Google Ads Audience Segments are a way to target specific audiences that match your ideal personas. Learn more about how they can help you drive more conversions.

Here you’ll find:

  1. What are Google Ads Audience Segments?
  2. Where do I find my Audience Segments?
  3. Expert tips for using Audience Segments
  4. When not to use Audience Segments

For your Google Ads to perform well, you need to reach the right audience. Google Ads Audience Segments can help you do just that. 

With Google Search receiving almost 8.5 billion searches every day and that number growing, it’s more important than ever to refine targeting and make sure your ad dollars are only landing your ads on relevant searches. 

Segments not only give your ads direction but can precisely pinpoint your audience and drive traffic straight to your goals.

In this guide, we will explore what Audience Segments are and why and how they play an important role in improving your Google Ads performance. 

What are Google Ads Audience Segments?

Google Ads Audience Segments allow you to separate your audience into distinct categories based on various parameters. 

This precision enables you to tailor your ad messages. This ensures they resonate with specific audiences and, consequently, drive more meaningful engagements.

But why are they so important? 

PPC is all about reaching the right groups of people. Imagine you are on a fishing boat. You cast a wide net into the ocean, hoping to catch tuna specifically. But chances are, with such a large net, you’ll also catch some other fish you don’t want. 

Audience Segments transform this endeavor into spearfishing – a meticulous approach that targets the specific tuna you desire. 

This helps you conserve resources and maximize the chances of a fruitful catch.

Where do I find my Audience Segments?

There are many ways to access your Audience Segments, but the Audience Manager is the easiest way to get there.

Google Ads Audience Segments 1

Navigate there by going up to the top right and clicking on Tools and Settings. From there, find Shared Library and tap Audience Manager.

Google Ads Audience Segments

How many types of audiences are there in Google Ads?

There is a diverse range of Audience Segments in Google Ads account features for you to explore — some you will find more valuable than others depending on your business and ad goals.

These are the major types of Google Ads audience targeting segments:

Detailed demographic targeting

This segment lets you zoom in on specific demographics such as parental status, age, gender, income, and more.

Affinity segment targeting

Identify your audience by their passions and hobbies. By aligning your ads with their interests, you’re not just selling them something; you’re building a connection. The result? Increased engagement and a more receptive audience.

In-market segment targeting

Imagine reaching potential customers actively searching for products or services similar to yours. In-market targeting does just that, honing in on users in the consideration phase. 

Life event targeting

Significant life events often prompt changes in consumer behavior. By tailoring your ads to users undergoing major life events such as a wedding, graduation, or moving house, you tap into a unique window of opportunity. The result? Paid search campaigns that resonate on a personal level.

Your data audiences (formerly remarketing audiences)

Reconnect with users who’ve previously interacted with your brand. These audiences are more likely to convert compared to cold audiences as they already know your brand. 

Some examples include:

  • Website visitors
  • Cart abandoners
  • YouTube channel subscribers
  • YouTube video views

Similar segment audiences

Target similar audiences to your existing customer base. Using your existing data segments about your audience helps you expand and reach new potential customers who have similar characteristics to your current customers.

Google Ads custom Audience Segments

If you ever feel limited by predefined segments that are listed above, you have an additional option. Custom segments allow you to create Audience Segments tailored to your unique campaign objectives. This isn’t just targeting; it’s precision engineering for maximum impact. 

There are several options for custom segments. But don’t get scared; they work in a similar, if not slightly more refined, way to Affinity segments.

You can target people based on their search and internet history. For example,

  • Interests, products, and services someone has searched for
  • The types of websites they visit
  • Specific terms they have entered on Google
  • People who use similar apps

Can I use all segments on all ad types? 

Google Ads offers a wide variety of ad types – from Google Search Ads to The Google Display Network. But they don’t all offer Audience Segments. The table below quickly explains which Ad types can be used with each type of Audience Segment. 

google ads audience segments

Expert tips for using Audience Segments

We’ve talked a lot about what audiences are and how to use them, but now let’s focus on a few tips and tricks. We reached out to HawkSEM’s SEM Manager, Max Willner, for some pro tips on how to take full advantage of Audience Segments.

How do you build Audience Segments for your campaigns?

Building audiences can be as creative or scientific as you want to make it. You should take a look at the target persona you want to target, your Google Analytics data, and any other aspects that might inform your strategy.

“When building out an Audience Segment for a Google Ads campaign, I want to make sure my audience is based on specific characteristics like interests, behaviors, demographics, or even if they’ve previously interacted with the brand,” explains Willner. 

Often, it’s not just your own data but also industry and market data that will help you craft these audience targets. “On top of this – a lot of research for the market/industry, historical performance of the account, and audience data from social media channels, if available,” he says.

Audience listens to the lecturer at the conference hall

What types of custom segments are really useful and why?

Custom segments let you ad-lib a bit and develop a truly unique audience.

“Some useful custom segments you could use could be based on specific internet searches, website visits, or even app usage. Another big one is competitors,” Willner says, “That way, you’re aligning closely with the specific interests and behaviors of potential customers.”

Some potential targets could be:

  • People who visited certain competitor websites
  • Users who searched for specific terms on Google (these can come from your search campaigns)
  • People who use specific apps

There are many ways to take advantage of custom segments.

What’s a creative way to use custom audiences?

Out-of-the-box thinking is likely to help you reach people you might not otherwise reach or gain a higher lifetime value from your current customers. 

Willner explains, “One creative use of custom audiences that I’ve had success with in the past would be to target users who have searched for either complementary or competitor products. In doing so, you’re capturing an audience that is already interested in similar offerings.”

The benefits of using Google Ads Audience Segments

Using Audience Segments has benefits for many parts of your account and marketing strategy. For instance, your keywords and keyword quality scores benefit from the added relevance they provide.

