AdWords has traditionally produced a strong return by connecting advertisers to people at the moment they are actively searching for a product or service. This lower-funnel targeting has allowed AdWords to deliver stronger advertising returns than just about any other marketing channel. But AdWords’ biggest advantage has also been a disadvantage: it’s traditionally been difficult, if not impossible, to segment search audiences to ensure that you only show to qualified potential customers.

Optimize your PPC strategy with new AdWords audience targeting

New AdWords targeting can help you find the bullseye needed to grow your business. Image via Pexels.

As Facebook and other advertising platforms expand and improve their audience targeting capabilities, AdWords has released a suite of new features that allow you to significantly enhance and refine your targeting for search ads. These new features allow you to target just those searchers that are the most likely to turn into customers.

New Targeting

While targeting across multiple categories has been available on the Google Display Network (GDN) for years, Google has expanded much of this category targeting to Search campaigns over the last year.

Gender targeting:  target your search campaigns to specific audiences based on gender, including by bidding up your top performing genders or excluding genders for which you would prefer not show.

Age targeting: target your search campaigns to specific age groups, including by increasing bids for top-performing age brackets and excluding age groups that you would prefer not to target.

Income targeting: adjust bids for areas of the country with higher or lower average income levels. Income targeting is based on average annual income levels by zip code from US census data.

Parent targeting: adjust bids for searchers who are or are not parents. Although this is only available on the Google Display Network, it’s still a great opportunity for marketers.

Similar Audiences for Search: audiences similar to previous website visitors or converters, as determined by online browsing behavior. This is in beta currently, but is expected for release in the coming months. This feature already exists for GDN and other campaigns.

Example: The High-End Retailer

Let’s say you’re a retailer of replacement parts for high-end imported cars. Previously, your search targeting was largely limited to keywords and negative keywords. You could profitably bid on keywords like “luxury car parts” and “bmw car parts,” but shorter-tail keyword variations like “car parts” or “car replacement parts” never reached your ROI goals.

New Targeting Strategy

You can use the targeting options listed above to pay for clicks from just those users who are most likely to drive revenue. To start, you should exclude or bid down searchers in lower income areas, since they are much less likely to own a luxury car. Next, you’ll likely want to decrease bids for younger searchers. You may miss out on a few clicks from well-to-do kids, but the majority of college students are unlikely to be driving around in a Mercedes. Next, create Similar Audience lists based on your previous purchasers, and bid these up significantly to show in a stronger position for your most likely customers. Finally, consider a bid increase for men. Many do-it-yourself mechanics are men, and you’re likely to see a stronger conversion rate here.

Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it. You can view data on the historical performance of each audience segment and bid accordingly. So if you see fantastic performance among college-age women, then by all means, increase your bids there.

Example 2: The Breakout Parenting App

You’re looking to drive leads for a mobile app that helps parents coordinate scheduling for school-age children. You previously struggled with marketing, because the majority of searches for core keywords like “scheduling software” or “parenting software” were looking for a different product.

New Targeting Strategy

On Search, consider limiting your targeting to include just Similar Audiences based on your current user base. Doing so will significantly decrease your investment on Search, but should ensure that you’re reaching only a highly-qualified audience. Then you should consider using the money freed up from your reduced Search investment to spend more on top-of-funnel advertising. To start, create similar audiences of your current customers, and advertise to them on YouTube to increase brand and organic site traffic and generate brand awareness. While you’re at it, set up some YouTube and image remarketing to your current warm leads to encourage them to use the app. Make sure you exclude non-parents and users under 25 and over 65 from all of these campaigns.

Of course, no top-of-funnel strategy would be complete without a robust Facebook investment. Use your learnings about top-performing audiences and ad creative from Facebook to inform your strategy on Google.

The new targeting segments available on Google provide a variety of options to make your Google Search and Display campaigns more lean and efficient, so don’t miss this opportunity to zero in on your best customers.