Are you layering your audience targeting?
You should be.
In this article, I’ll take your through the different audiences Google has to offer, and how you can use layered audience targeting to improve your ad campaign results.
Advanced Google Audience Targeting
Before we get into how to combine your audiences, let’s lay a little groundwork.
When you’re creating an ad campaign, one of the most important steps is making sure you’re targeting the right audience.
No one searching for horse farrier needs to see an ad for a local walk-in pet clinic. The topics are similar, yes, but they’re not an exact match.
To get you the best results possible, Google’s made it easier than ever to get that exact match.
You likely already know a little about audience targeting. Facebook’s all about it, and Google isn’t far behind.
You can use all the general targeting options: keyword, interests, location, demographics, etc., and also take advantage of some of Google’s advanced audience features, including:
- Affinity Audiences – These audiences are based on topics of interest. As users surf and engage with pages around the web, Google stores that information and uses it to build a profile. Then, ads can be tailored to fit their interests.
- Custom Affinity Audiences – Same concept here, but this option allows advertisers to give Google a list of keywords or websites relevant to your audience, and Google will create a theme or category for you.
- In-Market Audiences – This targeting is aimed at reaching consumers who are getting ready to make a purchase, based on an analysis of intent signals such as recent search queries and website browsing activity. It differs from affinity audiences because rather than focusing on someone who regularly researches a certain topic, it pulls information who takes a sudden interest in that topic, signaling buying intent.
- Life Event Targeting – This method gives advertisers a way to target users just before or after certain big life events take place. Note that this targeting is only available for video and Gmail ads. As of now, those events include:
- Graduating from college
- Getting married
- Remarketing Audiences – Remarketing allows you to target people who have already visited or taken action on your site
- Similar Audiences – These are audiences similar to those who have previously visited your site or converted, determined by online browsing history.
Demographic Audience Targeting
In addition to its advanced audience, Google also recently opened up demographics audience targeting as well as Display.
While these are certainly more along the lines of traditional advertising, demographics play an extremely important role in accurate targeting.
On Search and Display, you can target your campaigns by:
- Gender – target to specific genders; this includes bidding up on a specific gender or excluding one altogether
- Age – target to specific age groups; you can increase your bid for your top-performing age groups or exclude groups from your campaign
- Income – adjust your bid based on for certain areas of the country with higher or lower average income levels (based on average annual income levels by zip code from US census data)
And, on Display only, you can also target by:
- Parent – allows you to adjust your bid for those who are or are not parents
Why One Doesn’t Always Cut It When it Comes to Audience Targeting
Using any targeting method, you’re going to see some results.
Take the old standby, keyword targeting. It’s been one of the major advantages of digital advertising since, well, forever.
It’s great because it allows you to hone in on users searching for that exact keyword, and ignore all the other web noise going on behind it.
But keyword targeting alone just isn’t enough. I know, you probably didn’t learn this in SEO 101, but allow me to explain.
Targeting that one focus keyword still allows for a very diverse audience to lay eyes on it. But when it comes to your PPC ads, you want to narrow your audience as much as possible.
Because really, no one wants to pay for unqualified clicks.
So we instead, we layer different targeting features on top of eachother to cater to as specific an audience as possible.
Think of it as the Venn diagram effect. Say you run a video game store, but contrary to the norm cater to mostly female gamers.
When setting up an ad, ideally you would like to target females who are ready to buy. Targeting only one or the other won’t (females, or those in-market for video games) won’t give you the results you want.
But, in AdWords (and Bing, for the record) you have the option to overlap the two, effectively targeting the intersection.
The middle of the Venn diagram, if you will.
How to Add an Audience to Your Campaign
Things have changed a little at Google, and the setup process is a bit different from what it was previously.
Before, targeting options were found under the “Interests & Remarketing” sections on separate tabs for Display and Search.
Now to add an audience, just sign into your AdWords account and click Audiences on the menu. Easy enough, right?
Then, click the pencil icon and “Select an Ad Group.” Next, you’ll select an ad group from the list that appears. Once your ad group is selected, you’ll select which audiences you want that particular campaign to reach.
And that’s it. Click save and you’re good to go.
(Note: you will have to have entered in the specifics for the audience you choose to apply. For example, if using remarketing, you’ll need to follow the instructions to create the list before adding it to your campaign.)
Layered Audience Targeting on the Display Network
This one’s been around for a while.
The ability to mix and match your audience came first to the Display Network, and frankly, it’s hard to imagine the ads without it these days.
The different ways of combing your audience targeting are almost endless here. Of course, you can combine demographic settings and topics to target a very specific group.
For example, if you sell Glossier products, you would likely target your ad women who have expressed interest in Beauty Products, and increase the bid if users fall into the 25-54 age range.
Or, you can get a bit more bring in some of Google’s advanced audiences to target intent.
Custom Affinity + In-Market Audience Targeting
This one is a great way to target those with similar interests who are a little further along in the sales cycle.
The reason we go custom here is that it allows you to combine the URLs your target market is visiting with their interests, based on your choosing.
So if you’re in a somewhat smaller niche, say dog grooming supplies, you can hand-pick the URLs relevant to your audience (you must enter at least 5). Then, Google will generate a list of top website topics and demographics for your campaign to create your custom affinity audience.
So now, Google has a good idea of the kinds of topics your audience is interested, and where to best place your ad.
But let’s take it a step further. If your goal is to target those with buying intent, you can do so by layer an in-market audience on top of your custom affinity audience.
This will signal to Google that you want to show ads to people inside the affinity audience you’ve created who also have shown intent to buy in their search history.
And as always, you’ll always want to layer in your focus keywords to make targeting as accurate as possible.
Layered Audience Targeting on the Search Network
The ability to layer audiences is somewhat newer to the Search Network. After all, it only recently gained access to targeting methods like demographics and in-market audiences.
That said, it’s an understandably powerful opportunity for marketers.
Google itself recommends using a layered effect, especially when it comes to in-market audiences on Search:
“Use in-market audiences in combination with Remarketing to drive highly qualified users to your site and improve overall remarketing efficiency for your campaign.”
The benefits here are clear: not only are you targeting an audience with indicated buying intent, but one that’s already has a proven interest in your product.
But of course, there are plenty of ways to combine your audience to achieve the best results.
Some might surprise you, like this next one.
In-Market + Gender Demographics
Here’s the thing with ad campaigns: they don’t always work out the way you think they will.
In fact, Google stresses that trusting your gut is not the way to go when it comes to targeting combinations. Instead, trust the facts.
For example, a florist.
Wordstream notes that one particular florist client found that although men made up relatively little traffic to their website, those that did land on site were far more likely to convert (and spend more than their female counterparts).
With that information on hand, an ad campaign could then be created to target those in-market, with a higher bid adjustment for men.
Remember, in-market ads are based off recent spikes in search history, not prolonged search history over time. Which it makes it perfect for this type of Search campaign.
Were the florist more interested in brand awareness and site traffic, they may have done better to serve ads on the Display network using topic targeting (or an affinity audience) and geared towards women.
But instead, they opted for the Search network (where buyer intent is higher) to target men further down the sales funnel with an in-market audience.
Wrapping Up Layered Audience Targeting
Targeting in any form or fashion is a key step in successful digital advertising.
But with so many options available, it only makes sense to combine the most effective methods to support your goals and reach your audience.
And using Google AdWords, you can.