How to Improve Paid Search Results with Audience Targeting

Audience targeting can help you target prospects with the right ads at the right time. Here's how to improve paid search results with audience targeting.

7 min read

How to Improve Paid Search Results with Audience Targeting

It’s the golden rule of marketing. Get the right message in front of the right person at the right time. So why is it that so many marketers ignore this when it comes to paid search?

Maybe it’s happened to you. You're searching for a service on Google, and you click on one of the top results. You think it’s exactly what you're looking for, but then you scroll to the bottom and find that the company, store or business is nowhere near your location. That PPC ad manager probably isn’t utilizing audience targeting to the best of their ability.  

The mistake many search advertisers are making is focusing only on keyword bid optimization. Though crucial to a successful PPC strategy, they are missing out on a critical tool to narrow audiences and get ads in front of the right prospects. 

Audience targeting can help you target your prospects with the right ads at the right time. And by reaching your audience where they are at in the buyer’s journey, you’ll see much better engagement and ultimately conversions from your paid search ads. 

So, let’s dig into how to improve paid search results with audience targeting. 

First - What is Audience Targeting?

Audience Targeting is exactly what it sounds like - targeting your ads to a specific audience based on certain interest or demographic information. It’s a method of using data to segment your audience by demographics or interests in order to strategically share content to get your ad in front of the right person at the right time. 

So why do it? It all comes down to the buyer’s journey. In order to successfully market your product, you have to reach people where they are. By segmenting your PPC audiences, you’ll be able to strategically share content based upon where your searcher is in their own journey. 

buyers funnel

And you have a few different options in Google Paid Search campaigns. You can either create an audience based on your own data, select audiences that are preconfigured by Google Ads, or use a combination of the two. 

The most important thing you can do before setting up PPC audience targeting is to know, understand and define your audience. By having a clear understanding of who it is you're trying to target, you’ll select the right audience targeting options in the platform, and set yourself up for a better overall result from your campaign. 

Next - Define Your Audience

Who is your buyer persona? That’s the most important question you must ask when defining who your audience is. 

Start by outlining who you're currently reaching. Map out and categorize your current customers by sorting them by the following criteria: 

  • Demographics
  • Location
  • Online behavior
  • Purchase History
  • Interests
  • Loyalty

Next decide, who to target based on this information. Obviously the audiences with repeat purchase history, and constant loyalty will be your focuses. If you’re a B2B business, you’ll want to focus on the latter. But are there any common trends you notice? Do your customers or clients have  a shared demographic, location, interest or online behavior? 

And finally, once you believe you’ve determined who your target audience is, refine it by asking the following questions. 

  • Are we currently reaching our ideal audience?
  • If not, who are we actually reaching and why?
  • Is our ideal audience taking the actions we want them to take?
  • Is there another target audience we might be missing out on? 

Dig Deeper:

We created this special ebook to help you further define your ideal audience: Buyer Personas 101: Create Your Ideal Customer Profile.

Finally - Select the Right Audience Type 

Now that you know who you need to target, you can go ahead and set up the audience targeting methods most appropriate for your business goals and customers. 

When running Google Paid Search Ads there are two different ways you can use audience targeting tools. You can either build segmented lists off of already collected data either on your site or through your CRM, or you can use Google’s data from third-party platforms to build audiences from predetermined categories. 

We’ll dive into the prepopulated options first, before getting into the more custom audiences that you can create. 

Detailed Demographic Targeting

The most simple, yet most fundamental type of targeting is by demographic. After defining who your audience is, you likely have a good understanding of their basic demographic details. You can use this one of two ways in your paid search campaigns.

  • Use known demographic details to set relevant bid modifiers on your targeted audience. 
  • Layer detailed demographics to existing search campaigns to gain further insight into who exactly is searching for your business or products. 

So have granular can you can? Here’s the list of demographic categories that Google offers: 

  • Parental status
  • Marital status
  • Education
  • Homeownership status
  • Household income

Demographic targeting is a great place to start with audience targeting in your paid search campaigns. And it can easily be layered on to all of the following audiences we’re about to discuss. 

Google In-Market Audiences

Google in market audiencesWith Google In-Market Audiences, you're limited to the markets listed by the platform. Because of this, it’s typically a more useful tool for B2C businesses, as these audience segments focus more on the consumer. But if you have a good understanding of your buyer persona, this could be a good place to start. You might know which markets to target just based on your knowledge of your prospect. 

Targeting through this method is aimed at reaching consumers who are ready to make a purchase. Google segments out audiences based on their search history and other data that Google collects. 

For example, a realtor might target those searching for “homes for sale near me”. 

