The purpose of this blog is to show you how to identify your ideal Google Ads target audience so you don’t waste your PPC ad budget.
Pay-per-click advertising (PPC) is a fantastic way to get your business in front of your audience. Your brand, product, or service can be targeted specifically to the needs of the user.
For new companies or brands with little to no digital footprint, this is a fast way to drum up business.
For companies that are more established, PPC can be used to stay competitive and keep a constant flow of incoming business.
But how do you do this? Where do you start?
Personally, I believe that it all starts with understanding who your target market is and understanding their needs. Only then can you apply that knowledge to your Google Ads campaigns.
There are lots of great tools to help you with your PPC marketing, but if you don’t know how to identify your audience, they won’t really help you very much.
PPC can be unnecessarily expensive, especially when you are just throwing money at a problem. I see this happen all the time. Clients come to me saying their PPC doesn’t work and is just an expensive form of traffic. It doesn’t have to be this way. You just need to do more preparation and research before launching any paid campaign.
The purpose of this blog is to show you how to identify your ideal target audience so you don’t waste your PPC ad budget.
Firstly, When Should You Use Google Ads?
Google Ads should not be your only marketing medium. It does not solve all marketing problems. PPC serves a specific purpose and is most effective when applied lower down in the user’s buyer journey.
There Are Different Types of Search in the Buyer’s Journey
Not everyone is searching on Google looking to buy a product or service. Some people are looking for information, advice, reviews before committing to a sale, or are giving up their information.
Therefore, it is important to understand the different types of search and which one works best with Google Ads.
Stages in the user buyer journey:
If you are spending money on Google ads, you don’t want to pay for ads where users are only researching a product or service your offer. Businesses want to target those users who are ready to commit and make a decision. That is when PPC will be most effective.
The decision stage is usually when the intent of the user is transactional.
Transactional intent phrases can include:
- How much does the product/service cost
- Where to buy the product
- Order Product/service online
- Price for product/service
- Coupons for product/service
- Free shipping
- Is product/service in stock
Using these types of transactional keywords will help you target users in the decision stage of the buyer journey, increasing your conversion rate and Google Ads ROI.
Google Ads Should NOT Target Every User in the Buyer’s Journey
Google Ads target audiences lower in the marketing funnel. Therefore when you are considering PPC, you should pair it with another marketing service that will help complement it (target higher funnels). This is especially true when the other marketing channel funnels users who are in the awareness or consideration stages of the sales journey.
The most logical partner to PPC is SEO. Using SEO to reach users who want to learn or are interested in a particular product or service allows for you to engage with them throughout the sales journey, creating a seamless experience.
Prepare :: Do Market Research
Research Who Your Target Audience Is For Your Google Ads Campaigns
Businesses should absolutely invest in researching their target audience so that they can create ads to appeal to them.
Here is a list of free research resources to help you identify and understand your target audience:
Create Buyer Personas Using Your Research
Buyer personas are fictional representations of your ideal customer that are developed with the market research you’ve collected. It’s important to be as detailed as possible when building your personas since they play a big role in attracting qualified leads and winning new business.
When building out personas, focus on behaviors that you can actually market to, rather than traits that don’t actually matter.
Typically personas are…full of crap.
They are not really helpful. They should be, though.
Your persona should include where the user likes to search online, what type of content they consume the most, what they believe in, their affiliations, and their opinions. These are all attributes a business can market to.
A lot of older marketers still cater to things like age, gender, and favorite food, which are not always useful in creating a marketing message.
For example, here is a mock persona for a company selling car tires:
Billie is a college graduate. He works at his father-in-law’s antique store and is 25 years old. His favorite drink is Coca-Cola, and he buys a lottery ticket once a week. He watches ice hockey and is a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers. He has been married for two years and has no children. He does have one dog.
What the heck are you or your marketing team supposed to do with this information?
Personas should be focused on behavior and trends, which are much more useful.
Here are few bad examples of personas:
What Some Industry Leaders Say About Personas:
Rand Fishkin at Sparktoro wrote about his concerns when it came to the traditional persona, which is worth reading.
Joel Klettke shares his thoughts on Twitter about why he dislikes traditional personas and how they are created.
If you want to learn more about personas and how to create them the right way, I highly suggest you read this article on why personas tend to fail.
How Use Google Ads To Target Audiences
Brainstorm Relevant Keywords (Based on Intent/Buyer Journey)
PPC is best used for targeting users who are in the decision stage of the funnel and searching with transactional intent. Combine that intent with the product or service you are offering to create a list.
Take this list and use it to generate a larger list of keywords that you can use in your ad copy and targeting.
