Google Ads Audience Manager helps you create customized audience segments to more effectively market to them based on demographics, website behavior, data sources, and more.

Who’s your target audience? You might think “American small businesses,” “millennial moms,” or “adventure enthusiasts.”

But will that always be the case?

Your audience might evolve or become more diverse over time. Google Ads Audience Manager comes in so you can capture, observe, and tweak audience segments and data sources.

The goal? To keep your strategy as dynamic and diverse as the people you aim to reach.
We chatted with Abigail Beene, an SEM manager at HawkSEM with a serious track record for laser-sharp, effective audience targeting.

Below, she gives us the scoop on Google’s Audience Manager, new features and functionality, and how HawkSEM harnesses it to boost client leads and conversions.

business audience of people

Your audience is the most important part of any ad campaign. (Image: Unsplash)

What is the Google Ads Audience Manager?

The Google Ads Audience Manager is a tool that allows you to create unique audience segments based on customer data. This data includes:

  • Interests
  • Google search queries
  • Demographics
  • Website history

This tool also helps you learn more about the traffic sources that draw people to your brand, and how your ad campaign performs with specific groups of prospects.

You can access the Audience Manager in your Google Ads account under:

  • Tools & Settings
  • Shared Library
  • Audience Library

Once there, you’ll find three main sections on the left-hand sidebar:

  • Segments
  • Your data sources
  • Your data insights

Let’s take a closer look at what each of these do.


Let’s say you specifically want to target new customers who visit your website on Wednesdays. Here, you can add these users to a segment and create a unique campaign that directly targets them with ads that run heavily on Wednesdays, perhaps to advertise for a Wednesday special.

Segments help you hyper-focus your ad campaigns to achieve a specific goal for your business, like increasing sales on Wednesdays in this scenario.

Additionally, segments allow you to dive deep into the ins and outs of audience characteristics and behavior. You can create custom audience segments based on demographics, purchase history, website history, lead form responses, and more.

“Start with observation audiences, which essentially means Google is ‘watching’ the performance of these groups without narrowing your targeting,” says Beene.

“These will give you some key insights on audience size, engagement rates, conversion rates, and cost before fully committing to targeting only those audiences.”

This section of the Audience Manager lets you activate, organize, filter, sort, and group-specific audience segments, too.

Types of audience segments

The different types of segments you can create are:

  • Your data segments: These are based on your audience’s interactions with your brand, including lead form submissions, app activity, video views, website views, purchases, and more.
  • Custom segments: These are based on keyword research, URL history, interests, and apps (not necessarily your app, but apps related to your industry).
  • Combined segments: Combined attributes from different segments, like an audience who submitted lead form information (data) and also typed in a particular keyword (custom).

Beene says striking the balance between targeting too broad and too narrow ultimately comes down to your industry and customer base:

“For some advertisers, it might make sense with their current budget to go really narrow with their targeting and combine multiple segments,” she says.

“Their search volume may not be very high, but they will likely see more qualified leads with a limited budget. For others, especially those in industries with a more diverse customer base, it makes more sense to keep audiences broad.”

Speaking of broad audiences: Audience segments offer much more precision than general labels like “Millennial moms.”

Some examples of an audience segment could be:

  • All YouTube viewers in the last 30 days (data segment)
  • Anyone who typed a specific search term into Google (custom segment)
  • Anyone who viewed a specific YouTube video and downloaded a specific app in the last 30 days (combined segment)

Audience Manager lists your various audience segments in a table, with columns that also display things like:

  • Number of audience members in that segment for YouTube, Gmail, and the Search and Display Networks
  • Audience type (website visitors, search terms, etc.)
  • Creation date

But how do you know what your audience does online?

Your data sources

Data sources are where customer data that informs your segments originates. Here, you can view your total number of audience lists from each source, how many are in use, and the number of tracked events for each one.

Here are the data sources available in the Audience Manager:

  • Global site tag: Collect data with the global site tag to help you advertise to people who have already visited your website.
  • Google Analytics: If you have existing or new segments in Google Analytics, you can import them to use in Google Ads.
  • YouTube: Reach people who have already visited your YouTube channel and track what they do afterward.
  • Google Play: Use this data to create audience segments based on current app usage and in-app purchase history.
  • App analytics: This allows you to link Audience Manager to your preferred third-party app analytics platform or software development kit (SDK). You can then advertise to your current app users.
  • Customer data: Upload your customers’ contact information and Google will show them relevant ads while browsing Google platforms like Gmail and YouTube.
  • *NEW: Zapier: Zapier is a workflow automation tool that connects your tech stack for easier data sharing and efficiency. You can use Zapier or any other CRM as a data source.
  • *NEW: Ads data hub: Merge your first-party data with Google’s ID and campaign data.

