While SEM (Search Engine Marketing) targeting is often focused on keywords and product feeds, audience targeting has become an increasingly important factor in advertising strategies since the initial beta launch of RLSA (Remarketing Lists For Search) in 2012.
As advertising strategies develop, staying up to date with new features is more important than ever. However, knowing how to use existing features at scale can be key for advertisers looking to maximize profit margins.
Push or Pull?
Audience targeting allows you to select users and potential customers who are grouped by common themes which include interests, demographics or previous online purchasing habits. This grouping is used as the primary targeting method for display advertising as it enables you to ‘push’ messages out to your relevant target audiences.
Search Engine Marketing however is a ‘pull’ medium meaning that users dictate what they want to see or find. You might think that this renders audience data useless, but this is not the case.
Audience data gives marketers rich information about how much a click from each user is worth. Below are a few examples of how you can use audiences for search activity to adjust your current bids.
Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA) enables you to target users based on their previous actions on your website. Common examples include identifying people who have already converted, viewed a page or even clicked a button.
RLSA is the most common form of audience targeting for search activity as it allows you to target users who already know your brand and who are already interested in your product. In practice, this means recognizing the difference between someone who has already been browsing expensive laptops on your website and someone who has appeared for the first time.
With this data, you can bid more for the click from the user who’s already been browsing because they’re most likely to convert and therefore generate you revenue.
To implement this you first need to place the remarketing tag on your website. The most common way of doing this is within Google Tag Manager. Once you have your audience lists you can then add them to your ad groups in bulk using Google Adwords Editor. Remember to change your ad group settings to ‘Bid Only’ if you just want to adjust your bids. You will then be able to set a bid adjustment according to performance.
We recommend starting with small adjustments initially (e.g. +5%) then collect the data to decide if you should be increasing or decreasing your bid adjustments.
While still in beta, this Google Adwords feature has been around for over two years and allows advertisers to target and adjust bids based on audience age and gender.
At Expert Market, this functionality allowed us to spot clear opportunities and to make smart decisions that positively impacted our bottom line. In one particular business category, this data revealed that males are 25% more valuable to advertise to than females. Similarly, while 45-55 year olds had the highest conversion rates, a combination of high conversion rates and average value means that the revenue per click for 55-65 year olds was 31% above the average.
To get access to this insight you will need to contact your Google account manager if you have one and request to be on the beta. Once on, you should be able to see the demographics data under the audiences tab. Again, wait for the data to collect and then make bid adjustment based on profitability through the Adword interface.
Customer Match is a method that involves building audience lists from an existing set of email lists uploaded to Google. This is particularly useful if you are looking to push your marketing message to existing customers via YouTube or Display.
To begin with this, you will first need a list of email addresses. Follow the easy-to-use instructions from Google Adwords to understand how to upload them to Google. Once this is complete, add the email lists to your ad groups like normal RLSA activity.
Note that these approaches are for adjusting bids only. Depending on the volume and product type, you may wish to serve different visuals to different audiences, in which case you will need different ad groups.
The Future of Digital Advertising
One of the greatest issues with audience targeting on search, especially for B2B, is scale. While RLSA is great for huge retailers, for low footfall sites it means the reach is minimal and so the effect on account performance is negligible.
Inferred demographics however, allows you to see demographic data on around half of all your spend, meaning that even if your site traffic isn’t huge, it can still impact top line performance.
One feature which was available to display advertising but not to search is called ‘similar audiences’. Much like Facebook's ‘lookalike’ audiences, this is where Google builds a list of people who they consider to be similar to a current list (e.g. your previous converters). This form of targeting is one of the most commonly used in display and social but was not available on search until now.
This powerful feature will allow advertisers to target customers that are similar to previous converters and could potentially offer a big step forward for SEM audience targeting. Hopefully this will provide some of the performance differences seen with remarketing but with dramatically increased reach.