Sep 27 2019
Basis Technologies

Discussing the Importance of Strategic PPC Audience Targeting


Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn rely on audience data to help businesses target their aids. But it’s equally relevant for the search ad landscape. Many search advertisers continue to largely ignore audience targeting options, rather than focusing on keyword bid optimization alone. Using audience targeting for PPC makes it possible to focus on users who are part of your potential customer base. Here’s how.

The Valuable Relationship Between Keyword and Audience Targeting

Keywords have long been the most important tool advertisers use for paid search ad targeting. It was once in the name. “Google Adwords” referred specifically to the role keyword-targeting played in advertising success. That said, audiences have always been an important aspect of what kind of keywords businesses add to their lists. To choose the most valuable keywords to target, you must understand the people (audiences) that use them as search queries. 

Audience intent is the driving force behind what kind of phrases users put into the search engines. Yet there can be significant variation in why different people type the same keywords into a search engine. That’s where audience targeting helps a great deal.

Say, for example, someone types “Law offices Seattle” into a search engine. The assumption might be that the person is looking for a lawyer. But what if they’re actually looking to open their own law office in Seattle? Using behavioral and other audience data to separate these users is a valuable way to ensure your ads only appear for the most relevant audiences (as well as queries).

In 2018, Google rebranded its PPC advertising platform from Google Adwords to Google Ads to de-emphasize the role of keyword targeting. However, that doesn’t mean advertisers today shouldn’t be concerned with keywords. Keywords still play a very valuable role in reaching target audiences. Now it’s also important to consider the true value of audience data to improve ad reach and performance.

Audience targeting on its own comes with certain challenges. When using platforms like Facebook or Instagram that rely solely on audience attributes for targeting, there’s no way to know if all the people who see your ads are truly part of your target customer group. Just because someone is in a certain age group, has certain interests, or is near a certain location doesn’t mean they want to buy your products right now. 

Paid search advertising is able to avoid this issue by using keywords and audience targeting in unison. The types of phrases people type into a search engine can indicate an intent to purchase. And their demographic profile can help you understand why they’re using those specific search phrases in the first place. Using audience and keyword targeting in combination ensures you prioritize the most relevant audiences at a time when they’re likely ready to make a purchase decision.

Maximizing the Value of Marketing Audiences for PPC

Today Google Ads offers more audience targeting options than most marketers are prepared to keep up with. They include: 

  • Affinity Audiences
  • Custom Affinity Audiences
  • In-Market Audiences
  • Life Events 
  • Custom Intent Audiences
  • Remarketing Audiences
  • Website Visitors 
  • YouTube Users
  • App Users 
  • Similar Audiences

Here are some of the different ways search advertisers can use audiences to better reach leads and improve campaign performance:

Behavioral-Based Audiences 

Many of the aforementioned audience types are based on different kinds of behavior. Certain actions people take can indicate their interests and point in the sales funnel, which you can then use to segment and prioritize different users.

With Google’s remarketing lists, you target users based on actions they made on your website, such as visiting certain pages, filling out a contact form on your site, browsing your site for a certain length of time, etc. With YouTube users, you can target audiences that have watched your videos. And with App users, you can target people who’ve downloaded your apps. 

Targeting audiences based on behaviors helps ensure you use the right marketing message to match their point in the sales funnel. Say, for example, you're targeting users that have already filled out a contact form on your site but haven’t converted into paying customers yet. Your PPC ad could then focus on setting your business apart from the competition (middle-of-the-funnel) instead of illustrating what your product is about (top-of-the-funnel).

In-market Audiences 

In-market audiences is a targeting feature that reaches potential customers while they’re actively browsing content related to your product/services. It’s incredibly valuable to reach people who are actively browsing, researching, or comparing different products online. Most people turn to search engines to get quick information so they can make purchase decisions. Targeting audiences after they’ve gone through this critical search phase often leads to your ads reaching them after they’ve already bought.

Using in-market audiences is also particularly valuable because they rely on third-party data to categorize prospects into interest groups. There’s a variety of options to choose from, so you can usually find an audience group that perfectly matches your audience. Some of the available in-market audiences include: 

  • Apparel and Accessories
  • Autos & Vehicles
  • Baby & Children's Products
  • Business Services
  • Computers & Peripherals
  • Consumer Electronics
  • Consumer Software
  • Education
  • Employment
  • Financial Services
  • Gifts & Occasions
  • Home & Garden
  • Real Estate
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Telecom
  • Travel

Google’s in-market audiences for search have been around for a few years. Bing launched their own version of in-market audiences in 2018. Yet few advertisers take advantage of this targeting option to reach audiences that are ready to buy. Because it’s such an underutilized audience targeting category, it’s also possible to get significant returns when you use it.

