Google AdWords

Which AdWords Campaign Type is Right for You?

So, you’ve decided you want to try some online advertising with AdWords? Great! But before diving in, you need to figure out which AdWords campaign type is right for you.

If you want to avoid disappointing results and wasted ad spend, it’s important to choose the right type of advertising to suit your goals- whether that’s generating conversions, increasing brand awareness, or selling a range of products.

Below I’ll explain the main AdWords campaign types and when you should use them:


  • Search Network Campaigns
  • Display Network Campaigns
  • Video Campaigns
  • Shopping Campaigns

Ready? Let’s get started.


AdWords Search Network Campaigns

Usually referred to as just paid search or AdWords search, Search Network campaigns are just that: ads shown on the Google Search Network. This includes Google search sites (Google Search, Google Shopping, Google Maps etc.) and, optionally, Google search partners (third party sites which partner with Google).

Google AdWords Search Ad

The ads themselves are text ads, which consist of a couple of main headlines, a description, and a display URL. However, regular text ads can also be enhanced by a range of ad extensions, which typically offer more information (e.g. product highlights) or another way for someone to interact with your ad (e.g. call your business).

Ads on the Google Search Network are targeted using keywords, to reach people as they search for specified words or phrases on the network. The degree of specificity is determined by keyword matching options, e.g. whether the keyword “paid search” would result in an ad showing when someone searches for “paid search” (exact matching), “paid search help” (phrase matching), or “ppc” (broad matching). Negative keywords can also be used to exclude low-value or irrelevant searches.

With AdWords paid search, advertisers only pay when someone clicks on an ad, known as pay-per-click (PPC) or cost-per-click (CPC) bidding. Advertisers can set maximum bids to determine how high up their ads show in the search results, in combination with the other factors of ad rank, such as ad quality. Alternatively, a range of automated bidding strategies are also available. The amount you’ll need to pay (to be competitive) varies considerably depending on the industry and the types of terms you’re bidding on, but this usually falls within the £1 – 4 per click range.


Is the AdWords Search Network right for you?

Importantly, paid search often offers some of the best conversion rates of any paid channel, and allows you to reach people as they are actively searching for your specific product or service. This is a great way to capture relevant traffic beyond your organic search rankings and challenge your competitors in the AdWords arena. Even bidding on your own branded terms (or your competitors’) can be beneficial.

It’s important to note that while paid search campaigns can be relatively easy to set up, they often require a lot of testing and optimisation before they perform well. Furthermore, for some types of businesses, paid search might not be economically viable and/or it might be better to invest that spend elsewhere.

If you’re still not sure, read my other article about if paid search is worth it for your business. However, given the potential of paid search, it’s often worth trying anyway.


AdWords Display Network Campaigns

Display Network campaigns are used to show ads on the Google Display Network, which consists of over 2 million websites reaching over 90% of internet users, in addition to a wide range of mobile apps.

AdWords Display Ads

As you probably guessed from the name, Display Network ads are a lot more visual, and consist of dynamic/responsive image and text ads. (Video ads can also be shown on the Display Network, but we’ll cover that later). You can either create your own image ads in different sizes from scratch, or use Google’s responsive ads builder to create ads which automatically resize to fit ad spaces across the Display Network.

There are two main methods of ad targeting on the Display Network: to relevant audiences (on a variety of placements) or to relevant placements (where relevant audiences are likely to be browsing). These main methods of showing ads are divided into a range of specific targeting types. For audiences, this includes affinity audiences, in-market audiences, audience keywords, and remarketing. For placements, this includes manual placements, topics, and content keywords. These targeting options can be used individually or in combination to target more specific audiences.

On the Display Network, you can choose to pay either every time someone clicks your ad (CPC) or after 1000 impressions (CPM). Selected automated bidding strategies are also available. Along with a less distinct hierarchy of ad positions compared to the Search Network, the Display Network auction works a bit differently- but ultimately you’re still paying to show your ad in the best possible spot on a given placement, based on your ad rank. Typically, you can bid significantly less (under £1 per click) than on the Search Network and still be competitive.


Is the AdWords Display Network right for you?

Display Network campaigns are a good way to generate brand awareness and interest in your offering, and can act as an alternative if the Search Network isn’t suitable. However, as you’ll be reaching people while they’re browsing (not searching) the web or using apps, you should expect much lower click-through and conversion rates compared to other channels. Often, this spend might be better used elsewhere.

Furthermore, Display Network campaigns can be some of the most challenging to set up effectively, with a range of (sometimes confusing) targeting options and other intricacies to consider. Compared to using Search Network keywords, it can be much more difficult to be sure that you’re reaching the right audience and accurately assess the performance of your campaigns.

