, Google campaigns are organised into campaigns and ad groups.
  • Generate keywords. Specify the keywords for which you wish your ads to appear.
  • Create adverts. Create compelling adverts which encourage viewers to click through to your landing page.


Keywords are the fundamental building block of every Google Search Ads campaign. Keywords trigger adverts that viewers click and are taken to your website. Finding relevant keywords is a core activity in creating and optimising a Paid Search campaign.

It does not cost to add keywords to a Google Ads campaign and having many ‘long tail’ keywords can generate quality traffic whilst keeping the cost per click low.

The creation of keywords is a process of generating keywords, selecting the most relevant and organising them into groups used to create ad groups. Once the ads are created, constantly refine keyword choice based on performance.


The first step is to generate as many keywords as possible, recording your findings in a spreadsheet. Cast your net far and wide in your brainstorming efforts. To help in this effort, you can draw on the following resources:

  • Knowledge of the marketplace. Think of the different searches which people could use if they were looking for your products. Include product names, industry terms and commonly used alternatives. For example, adhesive tape can also be called sellotape, sticky tape, duct tape or scotch tape.
  • Analytics data. Look at the searches which are driving people to your website from the natural search results.
  • Competitors’ websites. Look at your competitors’ website to see the keywords which they are using on their sites.
  • Keyword generation tools. Keyword generation tools such as the Google Keyword Planner can generate keywords based on your website’s text or extrapolate based on keywords that you have entered.


These keywords will be used to create campaigns and ad groups. Group your keywords into topics or product groups. Keep each group small, aiming for around 15-20 words.

For example, you might wish to organise your ad groups according to your products, e.g., Canon digital camera, Casio digital cameras.

Match Types

By using keyword matching types, adverts will be seen only by the desired audience, reducing the number of unwanted clicks, increasing conversions and decreasing costs. For example, if you are selling new items, you may want to stop your adverts from appearing for searches, including the words ‘second hand’ or ‘used’.

There are four match types:

Broad Match

Broad Match is the most inclusive matching type and is the default option for all new keywords. A Broad matched keyword will trigger ads even if there are other keywords in the query. The order is not important.

For example, for the broad match keyword ‘Canon camera’

Canon digital camera                                      }

digital Canon camera                                      }  Ad will appear

pink Canon digital camera                            }

Canon printer                                                    }

Canon toner                                                       }  Ad will not appear

Phrase Match

A phrase matched keyword will trigger an ad only when the query includes your keywords in the exact order specified.

For example, for the phrase-matched keyword ‘used car’:

used car dealer                                 }

buy used car                                       }  Ad will appear

vintage used car                                }

used sports car                                  }  Ad will not appear

used sports car dealer                    }

Exact Match

Exact Match only triggers an ad when the query contains the keyword exactly as typed in the keyword list.

For the exact match keyword ‘ used cars’

Used cars                             }  Ad will appear

Used car dealer                 } Ad will not appear

used car                               }

Negative Match

Negative matching prevents ads from appearing when a search includes a word that is not relevant to your ad. Negative matching enables advertisers to stop adverts appearing for irrelevant searches, saving costs and increasing conversions.

For the negative keyword ‘used’:

BMW dealer Chelmsford                              } Ads would appear

Find BMW dealer                                             }

Used BMW Dealer                                           } Ad would not appear

Use of Matching Types

Advertisers should make use of all matching types in their Google Ads campaigns. One strategy is to use each keyword in broad, phrase match and exact match types. Google will then choose the most appropriate type for each query.

The use of negative keywords is a must for all Google Ads customers. To generate negative keywords, use data about the actual searches that drove traffic to your site and analyse them for unsuitable queries. This data can be obtained directly from Google Ads (the search query report) or your web analytics package.

Writing Ads

Google Search Ads consist of two headlines, a description, display URL paths, destination URL and ad extensions. Google suggests adding three or more ads to every ad group and at least two ad versions in each ad group. When more than one ad is specified, ads will be tested against each other, allowing you to tweak the ads to improve performance.


Each headline can be a maximum of 30 characters including spaces. Two headline must be specified and they appear on one line at the top of the ad, separated by a pipe or dash. The headline is the most prominent part of the ad and should catch the searcher’s attention. The headline should reflect the search intent and set itself apart from other ads by stating an benefit, feature or offer.


The description can have a maximum length of 80 characters including spaces. You can experiment with the length and content but it should always reflect the search intent.

Display Path

The display URL is automatically set to the domain from the final/destination URL. You can then set two paths of 15 characters each that show after the URL. For example, an ad displayed for the search term ‘mens jackets’ might use one path of /jackets or two paths of /mens/jackets.


This is the website landing page users will be directed to after clicking your ad. Be sure it is relevant to the search query and provides a good user experience.

Ad Extensions

Ad extensions add more information to your ad. There are many kinds of ad extensions, and Google is regularly introducing new types. Ad extensions are served dynamically based on device and location contexts, in combinations predicted to improve click-through rates.