Free Keyword Research Tools:
There are lots of free keyword research tools for you to try out. Here is a list of my favorites that you can start with:
- WordStream Keyword Tool
- Google Keyword Planner (must have a Google Ads account to use this)
Categorize Your Keywords
Use these tools to create a list of relevant keywords. Drill down the list and segment/categorize them based on how you wish to set up your Google Ads account.
For example, if you sell garage doors, your keywords can be categorized into:
As you continue to run your Google Ads campaigns you will be able to tell which keywords convert the best and should be further invested into.
To reduce waste on users who are not in your target audience, you should also create a “negative” list of keywords you don’t want your ad to be found for.
Think about the words users in the awareness or consideration stage would use. This could include searches like:
- How to install a garage door?
- What is the best garage door opener?
- Wood vs composite garage doors
- What is the difference between a carriage and a garage door?
- Garage door sealers
All these search queries are about garage doors, but they are not keywords you want to target if you are trying to sell garage doors. Therefore, you should make a list of possible keywords you don’t want to rank for and submit them to Google Ads.
You can add your negative keywords to Google Ads here:
Selecting Campaign > Ad Group > Keywords > Negative Keywords
Understanding Audiences in Google Ads
Google Ads offers more advanced tools for helping businesses target users who are most relevant.
Google explains in-market audiences as the ability to “reach potential customers while they’re actively browsing, researching or comparing the types of products you sell. Connect with those most interested in what you have to offer, using precise segments that classify users based on their demonstrated in-market behavior and purchase intent.”
This audience is in the decision stage of the user journey and most likely to purchase or commit. Therefore, the conversion rate is higher than the “affinity” audience.
To select your in-market segment go here:
Audiences > Select Campaign/Ad Group > Observation > Browse relevant categories
Affinity audiences are useful to businesses who are looking to increase brand awareness and drive consideration among potential users. This segment is not as targeted as the “in-market” audience.
Affinity audiences target users based on their interests. Google Ads allows you to select from a range of affinity interests.
I do not recommend this audience type for most businesses because you can easily blow through your ad spend budget and see little return.
Don’t try to target everyone. Focus on targeting only those users who you believe have the highest chance of converting. Segmenting your Google Ads is an easy way to identify what segments work best.
Here are a few ways most businesses can segment their Google Ads:
Google Ads allows you to target internationally right down to a ZIP Code level. This granularity allows you to determine exactly where your most profitable audience is.
When you know where your audience is located, you can adjust your bids accordingly.
You can also create negative locations. For example, if you’re targeting Central Pennsylvania but don’t want to target York County (which is in Central PA), Google ads will show ads in those areas, but not York.
To target a location, go here:
Location > click the pencil icon > Select a campaign > type in a location or ZIP Code.
If demographics play an important role in your targeting, Google ads allow you to adjust your campaigns based on:
- Age groups
You can also create negative demographics. For example, if you’re targeting millennials, you can instruct Google not to show your ads to age groups older than 35 years old. This is a great way to reduce wasted spending.
Note: Google Ads does not allow businesses to target users under 18 years of age. They also restrict ads if they consider the demographic targeting as discriminatory.
To target different demographics, go here:
Demographics > Select age/gender/household income > Add your segment of choice
Audience targeting takes constant refinement and is not “set it and forget it.” Just because you did research does not mean your PPC campaigns are going to be successful. The search landscape is constantly changing and search engines adapt their results to best fit what users are looking for.
When it comes to PPC, the longer you run your campaigns, the more data you will gather. Use this data and turn it into insightful information that helps you target your audience more precisely and increase your Google Ads ROI.
Data Resources to Help Identify Your Audience(s)
Here are tools to help you identify your target audience so you can target them better with your Google ads. These data sources are not applicable to all industries. Read through the descriptions to find the data sources that will help you refine your target audience.
SparkToro:: SparkToro crawls tens of millions of social and web profiles to find what (and who) your audience reads, listens to, watches, follows, shares, and talks about online.
Think with Google: Find My Audience:: Find My Audience helps you understand who your most valuable customers are on YouTube so you can discover new audiences and learn how to reach them individually with relevant messaging.
Get App Market Research Software:: Web-based market research software.
Google Data Sets:: Dataset Search is a search engine for datasets. Using a simple keyword search, users can discover datasets hosted in thousands of repositories across the web.
Google Trends:: Google Trends is a website by Google that analyzes the popularity of top search queries in Google Search across various regions and languages. The website uses graphs to compare the search volume of different queries over time.
Social Mention:: Social Mention is a social media search and analysis platform that aggregates user-generated content from across the universe into a single stream of information.
HubSpot:: A large repository of marketing data. You can find the latest marketing stats and trends here. It also provides tools for social media marketing, content management, web analytics, landing pages, and search engine optimization.
Yelp Open Datasets:: The Yelp dataset is a subset of businesses, reviews, and user data for use in personal, educational, and academic pursuits.
