How to Target Audiences with Google Search Ads

While many people may think of Google ads as the first ads that appear—search, PPC, or SEM—there are actually several types of Google ads available.  

  • Local map section ads when locations are searched
  • Cold display ads are those who don’t know who you are
  • Remarketing display ads for those who already know you
  • YouTube ads, attached to video content
  • Programmatic ads that use real-time bidding
  • Shopping ads with specific product info
  • Gmail ads that show in inbox promotions and social tabs
  • Discovery ads for personalization in Google feeds

When thinking about Google Search Ads, consider when people search for keywords in Google or Bing. There is a lot of intent behind keyword searches that can help with digital marketing. For example, if someone searches “painting” that could mean lots of different things. Are they looking for supplies or art projects? Interior or exterior services? Residential or commercial? Etc.

This is where Google Search Ad audience targeting becomes very useful for getting in front of the people who want your products or services. Because keywords don’t always tell the intent of the search they need to be layered with demographic information. Google, just like Facebook, is collecting demographic info on us. By gathering information on its users, Google has details about browser activity, logins, computer type, apps used, videos watched, gender, interests, habits, websites visited, online interaction… and the list goes on. All of this online behavior data combined, in a sense, tells Google who we are.

The audience targeting options Google Search Ads offers is how marketers can get in front of their clients and customers.

To understand the types of audiences, Kirk Williams at ZATO has provided a great resource. In this Google sheet, there’s a breakdown of the different audience types that can help when you’re trying to set up layered audience targeting. So, who do you want to target?

Google Search Ad Targeting

Basic Affinity Audiences

This targeting option goes after people based on the whole picture of their lifestyle. These audiences tend to be broader. It is based on the demographic details Google collections about a user’s passion and habits. It lets a Google Search Ad appear to a qualified person based on what they search.

Custom Affinity Audiences

This lets you create your own affinity audiences by entering specific information. You can customize by including keywords or phrases, different websites, competitor websites, aps, locations, and other details you already know about target audiences. This customization lets you marketers get more specific.

Demographic Based Audiences

This type of Google Ad targeting is based on user demographics. Options include marital status, education level, homeownership, and parental status. You can sort through what your clients and customers are searching for based on this data to get in front of them.

Google Ad Targeting Demographics

In-Market Audiences

These are people who are actively searching for your product or service. That means they are currently considering a product or service and aren’t just browsing. In-market audiences offer more valuable targeting because these users are already further along the marketing funnel.

RLSA Audiences

Remarketing List for Search Ads

This means Remarketing List for Search Ads. This an audience of users who have already been to your website. Then, when searching again, marketers can make sure they see an ad based on that they have been to your site already. 95% of people don’t make a purchase the first time. So this can up your game when doing search ads by being relevant when users search again.

Customer Match Audiences

This allows you to take offline data and move it into the online environment. You can upload a current client list and match that up with when those people do online searches. It can help ensure that those customers come back. Since Google will know what your existing uploaded audience is like, customer match is also beneficial to layer with similar audiences.

Similar Audiences

This allows you to create a list of those in your customer match along with those who have converted. If you don’t have a customer list, you can create a list of those who have already converted on your website. You have to have some existing data for this but Google uses machine learning to understand even more about who those people are. It takes away the guesswork.

How To Use Google Search Ad Targeting

With all of these audiences, you have the option to be in a targeted mode or an observation mode. That means you can show ads only to those targeted audiences or you just observe who users are to see if they would be interested. If you don’t know at first exactly who you want to target observing different audience behaviors helps to see if they will convert to clients.

Once you see that a particular audience is working, you can also do a bid adjustment. When there’s a match for a user who falls into your specific audience, you can do a bid adjustment to increase to a higher bid percentage. This helps conversions because those users who are already searching for your product or service are more valuable. Bidding more to can bet your Google ads in front of that target audience.

Layering Audiences Gets to Best Results

Something else to keep in mind is that you can combine target audience options. Layering them together can help to get the best results. The only way to truly know what will work is to run the Google ad and stay on top of the data. The data will tell you what to do next. If you look at your Google Analytics under Audience > Interests, you will see that Google is already gathering data on what your affinity and in-market audiences are. You can also see your current demographic info of those who have already converted.

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