Top 5 Need-to-Knows for Native Gmail Ads

By Allison Kelly in Media Strategy on February 16th, 2016

Top 5 Need-to-Knows for Native Gmail Ads, formerly GSPs (Gmail Sponsored Promotions)

Native Gmail Ads, formerly known as Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP’s), are unique direct response advertisements that show up only in personal Gmail inboxes in the promotions tab. They are comprised of a brand name, logo, a subject line and an online CTA. You can think of these as “teaser ads” before a user clicks on the actual message. Living at the top of your email inbox, they offer digital advertisers a native environment to reach prospective and current customers.

According to CNN Money, in 2014 over 500 million people were using Gmail.  Native Gmail ads offer brands the opportunity to directly connect with these users.  Google anonymously crawls through a user’s inbox, and picks up on specific keywords relevant to each user. Using those keywords as a reference, Google then tailors ads to that user based on the contents in their inbox. Thus, Native Gmail Ads are just a way to target a user based on their email account activity. These ads are ideal for direct response campaigns - advertisers are charged on a CPC basis when a user clicks into the email.

gmail native ads

We’ve gathered some best practices to implement for Native Gmail Ads. While there are many optimizations that can be made, we will focus on five key takeawayas: use exclusions, take advantage of competitors’ domains, use multiple variations of ads, engage in video and take advantage of Google’s targeting options.

1. Use exclusions.

Using exclusions in your Native ad targeting is one of the best ways to prevent unqualified traffic from seeing your ads. Exclusions can range from topics, keywords, or site categories, to placements, interests, or demographics. This allows your ads to be excluded from categories you may not want your ad to be associated with.

2. Take advantage of competitors' domains.

As a smart advertiser, you can bid on keywords and/or email domains that are directly related to your competitors. For example, if you are advertising for a real estate client, you can directly bid on keywords and/or domains such as,, etc. that may appear in your audience’s inbox. Conquesting is a tactic of domain targeting to essentially win over your competitor’s audience - this is a great way to gain new customers, keep current customers and grow your market share.

3. Use multiple variations of ads.

While some may think this step is unnecessary, it is in fact a crucial part of creating a robust and effective display plan. Native Gmail Ads are not that different from your everyday ads because when you create several altered versions of your advertisement, you can see which performs best and optimize based on the results. Variations run from a simple text ad or image ad, to a more comprehensive ad gallery or digital content within your advertisement. You can also add video ads or dynamic ads to your email as well.  Within a few weeks you may notice one ad or CTA is performing better, and thus you can reallocate budget into the top performing creative, reducing wasted ad spend on Native Gmail Ads that aren’t as effective as the others.

4. Use video.

Many advertisers seem to miss this increasingly popular tool. While a little more time consuming, it's well worth it. Embedding a video in your Native Ad not only keeps your ad interesting, but it also has a much higher engagement rate than just a static image. One thing to keep in mind when utilizing video is to embed your video in your ad to ensure code width and height pixels, correct formatting and an overall clean looking advertisement.

5. Take advantage of Google’s targeting options.

Last but definitely not least, remember to always, always, always use these impressively helpful options when building your Native ad in Adwords. The targeting capabilities (outside of the keyword and domain targeting mentioned above) within Google are very insightful; they range from age, gender, or languages, to purchases, locations, or jobs. By taking the time to narrow your market, you can segment your target audience to successfully reach your exact consumer. Recently, Google has launched a new product called “Customer Match,” which is another way of targeting allowing your brand to reach the highest-valued customers on Gmail by uploading customer email lists to target through Adwords. This enhancement allows users to control the ads they see by opting in or out of personalized ads. By using Customer Match, brands can also generate Similar Audiences to reach new customers who are likely to be interested in their goods and services. By using this tool, your brand is present in the moment when the consumer is the most perceptive. After you have narrowed your targeting, never forget to continually optimize by looking at performance and eliminating underperforming elements.
Native Gmail Ads work similarly to other Adwords campaigns, so never forget to continually tweak and optimize like you would any other campaign.


Native Gmail Ads are a crucial part of any display plan; with all of the targeting options available and the real-time optimizations that can be made manually, they are an excellent way to reach your target audience. These placements are unlike other banner ads because they allow your content to be seen in safe environment while taking advantage of targeting through a user’s mail activity. Native Gmail Ads should be considered an essential key to reaching your target demographic. 

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