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Unforgettable Tips to Optimize Audience Targeting

Produced by Hanapin Marketing

Optimizing campaigns to achieve maximum potential is strenuous.  It’s easy to get distracted when focusing your full attention on keywords, bids, and budgets.  While these are all useful, and often essential, ways to orchestrate your campaign, there is a big problem with focusing your attention on only these metrics.  You are treating all of your users the same.  By just looking at the Audience Insights report, you’ll realize the tremendous potential there is to use this information to optimize targeting your online audience.


In the not-so-distant past, account managers retained a more direct focus on maximizing conversion rate. While conversion rate remains a valuable statistic, an over emphasis can be counterproductive and misrepresent performance. The consumer shift to mobile devices has resulted in a more complex customer journey that requires a more audience centric approach.  With this being the new paradigm, it is time to abandon the antiquated, narrow-minded view of focusing on the “last click”.


A much more contemporary and captivating stat, according to Nielsen, is that consumers, on average, visit websites at least 6 times during their purchase process. This could be 6 visits to the same site or 6 visits spread among multiple sites.  For example, let’s say you examine 4 days of data and see:

  • Day 1: 100 visitors, 1 conversion
  • Day 2: 75 people revisit your site, 2 conversions
  • Day 3: 50 people revisit your site, 4 conversions
  • Day 4: 25 people revisit your site, 2 conversions


What’s your conversion rate?

  • Your conversion rate is: 3.6% (9 conversions on 250 visits)
  • Your unique visitor conversion rate is: 9% (9 conversions on 100 unique visitors)


Treating new and returning users the same way can result in misleading information for marketers. In this case, you thought you had a 3.6% conversion rate.  Instead, if you are focusing your marketing efforts around the customer journey, you realize that you actually have a 9% conversion rate (almost 3-fold greater)!  This also identifies an opportunity to significantly increase your conversion, because you will become more cognizant regarding the specific traits and viewing characteristics of your users, providing a better understanding on how to draw them back to your website.


When targeting viewers of your website, research overwhelmingly points to what you probably already assume – “returning” viewers are much more valuable than “first time” viewers.


This points to the fact that we should no longer be referencing single click conversions, where the out-of-date strategy looked like this:



Rather, our updated approach should resemble something along the lines of this:



This is a simplified look at what the audience-driven approach should look like.  There are multitudes of different audiences you can create.
One audience might be members of your in-store loyalty program, whereas another group might be site visitors demonstrating strong engagements such as pages visited or session duration.   Today’s fast paced, mobile world is creating an environment where there are seemingly an unlimited number of ways to segment and target your audiences.


An important question for a marketer to ask is, “How many visits does it take for a user to convert?”


Here’s some industry data from Google and Nielsen:



We no longer have “new users” and “returning users”. Rather, we have users segmented into different audiences.

  • Website visitors
  • Engaged website visitors
  • Members of your loyalty program
  • Users who buy 3x per year
  • Users who haven’t bought in a year
  • Shopping cart abandoners
  • Recent converters
  • Discount shoppers
  • Users who abandoned a free trial
  • Users in a free trial
  • Users who frequently share your content
  • and many more

This has created an entirely new landscape in the paid search world. We are able to market to new users, examine their behavior and characteristics, and group them based on those findings.  These efforts allow us to customize our targeting efforts to the individual.


The amount of options can be stunning.  You can market to someone who signed up for your in-store loyalty program completely differently than someone who abandoned your online shopping cart.  You can exclude current customers from seeing your ads when they search for your brand, or even queries containing “login.” You could also change your ads if that same user searches for your brand and a complimentary product that you offer.


Here are some steps that might help you organize the way you think about targeting.


  • Understand your audience targeting & marketing options so you know what’s possible
  • Graph your current customer journey
  • Determine your strengths & weaknesses
  • Graph potential customer journeys
  • Determine your user characteristics and behaviors along the customer journey steps
  • Lay out your goals for new, similar, existing, and previous customers
  • Examine your other marketing channels and determine how to use audiences to enhance those channels
  • Use all that information to create an audience targeting strategy


While this is complex, you can start very simple. Just look at where users abandon your conversion process, examine the weak points, and start marketing to them differently than new users. This data can be found in Google Analytics under the Top Conversions Paths and Users Flow Reports. Once the most frequent “exit” points from your customer journey are identified, you can begin to generate audiences that re-engage these visitors through specifically tailored messaging. Today’s consumer has unparalleled access to information, reviews, testimonials and more. This generates an intelligent, patient, and informed audience. For the one dimensional marketer, this presents an obstacle. For companies meshing the worlds of intent and targeting, this presents opportunity.


