Build a great Google Ads audience-first strategy (even if you don’t want to)

If you’ve been using Google Ads/AdWords for a while, you know it’s great for targeting intent.

By advertising on keyword searches, you can advertise your product or service to someone exactly when they are looking for it.

But the “one-size-fits-all keyword” is losing its potency.

Not because keyword targeting isn’t working, but because Google Ads is moving away from contextual and keyword targeting Audience’s favor.

As we lose control of exact match, we have two (seemingly) less than ideal options: do better at audience prioritization, or lose market share to those who do.

But when done right, Google Ads audience targeting is a great way to reach and generate demand in your target market.

So let’s see what’s changed and how to win in the new “audience first” environment – even if you prefer to stick with keywords.

Alphabet’s Audience-First Advantage

Whether or not the keywordless approach is in your company’s best interests, it certainly works for Google’s parent company, Alphabet.

The graph shows reported annual revenue in billions and covers non-keyword product launches.

Screenshot of Statista, April 2021. The overlay product name added by the author.

Google’s success is clearly not just due to its keyword-free advertising product. But expanding its inventory is no easy task.

Our potential customers spend far less time searching for products on Google than they do no Google search products.

If Google can reach them when they’re online, but not for specific queries on the SERPs, the opportunities for pay-per-click are nearly limitless.

Your audience at any given time:

Small circles represent SERPs, slightly larger circles represent contextual targeting, and large circles represent anywhere onlineScreenshot by author, July 2022

This expansion is great for Google’s bottom line, but what about yours?

Here are step-by-step instructions on how to develop an audience-first strategy that will keep you competitive.

Create an audience-first strategy

An audience-first strategy isn’t all that different from an intent-first strategy, but you need to reframe how you target your prospects.

Define your campaign goals

The goals of the campaign reveal the best ways to adopt strategy and positioning. Consider this common audience question:

“Should I exclude remarketing from audiences in my campaign?”

If the purpose of your campaign is to reach a new audience, it makes sense to exclude previous visitors or customers.

However, if the goal is to reach people familiar with your brand, this exclusion will be fatal for the campaign.

Knowing your goals will make successful audience selection easier to think about.

Define your audience and market segments

No, we don’t imagine a specific user avatar, what color shirt they’re wearing, and what breakfast they had this morning.

Instead, consider attributes that make your audience unique in the way they buy, evaluate, or use your product or service.

Consider the following:

  • who are they.
  • Why are they like this.
  • How they solve their problems today.

You won’t usually find these answers in Google Ads data.

It requires work outside the platform, such as surveys or interviews, to study the characteristics of customers.

Let’s say you’re selling plant-based (vegetarian) burgers.

Your audience may include multiple segments:

  • Beef lovers who need to reduce red meat consumption Or want to try new things.
  • Devout vegetarians who want an alternative Dried Black Bean Cake.

The two groups have different aspirations, motivations, and alternatives.

They will respond best to different messages and possibly different landing pages and offers.

We need a segmented message strategy for best results.

Build your audiences and segments in Google Ads

Once you know who you want to reach, you need a plan to reach them.

To appeal to vegetarians who might enjoy our plant-based burgers, we can target:

  • affinity > FOOD > Vegetarians and Vegans
  • custom segment > Interested/Buy intention > Vegetarian Recipes and Products
  • custom segment > Similar sites > DTC Vegan Site (Boca, Morningstar Farm, Quorn)
  • custom segment > Similar sites > Vegetarian Publications (Vegetarian Age, VRG, Vegout Mag)
Google Ads interface display
Screenshot of Google Ads, April 2022

The types of audience segments available in a particular campaign depend on campaign type or network You use.

For example, you can target life events (like getting married, graduating, or moving) in display ads, but not in search.

you can start audience manager or directly in your campaign or ad group audience Label.

Certain campaign types now let you select an audience before adding ads or other marketing assets.

Create different, specific ad groups and campaigns

As with keywords, it doesn’t make sense to build carefully curated thematic segments just to cram everything back into one ad group with generic ads.

Our “Beef Lovers” segment needs its own ad group and ads, separate from our “Vegetarian” segment.

An exception to this rule are search campaigns, which have strong intent and can layer segments into keyword targeting without completely separating them:

Google Ads AudienceScreenshot of Google Ads, June 2019

But with non-search campaigns, your segments are filling out keyword intent, so you need to separate the different segments.

Create ads for your segment

You can use audience-first strategies to tailor ads for each segment.

  • Our ads for vegetarian audiences can Promotes benefits like cruelty-free flavor Also emphasize that these burgers are actually vegan.
  • Our ads for beef lovers can Has health benefits without sacrificing taste.

Test different messaging and handling of your ad to see which works best for your segment.

Track and optimize your market segments

You can stack multiple similar segments within an ad group.

If the same person matches multiple segments, Google Ads uses this Hierarchy Which audience type was honored:

Graph showing descending priorities: Customer Match, Remarketing/Similar Audiences, Combined Audiences, Affinity/In-Market, Detailed DemographicsScreenshot of Google Ads support page, July 2022

You’ll also find a wealth of audience segment data in Audience Manager.

From Tools and Settings > audience managerjust click the name of the data segment to view details, for example:

  • Segment members.
  • match rate.
  • Network qualifications (including segment size).
  • segment distribution.
  • Use in sections.
Google Ads Audience ManagerScreenshot of Google Ads Audience Manager, April 2022

Evaluate your audience performance and edit your settings to optimize and improve your campaigns.

The Dos and Don’ts of Audience Prioritization

  • Don’t target arbitrary properties. Build audience segmentation and targeting around meaningful attributes, not arbitrary observations. Categories like age and gender are easy to track, but generally don’t define your market.
  • Do not use conflicting settings. If your goal is to run remarketing ads, don’t also select “Optimize targeting”, which will reach users who have not yet engaged with your site.
  • Don’t “set it and forget it”. Just like keyword optimization, audience optimization is an iterative process. Keep an eye out for overly broad terms in custom segments.

Audience-prioritized “dos”

Google Ads support pageScreenshot of Google Ads Support Page, Author’s Highlight, July 2022
  • Expect the learning curve. Google Ads is always improving its features and the term Feeling new and unfamiliar over the last few years. Be patient with yourself as you (re)learn the ropes.
  • know the rules. Your industry, government restrictions and other requirements will affect whether and how you market.View Google Ads Supporting documents and renew Do it regularly so you can stay informed.
  • Learn about VUCA. VUCA is an acronym that stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity. No matter how strict the targeting you set, you will never achieve 100% can See how your own ads are personalised here. Expect some confusion.
Google Ads SettingsGoogle Ads settings screenshot, April 2022

in conclusion

Google Ads’ audience-first strategy will help you reach and reach your target market.

Knowing how to group and talk to individual segments will improve your performance and increase your chances of success.

More resources:

Featured Image: Loneliness/Shutterstock

Leave a Comment