One of the most important aspects of digital advertising in the last year, apart from machine learning and smart bidding, is audience targeting. Choosing the right audience is particularly important when it comes to the Google Display Network (GDN), as this platform has the capacity to reach over 90% of global Internet users: a scale that carries with it significant potential for wastage. In this article we will cover the various types of audience targeting and dig deeper into opportunities presented by Google’s custom affinity audience.

There are a number of audience lists available in Google Ads which are ranked below from a broader reach to more narrowed targeting:

  • Affinity audiences: a list of predefined audiences organised by general interests that are created based on a user’s online activity (what pages they visit, time they spend on each website and their search patterns).
  • Life event targeting: this audience is available only in Gmail and video ads. It allows advertisers to target users before or after a certain life event (like graduation, marriage or moving) took place.
  • Custom affinity audiences: advertisers have the control to define their own refined audience based on a company’s goals. This gives the option to target based on the specific websites and apps people visit, and isolate their general interests using specific keywords.
  • In-market audiences: this type of targeting looks at users who have shown an intent to buy a specific category of items, instead of the ones who are just browsing the internet in search of specific products.
  • Custom intent audiences: a refined list of users that can be created by advertisers based on specific keywords and URLs users are actively searching with the intent to purchase.
  • Remarketing audiences: this type of audience gives the ability to target users who have visited or completed some form of action on your website (or even specific webpages).
  • Similar audiences: these are automatically created by Google and seek to identify users similar to the ones included in the remarketing audiences, reaching wider groups of potential customers.

Among all the above audience targeting methods, custom affinity audiences offer some unique advantages, including targeting users who have shown an interest in specific URLs, are interested in competitors’ websites, or have searched for specific keywords and used certain apps.

So, how can you take advantage of using custom affinity audiences (CAAs) to ensure you are targeting the most relevant audiences?

Target competitors

CAA is the best way to reach users who have shown interest in your competitors’ websites and there are two ways to use this targeting method. First, by identifying specific webpages in your competitors’ websites along with relevant broad keywords, including brand terms. Alternatively, by targeting the competitors’ websites with relevant keywords that determine users’ interests but keep the campaign geotargeted. We have tested both methods in some of our campaigns, with impressive results. Targeting competitors’ web visitors in all display campaigns with one of our property clients resulted in a 27% increase in the number of conversions and a 22% decrease in cost per conversion while the spend remained the same. These audience lists were the best performing in terms of both clicks and conversions within the advertiser’s prospecting GDN campaigns.

User behaviour

User behaviour allows you to target people based on their interests and to reach people who are lower down the conversion funnel. We regularly use CAA in our campaigns to reach a larger, more relevant audience. A property client wanted to promote their offering of part exchange and Help to Buy schemes, so we targeted users who had shown an interest in relevant websites such as government and competitor webpages addressing these schemes.

This resulted in cost-effective, high-converting campaigns that achieved an average cost per click of £0.11; a significant saving against the GDN average of £0.17 per click.

Top-performing placements

Wherever our clients’ accounts have been running display activity for a considerable period we are able to gather valuable performance information, such as which websites the ads are displayed on and how well they performed. With this information we can identify the placements with the top conversion rate and add them into a CAA. Although contextual targeting can seem old-hat in the programmatic age, experience demonstrates that it’s always worth testing this type of targeting because, for some users, ads served on certain placements may resonate well with your product.  Sound tempting?

At Space & Time we constantly test and adjust our targeting methods to incorporate new features that give our clients the very best custom audience targeting. Get in touch here if you want help with identifying the right audience for your campaign.