Out With The Old & In With The New – What Is Google Doing To Targeting?

Google Ads is forever developing & introducing the newest, shiny feature that it has to offer. At a time when there are so many changes happening it can be hard to keep up, so let’s take a look at one of the most important – and often overlooked – features of a campaign: audiences.

We spend so much time looking at the numbers & checking our KPIs that it’s easy to forget to take a step back & ask the question: who is my customer? Audiences will give you the answer.

It’s important to overlay audiences across all campaigns so that at least 85% of your impressions are a part of an audience that you are observing, so that you can truly understand who is converting (even if it’s not who you initially thought). But how do you grab even more converters?

Enter: Similar Segments. Similar segments was an audience type automatically created by Google for each segment you created. To populate this, Google analysed the behaviour of users in your created segments & found people with similar online behaviour.

But people like their privacy!

With user privacy becoming more and more prevalent & people becoming more aware & selective about giving out their information, Google creating these audiences didn’t help the conspiracy theory that Google is always watching. So as of 1st August 2023, similar segments will be removed from Google Ads entirely – no more creeping from Google!

Well, not quite.

In similar segments’ wake, we now have audience expansion & optimised targeting. I like to think of this as a sort of loophole. It’s a way for Google to provide us account managers with helpful information & new audiences to target, without crossing back over that ‘privacy’ line.

So, what are they & what do they do?

GoalCompatible Campaign Type
Audience ExpansionAwareness-based goalsVideo
Optimised TargetingConversion-based goalsVideo, Display, Discovery

Let’s start with audience expansion. This form of targeting looks to expand awareness on video campaigns by broadening your targeting to relevant audiences. Think of your manually selected audiences as exact match, then audience expansion is phrase match. It’ll find any extra audiences (search terms) that you may have missed.

It won’t find better performing audiences though, just those that are similar to those manually selected. So, if your target audience isn’t performing well, audience expansion won’t necessarily make it any better.

Optimised targeting, on the other hand, will take your ideas and run (kind of) wild with them. This is like the broad match of audience targeting. The goal of this targeting is to find more people who are likely to convert. It looks to expand conversions that you wouldn’t have got without it.

This is Google’s work around for similar segments. Optimised targeting will analyse the audiences that converters are in & target those audiences to find converters – even if they are entirely different from the signals you gave it. If it decides that these new audiences perform far better than your original ones, it will stop targeting those you selected & focus on these new ones.

You don’t even need to give it audience signals if you don’t want to! If you provide no signals, it’ll analyse the landing page for keywords & themes & find audiences suitable for this.

More of a visual learner? I’m a nerd, so let’s have a look at a Venn diagram:

To help explain it even more (I like to be thorough!), here’s an example:

I set up a video campaign with audience signals: “running shoe sale” (keyword), athletic footwear (in-market). Here’s what we could target:

Possible Targeting
Manual Targeting“Running shoe sale” (search term), athletic footwear (in-market)
Audience Expansion“trainers on offer” (search term), sporting goods (in-market)
Optimised Targeting“running clothes”, athleisure wear (in-market)

So, are they worth it?

The answer, unfortunately, is as it usually is with Google Ads – it depends. The main recommendation I have is to get your chosen audiences working first! If you have the budget once those audiences are performing well, then expand out with these features. Alternatively, if your chosen audiences are just not working for you, then give these a try (especially optimised targeting) to find out who your customer really is.

Got a question? Drop us a line – we’re here to help!

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