Start Here: Google Ads Combined Audiences
New to PPC, or still picking up the more advanced areas of the channel? Read on below for our primer on Google’s Combined Audiences for Search feature.
What is Combined Audiences for Search?
Combined Audiences for Search is a Google Ads feature that allows advertisers to combine various audience attributes, such as in-market audiences, remarketing lists, and affinity audiences, so to create in-depth personas that can be applied to search campaigns.
How does it work?
Whereas keyword targeting will always be a core part of paid search, layering audiences allows for greater ad personalisation and insights into user behaviour.
There are several audience types that can be applied to search campaigns, in order to improve targeting and overall relevancy:
In-market audiences consist of Google users who are ‘in-market’ for specific products and services, and therefore may be more likely to to buy. Available in-market audiences include Apparel and Accessories, Autos & Vehicles, Baby & Children’s Products, Beauty Products & Services, Business Services, Computers & Peripherals, Consumer Electronics, Consumer Software, Dating Services, Education, Employment, Financial Services, Gifts & Occasions, Home & Garden, Real Estate, Sports & Fitness, Telecom, and Travel.
Affinity audiences are slightly broader than in-market, as it reaches users based on lifestyles, passions, and habits. With over 80 unique personas based on lifestyle and interests, affinity audiences mimic the depth and breadth of TV-style audiences, so marketers can engage with precise audiences at scale.
Google has long allowed advertisers to view and target users by demographics with bid modifiers based on age, gender, and household income. In the past couple of years, Google has gone further by introducing detailed demographics. They are Parental Status, Marital Status, Education, and Homeownership Status.
Facebook has lookalikes, Google has similar audiences. For Google, this is where it targets users who have similar search behaviour to users in your remarketing lists. Google is vague as to what determines ‘similar search behaviour’, but if you are looking for new customers, and already have extensive remarketing lists set up, then this type of audience is certainly worthwhile testing.
When it comes to convincing the people who visit your site to take action and convert, one visit is typically not enough. Remarketing gives you a chance to bring back indecisive customers with tailored ads and offers that relate to the experience they had on your site. You can create remarketing lists based on website visitors, YouTube users, or customer data in the shape of CRM data.
Combined Audiences for Search
Previously, audience lists were pretty much standalone, with limited ability to combine or narrow targeting in order to achieve maximum relevancy. Then, in October 2019, Google launched Combined Audiences for Search, allowing advertisers to create various audience combinations, blending a range of sources including affinity, in-market, remarketing, similar audiences, and detailed demographics.
How to use it?
With Combined Audiences for Search you can apply and/or logic to audience creation, and also exclude specific audiences form your combination. This makes it particularly useful if you are looking to create targeting around specific personas.
For example, travel brands such as SnapTrip, could create audiences based around high value customers in its database (similar audiences), specifically targeting though who are interested in trips to the UK (in-market audiences), and have young children (detailed demographics). By doing so it can ensure that ads and landing pages are relevant, engaging, and meet the needs of their audience:
In similar vein, health tech brands like Fitbit can create audience grouping around some of its core target segments. Below is a combined audience targeting a persona that is interested in both running and technology:
Note that combined audiences must have at least 1,000 members to become active. Google won’t serve ads against audiences that don’t meet that threshold.
What kind of uplift can I expect?
Clients using Combined Audiences have seen a 52% uplift in Conversion Rate vs. standalone in-market audiences, and a 31% decrease in CPA.
Taking it to the Next Level
So now you know the basics, how can you make sure that your brand is making the most of the opportunity? Read on for our four Combined Audiences for Search best practices to help turbocharge your PPC traffic.
Rule 1: Match combined audiences to customer personas
Rule 2: Add to all campaigns
Once you’ve created your combined audiences, the next step is to add them to your campaigns. It’s good practice to add audiences as ‘Observation’ so that you can see how they perform, without limited your campaign’s reach. with your ads. Conversely, you could choose to apply these audiences as ‘Targeting’, which would limit your ads to serving just to these audiences.
Client Case Study: Consumer Electronics Brand
A UK-based consumer electronics brand implemented Combined Audiences for Search as an observation audience across their search campaigns. After it quickly became apparent that these audiences were performing above-average, specific campaigns were created just for these users, with bespoke ad copy and landing pages.
After an initial four week period, CTR across these audiences was 10.63% vs. an account average of 6.63%, with Cost per Conversion some 10% lower than the search campaign average.
Rule 3: Don't go too granular
With so many audience combinations possible, the temptation can exist to go super-granular with your audiences, in order to create the perfect profile of target customers. However, be warned: if you go too deep with combined audiences, your audience size will become too small. Once this happens, you’ll see limited impressions and clicks.
Rule 4: Don't forget about negative targeting
The targeting capability of combined audiences can be a powerful thing, not least because it allows you to exclude people from your targeting based off their characteristics. For example, fintech start-up Monzo might want to target people who fit their millennial target customer profile, but exclude those that are already customers, or who have previously applied for an account but not been successful.