12 Strategies for Winning With Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP)

Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP) are an incredibly effective way to reach users while they check their emails.

GSP allow you to steal you competitors clients by targeting people who get their emails,  upsell to existing customers and generate more leads.

Today we are going to cover 12 effective strategies for improving your Gmail Sponsored Promotions, how to set them up and also how to track your progress with reports.

What are Gmail Sponsored Promotions?

Here is an example of Gmail Sponsored promotions being shown within the Gmail interface by Aviva

Once users have clicked on one of these adverts they will see the expanded version of Aviva’s advert with a call to action directing them to their website.

There are 5 different formats for expanded text ads that will be discussed later on in this article.

12 Winning Strategies for Gmail Sponsored Promotions

To get the most out of GSP you need the right strategy.

Here are 12 winning strategies for improving the performance of your Gmail Sponsored Promotions which you or your PPC Agency can implement.

1. Targeting existing Customers

On average it costs 6 times as much to acquire a new customer as it does to upsell to an existing one, so why not use Gmail Sponsored promotions to promote offers to existing customers alongside your email campings?

This targeting option works using Google’s customer match where you upload a CSV file of your existing customer list and then Google matches the list to users using Gmail.

You can target existing customers by adding a new “interests and remarketing” target and then selecting “customer email lists”

2. Targeting your competitors domains

An effective way to obtain new clients is to bid on your competitors keywords within Google Search campaigns and this works great too for Gmail Sponsored Promotions.

This works by Google seeing who sent the email and if it is from one of your competitors your Gmail Sponsored promotion will appear allowing you to piggy back of your competitors success.

You can do this by simply going to the keyword tab in the display network targeting options and then adding competitorname.com as a broad match keyword.

3. Use HTML form adverts to boost enquires

Google allow you to create custom adverts using HTML that can include contact forms so users can enquire about your service directly from Gmail.

This can be an effective way to increase conversion rates by cutting out the additional step of users having to visit your website to enquire.

To lean how to add from to your Gmail ads you will want to read this article on what fields and what languages are supported for your custom HTML adverts.

4. Segment campaigns by device

Not only do Gmail sponsored promotions perform differently on desktop v mobile, they also have very different gmail experiences.

One thing that you need to consider is that you will not want a user on a mobile device to click on a desktop advert and get the desktop experience.

To create a mobile campaign you will need to duplicate your current campaigns and then add bid modifiers of – 100% to both tablet and desktop devices.


5. Overlap targeting to reach the most relevant audience

To reach the most relevant audience you may want to consider overlap targeting.

This is where you use more than one targeting method at once.


Here is an example of how this would work:

We recently worked with a mortgage broker that was advertising reverse mortgages or as they are known in the UK equity release that are aimed at people who are over 65.

To target the most relevant users we used the following 3 overlapping targeting methods:

  1. Demographic targeting (65 and over)
  2. Display keyword targeting (keywords related to reverse mortgages)
  3. Gmail placement

6. Use exclusions to reduce wasted spend

Exclusions are not just for display network campaigns they are for GSP too, better still they help you reduce wasted spent.

If your GSP campaign is not using topic, domain, and keyword exclusions, you’re wasting ad spend

Site category options are also a good area of your account to review. You may want to turn off, “Parked domains”, “Error pages” and “Gambling” in particular.

Exclusions can be added by going to targeting and then selecting “campaign exclusions”


7. Target Based On Email Content

One of the more controversial targeting options allows you to target users based on the content within the last 100 non spam emails that are in their inbox.

Although it has caused some public outrage over privacy issues, it is a very effective way yo target your adverts.

This can be done using contextual keyword targeting.

So for example of you target the keyword “ppc management” your adverts would be shown to anyone who has an email containing the words PPC management within their lat 100 non spam emails.

8) Use video within your ads

A great way to improve engagement is to include Youtube videos within your Gmail ads.

You can add video in the following 3 gmail templates:

  • Single promotion template
  • Multiple product catalog template
  • HMTL template

Research also shows that using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19% and clickthrough rates by 65%.

Here is an example of a GSP utilising video.


9) Target your own domain

If you want to amplify your email marketing you can target your Gmail Sponsored Promotions at your own domain.

You can use this to engage top of funnel leads and move them through the sales cycle, upsell to existing customers and promote your best performing content.

You can even create a new GSP for each email that you send out to increase the chances that it will be seen.

10 ) Split Test Your ads to Increase your CTR and reduce your cost per leads

Wordstream recently published this case study that shows the cost per click against the CTR for gmail ads.

You will see that there are significant reductions in CPC for high CTR ads.

To maximise your CTR you will want to test two things:

  • Different ad creatives
  • Different targeting methods

When you are split testing you need to make sure that you have at least two adverts running at any one point.

You also need to make sure that you have enough data to conclude your split tests. You can use this calculator here to calculate this for you.

11 ) Use frequency capping to avoid “ad fatigue”

Unless you are running Gmail Sponsored Promotions for brand awareness you might want to consider using frequency capping.

This limits the number of times that your adverts will be shown to the same person per day.

When Microsoft ran a case study into frequency capping they found that after the 8th impression the conversion rate fell below the average conversion rate for the campaign.

You may therefore want to cap impressions at 1 to 2 conversions per day, to avoid campaign fatigue.

12) Use urgency to generate 22% more opens

It is no secret that creating urgency increases engagement.

Studies have shown that subject lines that create a sense of urgency and exclusivity can give a 22% higher open rate

Within the subject line of your Gmail Sponsored Promotion you will want to use deadlines wherever you can.

Here are a couple of examples:

  • Sale ends in 24 hours
  • Open this before midnight
  • Black Friday sale ends tonight

How to Set up Gmail Sponsored Promotions.