Customer match with Zapier

While you can add customer data manually as a data source, we’d recommend you leverage Google Ads’ integration with Zapier instead. It’ll sync and sort all customer details from your CRM or ecommerce software to Audience Manager and save you the radius work.

Ads Data Hub

This traffic source allows you to link first-party customer data to Google’s ID, campaign, and event data. This delivers an overall boost in campaign optimization, which helps Google enhance data insights for your audiences while maintaining privacy.

(You can learn more about the Ads Data Hub here.)

What happens if you have limited audience data? Which data sources are especially important to inform your segments?

“Their best bet will be to [leverage] Google’s audience options until they are able to expand on their own first-party data,” says Beene.

“I would always recommend testing these by setting them to observation for a month or so. Once you can get an idea of how each of those segments perform, you can choose which ones to target to ensure the best performance possible.”

So, what insights can audience sources and segments reveal? Let’s step into the third section of Audience Manager to find out.

Your data insights

Here, you get a visual representation that compares your audience to a particular benchmark in Google. You can compare audience devices, age, parental status, and more. With enough data, this section also recommends in-market and affinity audiences to inform your segments.

(FYI: Google Ads retired similar audiences in August 2023.)

When you pair Audience Manager with other audience insight technologies like our proprietary ConversionIQ, you get even more relevant and accurate details about promising leads. Which is why it’s Beene’s go-to tool:

“ConversionIQ can help to fill in the gaps. Some of these metrics you may be missing could include revenue produced by a certain audience segment, overall ROAS from that segment, and even the average conversion value for each purchase,” she says.

“ConversionIQ also can provide better visualization of certain data compared to what you could see in the Google Ads platform.”

Prime example?

“Maybe you want to see year-to-date performance of certain audience segments outlined in a bar chart, including the revenue metrics previously mentioned,” she says.

“While Google can provide some valuable insights in their platform, it isn’t always equipped for demonstrating data in the ways that you need it most. That’s where ConversionIQ can step in and cater to your specific reporting needs.”

Business people in a meeting

Google’s Audience Manager offers several targeting options that let you specify who should see your ads. (Image: Rawpixel)

How to add an ad group from Audience Manager to a campaign

Once you’ve set your specifications for your audience, it’s time to link them to an ad campaign!

In Audience Manager, select “Audience segment,” then “Edit audience segments.” You’ll then be able to align specific ad groups and campaigns to your desired audience segment(s).

So, why invest all this effort? To maximize ad effectiveness and drive better results, of course.

Benefits of using Audience Manager

Your audience is the most important part of any ad campaign. After all, if your ads don’t effectively reach your prime customers, you won’t see the revenue and ROI you’re after.

Audience Manager can do so much more for your marketing strategy than just compile and store customer data. It can:

  1. Track multiple audience segments
  2. Boost conversions with Google Ads remarketing

Track multiple audience segments

You’re probably already marketing to more than one group of people — it’s common practice to advertise to at least three different groups.

But not every ad is going to resonate with every customer. When you tailor your ads to suit your unique audience segments, you have a better chance of connecting with leads and landing those coveted conversions.

With Audience Manager, you can easily track and create content for as many audience segments as your heart desires.

Boost conversions with remarketing

Audience Manager is also an incredible tool for creating remarketing audiences, which lets you re-engage people who previously interacted with your brand.

One standout perk? Google streamlines remarketing (or retargeting) and handles most of the tedious work for you. For instance, you can create remarketing lists for Search ads in a matter of minutes. These customer lists help you customize unique remarketing campaigns.

Instead of having to manually track where the audience sees your ads, you can give Google Analytics the reigns to do it for you. Then, when it’s time to remarket, you’ll already know exactly which potential customers to target.

Beene says HawkSEM has harnessed audience segments for clients to boost leads by evolving customer match lists to their full potential:

“We have seen clients come in with a list uploaded of their current customers, and they use that audience segment to show ads to those customers with the goal of repeat purchases,” Beene shares.

