How to Use Audiences with Google Ads


Audience targeting is one of the most important parts of making a Google campaigns successful. In the last few weeks I have covered some of the newest types of display campaigns which are going to be available soon in Google Ads. I also talked about different tips on how to improve performance on display advertising by having the right settings.


Today I am going to cover in more detail audiences for display – what you need to know about each type of audience and when to use it.


Affinity Audiences


These are broad marketing segments defined by Google by the online content people consume, rather than online purchasing activity. You can see that they group users according to hobbies, entertainment preferences, interest. The problem is that, for example, people who like cooking videos might be in the healthy food in-market segment, but they might be a falling into many other different categories.

Here is my simple strategy guide on how to implement audiences on Display for a first time:

In most cases I would not recommend you to target only Affinity Audiences. To make sure you have a relevant audience, I would always combine affinity with something else which I know about my customers. Try a combination of visitors of certain URL on your website who are also fans of luxury travelling, for example.


You can also analyse other audiences you have created in the Audience Insights report in AdWords and see, for example how many of your website visitors are Keen Cooks or Sports Junkies. This information can help you create a customer persona. I will go into more detail about the Audience Insights Report in the next chapters.


You can also see the option to create your own Custom Affinity Audience which is a combination of affinity category – url, places, apps. For example, company targeting young moms can focus on adding websites which talk about parenting tips, places like kinder gardens, kids party centres etc., as well as similar products – pacifiers, baby clothes and strollers.


In-Market Segments and Custom Intent


Like Affinity Categories In-Market Segments are predefined by Google based on the behaviour of users online. However, the focus here is on people who are ready to make a purchase. Users typically stay in an In=Market Segment no more than 24 hours. In this period, they either make a purchase of the product they were defined in a segment for, or they are removed from the in-market segment. The reason why is because, Google wants to have an audience of people who are presumably searching to make purchase.


Besides the pre-built In-market Segments,  Google has auto created a Custom Intent audience for you based on your URL. This is basically an In-Market segment built precisely for your business. It will automatically generate lists of display keywords based on the content on your website.


For example, I entered the website of a well-known U.K. car comparison platform called, which allows people to browse deals from dealerships all over the country. Below you can see the list of display keywords which Google generated for me based on the content of the website.


Remarketing and Similar Audience


Remarketing(or remarketing) is a way of targeting people who have already been on your website or have shared their personal data and given you permission to use it for marketing purposes.

When it comes to Remarketing of web visitors the process involves collecting cookies on your website. You might have seen messages warning you that a certain website uses cookies and you must accept it. Then you wondered what does that even mean.

A cookie is a long string of numbers which your website attaches to a web visitor’s browser to identify this user. I would like to make it clear a – the user’s identity stays completely anonymous. All the data that you have collected is their IP(Internet Protocol) address, the time of the visit, the duration, pages viewed, videos watched, button clicked, etc. From this information, it is impossible to find out the user’s identity. This is legal and is not breaching your web visitors’ privacy if the little message that you are using cookies is present on your website.


Your browser has probably a lot of cookies stored already, if you have not cleaned them recently. To see your cookies in Google Chrome, just open an empty tab and go to the three vertical dots in the top right corner and choose Settings.


Once you have created a remarketing audience via Google Analytics, it will automatically be imported in your linked AdWords account. Then is a matter of a few days for Google to create a similar audience out of your remarketing list. A similar audience is a list of users who have close interests, demographics and behaviour to your audience. These are entirely new people, who might have never heard of your brand. The remarketing list is used in this case only as a source for Google to set up criteria for a similar audience.


The size of a similar audience can be much larger than a remarketing list. A well-defined smaller remarketing list is likely to provide you with a big and relevant similar audience. The reason is because, it is easier for Google to find common interests and other similarities in a smaller group than a larger one.


If you decide to combine several audiences make sure you access the size of your list. You can choose whether to target only when the audiences overlap, or include the full lists, regardless if they overlap or not.


Let’s say you have a financial service website with a free tax calculator. You get a lot of traffic of people calculating their salaries but you want to show ads to the one interested in hiring your consultants.  You might want to remarket website visitors who are also in the market for financial services. In this case, you can choose “All Visitors” remarketing list which is automatically created by Google Analytics, but add In-Market Segment: Financial Services- Accounting. Then make sure your setting says “Targeting” instead of “Observations”. In this way your ads will show only to users who have been on your website, but are also identified by Google to be in the market for your service.


If you want to use “Observations” you can choose several lists and you will show ads to all of them. You will get separate data on the performance of each of the audiences, so you can find out which converts best.

About me: I am an experienced digital marketing professional who started her career at Google as a digital marketing consultant for over 100 SMEs. Get a FREE e-book . I am a blogger and Udemy teacher with more than 2,700 students enrolled in my online course. Follow on Instagram and Twitter @odolena