Remarketing Audiences from Prior Ad Campaigns 

There are many ways to build remarketing audiences for your advertising campaigns. One option is to use UTM tracking codes. UTM tagging allows you to effectively market to your audiences across channels like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google. Prospects are much more likely to convert if they are exposed to your brand on more than one advertising platform. And it’s possible to use UTM tagging from social media advertising to target audiences on Google search. 

Say, for example, you want to target people on Google search who previously converted through your Facebook ads. You can tag URLs from your best Facebook ads with UTM tracking parameters then create a corresponding remarketing list in Google Analytics. You can now use this as a remarketing list for search ads (RLSA) to target these users more aggressively. This increases your chances of reaching high-quality leads in the process.

Unlike with in-market audiences, these are people who were exposed to your brand on social media before expressing purchase intent. But once they turn to search engines to learn more about and compare products, your ads will show up. This ensures you target these micro-moments when users switch from passive browsing to actively searching for information on products and services.

First-Party Data with Customer Match 

Customer Match is a valuable advertising tool because it has its own unique features. In-market audience targeting relies on third-party data to help businesses broaden their reach to new customers. Customer match instead relies on first-party data from your own business to help you identify and target audiences with Google Ads.

Customer Match allows you to utilize your own data to engage current customers on Search, YouTube, Display, and other verticals. It also uses the information that your current customers have shared with you to help you discover and target new customers like them. 

For example, you can use data from your customer relationship management (CRM) platform to target previous customers with upsell opportunities on search. Using Similar Audience targeting based on your Customer Match audiences, you can also target audiences similar to your remarketing lists on YouTube, Gmail, or Display.

Location and Demographic Targeting

Location targeting has been around for a long time before Google started even pushing towards more audience targeting. Adjusting your bids based on performance in certain locations or with certain demographic groups can significantly improve ad performance and help you better allocate spend.

Say you run a chain business with locations in five different metropolitan areas. You could distribute your ad spend evenly across them with a constant cost per click. But looking closely at your performance data, you discover three locations drive more sales from ad clicks and conversions. Redistributing your ad spend to maximize the value of your most popular areas can make it easier to reach your revenue goals.

At the same time, you may find that targeting a specific age group, gender, or other demographic has a similar effect on performance. Leaving all other audience targeting options aside, simply increasing bids for specific locations and demographic factors leads to significant options to improve campaign performance. The challenge is discovering all these opportunities and making appropriate changes to maximize the value of audience data.

Why Is Strategic PPC Audience Targeting So Important? 

The above examples are just a few ways that audience targeting can be very valuable for PPC advertisers today. Once you start using audiences to their full extent, the positive impact on campaign efficiency and effectiveness continues to grow. 

This is especially true when utilizing an advanced automated bidding technology like QuanticMind by Centro. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, it’s possible to calculate the precise bids you need to target audience groups, based on their expected revenue-per-click (RPC).

Say, for example, a business has a number of remarketing audiences segmented based on specific behaviors, such as:

  • Session duration longer than 1 minute 
  • Browsing sales pages 
  • Filling out a contact form 
  • Adding a product to their cart 
  • And more 

Even a modest business can come up with 10 or 20 relevant remarketing audiences to target based on behavior. But they often don’t have enough data and internal data analysis capabilities to assign CPC value to them all. 

Automated bidding technology uses historical performance data and the current bid landscape to determine your CPC for each micro-audience. This not only improves campaign performance but also reduces wasted spend targeting less valuable audiences with broad bid adjustments. 

The majority of businesses today aren’t taking advantage of the targeting potential that specific audiences bring because they don’t have enough internal processing power. Advanced audience targeting paired with automated bidding opens up significantly more opportunities to benefit from this.

Audience Targeting - The Bottom Line

It’s not enough to create a remarketing list or try out one of the many audience targeting options available on Google Ads. Performance marketers need to utilize nuanced audience characteristics to make changes and improve campaign performance. 

In the long run, search advertising platforms like Google and Bing will continue to encourage advertisers to use more audience targeting options to optimize their campaigns. Forward-thinking businesses should use the wealth of audience data available to maximize campaign performance and stay ahead of the competition.