When you think of targeting on Google Ads, you probably think of keywords. What probably doesn't come to mind immediately is audience targeting. Google ads audience targeting shows ads to people based on who they are rather than keywords they’re searching for.
Audiences are a powerful and often underutilized targeting strategy in Google Ads, it allows you to target audiences across Search, Display, Discovery, Video and Shopping campaigns. (Performance-MAX campaigns use "audience signals" which I’ll get to in another post!) This post covers all the available Google Ads audience targeting options to help you decide which one is right for your next campaign.
The simplest way to understand Google’s audience targeting options is to divide them into four categories:
- Google’s audience segments - Detailed demographics, psychographics, in-market, affinity, and life events.
- Your data segments - Remarketing (retargeting) audiences, similar audiences.
- Custom segments - Search based, website audiences
- Other segments - Combined segments, optimized targeting, audience expansion.
1. Google’s audience segments
Google has four categories of "default" audiences that all advertisers have access to. This is the quickest and easiest way to interact with your audience.
Detailed demographic targeting
This type of audience targeting goes beyond the basic age/gender/parental status information to provide in-depth targeting options based on demographic options. e.g. Martial Status, Homeownership.
Affinity segment targeting
This refers to reaching out to people with similar interests, hobbies, and habits. In general, these are relatively stable and are best suited for awareness campaigns. e.g. Beauty & Wellness, Food & Dining.
In-market segment targeting
In-market segment are people preparing to purchase a particular product or service. People fall into and out of these categories based on their shopping behavior, making them ideal for high-intent advertising campaigns. e.g. Business Products, Auto & Vehicles.
Life event targeting
This is aimed at people who are currently going through a major life transition, such as a graduation, marriage, or moving houses.
2. Your data segments
Google’s remarketing AKA as “retargeting”, is when you show your ads to people who already interacted with your business. It’s considered one of the most profitable paid advertising tactics.
There are four types or retargeting audiences available in Google Ads:
- Website: a list of users who’ve interacted with your website, e.g. by viewing a page, clicking a CTA or filling a form.
- App: users who’ve interacted with your app
- YouTube: users who’ve interacted with your YouTube channel
- Customer Match: users who opted-in and given you their personal data (email, phone number, etc.)
Similar segment audiences
Also known as lookalikes, this is a list of users whose online behavior is similar to your remarketing list. For example, users in a similar segment generated from your list of most profitable customers would be new to your business and exhibit similar behaviors and habits as those of your customers. As a result, they are more likely to be interested in becoming your customer.
3. Google Ads custom segments
This is an intersection between Google data and your business data combined into different segments. This allows you to combine other Google audiences with your business data. As part of Google Ads Custom Audience Targeting, you have three different options for building audiences:
- The interests and products/services people are searching for
- Types of websites people browse
- Types of apps people use
The only downside is you can only use custom segments in your Display, Discovery, and Video campaigns. You can’t add custom segments in Search or Shopping campaigns.
4. Other Google Ads audience targeting
You can mix and match different custom segments, in-market and affinity audiences together. This can be a powerful way to hone in on your similar segment audience by adding another layer of demographics and psychographics for better targeting.
Google’s audience segments
- Detailed demographics
- Affinity segments
- In-market segments
- Life events
Your data segments
- Website remarketing
- App remarketing
- YouTube remarketing
- Customer Match
- Similar segments
- Search term-based
- Combined segments