Gmail sponsored promotions are part of the Google display network, so you will need to have a campaign setup to target display.

We would suggest that you create a separate campaign for Gmail Sponsored Promotions to make it easer to track ROI and allocate budgets effectively.

There are two main steps to creating Gmail Sponsored Promotions:

  1. Creating Gmail Sponsored Promotions creatives
  2. Selecting who you want to target.

1) Creating Gmail Sponsored Promotions creatives

STEP 1. Within your new campaign go to adverts tab and then select “ad gallery” from the dropdown as shown below.

STEP 2. Select Gmail ads

STEP 3. You now need to select one of the 4 different templates based on what type of advert that you want to create.

Here are your 5 different choices:

  • Gmail image template
  • Gmail single promotion template
  • Gmail multi product template
  • Gmail catalogue template
  • Custom HTML upload (Advanced)

The Gmail image template

This is effectively a large banner advert that you can use to target a single landing page.

You can choose the email subject line and change the banner image that will click through to your website.


The Gmail single promotion template

This is very similar to the Gmail image template however it allows you to add a call to action to direct users to the most relevant landing page.

Here is an example of how gmail single promotion adverts look within Gmail.

They can be setup in the same was a display network advert and you are able to edit the headline, description, headline and call to action button colours and the image or video that will be shown within your ad.

Gmail multi product template

The Gmail multi product template is aimed at ecommerce users and allows you to display multiple products within your Gmail advert creative.

Here is an example of how this advert format looks like within Gmail.

You can have a maximum of 6 products per advert and are able to customise product images, call to actions, email subject line and description.

Gmail catalogue template

This is similar to the multi product template, however you have a featured product or video and then up to 3 items displayed underneath it.

Unlike the multi product template you also can’t specify the name of the product, but you can however specify the call to action and the call to action button colour.

Custom HMTL Upload template (Advanced)

For maximum control of your Gmail adverts you will want to use custom HMTL

These ads can include:

  • Embedded forms
  • Video
  • Phone numbers
  • Multiple calls-to-action.

To create Gmail ads with your own customized layout, upload your own custom HTML files into AdWords. Google provides guidance here for developers on creating their own HTML gmail adverts.

Here is an example of an advertiser using custom HTML upload templates to create a custom feel.

2) Gmail Sponsored Promotion targeting options

Depending on your targeting strategy you will want to use different combinations of targeting options.

For example you may want to target people who are using Gmail and are also on your existing customer list.

You firstly need to add Gmail as a placement.

STEP 1. Go to the display network tab and then select +targeting.

STEP 2. Select “add targeting” and then from the dropdown select “placements”

STEP 3. Within the search box enter “gmail” and then select it by clicking the two little arrows next to it so it moves over to the right hand side as shown below.

Once you have done this select “target and bid” below and then then close.

Once you have done this you are now targeting everyone one that has a Gmail account.

STEP 4. Adding a second audience

You will however want to cut down who you are targeting using the other Adwords targeting methods.

There are several different ways that you can target users with Gmail Sponsored Promotions:

  • Display keywords (based on broad match content in the users last 300 received emails including their inbox and archived emails)
  • AdWords Customer Match (you can upload a list of email addresses)
  • Locations (GSPs can only target one location per campaign
  • Topics (based on the user’s active inbox)
  • Demographics (age / gender / parental status)

Here is an example of you could target users who are on your existing customer list.

To do this you need to go to “add targeting” again and then select a second audience.

Google will then only show your adverts to people who are using Gmail and match the criteria of your second audience.

For example If I wanted to target people who were using Gmail and were also on my email list I would select “add targeting” and then go to “interests & remarketing”.

STEP 5. From the dropdown select “customer email lists”. Note to use this feature you must have uploaded a customer email list to Adwords.

Step 6. Add the customer email list as a target option and then select “target and bid” and close the window.

Once you have done this you can go on to add a third audience to narrow your targeting further.

Gmail Sponsored Promotions Reporting

There are three metrics that you can see with Adwords that relate specifically to Gmail Sponsored Promotions:

  • Gmail saves
  • Forwards
  • Clicks to the website

If you are looking to drive direct conversions from ads then, clicks to your website will be the most important metrics for you.

The cost per click that you see within the normal reporting table is the cost per click to expand your ad, as opposed to the cost per click to your website.

This is why it is often very low, but don’t be fooled by this as this is only the cost to expand the text ads.

To view these metrics firstly select “modify columns” as shown below

Then secondly select the three Gmail metrics. These should then be seen within your reports.


Gmail Sponsored Promotions are an effective way to reach browsers as they read their emails.

This article has covered 12 of the most effective strategies for maximising the performance of your Gmail Sponsored Promotions.

Now you have everything that you need to create a winning Gmail campaign don’t hesitate to get started.

If you have any questions please feel free to ask in the comments section below and I will get back to you.

wesley parker
About wesley parker

Wesley is Founder and CEO at Clicteq. He currently manages a £6 Mil Adwords portfolio across a range of different sectors. He regulally features in leading search publications such as Search Engine Journal, Econsultancy and Certified Knowledge. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

4 thoughts on “12 Strategies for Winning With Gmail Sponsored Promotions (GSP)

  • Hi Wesley
    I an now you fan. I have created GSP for my custom match audience. My CTR is 15% but conversion or click to websites are almost nill. What should i do?
    second question
    Can i used various targeting option togather for GSP. Like i can use Keyword, topics and demgraphy. Some expert was telling me that keyword can be used at GSP ads except placement, interest and remarking along with demography. Kindly educate me on the same

    • Its difficult to say without context, how many clicks have you had and what is your offer?

      Yes you can use all but placement, interest and remarking. I think Google have a list on their GSP page.

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