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How to Create Google AdWords Audiences

Author: Tom Demers
Last Updated: October 16, 2022 | Paid Search Marketing

This is the third and final post in a series on the Google AdWords Audience tab. In the first post in the series, we walked through what an AdWords audience really is and the types of audiences you can target and in the second post we focused on the reporting options available via the audience tab and what you can do with the data.

In this post we’ll focus on best practices for creating specific types of audiences within the AdWords interface for your Google AdWords display campaigns.

What Audiences Can You Create?

Before you can create strategic audiences you need to understand what characteristics can make up an AdWords audience. In creating the audiences that live within the audience tab, there are two core types of segments you can target:

1. Specific Category Interests

This is an option to create segments that target specific categories such as sports, games, comic books, etc. The AdWords blog points out that this is more than simply targeting users who have explicitly said that they have an interest in the category in question or a category that is a section of a site:

Our system looks at the types of pages a user visits, taking into account how recently and frequently those pages have been visited, and then associates their browser with relevant interest categories.  Using these categories, you can show ads to the people most likely to purchase your products or services, and you can reach them across all types of sites in the Google Display Network in addition to contextually relevant sites.

2. Retargeting Audiences

These are audiences that can be built depending on the type of offering you have, the type of tracking you have implemented, and the audience segmentations that would be useful for your campaigns. You can create a custom retargeting audience by visiting the shared library section of the left navigation in the AdWords interface and create a new retargeting audience:

Create AdWords Audience

As you can see you can create a name and a membership duration for the campaign. You can then have that segment apply to whichever pages you like by applying the AdWords tag for that specific audience only to specific pages:

AdWords Remarketing Code

For instance, you might create two remarketing audiences:

  • Site Visitors – By putting the tag on every page on your site in the site’s footer, you can target everyone who comes to your site in one audience.
  • Leads/Purchasers – By putting a separate tag on just the thank you page of your primary action, you can create a custom audience for people who have become leads or purchased from you.

Then you can create a campaign that targets site visitors who haven’t become leads or sales for you, targeting the folks who are coming to your site but not converting within your Google remarketing campaign. Similarly you might:

  • Tag white paper downloads separately to offer them a distinct message from general site visitors.
  • Tag key pages such as your pricing page differently so that you can serve those visitors more aggressive, transaction oriented messaging.
  • Tag sections of your site differently, for instance you might want to serve anyone who visited your blog but didn’t convert into a sale or lead an ad for your white paper to try to get them into your conversion funnel with a more relevant offer.

You can also use the duration option to create separate segments for visitors who have been to the site less recently than others, offering them separate messaging depending on how recently they’ve been to your site.

From there you can create custom combinations of categories and remarketing lists. For instance you might want to target people showing an interest in the subject of your white paper who have visited your site but not converted with a white paper ad. If you’re an E-Commerce vendor you might want to create a custom combination that targets both people interested in blue widgets and anyone who has visited the blue widget section of your site.

How granular you get with ad retargeting, audiences in general, and custom combinations should really be driven by how significant a portion of your campaign and your general marketing strategy these display campaigns are. If you’re driving a lot of traffic to your site and have an extensive retargeting campaign leveraging different audiences can have a similar effect to more granular keyword targeting: you can craft a much more specific message to a much more specific audience and you can measure and track your effectiveness at a more granular level.

However if your site doesn’t drive a lot of traffic and display is a less effective part of your AdWords campaigns than search is, you need to weigh the time and effort of setting up audiences and custom combinations against the actual impact it’s likely to have on your overall AdWords ROI.

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Meet The Author

Tom Demers

Tom Demers is Co-Founder & Managing Partner at Measured SEM and Cornerstone Content.

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