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Enhance Your Display Campaigns with Custom Intent Audiences

Beyonce on a billboard, holding a google logo

Like my diet, the Google Display Network can be a bit hit or miss. For those that need a quick refresher, think of the Display Network as a passive form of advertising where, unlike traditional search advertising, Google gives advertisers the opportunity to place ads on a variety of sites or apps beyond the ‘Search Engine Results Page’ (SERP). Users in this network may not necessarily be in “shopping mode,” rather, they are busy reading about crypto currency, watching Beyoncé’s latest music video, and learning why its good to drink kombucha (two of three being major components to my aforementioned diet). To be successful in the GDN, your ads must not only attract the users’ attention, but entice them enough to click through to your site, leaving the original content they were engaged with. Accomplishing this is not easy – have you ever tried competing with Queen B?

As you read this blog post, do you even recall the last display ad you saw? Probably not. Amid the sea of random sites, those fancy little banner ads or videos promoting a product or service typically go unseen. According to Google, the Display Network reaches over 90% of global internet users expanding across 2 million sites – for an advertiser like me, this is both wonderful and stressful at the same time (like my di- ah you get the point).

Thankfully, Google has unveiled a variety of new AdWords features which not only improve audience management and demographic targeting, but also help maximize Display Network budgeting. Introducing (“drumroll please”), Custom Intent Audiences.

What is a Custom Intent Audience?

Using the GDN, advertisers use data from all platforms (website, YouTube, Instagram, Google Ads, etc.) to “find people who want to buy products/or services that are offered.” Beyond affinity and demographic targeting, custom intent audiences allow you to define and reach the ideal audiences for your business. Maybe you’ve been waiting to target that specific vehicle towards soccer moms in Alberta who like hiking, large dogs, and the colour red. With custom intent audiences, you can get as granular as you please! This new feature eliminates vague grouping, and can more accurately target customers who may not currently be low in the funnel, but have shown intent to purchase your products or services somewhere down the road.

There are two recipes for creating custom intent audiences:

The DIY, build-your-own method

    • Choose keywords and URLs that are related to your campaign goal
    • Tell Google what ‘searches’ indicate buying behaviour
    • “Apply keywords, apps, URLS, or YouTube content to Display campaigns to reach an audience that is actively searching for a related product or service”
    • Ideally, compiling 15 keywords that fit a common theme
    • Avoid URL’s that require people to sign into emails and social media
    • Once all this is completed, the audience’s potential reach and impressions can be seen

The machine learning, auto-created method

    • “Uses the power of machine learning to interpret the traits your prospects possess and creates audiences exclusive to your Google Ads accounts” (Remember, its Google Ads now. AdWords was so 2017)
    • Google will analyze your existing campaigns and automatically create custom audiences
    • This is based on keywords and URLs found in content when people search for specific products/services
    • Once created, these ‘audiences’ will appear among your other Display network audiences
    • For example, insights from existing campaigns may show that users that have visited a dealership website have also actively searched for electric SUVs. Google Ads may then create a new “electric SUV” custom intent audience to simplify the process of reaching this niche segment

Where can custom intent audiences be found?

You can create these custom intent audiences in the new Google Ads interface, under the Audiences section for a Display Network Campaign (if you try this for a Search campaign, you won’t find it). From here, you can choose from auto-created custom intent audiences or make your own.

custom intent audience screenshot 1

When you select auto-created intent audiences, Google will populate potential audiences, each of which are labeled with a phrase that is relevant to keywords for your products and services.  For example:

custom intent audiences 2

Why is this so great?

  • Easy to implement, no matter what skill level you have
  • Allows you to break-free from the pre-defined audience categories in the GDN
  • Redefines your targeting and drives more qualified leads
  • Valuable ads are delivered to a highly specific audience
  • Allows better control for Display campaign spend

Final Thoughts

If you are still clinging on to the old interface, it may be time to finally make that switch. There is no doubt that Google’s artificial intelligence knows more about customer’s behaviours than we will ever know as advertisers. With recent updates to Google Ads, and Google shifting into a “Facebook-like” targeting approach, we may see the beginning of a new era for the digital marketing world: adapting from keyword-centric advertising to audience-centric targeting. Custom intent audiences will be game-changers – and here at Strathcom Media can help you utilize Google’s new audience tool to augment your campaigns and improve your results. Contact us today to find out more!


Google Ads, Google Display Advertising Network

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