Prospecting or Remarketing?

On Google Display Network, there are two main ways of targeting.

You can either target prospects online who have never heard of your website, products, services, brand, etc. Or, you can remarket to those who are already engaged or have engaged with your online presence in some form.

Many businesses tend to choose option no. 2 as it lets you leverage the audiences you have in Google Analytics for your website. Even if you don’t have any website audiences built in Google Analytics, you can do so very easily by setting up an audience for a user who completes specific actions.

Common remarketing audiences include:

  • Users who have contacted you via form submission
  • General users who have visited your website to inquire about a product or service
  • Users who have downloaded content from your website
  • Users who have looked at specific product or service pages
  • Users who have completed the purchase journey by buying one of your products/services
  • Users who agreed to sign up for an account or free trial
  • Users who initiated any one of the above actions but left the page before completing the said action

With the above said, you shouldn’t close the door on any one of the targeting methods as you may potentially benefit from both at some point, depending on your marketing goals. The key thing to remember is that prospecting and remarketing are both two very unique initiatives which can be executed through GDN.

Some businesses might focus only on remarketing because to them, reaching users who are already familiar with their brand will drive better leads and sales for them, and in a very cost-effective way. However, other business who are not as focused on ROI as they are on generating and building brand awareness around their products and/or services will choose prospecting. Like we said, it all comes down to your individual marketing goals.

There are also more specific forms of GDN audience targeting you can leverage to complement your marketing goals:

In-market segment targeting

This refers to Google users who are interested in not a specific product or service but rather broad categories of products and services like, for example, sports and fitness, nutrition and health, home and garden, education and academia, real estate and property investment, and so on.

Google has definitions for these segments based on what users historically view over the web, as well as where they click the most and what kind of content they convert against the most. There are also sub-categories for each type of segment although the underlying criteria that Google uses for such segments has not been made public.

The size of each sub-category will often range in the millions and even billions (of users), so it’s fair to say that testing through a Google Display Network in-market segment is a safe starting point. However, you’d still want to create a more focused pool of users, so you need to layer demographic qualifiers, device targeting and other affinities to accomplish exactly that.

Not sure how to control audience size for in-market segments? That’s easy: just compare it with Google Analytics (GA) data. The in-market segments on GA actually align perfectly with those on Google Ads. So, GA should indicate which in-market segments on your website are resulting in the highest conversions.

Affinity audience targeting

Much like in-market segments, affinity audiences are basically Google users who have similar interests with other users; e.g. in fashion, music, travel, cooking, and more. However, these are very broad categories of online users, so you need to find the right targeting criteria to narrow down the size of each affinity interest or at the very least, its sub-categories.

If you blindly rely on the default options that come with in-market segments and affinity audiences in Google Ads, then you will not be able to utilise your marketing spend in a smart way. This is why you need to leverage Google Analytics to help identify precisely which affinity audiences will lead to the highest conversion rates on your site.

Google Ads also creates an audience similar to the one you create using Google Analytics, and these audiences are fairly well-focused in size, which makes them great for testing.

Custom intent audience targeting

Custom intent audience is a very useful method of contextual targeting where Google shows your ads through specific keywords and URLs only to users who are highly likely to be interested in your products/services. Google may also display your ads to people who have searched for something recently using your suggested keywords.

What makes custom intent audience targeting different from other targeting methods is that you will not be targeting websites which are using the very same keywords, neither will Google display your ad specifically on particular website URLs. Instead, Google will display your ads to users browsing other websites that have some kind of contextual connection to the keyword or website URL you have provided Google with.

Placement targeting

When you provide placement URLs, Google can display your ads on specific websites only. This is a great way to have tighter and more controlled targeting because it sets a limit on the display ad placements to custom websites chosen by you.

By being so specific, you can definitely save money, but at the same time, you could potentially miss out on mainstream websites where your target users are hanging out. So the bottom line is: people who visit you are also visiting other websites. When you leverage powerful functionalities like custom affinity audiences (which is based on user interests) and custom intent audiences (which is based on the keyword and URL you choose), Google will target these users at online destinations other than your own website.

Just to practically demonstrate how useful this targeting feature is, imagine that your specified URL or website is the centre of a digital spider web; Google leverages this central URL to target users who are hanging out at other URLs within the spider web, which means your reach just got amplified as now your ad is going out to websites that you probably don’t know about but where your users are.

Now, it’s worth noting that these ‘other websites’ may or may not have content that ties in with your suggested keyword/URL – but the good news is Google knows for sure that these are sites that your users (users connected to your suggested keywords and URLs) are also visiting.

Topic targeting

While Google can certainly display your ads on different websites, it can only do so according to the topic you specify. Some of the topics may have similarities to your audience’s affinities or interests, or they may fall completely outside of the standard Google categories/segments – e.g. something along the lines of agriculture, camping, hiking, or even filming.

Topic targeting is, therefore, an alternative to researching and selecting URL placements for one interest at a time and without knowing what the impact of those placements is.

Great – Now what? Now we study the three important audience-building factors

Everything you’ve read up till this point (hooray) was meant to give you a basic understanding of the underlying mechanisms behind targeting and creating an audience.

Now, we’re going to explore three very important audience-building factors which will ensure that you are building your audience better than ever. Here’s how we’re going to tighten our audience targeting further to ensure that we’re getting the best ROI:

1. Choose the right devices

Naturally, during the process of setting up your display campaign, you’re going to think about where your target audience might use your product and how they will be signing up to use it. It’s very important to consider the where and how in this case. So, think about this: if you user experience is not quite as good on a specific device, you might want to exclude that device from your targeting completely.

For instance, is mobile the best platform for the offer you have on your landing page? Will people accessing it on mobile have a tough time navigating the page or locating the call-to-action? Will they be able to access your products or services easily on other small or handheld devices like tablets?

If you’re marketing games or apps, for example, then mobile is a no-brainer. If you’re in the business software sector producing software that works best on desktop PCs, then mobile targeting is something that would prove to be not only unnecessary but also very costly.

2. Choose the right demographics & locations

When you’re targeting through Google for a display campaign, you get to customise several demographics – like age and household income, for example, which can be found under seven unique ranges. So, if your target audience is not within the 18-24 age range or the top 10% of household income, then you can exclude those users from your ad groups.

There could also be specific states, towns or territories outside your usual demographic where you would rather not drive sales. The bids with regard to such locations can be adjusted so that the budget is redirected to more profitable locations. If your product has more demand in California, for example, and less demand in Pennsylvania then you can, perhaps, adjust the bid by -25% for Pennsylvania so that your budget is redirected to California.

3. Make sure to mark your content exclusions

Many businesses make this mistake right before launching a GDN campaign: skimming right past the additional settings for website which may have explicit content. Advanced content settings are there for your benefit – settings which can prevent your website URL from appearing on sites with sexually explicit or suggestive content, those with sensitive issues, or parked domains.

The thing is Google will never mark the boxes for content exclusions; you need to manually mark them so that your ads do not pop up on any undesirable websites.

Did you find this article on GDN targeting useful? We certainly hope so! Our team is always on hand to advise how you can make the best of Google Display Network to get your ads in front of the right audience and meet your ROI expectations.

Published On: March 27th, 2023 / Categories: Marketing Strategy /

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