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17.05.2022

8 min read

Google Ads targeting: Reaching your audience

Audience targeting in Google Ads allows your company to reach the right audience at the right time. It’s a fundamental part of building an effective PPC strategy and the targeting choices that you make will impact the overall success of your campaigns.

In the highly competitive paid search landscape, granular targeting and customisation are two essential components that could help your business to achieve a higher ROI when implemented correctly. An increasing number of brands are turning towards PPC as a key growth driver and it’s projected that ad spend in the search advertising space will reach £166bn by the end of 2022. Whilst this suggests that companies are seeing the benefits from a paid search investment, it also makes the landscape much more competitive.

Google Ads enables advertisers to stand out from the crowd by offering enhanced granular targeting options and customisation features which allows the opportunity to develop highly relevant campaigns. This blog shares the detail of the different audience types and targeting options that are available, with optimisation tips to help you get more from your marketing efforts.

Within Google Ads, there are several audiences you can choose when customising your PPC campaigns:

  • Affinity audiences: users with specific interests or habits (e.g. cooking enthusiasts)
  • In-market audiences: users who are actively researching a product or service (e.g. in-market for electronics)
  • Detailed demographics: users who show signals of a recent life change (e.g. just got married)
  • Remarketing lists for Search Ads (RLSAs): users that have had recent interactions with your website (e.g. basket abandoners, converters, visitors to your site from the last 7 days)
  • Similar audiences: users who have similar characteristics to those who have previously engaged with your website (e.g. similar to converters)
  • Custom-intent audiences: users who are actively researching products and services on Google; you can create these audiences by selecting and inputting your high-performing keywords and branded terms into Google Ads. This audience type can only be used across Display, Discovery and Video campaigns
  • Customer match: to re-engage users who previously shared information with your business, you can use online and offline data to set up customer lists. After creating these lists, Google will target these customers, as well as customers similar to them, with ads (e.g. targeting previous customers with a new product or with similar products to what they previously purchased)

The audience type that you choose to target will differ depending on your business goals, that is, whether you’re focusing on top-of-the-funnel activity to build brand awareness or if you’re looking to convert a warmer audience. Google Ads offers an audience type to target users at every stage of the funnel so it’s important to be clear on exactly what you hope to achieve from your campaign.

For instance, if you are looking to raise awareness, you could target affinity or in-market audiences, showing your ads to people who have an interest in your product and are actively searching for it. Alternatively, if your KPIs are focused more on conversions and purchases, you might utilise RLSAs and similar audiences to increase your chances of reaching people that are most likely to convert.

To further enhance your targeting capabilities, you can now create custom audience segments by directly linking to third-party app data. In Audience Manager, create a new segment based on customer lists and select “Upload Customer Data from Data Platforms.” This new feature of Google Ads offers you an easier method of targeting customers, which helps to simplify the process of sharing and exporting data whilst offering more ways to reach your desired audience.

Alongside the various audience options that you can choose or custom combine, Google Ads also offers a variety of targeting methods to reach your desired audience:

  • Location targeting: knowing where your audience is likely to convert provides you with a higher level of granularity to feed into your wider strategy. If your business has physical stores, targeting near to where these are located can help direct potential customers to your business (note: location targeting should be set to targeting users ‘in’ a location as opposed to ‘interested in’ a location).
  • Ad schedule: this allows your business to display ads or make budget adjustments during certain times in the day. If you’re aware of any times or days that your audience is more likely to convert, e.g. Mon-Fri 9 am-5 pm, then ad schedule can help you by spending budget during these times only. 
  • Age: you can focus on certain age segments which are more likely to convert and you can exclude groups if your product is more suited to a particular age 
  • Gender: gathering data on the gender of your customers may be useful if your product is better suited to males or female, helping you to be more focused with your targeting efforts 
  • Device: determining which device your audience prefers to shop and browse on may influence your wider strategy. For example, if views and click-throughs are higher on desktops but conversions are higher on mobile, this highlights the importance of ensuring you are continually optimising your website to ensure a mobile-friendly, seamless shopping experience.
  • Topics targeting: for Display and Video campaigns, Google Ads provides the option of targeting specific topics (e.g. autos and vehicles, music) and subtopics (e.g. motorcycle, classical music). Your ads will then appear on websites that contain content aligned with these themes. Therefore, targeting via topics will offer you more control over where your Display and Video ads will appear and will allow you to target more strategically.
  • Placement targeting: when using Display and Video campaigns, you can select specific placements where your ads will show (e.g. website, mobile app), to help you reach the places that your customers visit the most. You can increase or decrease bids on each individual placement based on how well they are performing.

How to enhance your targeting

Observation vs Targeting in Google ads

After determining which targeting options and audiences are right for your business, you should next consider whether to set the audience as ‘observation’ or ‘targeting’ within your Google Ads account. 

  • Observation: the audience is added to a campaign or an ad group to gather data on performance, however, Google will show ads to all users, beyond the audiences that you have selected. This targeting option is much broader. 
  • Targeting: Google will show your ads specifically to users who are part of that audience only, excluding all other users. This option is a lot more targeted and we would advise that you opt to use targeting only when you have gathered enough data on a particular audience. Performance will otherwise be limited if you are showing your ads to an audience that is too small in size.

Bid adjustments

Another aspect to consider when optimising on a regular basis is bid adjustments, made based on the performance of each audience. Bid adjustments can also be put into place for device, location and demographic targeting directly into Google Ads.

Start by reviewing the performance of your audience for a 30-90 days period, especially the audience conversion rate and the campaign conversion rate. Following the formula below can be a starting point to guide you in the correct direction of the adjustment. Analysing the conversion rates over a longer period will let you determine whether you should push your audience towards a higher or lower bid. Best practice dictates that your changes should not exceed -60% for negative adjustments unless data suggests that the audience should eventually be excluded for poor performance.

Optimised Targeting

For Display campaigns, one aspect to be aware of is the optimised targeting setting. When allowing Google to run optimised targeting, it will find similar users who are likely to convert based on your targeting signals, expanding your audience reach. This feature is useful when your audience size is small as it will help drive more traffic alongside running Display prospecting campaigns with the goal of raising awareness. However, when creating remarketing campaigns for audiences that have interacted with your website (e.g. cart abandoners, converters), ensure this option is turned off. As you are targeting only users who visited your website or performed a specific activity, you would not want Google to target people outside of these categories. Leaving this option active can lead to poor click-through rates or rising costs.

Key takeaways

Implementing the correct targeting and audience tactics is integral to your digital marketing strategy as this will determine which users your business will be put in front of.

  • Ensure you regularly optimise your campaigns and consider more granular targeting methods such as location, ad schedule, age, gender, device, topics and placement
  • Ensure your audience selection is backed by data and that your targeting is customised to your businesses goals and aligns with your overall digital strategy

Investing your time and efforts in higher quality targeting and making data-driven decisions means your business will reach the right audience and the right time.

To learn more on paid media best practices, check out our PPC blogs. To find out how we can help you with your strategy, get in touch with our team today.