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The search is on. Typically, users will be served ads based on the search queries they type in to the search engine. So, in order to have your ads serve, you need to bid on keywords that then match to the search terms that users are searching for. Search audiences, however, allow you to be more targeted in who sees your ads. Why? Because they allow you to serve ads to those who have visited your site before, share similar search histories to those on your audience lists, are actively researching a purchase within one of Google's pre-defined categories, or who fit in a set demographic or affinity group. *Whew. *

You're almost there... get ready to cue the "APPLAUSE" sign. Once you have audiences in place, you can then place bid adjustments on your audiences based on how they convert relative to the rest of your campaign. But, in order to have data to determine how they convert, you'll need to apply audiences to your campaign first and allow them to collect data.

Pro-tip: Because there is a data collection phase with audiences, it's best practice to get them added to campaigns as soon as possible.

What types of audiences are available for search?

  • Remarketing - pixel-based, customer lists, YouTube viewers, or similar-to audiences
  • In-market - users that are actively researching a purchase within one of Google's pre-defined categories
  • Detailed demographic - parental status, marital status, education or home ownership status
  • Affinity - general interests or hobbies (may or may not be available)
  • "Similar to" - automatically generated lists of users who share characteristics with your customer lists

Why should you apply audiences to your search campaigns?

  • They can improve performance. If, for example, you find that the in-market audience for "real-estate" converts on your site at a higher rate, you can set a positive bid mod to target these users more aggressively.
  • Unlike demographic or other modifiers, if you don't apply them to your campaigns, you will not collect data on them.
  • Google's automated bidding functionality uses the audiences you apply to your campaigns, so if you do not have audiences applied, eCPC, tCPA and tROAS will not be employed to their full effect.

In what ways can audiences be applied?

  • Observation (highly recommended) – apply audiences, but do not restrict traffic to the campaign/ad group based on the audiences applied
  • Targeting – apply audiences and restrict traffic to only those users who are in one of the applied audiences
  • Exclusion (SEM / GDN only) – exclude an audience from traffic for this campaign/ad group

What if my audiences overlap?

If you're not using eCPC or bid modifiers, Google will allocate traffic randomly. There are two ways around this:

  • Define custom audiences that do not overlap. In this case, it's recommended to exclude converters from visitors, visitors from in-market audiences, etc.)
  • Apply small bid modifiers in order of importance (e.g. converters - 5%, visitors - 4%, email list - 3%, etc.) Google will attribute a shared click to the audience with the highest modifier.

Best practices for search audiences

  • If no historical audience information is available, start by applying all active remarketing lists, and a selection of ~10+ relevant affinity or in market audiences. Set these audiences to "observation only" and allow 4-6 weeks for data collection. Once you have established performance trends, apply modifiers for these audiences. Be sure to refresh your modifiers periodically.
  • At a minimum, be sure to apply basic remarketing and customer lists (e.g. all visitors, all converters, client customer list). If your client does not have any customer lists, you can generate pixel-based remarketing audiences through AdWords or Bing.
  • Continue to explore new audiences and relentlessly test the results. SEM audiences are not as accurate or precise as they are on Facebook, so don't be surprised if you see unexpected results. Trust your instincts with regard to audience selection and application, but follow the data when it comes time to apply modifiers.

Alright, performance marketers – want more? Check out our search engine best practices or even better, if you’re a customer, log-in to New Engen Support & Training to unlock additional hot content including pro-tips, how-to articles and much more. Not a customer (yet)? Don't be shy – reach out to our sales team (they'd love to hear from you).