Target or retarget potential customers on Gmail ads. Analyze the cost per conversion and retarget on the desktop for more sales.

More than a billion people use Gmail every month. If you can build a profitable campaign, you will be able to tap into a really wide audience.

What is the process?

Configure your campaign for Gmail with Google Ads: bidding strategy, keywords, audiences, etc.
Analyze your cost per conversion on Google Ads and optimize your campaign.
Retarget the campaign's mobile visitors on desktop (and other ad networks) where they might be in a better position to buy.

Why should you care?

More than a billion people use Gmail every month (most of them on their phone). If you can make it work, you will be able to tap into a vast audience to increase your sales.

Gmail ads do not convert as much as direct AdWords, but it is usually cheaper.

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How to execute this experiment?


If you are not familiar with creating an ad for Gmail, you will find all the basics in this article.


Here is the entire flow that a user goes through. He first looks at a preview of your ad as if it was a regular email. When clicking, it expands (this is when you get charged) and reveals the entire content. He is redirected to your page when he interacts with the call-to-action.


If you wish to retarget people who clicked on other ad networks or when they will be on a different device, you might want to use PixelMe. Just create a tracking link and use it in your ad. This way, you will be able to reach them again on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google, and Quora. You can use a custom domain name if you don’t like having in your shortened URL.


When we do not know much about what we are doing, we usually choose Manual CPC as the bidding strategy. This is because we do not want to allow Google to spend money by itself (i.e., we have more control over the account spending). We recommend you select a CPA bid option when you get at least 20-30 conversions in a month.


Start with a low budget and increase its limit according to your campaign conversions.


We like to break our ad groups up into one single keyword, but you can add multiple ones. Just keep in mind that using many can significantly increase your audience size. Using only one keyword helped us maximize the impact of our campaigns.


Here is how to proceed to target an audience that is close to your ideal customer. Select a few demographic criteria (parental status, gender, the household income, etc.) and play with in-market interests (i.e., Google’s algorithms identify people who are ready to make a specific purchase).


We recommend disabling automated targeting by selecting no automated targeting. This way, Google will not try to target people who do not belong to our defined audience but are considered to have similar behavior. It is usually a best practice to turn this off until you identify your audience. To find more customers like your current audience, learn how to create a similar audience instead.


Enter a maximum CPC bid for your ad group. We usually set something below $1, but you are free to play with this setting as it depends on your conversion rate and your customer lifetime value.

How should you track the results?

Google Ads provides different ways to track conversions. In most cases, you will be interested in using the conversion tracking pixel to track sales and other essential actions on your website (signups, form submissions, etc.). The link below will give you what you need to know to set it up.

Don’t forget to set a value for your conversion. Especially if you are selling products at different prices. It will help you calculate things like your return on ad spend (ROAS).

You may also need to select how many conversions to count when multiple ones happen for the same user. By default, they set it to Every. One useful case to set it to “One” is when you are dealing with a form submission, as someone can accidentally submit multiple times.

You may also want to update the conversion window (when the user clicked on your ad and later converts) and the view-through window (when a user is served a display ad impression, but does not click, and then converts) depending on your sales cycle. Check the time-lag attribution section in your Google ads dashboard to optimize these settings.

You can choose to not include this conversion in the “Conversions” column. The main reason to do so is that you do not want Google to optimize your bids for it. It will still appear under “All Conversions” if you uncheck this box so you will not lose any data by doing so.

When your conversions are ready, check the conversion rate and the total number of conversions to assess if something is working.

Depending on your organization and your goals, you may change the attribution model to something other than the Last Click. Take a few minutes to understand all the attribution models as it is a powerful feature you may often rely on to understand which campaign is working.

“Gmail Clicks to Website / Clicks” is the main formula to assess the performance of your creatives. We learned from our experiences that this ratio is usually between 1/20 and 1/50. If you can go close to or below 1/20, you might be doing things right.

Key learnings.

It takes time to crack profitability on Gmail. One rule of thumb is that the more your ad is close to what people read in their mailbox, the more performing your campaign will be.

Expect more than 90% of your audience to see your ad on mobile and tablets (i.e., small screens). That’s one of the reasons why you should use PixelMe tracking links. You will able to retarget them on the desktop (as well as other ad networks) where they might be in a better position to purchase your stuff. Besides, the CTR is usually higher (and the CPC cheaper) on retargeting campaigns.

You get charged when people click on your ad and expand it (impressions do not count). A certain number of people will click on the ad by mistake (> 5%). The main objective is to increase the total number of people who click once on the expanded ad.

Frequency capping is automatic with Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP), and is set at no more than four impressions per week, unless the user closes your ad, saves it, or forwards it to a friend, in which case it stops showing to them.

You can’t see the quality score in Gmail ads, but it still exists. However, your CTR is a reliable indicator of how your ads score is performing. This means: the higher your CTR is, the lower the CPC will be. Make sure to optimize your subject lines. Look for an open rate that is comparable to high-quality emails (10%+).

Sometimes, emails you sent organically, and that did well also perform in a sponsored ad format. Sorting by open rate will reveal your unicorns and ideas for your subject lines.

Make sure your visual and CTA mirror the headline offer, or your CTR will be low.

Disable your ad blocker for Gmail and take a regular look at what other marketers are doing. When you click on “Save to Inbox,” the ad will move into your inbox, and you can then treat it just like any other regular email.

Do not be fooled by ad clicks (a common beginner’s mistake). It does not mean anything if your “clicks to website” and conversions are low.

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