Currently, there are more than a dozen in-market audience lists to take advantage of.

Affinity Audiences

Google has a predefined list of audiences based off of user interests, habits and passions. These are called Affinity Audiences. Purposefully broad, this type of audience list is designed for more top of the funnel advertising. It’s more generalized, and you're reaching searchers based on interests and behavior, versus buyers intent. 

We recommend using affinity audiences in paid search to get to know your buyer persona on a better level. Consider using this type of list first in “observation” mode. This allows you to monitor and set custom bids for specific criteria within these lists without restricting your reach. After learning more about the click-through-rate and conversion rate trends of specific affinity audiences, you’ll have a better idea of who performs well, and from there you can limit existing campaigns to target just these audiences.

Custom Affinity Audiences

how to create a custom affinity audienceYou can take things a step further with Google’s Custom Affinity Audiences, which allow you to create your own unique audience defined by passions or interests. Combine relevant interests, with URLs your audience may frequent, places or locations they may visit, and even apps they might use. To be successful with custom affinity audiences you have to have a good understanding of who your customers are and where they spend their time. But, if you’ve done your homework, this should be an effective way to improve your paid search results. 

Remarketing Audiences

As we get further down the buyer’s journey, remarketing targeting is a great way to nudge along prospects who almost converted. But you do have to be careful with remarketing campaigns. You never want to just remarket to someone just because they clicked on your site. This is an easy way to waste ad spend. 

I mean think about it. How many times have you accidentally clicked on a site, and then you're plagued with marketing ads for the next two weeks? Not a great user experience. 

So, to use remarketing targeting strategically, it’s a good idea to build Remarketing Lists for Search Ads, also known as RLSA’s, which is an advanced targeting feature within paid search that allows you to target people who have previously searched for a relevant keyword and landed on your site. 

Another way you can take advantage of remarketing audiences is by using a urchin tracking module (UTM) tag and collecting your own data from other ad campaigns on different platforms. For instance, if you're running ads on LinkedIn or Facebook, you can use UTM’s to define traffic to your site from these campaigns. You can track this data in Google Analytics, and then create audiences in GoogleAds based on this data. 

But why? Facebook and LinkedIn, and other various networks, often offer more robust demographic targeting details. By tracking these audiences and creating retargeting lists in your search campaigns, you’ll bolster your targeting efforts in search, while boosting the frequency of all your digital ad campaigns.

Customer Match

How do you market to those that sign-up for a newsletter, or download a resource from your site? Do you include these people in your paid search campaigns? 

Google’s Customer Match audience allows you to expand your targeting to include customer data that lives outside of the Google Ad platform. It’s an audience created from a list of emails already obtained through other marketing methods and uploaded to Google through a CSV or an integration using Zapier. This allows you to remarket to other leads and prospects, not just those that have visited your site. 

It also allows you to further breakdown and target your leads. So maybe someone has signed up for an ebook, but they haven’t subscribed yet to your newsletter. You can create separate customer match audiences for each of these groups, and serve them different ads based on the actions they have or haven’t taken. 

Consider using this for cross-selling opportunities, or for specific seasonal offers. You can target those that made a purchase last year, or those that purchased one product or service, but not another.

customer match example

Similar Audiences 

Last but not least, is the ability to create a completely new audience based on a clearly defined existing audience list. Google’s Similar Audiences uses the data you’ve collected on your own site, and identifies a list of characteristics shared by the majority of your traffic. Google is then able to use this information to build a list of new people who also share these characteristics. 

If you already have a clear idea of who your target audience is, and you have the data to back it up, this can be a useful audience targeting method for your paid search campaigns. We do suggest using this tactic in “observation” mode first. This will allow you to collect data and evaluate the performance of a Similar Audience, before actually adjusting your bids. 

Similar audiences are one of the few audience targeting methods that truly remain focused on finding new prospects. This makes it a good top of the funnel approach to your paid search campaigns.

Use Targeting to Optimize Your Paid Search Campaigns

When used properly, audience targeting within your paid search campaigns can provide a lot of insight into who your customers are and where you should be spending your ad money. Not only will targeting increase the effectiveness of your campaigns, it will also help as you test, analyze and further adjust your bids to drive more conversions. 

When it comes to paid search, we pay a lot of attention to keyword intent. And though it is at the heart of every PPC campaign, it’s not the only way to drive results. By layering our keywords with high-quality audience data, learned and observed over time, we’ll see drastic improvement in our paid search campaigns. 

Start digging into these different audience targeting options, and see what stories you can come up with. As you come away armed with more knowledge on your target audience, you’ll be one step closer to that golden rule - getting the right message in front of the right person at the right time.

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