But she says this doesn’t unlock the full power of Google’s targeting capabilities:

“By also creating a lookalike audience based on this customer list, you can now use it for reaching users who are similar to your current customers, based on their interests, search behavior, and demographics,” she says.

“This evolves the potential of the customer list from only encouraging repeat purchases from existing customers to a strategic prospecting approach, reaching those who data has shown are most likely to convert.”

Audience Manager best practices

Now that you know how the Audience Manager works, how do you make the most of it? Beene shares her tried-and-true tips to maximize conversions with Audience Manager’s features:

  1. Don’t forget exclusions
  2. Explore and edit your audience lists
  3. Prioritize valuable customer events with Tag Manager
  4. Harness Google’s data segment templates

Don’t forget exclusions

When you create your audience segments, you usually think about the ideal groups of people who would want to buy your products. That’s where your marketing budget goes. But what if precious ad spend went toward people who showed no interest? Here’s a thought: exclude them.

Google allows you to exclude audience segments from your ads, which can decrease wasted ad spend, improve conversion rates, and produce a better return on investment (ROI).

Let’s say your target audience is mostly parents of young kids. In this case, it’d be strategic to exclude anyone under 18 or over 65 from seeing your ads, as they’re less likely to convert into customers.

Explore and edit your audience lists

As you run more campaigns with Google Ads and familiarize yourself with the platform, you’ll eventually discover the Audience Lists feature.

Audience Lists help you track how many people perform a desired action after seeing your ad. You indicate the action before launching your campaign.

Then, Google automatically creates a list with details about everyone who followed through on that action. You can also set the duration for potential customers to stay on the list.

For instance, you could compile a list of leads who visited your website’s home page and track them for 30 days. If a website visitor doesn’t engage again within 30 days, Google will automatically remove them from the list.

However, if they do return to the home page, they’ll remain on the list for another 30-day period (or longer if they keep coming back).

To edit your audience list, visit the Audience tab and choose the list in question. You can then update its criteria. If anyone on the list no longer meets those qualifications, Google Ads will automatically remove them.

Once a campaign ends, you have the option to archive an audience list and prevent it from collecting more data or targeting more people.

Prioritize valuable customer events with Tag Manager

Adding a conversion tag to your ad campaign can help you understand a customer’s process after they click on your ad.

You might, for example, be curious about how many people actually made a purchase after clicking versus how many people abandoned their shopping carts. You can designate certain actions as valuable so Google records them as conversions, painting you a clearer picture of customer behavior post-click.

To set up Tag Manager, Google explains you’ll need a few key items: the necessary Google Ads Conversion ID and Conversion Label, along with optional elements like Conversion Value, Transaction ID, and/or Currency Code.

Harness Google’s data segment templates

Overwhelmed by all the different audience segment options? Google thought you might be, which is why the search engine offers easy-to-use templates.

Google’s data segment templates help you map out audience segments that cover either web page visitors or visitors captured by website tags, and guide you through different rules you can attribute to each list.

For example, you can add action rules, such as specific inclusions in URL history, to audience segments of people who visited a specific web page.

Revisit audience segments monthly

You can revisit your Segments at any time to ensure your targeting practices are as accurate as possible. Alyssa Galik, SEM Manager at HawkSEM, offers this advice:

“It is important to revisit your Audience Segments frequently, [at least] monthly,” she says. “Depending on the volume of customers and leads one company obtains, it is not only critical for targeting of audiences but also for exclusion to ensure you are spending your budget most efficiently.”

The takeaway

The more you know about your audience, the stronger your brand’s impact on them. When you understand their pain points, desires, and values, you’ll not only gain sales, but loyal customers for life.

Google’s Audience Manager provides plenty of information about your audience, but it’s still up to you to capture them and keep them coming back for more. Our skilled PPC experts can help bridge that gap.

We’re proud to be one of the most trusted digital marketing agencies, combining strategies in search engine optimization (SEO), remarketing, email marketing, pay-per-click (PPC) management, and more to drive measurable results (like a 4.5x ROI average).

Google’s Audience Manager helps identify your audiences — let us help you convert them.

This article has been updated and was originally published in February 2023.

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon

Christina Lyon is an entrepreneur and writer from sunny SoCal. She leads Lyon Content, a tight-knit team of bold creatives, and crafts engaging written content that helps brands sparkle and scale.