Bidding strategies can work more efficiently when you narrow your focus using your audience. Applying them will decrease irrelevant search terms. Using your data can guide your ecommerce Performance Max campaigns to your ideal customer.

Examples of why and when to use different Audience Segments

This list gives you a lot of targeting options to choose from. You might now, understandably, feel a bit overwhelmed.

Let’s dive in and take a look at these segments in some more detail and explore some examples of when you might want to use them. You will then be able to pick the segments that relate to your business and campaign goals and start to implement them.

You have a particular demographic in mind 

Let’s say your company is launching a new high-end beauty product. You could then use detailed demographic targeting to focus on affluent women aged 25-40 who have shown interest in luxury beauty brands. 

This precision ensures your ads resonate with your target audience, who are most likely to convert.

Your product targets a broad demographic but a specific interest

For example, if you sell tech gadgets, an affinity audience that targets “Tech Enthusiasts” would be a good choice. Tech enthusiasts range widely in gender, age, and income. In addition, only some people who make tech purchases are enthusiasts, as most of us use tech in our day-to-day lives.

Focusing on interest is a great way to sweep the right people into your audience. These are people who will purchase gadgets that go beyond what the day-to-day tech user would want. 

With this Audience Segment, you can create ads to align with their passion for technology. Connect with them about their passion rather than focusing on product features.

Your goal is conversions

About to launch a new fitness app? Target users actively search for fitness and wellness apps. 

This in-market segment ensures your ads reach individuals already in the mindset of exploring or adopting a fitness app, maximizing conversion potential.

Your product can be tied to a life event

Let’s say that you are managing PPC campaigns for a hotel. You could use life event targeting to reach people who have recently updated their status to “Engaged” on social media. 

Then, create ads promoting honeymoon destinations or romantic getaways to capture the attention of these people.

You have a lot of abandoned carts

If you have a lot of website visitors but few conversions, targeting those people who have visited your site can help push them to make a purchase. 

For example, if a potential customer visited your ecommerce site and put an item in the cart but didn’t make a purchase. You could use remarketing (also known as retargeting) to re-engage them with tailored ads showcasing the products they viewed, along with a special discount or offer to incentivize a return and conversion.

You have a loyal customer base

Your online clothing store has a loyal customer base. Use similar segment audiences to target users who share similar characteristics and behaviors with your existing customer lists.

This customer match expands your reach to a new audience likely to be interested in your products.

You have a lot of customer data

If you have been running ads and other marketing campaigns for a while and tracking metrics, you should have a lot of customer data. This information is valuable when it comes to some Audience Segments, such as similar segments and remarketing. 

The more data you have to share with Google Ads machine learning algorithm, the more effective these types of Audience Segments can be. If you have a wealth of customer data at your fingertips, use it in your PPC campaigns, and you’ll see greatly optimized targeting.

HubSpot’s State of Marketing Report shows there is a large data gap in marketing. A huge majority of marketers (82%) say having high-quality data on their target audience is important to succeeding in their role.

But, sadly, more than half of them say they’re missing key information. So, if you’re running ads, be sure to collect and manage your data so that it can later be used in audience targeting. 

When not to use Audience Segments

While Audience Segments can be helpful in situations like those listed above, there are instances when a broad approach might be more effective. 

Brand awareness initiatives

When you launch a brand-new product or enter a new market, casting a wide net without narrowing down Audience Segments can be beneficial. 

This broad visibility helps in establishing initial brand recognition without excluding potential early adopters.

Willner tells us, “In most instances, you’ll want to avoid using Audience Segments if your main initiative is a broad brand awareness campaign or if you have limited data to work from – as inaccurate targeting can restrict the campaign’s reach.”

Limited data availability

In a situation where you have insufficient data to create meaningful segments, attempting to segment based on little information can lead to inaccurate targeting. 

A broad approach allows you to gather more data and refine your strategy over time.

Exploratory campaigns

If you’re in the discovery stage and testing the waters with a new product category, it’s not the time to get too specific. You are probably unsure about your target audience’s preferences; a less segmented approach will help you gauge overall interest. 

Once you gather your data and insights, you can fine-tune your strategy and start to implement segments.

You have budget constraints for a small audience

Targeting very niche audiences with limited search volume might not justify the segmentation effort, especially if your budget is also small. 

In such cases, a more generalized approach ensures broader visibility within the available budget.

Time-sensitive promotions

If you run a flash sale or time-sensitive promotion intended for a wide audience, narrow Audience Segments might restrict your promotional reach. 

A broader ad campaign ensures the promotion reaches a larger audience quickly.

Limited product variability

If your product or service doesn’t have significant variations that cater to diverse audience preferences, for example, a SaaS product with 4 subscription levels, a broad approach may suffice as the target market might share similar needs and characteristics.

General educational campaigns

For Google Ads campaigns aimed at educating your audience about a new technology or concept, a less segmented approach might work better. The goal is to introduce the information to a broad audience without preconceived targeting parameters.

Your market experiences frequent shifts in consumer behavior

In rapidly evolving industries or during shifts in consumer behavior, attempting to create precise Audience Segments might be challenging. 

A more flexible, less segmented approach allows you to adapt to changing dynamics more effectively.

The takeaway 

Google Ads Audience Segments can be tricky when you first approach them. To become a master it’s about more than understanding the definition of what they do, ‘its about action and optimization.

It’s about elevating your campaigns, driving traffic with precision, attracting leads strategically, and educating your audience effectively. 

Google Ads Audience Segments can give you a strategic advantage in the digital marketing arena when implemented in the right circumstances. So, dive in, experiment, and use the strategic segmentation to build success with your Google Ads.

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