Why 2017 is the Year of Audience

Keywords, keywords and keywords are what you centre your AdWords campaigns on, ensuring you’ve got the right ones for your business, the most suitable match types and the correct negative ones to avoid those wasted, irrelevant and sometimes humorous search queries. Get your keywords nailed and you’re on the path to AdWords success!

But what about the audiences and the people behind your keywords? 2017 looks to be the year where audience targeting becomes just as crucial, if not more so, than keyword targeting.

2016: The year of RLSA

2016 was a big year for RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) and it looks like it’s going to play an even bigger role in AdWords accounts in 2017. Although RLSA has been around since 2012, it seemed to become mainstream and standard practice to apply to all campaigns in the previous 12 months.

remarketing lists for search ads

RLSA allows you to customise your ads to users who have already visited your site. You can then adjust your bids for these audience lists as they search for your keywords. The only requirement to qualify for remarketing lists for search ads is that you have at least 1,000 users in your list, so most sites with a healthy amount of traffic shouldn’t encounter any issues.

As with GDN remarketing, there is unlimited potential to be creative with your audience lists. Start with an all users list, as that will be the largest, but introduce an abandoned checkout list too and be sure to bid more aggressively on this list than on your all users.

To underline Google’s belief and investment in the power of RLSA, they’ve recently updated the maximum bid modifier to +900% to ensure you succeed in bringing those high-quality visitors back to your site to complete their purchase.

audience targeting

There’s no need to stop there when it comes to RLSA. Why not implement negative RLSA lists to ensure you’re not wasting clicks on dedicated customers? For instance, create a list of users who visit the ‘members’ or ‘my account’ sections of your site regularly, likely after coming to the site directly, and exclude those users from your campaign.

Similar audiences

Google announced in 2016 that they were releasing similar audience for search for search and shopping campaigns. Similar audiences allow you to create lookalike RLSA audience lists, Google identifies users with the same interests, characteristics and similar search query behaviour as those in your RLSA lists.

For example, if your AdWords campaign is for a hotel in Manchester and a user in one of your remarketing lists searched for “Hotels in Manchester”, then your Similar Audiences for Search list would collect people who have also searched for “best hotels in Manchester”, “places to stay in Manchester” or “hotels in Manchester”. You would then apply the similar audience list to your campaign and adjust bids accordingly.

To make the most out of your lookalike audience, you should ideally have a ‘converters’ remarketing list that you can utilise. If you’re looking for new, similar audiences to your site visitors then who better than people who have completed a purchase?

In all the excitement and furore following Google’s release of new features in 2016, with expanded text ads and similar audience for search, demographic targeting for search ads went a little under the radar. Google now gives you the power to exclude certain demographics from seeing your ads or to increase bids on others based on their gender and age.

Don’t trust your gut!

The temptation to only show your sporting goods ads to men aged 18-35 and to only show your baby products ads to parents must be resisted. Don’t trust your gut instinct, but study your data wisely, or else you could find yourself losing out on countless potential conversions.

Google released some intriguing stats to coincide with the release of demographics for search ads. Did you know that 40% of all baby product purchasers live in households without children? And did you also know that 56% of all sporting goods searches on mobiles are female? Don’t make assumptions about your customers, but use that audience data to your advantage and you might just be pleasantly surprised.

search engine statistics search engine stats

So, we now know that Google can target you by your age, gender and search behaviour, but what else do they know about you? Your household income perhaps? Well, only in the US, thanks to the IRS and only on video campaigns for now, but we can surely expect this to be available in UK accounts in 2017. As with age and gender targeting though, don’t instinctively trust your gut. Just because you sell high-end, exclusive products, don’t just assume that only the top 10% of earners are going to buy your products. If you pigeonhole your customers and exclude those who earn less, you’re likely to lose out on potential sales.

Don’t forget display or video campaigns targeting

With audience targeting becoming all the more important for search campaigns, it’s vital not to neglect your Display or Video campaigns targeting. Make sure you add in some interests targeting, as this ensures your ads are shown to users interested in products or services similar to those of your business, even when they’re browsing other unrelated sites or watching unrelated YouTube videos. Your Google Analytics accounts offers some great insights into your customer’s interests, for instance you might find that customers who buy from your range of mini-dresses are also reality TV lovers and love a beach holiday. Luckily for you, they’re both affinity categories that you can add to both your Display and Video campaigns.


When your potential customer is catching up on the latest shocking and mildly entertaining scandal from the latest episode of reality TV on YouTube, wouldn’t it be ideal for your ad promoting your mini-dress sale to appear just before they become too engrossed?

2017 promises to be an exciting year for audience targeting within the world of Google AdWords, with new features likely to be released throughout the year and audience becoming more and more key to successful campaigns.

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