While I’ve mainly been referring to “standard” display advertising so far, it’s important to highlight one of the best features of Display Network advertising: remarketing. Remarketing allows you to show ads to people who have previously visited your website, and as such this offers a great chance to re-engage with these users and encourage them to convert.

As remarketing audiences are already familiar with your brand, you can expect much higher click-through and conversion rates compared to other Display Network targeting methods, and sometimes performance can even rival Search Network campaigns. Furthermore, by creating and refining audience lists in Google Analytics, you can segment different audiences or only show ads to the people who are most likely to convert. Remarketing lists can even be combined with other Display Network targeting methods if you want to narrow down your audience further.

Based on this, I would strongly encourage you to try remarketing on the Display Network to see if it works for your business, while “standard” display advertising is also worth a try if you’re interested in reaching new audiences earlier in the funnel.


AdWords Video Campaigns

AdWords Video campaigns, unsurprisingly, allow you to show video ads on YouTube and other placements across the Display Network.

AdWords Video Ads

The way your ads are displayed and played is determined by the video ad format you choose. These include TrueView in-stream ads (before/within/after a video), bumper ads (short in-stream ads which can’t be skipped), TrueView video discovery ads (thumbnails which play when clicked), and outstream ads (non-YouTube placements).

The targeting methods for video campaign ads are largely similar to the wider Display Network, with a range of audience and placement targeting options available. In terms of placements, you’ll mainly be advertising on YouTube- but to narrow this down, you can also choose to advertise on specific YouTube channels and videos. There’s also the option to use video remarketing to show ads to people who have viewed/interacted with your YouTube videos or channel.

Video campaigns are charged on a cost per view (CPV) basis, when someone watches or engages with your video ad (depending on the ad format). Similar to other campaign types, whether your ad shows and how much you pay is based on your ad quality and maximum bid. Alternatively, you can use the automated target cost per acquisition (target CPA) bidding strategy.


Are AdWords video campaigns right for you?

Video campaigns share many of the same pros and cons of regular Display campaigns, in that they’re good for generating awareness but are unlikely to compete with the Search Network in terms of conversion rates. In addition, creating a high quality video ad – not an easy task – is essential to prevent your campaign from falling flat.

If your product/service is particularly suited to video or you already have a great video to use, then video campaigns are worth trying. Otherwise, if you want to try display adverting, it’s probably better to start with a regular Display Network campaign.


AdWords Shopping Campaigns

AdWords Shopping campaigns, also known as Google Shopping campaigns, allow you to advertise your products across a range of Google and partner websites, including Google Search, Google Shopping, and YouTube.

AdWords Shopping Ads

Shopping campaign ads are also known as product listing ads (PLAs), and are divided into two types. Traditional product shopping ads are used to advertise a single, specific product, and consist of a photo, title, price, and business name. Showcase shopping ads allow you to display a range of closely related products within the same ad, usually when people search for more general product types (e.g. “furniture”).

The core difference between Shopping campaigns and other campaign types is the way ads are targeted and managed. Products are uploaded as a data feed via Google Merchant Center, which includes the specific attributes (description, image, size etc.) of each product. Google then uses these attributes to automatically show ads for relevant searches- no manual keyword or audience targeting required.

Payment and bidding is similar to other campaign types, using cost per click (CPC) or cost per engagement (CPE) bidding. Automated bidding is also available.


Are AdWords Shopping campaigns right for you?

As with Search Network campaigns, Shopping campaigns allow you to reach people as they’re actively searching for something, so you can expect relatively high click-through and conversion rates relative to ads targeted on the Display Network. In addition, due to their use of imagery, physical size, and prominence in the search results (often above or alongside top-position paid search ads), shopping ads can often match or exceed the performance of regular paid search.

Furthermore, as ads are managed and automatically targeted via your product feeds, Shopping campaigns are ideal if you have hundreds or thousands of products to advertise- not exactly feasible via a few paid search ads.

Despite this, it’s important to consider that creating and managing your product inventory – including regularly keeping it up to date – can at best be time-consuming and at worst be a real pain. Technical issues with product feeds aren’t particularly uncommon, and ads aren’t always guaranteed to show for the searches you want.

Ultimately, Shopping campaigns are extremely useful for advertisers with a large product inventory, and can provide great results for smaller businesses too. However, bear in mind that they might take a lot of management, so if you’re limited on resource then paid search might be a better option.



Clearly, there’s a range of AdWords campaign types to suit your needs, depending on your business and advertising goals.

Ultimately, the best way to find out which campaign types are right for you is to try them out for yourself. However, if you don’t have the budget or resource to test and optimise every type of campaign, hopefully the above guide has given you a few pointers on the best place to start.

Any questions? Feel free to get in touch.


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