With this in mind, it is imperative to align expectations and expectations with the current intent of an audience.  In the consumer-led market we live in, the consumer isn’t always aware of the exact solution they are seeking.  Rather, they have a set of characteristics and features in mind and start their search from there.  If you are not able to show up in their initial searches, it is very likely that you will fall off their radar and lose that customer to a competitor that was able to catch their attention at an earlier stage of the purchase process.  Online advertisers are now required to accomplish the difficult task of capturing their audience in the “micro-moment” of a consumer’s, often random, search.  Consumer search behavior is rapidly shifting.  Less people are sitting down at a laptop and strategically searching for what they desire.  Rather, they are searching on their phone or tablet spontaneously, at the instant that desire comes to their mind.  It has become very critical to capitalize on micro-moments such as these. In order to do so, digital marketers must be vigilant of what these searches look like, pivot, and target accordingly.


Affinity Audiences


In order to accurately conceptualize how the Internet is being used, you need to accept that we are all “living” on the Internet.  The audience insights tool with Adwords will help uncover hidden details about your audience. The use of affinity audiences allows marketers to target beyond just demographics and tailor their efforts to the specific interests and lifestyles of their users.  For example, let’s say your client owns a utility company and has a large following of people who enjoy “do-it-yourself” projects, and thrive off completing complex tasks on their own:



Knowing this, you can take note of that information and even reference it in your ad copy within your ad groups. In order to maximize the engagement of this particular segment of your audience, you need to accurately adjust the ad copy so that it is tailored to fit them.  In this example, we know we have an audience that is willing to go above and beyond the call of duty and get things done the right way.  Conveniently, this type of audience is available on Google Display Network and Youtube. Through these platforms you can expect to tap into a valuable, relevant audience extremely early in their customer journey.



However, if this preset audience doesn’t quite match the way you want, you can go a step further and create your very own customized affinity audience that better matches your product or brand to your user.  Google has the capacity to break down keywords and URLs from advertisers into content themes and find users who have recently searched for content that is correlated to those themes.


In-Market Audiences


While affinity audiences detail users based on their habits and interests, it also helps to actively target an audience that is researching and intending to buy or use the product or service your client provides.  Referring back to the example of the utility providing client, the Audience Insights observe that 24% of their users were also in-market for home loan purchases.



This seems to be very logical because most individuals who recently purchased a home are going to be in the market for setting up their utilities, as the two normally go hand in hand..  Since it is known that they are in market for energy sources, you can use bid modifiers on this audience because they carry more value than generic traffic. Targeting in-market audiences allows us to reach a slightly lower funnel audience then affinity categories while also capitalizing on the reach of the display network.


Similar Audiences


Similar Audiences is the Google equivalent of a lookalike audience. While they’ve been available in both display and YouTube for some time, their new application in search provides a chance to double on customer personas that have demonstrated success in the past.  Google enhances this audience creation by excluding people who would already be available in your remarketing lists to eliminate the potential of having a bidding war with yourself.


Customer Match


With all of the information you have extracted from your reports, along with the similar audiences generated by Google, you can now focus your attention on your current customers by uploading a customer match list.  This gives you an opportunity to learn more about your customers and opens up the door for potentially cross-selling a different product to them.


Google also offers an even more specific, timely, and relevant targeting option in Customer Match. Essentially Google tries to better meet the expectations of high-value customers through better matching their intent through Search, YouTube, and Gmail. To use this, advertisers upload a list of email addresses that will match to different users when they are signed in. One downfall, however, is these users can choose to opt out of these personalized ads.


Although, there are a few upsides. For one, when targeting through Customer Match, online advertisers can target typically more general, high cost keywords, but do so at a lower cost with a theoretically higher chance of matching intent. Let’s say a company sells outdoor work clothes. If a user from their email list searched for “pants,” it would allow them to put an ad in front of that person. However, if they were bidding on this term without the Customer Match stipulation, they could have potentially showed an ad to a businessman looking for suit pants, rather than a qualified, potential customer.


On the other hand, you can choose to exclude these Customer Match audiences. Say a lead gen company books Whitewater Rafting trips. If a user has already booked a trip for the season, that company would not want to show them booking ads again. To reiterate, Customer Match audiences are a great source for attaining more control over your message and who you want to see that message.



Key Learnings

In order to keep up in this fast-paced, digital-consuming world, it is absolutely imperative for marketers to understand the full process of the consumer’s journey and appropriately segment them into different audience categories.  This separation allows you to maximize your efforts because it increases relevance by putting the intended message in front of the right audience.  Google is able to extract beneficial data about your users that show repeated behavioral patterns, clear indicators for when users are in the market, and personalized algorithms to get your ad in front of a user who is likely to need (and ideally purchase) your service or product. Therefore, marketers can maximize their targeting strategies like never before, and if you don’t take the right steps to maximize these assets, you will certainly fall behind.


By implementing these tips to target your audiences, we hope you see significant improvements to your marketing success. Reach out to us if you have any questions.