In 2013, Google included ad extensions in its Ad Rank calculation, meaning that the extensions used will influence the price you pay per click and your ads’ position in the search results. Highly relevant extensions can result in lower CPCs and a higher placing on the page. For this reason, advertisers are encouraged to add every applicable ad extension in their campaigns. Google will generate some extensions such as Sitelinks automatically.

Example of an advert with a sitelinks extension

Some examples of extensions:

  • Sitelink extensions. These are clickable extensions that link to site pages. The number of sitelinks that can show with ad is two to six on desktops and up to eight on mobile devices in a swipeable carousel.
  • Callout extensions. Callouts highlight offers and benefits to users. Examples callouts include Free Shipping, Free Returns or Shop Our New Arrivals.
  • Price extensions. These highlight service and product category offerings. Each price extension includes a customisable header and description of up to 25 characters. Google suggests setting up at least five price extension items. You can set these up in bulk with a spreadsheet template.
  • Promotion extension. Promotion extensions are clickable, appear with a price tag icon, and include up to two text lines about the promotion. For example, at the bottom of the ad below is a promotion extension for ‘30% Off Regular Priced Tops’.

Dynamic Search Ads (DSAs)

Creating and optimising multiple search ads is a lot of work. However, Google has introduced a product that will automatically create ads that show based on your site’s content.

To set up a DSA campaign, the advertiser specifies a list of targets (e.g., landing pages or a product feed). Google crawls your site and then matches it to search terms closely related to your site’s content. The adverts headline is also dynamically generated to match the search term. This allows for consistency between the search term, the search ad and the landing page.

DSA Bidding

Just like search ads campaigns, DSA campaigns charge on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis. However, unlike regular search campaigns, you do not apply bids to individual keywords since DSA does not use keywords. Instead, you will need to specify bids at the landing page level (referred to as targets).

Pros and Cons of DSAs

DSA campaigns are hard to distinguish from regular text ads. They have the following advantages:

  • Increase keyword coverage. DSAs allow advertisers to close gaps in keyword coverage and product inventory quickly. Google can crawl your website or a feed that lists products.
  • Easy ad creation. Writing ads is easy as the headlines are dynamically generated based on the page matched to the query. While you still need to write a description, the dynamic headline is most important as that will grab users’ attention and drive more clicks to your site.
  • Easy to set up. DSAs are easy to set up as no keywords are needed.

On the other side, as these ads dynamically created, you surrender a lot of control. Consequently, watch new DSA campaigns to ensure they are performing.


The Display Network uses Google’s vast number of website partners to display your ad on different websites all over the Internet. Depending on the ad type, Ads are charged based on a cost per click, cost per action or cost per 1000 impressions (referred to as CPM).

Types of Display Ads

Ads on the display network are available in several different formats:

  • Text ads. These are the Google search ads which advertisers select to have published on the display network.
  • Image ads. These ads allow you to use images on the display network to get people to click through to your website.
  • Rich media ads. Rich media ads are like image ads but have interactive elements and that make them more compelling.
  • Video ads. Like rich media ads but features an embedded video.

Display Ad Targeting

On the search network, advertisers bid on keywords to determine where ads display. The display network works in a different way, with advertisers choosing placement and targeting type:

  • Contextual targeting. By selecting keywords, contextual targeting aims to get adverts onto websites relevant to the advertiser.
  • Placement targeting. Placement targeting allows advertisers to choose the sites where they wish their ads to appear.
  • Remarketing. Remarketing is where you advertise your business to people who have already visited your website.
  • Topic targeting. Choose the websites advertised upon by specifying interest areas and topics.
  • Demographic, Location and Language targeting. Target users on their age, gender, location and language.


Video ads are shown before or after (and sometimes in the middle of) YouTube videos or video partners on the Google display network.

For Video Ads, targeting is by audience.

  • Demographic groups. Choose the age, gender, parental status or household income of the audience that to be reached.
  • Detailed demographics. Target users based on shared characteristics such as students, homeowners or new parents.
  • Interests. Select audience categories to target users interested in specific topics.

Shopping ads

Shopping campaigns are product specific adverts that include detailed product information such as product imagery and price. For retailers, shopping ads account for more than 60% of paid clicks (Source: Search Engine Land).

Shopping ads show in the main search results and under the Shopping tab. Whereas previously all shopping results were paid for, in 2020, Google updated their shopping programme to make it more like the standard search results with free and paid results.

When creating Shopping ads, the advertiser does not specify a list of keywords. Instead, the advertiser submits a product ‘feed’ (a file specifying product details) through Google Merchant Center. Google then displays these products against relevant searches.

Another difference between shopping and search ads is that Shopping Ads do not use ad groups but instead organise product into ‘Product Groups’ subdivided to improve targeting.

The quality of the product feed is vital for shopping ads for the following reasons:

  • Conversion rate. The images and title appear in the search results and influence the click-through rate.
  • Search exposure. Google automatically matches the content of the product feed against search queries. Thin content will result in less exposure.



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