Steps to Hacking Google’s Demographic Targeting for Search Ads

Online Marketing

User intent is at the heart of today’s SEO. By focusing on the thought patterns and psychological attributes of target audiences, marketers are better placed to build content that entices readers, ranks well and boosts your bottom line.

In the past, search engines were quite unwieldy but they have evolved to understand Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords and behavioural search patterns, and to link these to relevant content. Ultimately, searchers are able to access quality and relevant results at the search engines.

Understanding user intent is about understanding the questions users are asking in the search engines. A consideration for user intent allows for the creation of content that addresses consumers’ pain points.

Google’s New Demographics Targeting option for search ads allows marketers to place ad bids based on searchers’ gender and age.

In the past, marketers have largely been able to choose a wide array of keywords and negative keywords to match their ads. However, a major challenge has been matching users’ intent to their searches i.e. what does a user mean when they type in a question or a keyword phrase in the search engines?

For example, when a man and a woman search Google for the term ‘growth supplements’ their intentions are likely very different so they may be looking for different products. A 20 year old and a 50 year old searching for ‘best skin products’ are likely not looking for the same products because they have different skin care needs.

Google’s new tool for demographic targeting is located at the ad group level of AdWords search campaigns. The “Demographics” sub tab can be found under the main “Audience” tab. Here, you can track how different genders and age groups are responding to specific keywords in each ad group. This performance data can be used to adjust bids for different ages or genders or to keep ads from being visible to certain demographics.

How to Set Up Google Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting on AdWord’s search campaigns can be set up in four steps:

  1. Click the ‘Audience’ tab and then the sub tab ‘Demographics.’
  2. Using the two sub-tabs under the graph, you can toggle between the gender and age options.
  3. Set bid modifiers on the ‘bid adjustment’ column, which can be found by clicking on the dashed line.
  4. Calculate your bid modifier by dividing the age conversion rate by the conversion rate of the ad group. Subtract the answer by one and then multiple by 100 to obtain a percentage.

For example, say the conversion rate for users in the 17-25 age group is 5.6 percent and the ad group conversion rate is 4.3 percent, your bid modifier would be 30.23 percent but this needs to be rounded up to the nearest whole figure i.e. 30 percent.

Below you’ll find best practices for getting the most from Google demographics targeting:

Be careful when excluding unknown users

Sometimes, users without data to match can come up as ‘Unknown’, for example, those under the age of 18. This means that Google does not have enough data to match to these users. Unfortunately, excluding a large portion of users will not give you accurate or desired results in terms of understanding performance data, which is necessary for bid adjustment. Excluding these users could also negatively impact on conversions by lowering the number of clicks on an ad. So, don’t exclude these users at all.

Make decisions based on data

Even if you think you know the personas of your customers, it is really important to pay attention to what the performance data is telling you before excluding certain users or modifying your bids. The performance bid is the best way to know how the different ages and genders are converting on your site.

Remember, your customers are more than keywords; their intention is what eventually matters. As Google found in one of its studies, basing demographic targeting decisions on gut feelings as opposed to performance data can exclude a large portion of prospective customers from your search campaign.

At the same time, a customer is not always the end consumer. The 35 year old man searching for ‘multicolored rose flowers’ is likely looking to purchase rose flowers not for himself (the customer) but for someone else (the consumer).

Create separate ad groups for different users

Creating different ad groups around the age demographics and gender demographics allows you to drill down to users’ intent. As mentioned earlier, a 20 year old woman and a 50 year old woman searching Google for ‘best skin products’ are looking for different types of products. Creating two separate ad groups for 20 year olds and 50 year olds allows you to show relevant ads to user based on their specific needs and therefor drive each of these users to the appropriate landing page featuring suitable product offers for them.

Demographic targeting for search ads offers marketers an additional option to narrowly target their audience based on their intent. Google’s new demographic targeting options will especially come in handy for businesses targeting unique demographics—when used correctly these targeting options can greatly improve conversion rates for search campaigns.

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