Google is in the midst of rolling out a merger of Audience Keywords and Custom Intent Audiences for Google Display, with a full transition planned for January 2019.

Starting in 2019, Custom Intent Audiences will be replacing Audience Keyword Targeting on the Google Display Network. Google cites better performance, scalability, simplified management, and additional auto-created audience recommendations as the reasoning behind this transition.

What’s changed?

Custom Intent Audiences are a newer form of targeting on the GDN that allow advertisers to define and reach audiences through keywords, URLs, and apps. When first launched in 2017, keywords for Custom Intent Audiences functioned as a way to create audiences based on products and services individuals were actively researching.

Prior to Custom Intent Audiences, Audience Keyword targeting served as one of the oldest and simplest forms of targeting on the GDN. To use Audience Keywords, you would just add a list of relevant keywords, and Google would use those to determine where to show ads. Keywords selected would dictate content-based relevancy of placements or interest-based relevancy of individual users. For example, consider “Search Engine Marketing” as a keyword. Your ads could either show on pages with content related to search engine marketing or to users likely interested in search engine marketing.

If these two audience types – custom intent and audience keywords – seem very similar, it’s because they are. This overlap may be why Google is planning to merge the two audience types. Once the rollout is complete, Custom Intent Audiences will have more functionality than they currently have and will include the targeting options offered with Audience Keywords.

This update to Custom Intent Audiences works to create an enhanced ability to hit consumers throughout their purchase journey. As an example, imagine you are an advertiser focused on reaching a top-of-funnel audience to build awareness of their gardening tool business. You could build an audience using URLs of editorial and content-focused sites popular among your core consumer demographic. If you also wanted to build an audience of users further down the funnel in a research phase, then you could use Custom Intent Audiences more closely tied to the needs of someone actively planning for a gardening project.

Transitioning from Audience Keywords to Custom Intent

Benefits aside, the transition is raising questions of how existing Audience Keyword targeting will be affected. Since the announcement, Google has added a tool to facilitate your ability to begin the process ahead of the automatic transition. Starting in January 2019, any remaining Audience Keyword targeting will be automatically switched over to Custom Intent Audiences.

According to Google, as a part of both the self-migration and the automatic migration, an algorithm will analyze your Audience Keywords to find the Custom Intent targeting equivalent for your ad groups. All ad groups with audience keywords will be eligible for migration, except in the following cases:

  • When targeting is so broad that removing the keywords does not significantly impact traffic levels, Audience Keywords will be dropped rather than migrated.
  • When targeting significantly influences a campaign’s reach, existing audience targeting will be preserved, and Audience Keyword targeting will either be dropped or transformed into Contextual Keyword targeting.

Once the transition is complete, it should provide a more streamlined experience to GDN audience management without any loss to targeting options and functionality. However, it will be crucial to monitor both eligible and ineligible campaigns after the updates to catch any negative impacts to volume or performance.

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