PPC Advertising is Just As Much About the Audience as it is Keywords

By Tad Miller | Jul 21, 2014
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Covered Wagon PPC

Covered Wagon PPC

Back in the “olden days,” say two years ago, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising was really all about keywords that people searched for on search engines.  Well, two years is like an eternity in online marketing in terms of the pace of change and the reality of today, and the immediate future is that there’s a lot more to it now.

Demographics are now part of the online marketing equation, and utilizing them as targeting options or in combination with other online advertising tactics like keyword advertising is the key to improving conversion success.  There are several ways to combine these still relatively new tactics with your “traditional” online advertising tactics.

Sleeping Under A Rock? This Remarketing Stuff Could Actually Work

Remarketing has been with us for a while now and I feel like it’s been so successful that companies are already overusing it on the Google Display Network.  What many online advertisers have still failed to realize, though, is that Google AdWords also has Remarketing Lists for Search Advertising (RLSA) that allows advertisers to bid differently in search advertising on keywords to members of that remarketing audience.  Here are some possible uses:

  • Exclusion:  Why keep advertising to someone who has already purchased your product?  You can exclude searchers that reach your Purchase Thank You page.  Software as a Service vendors can exclude all visitors to the product home page seen after logging into the product.
  • Using Social to Find the Perfect Audience:  We use the demographic features of LinkedIn Advertising and Facebook to target ads to the potential buyers of our client’s product or service.  When they click through, they are added to a custom remarketing audience that can be used for Display Ads or RLSA, if they don’t end up purchasing, for LinkedIn or Facebook.  This is an especially powerful tactic for enterprise-level B2B products with long sales cycles.
  • Sales Events:  We have retail clients for whom we build remarketing lists down to the product or brand level.  When those products go on sale, we utilize Display Ads to push out the messaging about the deal on those products to those product viewers.  It’s really effective at delivering coupon downloads and prints.
  • Using Seemingly Unrelated Audiences:  You can combine an RLSA audience with any and all of your search campaigns and monitor how those audiences perform.  It costs nothing to do this if you choose the “Bid Only” option, because the only change you can make while utilizing them is a bid modifier that either increases the percentage of your keyword bid or lowers it.  As soon as we get the minimum 1,000 members needed for RLSA, we add them to our accounts and just monitor them to see how they do.  If the data indicates that we should change our strategy for that audience, at a later date we can make the bid modifier adjustment.
If your don't think remarketing will work, you need to get out more.

If you don’t think remarketing will work, you need to get out more.

Online Marketing Success on the Other Side of the Tracks

Did your mom tell you that you need to marry someone rich?  Believe it or not, Google now offers a way to only pursue higher household incomes with your advertising.  These options are possibly the least known targeting tactics in the history of Google AdWords, which is understandable because they are totally hidden in what I think is a pretty un-intuitive spot: the Location Targeting section of Google AdWords Campaigns.  Google says you can:

Target locations by demographics to reach groups of people based on their location’s approximate average household income. Based on publicly available data from the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS), advertisers are able to target ads to certain areas according to their average household income.

You can use this location targeting in combination with both search advertising and display advertising.  I don’t recommend immediately bidding differently or excluding a specific household income range.  Just like with the demographic options, the important thing is to take the time to set up all of the possible household income targeting ranges in your location targeting and then letting the data roll in over a period of months, so you can evaluate which average household income ranges work and don’t work.

Which side do the customers come from?

Which side do your customers come from?

You can set these location targets down to the country (US only), state, city, congressional district and zip code, and you can bid according to performance at all of those levels.  Note: the more granular the targeting options, the longer you will have to wait to get actionable data to play with.

Age, Gender, Parental Status

The Google Display Network has had demographic targeting options for age and gender for about 2 years, and parental status just recently rolled out.  They can be pretty effective targeting options, but I find that they are most effective as a tool to exclude an audience or as data to use to lower your bid percentage.  I haven’t had many instances where I’ve found compelling data that indicated I should bid more aggressively on a demographic.

Just who is supposed to buy this stuff?

Just who is supposed to buy this stuff?

You shouldn’t be surprised to see these targeting options roll out to search advertising in the future.  Google is trying to Beta test them right now.

Unbelievably, There’s Absolutely No Risk or Cost in Building An Audience

The only barrier to entry of audience building (with the exception for paying for social media clicks to build an audience) is time in set-up.  You need to take the time to set up your remarketing audiences.  Setting them at a granular level is important. Setting up household income targeting is time consuming (for the first one).  You can easily expand those targeting options to your other campaigns with a simple edit in AdWords or AdWords Editor.

There’s also a time investment in waiting for audiences to grow to a scale that allows you to make decisions based on results.  You need to think of it like planting seeds and letting them grow to the point where you could harvest them.


Think of starting a remarketing list or marketing audience as planting a seed.

Once you get the scale of data needed, improvements are inevitable.

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