Introduction to Google Ads Audiences
What are Audiences?
Specific to search marketing, customer intent is generally associated with keywords & their match types. To the user, these are called their ‘search queries’, or ‘search terms’.
What if there was a way to group customers based on their demographics, their past actions on your website, or stages in their purchase journey? Well, these are “audiences” (found and created in the Google ads “audiences manager”). Using these effectively in search campaigns has a significant impact on conversion rate and ROI. Google Ads offers ways to create & use different types of audiences. Some are readily available, and some need to be created based on the account and your paid search strategy.
Types of Audiences
We know user behaviour varies based on multiple factors. The key to campaign success lies in how we slice the data to form audience segments and utilise them in our campaigns. Audience segments can be created from the Google Ads interface or Google Analytics for advanced features. Common audience segments are ‘All Visitors’, ‘Past Converters’, ‘Cart Abandoners’ and ‘Product Viewers’. An example of advanced audience list is ‘Users with page depth greater than 5’ or ‘Users with session duration greater than 20 Secs’.
Consider an eyewear retailer whose target audience are defined by keywords of course. Being more aggressive to the ‘Cart Abandoners’ segment and less aggressive to ‘All Visitors’ segment could make a big impact on ROI. I’m sure you would agree, users spending more than 20 seconds on your website are more valuable and worth targeting.
As marketers, it is important to reach and engage with our customers while they are actively looking for products or services we sell. This can be achieved at scale using customer match. Customer match essentially means tapping into data collected from customers either in a physical store or through the website. Eg: Email addresses, Phone numbers and their name. I’m sure marketers understand the importance of collecting such data. Blending them into paid search is equally important. Customer match audiences can be created by uploading customer data to Google Ads. Google then matches uploaded data with actual users and creates the list. Targeting customer lists in search campaigns can help aggressive bidding strategy for customers and can make a big difference to conversions & ROI.
Consider a competitor campaign you’re running on Google Ads. What if your customers are looking for your competitors? Shouldn’t you target them differently or more aggressively? Even better, consider a sporting goods retailer whose target audience is military veterans. In this case, your paid search strategy would call for a closed group targeting. If you’re targeting by keywords alone, you’re wasting more than half the spend, because not everyone can buy from their website. How would you target just veterans that signed up at your store or website? Well, customer match is the key.
InMarket audiences was initially only available for display & video ads. Last year Google first announced InMarket audiences capability for search ads at the Google Marketing Next event in San Francisco. This was a highly awaited feature in the paid search community, since it is based on machine learning that analyses massive amounts of search queries to understand users’ purchase intent. This enables marketers to target users who are much closer to a conversion in their purchase journey, thereby directly impacting conversion rate and ROI.
Consider an electronics retailer with consumers at different stages in their purchase journey. Users looking for scrapbooking tips are not In-market. Users watching laptop review videos on YouTube or making searches for laptop retailers on Google are for sure relevant and are bucketed into the In-Market Audiences. Targeting such audience more aggressively therefore has a direct impact on revenue & ROI simply because of higher purchase intent.
YouTube Video Viewers:
As brands and marketers, we launch multiple top of funnel campaigns like branding and how to videos on YouTube. By linking Google Ads with YouTube channel, Google unlocks the ability to target users across platforms. ‘YouTube video viewers’ can be created as an audience segment within Google Ads, thereby allowing us to targeting such users on search. This can be a great way to engage with users who already know the brand. Note: As of September 2018, YouTube channel ad views are no longer collected for remarketing on the Google Display Network, including Google video partners.
Consider a business that offers online courses across different age groups. As a marketer, you launched videos and video ads on YouTube for a new course. How would you target those video viewers differently on search?
Similar Audiences are automatically created based on your 1st party audiences (i.e. website visitors). Google uses machine learning to look at existing remarketing lists in the account, the aggregate search behaviour of users in those lists and creates a list of similar users. Targeting such lists can open up new possibilities and more potential customers.
Consider an eye-wear retailer with keywords like ‘sunglasses’ or ‘ray ban aviator’. Using a ‘similar to all converters’ list in the campaign could help target people who are more likely to buy the product, thereby growing conversion rate and ROI.
By crunching enormous amount of user data, browsing history, online behavior and machine learning inputs, Google offers demographics like parental status, marital status, education and homeownership which can be used in conjunction with keywords in search campaigns.
Consider an insurance company selling home insurance online. Users looking for ‘home insurance’ or related terms are certainly the target audience. However, current ‘homeowners’ likely a better converting audience then those not in the ‘homeowners’ audience. Being more aggressive, by adjusting bids northward on this segment could open up different possibilities, since we expect higher conversion rates from them.
While adding audiences to search campaigns improves targeting and ROI, excluding them also benefits certain strategies. For instance, I would exclude ‘site visitors’ in new customer acquisition campaigns, which helps going after new customers, with tailored messaging and a different bidding strategy.
Targeting & Observation Setting:
It is very important to understand this setting, it could make or break your targeting. As long as you have a single targeting method (in this case keywords for search), there is no question of priority. However, when you layer audiences with keywords, priority needs to be defined. Think of the ‘Targeting’ option as the AND operator – which means search query matching AND audience, both criteria should be met for ads to be served. For instance: I have keywords like ‘office furniture’ and ‘office workstation’, along with ‘office furniture’ as InMarket audience. Using the ‘targeting’ setting in this case would restrict my reach only to users who satisfy both the criteria. On the other hand, if my goal was not to restrict my reach but test audience performance, I would select ‘observation’ under InMarket. This would work as a standard search campaign, with specific reporting for the InMarket audience. I would then get back after a couple of weeks and adjust bids upward if InMarket ROI was better than rest of the campaign.
Audiences is a great feature to blend into your paid search strategy. It can define account & campaign structure, nature of keywords, your bidding strategy and even ad copy messaging. Gaining a bird’s eye view of the account can help you create, structure and manage audiences efficiently. My 2 cents would be to keep testing, because your paid search is incomplete if you aren’t using audiences. What type of audiences have you used in your search campaigns?