Not all that long ago, Google made one of the most impactful changes to AdWords in a long time. The kicker is, they didn’t really tell anyone about it. They just added a new little tab to AdWords, and expected marketers to find it on their own.
Suffice it to say, we found it. Oh, did we find it.
Quick; what’s one of the biggest flaws with AdWords, start to finish? Most marketers probably answered something along the lines of “the targeting.” When you compare Facebook ads to AdWords, Facebook becomes a clear winner. They both have access to huge audiences, but only Facebook has the literal thousands of targeting factors to dig through. If you want to target someone based on their interest in an exotic French cheese, you can.
Until just recently, you couldn’t with Google. Now, however… you still can’t. Google has added targeting options, specifically within the realm of demographics, but it still lacks the data to create interest-based targeting like Facebook. Some interest categories exist, like broad “shopping” and “science” categories, but nothing nearly so specific as what Facebook offers.
Google AdWords Demographics
Google has allowed some basic demographic targeting and reporting for a while, but they were segregated into their own tabs. You would have to poke through the Age tab, the Gender tab, and the Parental Status tab, all just to target a single ad or view your reports.
Now, Google merged all of those into a single demographics tab, which you can view by turning on the “view demographic combinations” option. The tab will show you columns for each demographic you choose to add, and will segment your data based on those demographics. You’ll be able to see, for example, the CTR of 65+ males, the conversions for 25-24 females, the cost of targeting male parents, and any other combination you can think up.
With this information, you’re able to see at a glance the most effective demographic targets amongst your audience. What if you were to discover that the most lucrative group, by far, was 38-45 year old men with no children? You would be able to put that information to use with demographic targeting.
AdWords demographic targeting is an option added at the ad group level. You can set demographic groups for ad groups, through the three available categories: Age, Gender, and Parental Status.
To set demographic targeting, you need to log into AdWords first thing. Go to your campaigns and click the Display Network tab. In this tab, click the +Targeting button and select an ad group. Once that is selected, click “add targeting” and choose “demographics.”
This is the point where you use the demographics information you got from your reports. Want to target specific age ranges for a specific gender and a specific parental status? Set them all here. You don’t need to choose all three; you can target parents regardless of gender or age, you can target age ranges regardless of the other two demographics, and any combination.
Once you have selected you targeting, save the ad group.
You can also set specific bids based on demographic groups. If you want to emphasize specific demographics, but not exclude others, you can set your bids to focus more on some demographics than on others.
To do this, once again, log into AdWords and click campaigns. In the Display Network tab, click the Demographics tab, then click the demographic you want to emphasize. Here, you click either by the campaign or by the ad group, depending on how many ads you want to change at a time.
The specific changes you want to make are under the Max CPC column. You need to have custom bids enabled to see this column. You can also specify CPM bids or bid adjustments. Save your changes when you’re done, and you’re done.
AdWords also offers a number of other pseudo-demographics that it doesn’t include under the standard demographic options. These would be considered demographics on other ad platforms, but Google categorizes them on their own. These include:
- Device. Desktop or mobile is the primary division, but you can also see demographic information for specific devices, such as the ages for mobile users.
- Geographic location. This has become such an important targeting factor that it has been separated from demographics and given its own section.
- Interests. Google has broad interest categories, like “Sports fans” and “gamers,” but nothing so specific as “Fans of the Seahawks” or “People who play World of Warcraft.”
- Income level. Want to target the 1%? You can target the top 10%, and assure yourself that maybe a millionaire will click your ad.
- Lifestyle. These fall in the category of affinity segments, and offer some more variations on the interest targeting theme.
- Educational level, occupation, household size: all very basic for an ad platform.
Why Google divides those interests and demographics into “in-market” and “affinity” targeting rather than putting them all in one place like more sensible ad platforms, I will never know. The end result is that, to target an ad by the dozen or so factors you may want to target, you’re going to have to bounce through several menus and tabs until you find each individual option.
Does this all make Google on par with Facebook? Not quite yet. Realistically, Google offers you access to people in more places than Facebook, which is limited to its own platform. That is, until Atlas gets up and running, but that’s a story for later in 2015.
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