Audience Insights: New innovative ways of identifying the real user

Marketing has always used audience insights to shape winning engagement strategies. In paid search marketing, marketers use keyword intent, test-and-learn tactics, and performance data to gain a general understanding of the target audience. Now, however, a whole new level of audience detail can be accessed via additional third-party Adwords audience insights that can be leveraged at a granular level to improve engagement, and in turn, result in better performance and optimized spend.

While many advertisers have interpreted this Adwords audience insight data in the context of the Google Display Network (GDN), iProspect has also been utilizing this data to enhance a broader range of digital activations. In fact, iProspect believes the availability of this data is just one element in a series of initiatives that is intentionally moving the industry away from search campaigns that are based purely on keywords and toward more programmatic, audience-centered marketing.  This will revolutionize the way paid search plans and strategies are formed, progressively transform the simplest PPC campaign, and even start to shape the overarching marketing, content, and product strategies for brands.

New Audience Insights

The enhanced audience insights, available since September 2015 in Google AdWords, make it possible to combine first-party, brand-owned website data (and hopefully soon Customer Match data) with third-party Google audience segmentation data. This is huge. It means brands and paid search specialists can set up key audience lists then incorporate additional information about the interests, purchasing habits, and demographic makeup of each audience. From there, both digital, content, and overarching brand-side strategies can be adjusted based on actual audience behavior. Where once marketers had to rely on assumptions about the target audience, they can now access data-driven truths. 

How to Find and Use These Insights

In order to leverage this data, marketers must utilize the AdWords Audience tab featuring RLSA (Remarketing Lists for Search Ads) and Customer Match lists. After selecting any of these first-party lists, Google advertisers can now see information (comparative to the country-wide benchmark) about the following audience attributes:

  1. Affinity Audiences –Provides insights into specific audience interests
    • E.g. Art & Theater Aficionados, Aspiring Chefs, Social Media Enthusiasts, Fast Food Cravers, Local News Junkies, Home Décor Enthusiasts, etc.
  2. In-Market Audiences – Provides insights into what that audience is researching and actively considering buying
    • E.g. Apartments (For Rent), Concert & Music Festival Tickets, Lip Makeup, Children’s Apparel, Payroll, Televisions, etc.
  3. Demographic – Provides insights into age, gender, and parental status
  4. Location – Provides insights into the Country/Territory or City
  5. Device – Provides insights into device usage across mobile, desktop, and tablet

Examples of Audience Insights & How To Use Them:

1. Affinity Audiences (interested in):

Example of Activation: A luxury retail brand that finds many of their audience lists are regarded by Google as ‘Travel Buffs’ and ‘Green Living Enthusiasts’ could adjust their paid search ad copy to include travel-size products featuring natural ingredients.

2. In-Market Audiences (purchasing intent for):

Example of Activation: A travel brand that finds their site visitor audience is in-market for ‘Concert & Music Festival Tickets’ could adjust their paid search campaigns to test appearing in searches relevant for remote music festivals and concerts that require substantial travel or accommodation booking. At a higher level, the travel brand may seek a partnership or sponsorship opportunity with festivals and ticket companies, since they know there is a correlation between the two brands and purchase intent.

3. Demographic, Location or Device Insights:

Example of Activation: A brand focused on driving in-store foot traffic that finds their website visitors are heavy mobile users located in certain cities may increase the Mobile and Location bid modifiers to align with these findings. Setting up additional mobile campaigns with the top city locations broken out to specify individual keywords and location specific creative that drives to individual store landing pages will likely see increased sales in these key areas.

What’s Next?

While these segmented audiences certainly provide a fresh and interesting way to understand site visitors, there are inevitable questions:

  • Firstly, is the data accurate? Many of the insights do not seem to align with expectations. For instance, are luxury makeup shoppers truly male and interested in soccer?
  • Secondly, where does the affinity and in-market data come from? Google provides some indication, but arguably has not yet provided a clear methodology or hard data that gives marketers true perspective or a point of comparison.
  • Could these audience insights start to be founded on each user’s respective searching history, rather than simply previous sites they have visited?
  • Finally, if we can currently target these users in the GDN, when will we simply be able to launch paid search campaigns that focus on the products and services people are in-market for, rather than the ones they are searching for?
  • Will Google results become even more programmatic, focused entirely on the user’s interest, purchasing intent, demographic, location and device, and stop looking to keywords for intent signals?

Overall, these additional audience insights will help provide a much deeper understanding of the real-life attributes of the people interacting with brands. This latest audience feature, coupled with Google’s recently announced Similar Audiences and GDN In-Market or Custom Affinity targeting, suggest a whole new revelation in the world of paid search. Will keywords become an outdated intent signal, overshadowed by new ways of marketing to predetermined audiences? Although this revolution is still in its early days, it is clear that brands and marketers should be leveraging this data to develop new digital tactics, provoke more engaging on-site content, and even shape the very products they are selling.

Christina Malcolm, Associate Director, Paid Search, also contributed to this post.