Google Engagement Ads – Should Small Businesses Use Them?

Ben Cohen
Last Updated: November 18, 2021 | Paid Search Marketing
HomeBlogGoogle Engagement Ads – Should Small Businesses Use Them?

What Are Google Engagement Ads?

Earlier this year Google released an exciting new feature that they call engagement ads. These engagement ads run on the Google Display Network (GDN) and use the same flexible targeting options as normal display campaigns. Google has also announced additional self-service ad formats, including Cross Device ads, a YouTube Masthead Lightbox to aid in consistent branding across ad formats, and a Shopping Catalog Lightbox, which allows users to display multiple products from a merchant center account.

These campaigns are only available on a cost-per-engagement basis, which allows advertisers to bid and pay only if a user has engaged with their ads. Google defines “engagement” as a user mousing over the ad for more than two seconds. This delay eliminates accidental interactions which could be charged on this pricing model.

When it comes to new AdWords announcements and features, the question inevitably arises: “Should I use this feature?” Considering the majority of my consulting is done with SMBs, my answer would be a resounding no.

Why Use Google Engagement Ads?

Engagement ads are a fantastic option for seasoned advertisers looking to create and promote an effective branded campaign. Because Google is now allowing self-service creation and management of engagement ads directly within the AdWords interface, it is easier than ever for advertisers to take advantage of this ad format – which they claim is 10x more likely to produce user engagement.

Engagement campaigns use the normal GDN targeting options as well as In-market buyers and Remarketing, making branding and cross-selling to specific custom defined audiences very easy.

Because these ads are shown on the display network you can expect relatively low bids. Don’t overlook the fact that with engagement ads you are paying per engagement (CPE). You should spend some time identifying what their value is to you and make sure you are targeting the right audience and identify what value the engagement adds to ensure you are getting a positive return.

Engagement Ads: Campaign and Ad Group Set Up

As I mentioned, the set-up is easier than ever. Here is how to get started:

  1. Create a new campaign
  2. Select Display Network Only and choose the engagement features


Google Engagement Ads
  1. Adjust your targeting settings including Location and Language.
  2. Choose your budget and bids. This campaign format only allows for a Cost Per Engagement (CPE) model of bidding.
  3. Now that you have the essentials you can select any additional settings you would like to apply to this campaign.
  4. Select save and continue.
  5. Now we need to create an Ad Group. Choose a name and a default bid.
  6. Next select how you would like to target your ads.
  7. Select save and continue and you are done.

Engagement Ad Creation

The engagement ad builder has a user-friendly interface which makes it easy to identify what elements are needed to create an ad. However, I feel this is the area where most advertisers can stumble. You have limited options with the call to action button and no options for placement. You cannot overlay text on either the starting or ending images you choose, which makes the ad format extremely unfriendly to small advertisers who do not have graphic design resources available.

Here are a few elements that I believe are necessary for a successful campaign.

  • A logo
  • A landing page
  • Two high-quality images
    • One as a starting image. This image should be branded and include a call to action or another element that entices users to mouse over the ad and start the engagement.
    • Ending Image. This image should include a strong call to action.
  • Need Video or Google Shopping Catalog depending on the ad format.
  • A banner with call to action text (optional).

Available Engagement Ad Sizes

Hover-to-play sizes



Lightbox sizes







My Recommendation For Small Businesses

Overall I am excited by this feature and the announcement of the additional ad formats because I feel it can be a great way to increase brand engagement that allows for more strategic touch points. On the other hand, I feel this Google product is still far from perfect and that it is not a great fit for the majority of advertisers on AdWords. Yes, the UI is okay for seasoned pros to navigate, however it still leaves me rather frustrated, especially when it comes to the ad builder because it is still far from functional for a business without graphic design resources readily available.

Furthermore this feature only works on a CPE pricing model, which will make it difficult for small brands to value. Before starting to implement this campaign type be sure to evaluate previous branding campaigns both on AdWords and off to determine how much different interactions are worth to you. Also ensure you have created a strong landing page that leads your visitors to a page that provides further value and a simple conversion.

My recommendation to SMBs: Leave this feature out of your marketing budget for 2014.

Meet The Author

Ben Cohen

Ben Cohen is a Senior Manager of Professional Services at WordStream.

See other posts by Ben Cohen

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