U.S. Census Bureau:: The Census Bureau’s mission is to serve as the nation’s leading provider of quality data about its people and economy.
Data.gov (U.S.):: Here you will find data, tools, and resources to conduct research, develop web and mobile applications, design data visualizations, and more.
Health Data:: This site is dedicated to making high-value health data more accessible to entrepreneurs, researchers, and policymakers in hopes of better health outcomes for all.
Open Corporates:: As the largest open database of companies in the world, Open Corporates makes high-quality, official company data readily available.
U.S. Food & Drug Administration:: Here you will find a compressed data file of the Drugs@FDA database.
World Health Organization:: This contains statistics concerning nutrition, disease, and health in more than 150 countries.
Visualizing Economics:: Data visualizations about the economy. This is a collection of the most interesting economic data Catherine Mulbrandon has found on the web. This is not meant to be a comprehensive list of every data website but just what she has found most useful for creating infographics about the US economy.
Global Financial Data:: With data on over 60,000 companies covering 300 years, Global Financial Data offers a unique source to analyze the twists and turns of the global economy.
Google Finance:: Google Finance provides real-time market quotes, international exchanges, up-to-date financial news, and analytics to help you make more informed trading decisions. Real-time stock quotes and charts, financial news, currency conversions, or tracked portfolios.
Google Public Data Explorer:: Google’s Public Data Explorer provides public data and forecasts from a range of international organizations and academic institutions, including the World Bank, OECD, Eurostat, and the University of Denver. These can be displayed as line graphs, bar graphs, cross-sectional plots, or maps.
U.S. Small Business Administration:: Employment data from business owners’ perspectives, including economic indicators and projections.
Love the Sales:: Free data for insights into the global retail industry. Love the Sales is the world’s biggest online sales marketplace – more than 1,000 leading retailers partner with Love the Sales to increase sell-through and sell stock in-season at a higher margin.
SkiftStats:: Skift deciphers and defines trends for global CEOs and CMOs across travel, dining, and wellness sectors through a combination of news, research, conferences, and marketing services. Latest statistics, research, and data about the travel industry.
Bureau of Transportation Statistics:: The Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS), part of the Department of Transportation (DOT) is the preeminent source of statistics on commercial aviation, multi-modal freight activity, and transportation economics, and provides context to decision-makers and the public for understanding statistics on transportation. Transportation statistical data, research activities, and budgetary resources.
Gallup:: Data-driven news based on U.S. and world polls.
Rand State Statistics:: RAND State Statistics allows users to choose the geographic coverage that’s best for them. RAND US contains nearly 200 Social Science databases covering all 50 U.S. states. Social science data for the U.S. at the national, state, and local levels.
Pew Internet:: This page is organized by survey, where each dataset is identified by the name of the survey, and below each dataset are links to the reports released from that data. In some cases, reports draw from multiple datasets.
UNICEF:: UNICEF gathers evidence on the situation of children and women around the world. The data sets include accurate, nationally representative data from household surveys and other sources.
Healthdata.gov:: 125 years of U.S. healthcare data, including claim-level Medicare data, epidemiology, and population statistics.
NHS Health and Social Care Information Centre:: Health data sets from the UK National Health Service. The organization produces more than 260 official and national statistical publications, including national comparative data for secondary uses, developed from the long-running Hospital Episode Statistics which can help local decision-makers to improve the quality and efficiency of frontline care.
World Bank Open Data:: Education statistics about everything from finances to service delivery indicators around the world.
IMF Economic Data:: An incredibly useful source of information that includes global financial stability reports, regional economic reports, international financial statistics, exchange rates, directions of trade, and more.
UN Comtrade Database:: Free access to detailed global trade data with visualizations. UN Comtrade is a repository of official international trade statistics and relevant analytical tables.
U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis:: U.S. official macroeconomic and industry statistics, most notably reports about the gross domestic product (GDP) of the United States and its various units. Also provides information about personal income, corporate profits, and government spending in the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPAs).
Financial Data Finder at OSU:: Plentiful links to anything related to finance, no matter how obscure, including World Development Indicators Online, World Bank Open Data, Global Financial Data, International Monetary Fund Statistical Databases, and EMIS Intelligence.
National Bureau of Economic Research:: Macro data, industry data, productivity data, trade data, international finance, data, and more.
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission:: Quarterly datasets of extracted information from exhibits to corporate financial reports filed with the Commission.
Financial Times:: The Financial Times provides a broad range of information, news, and services for the global business community.
American Society of Travel Agents:: ASTA is the world’s largest association of travel professionals. It provides members information including travel agents and the companies whose products they sell such as tours, cruises, hotels, car rentals, etc.
Statista:: For researching data and stats, Statista is another one of the best sites for market research. The site includes datasets on topics in over 600 industries. In addition to providing hard data, Statista also provides many supporting charts and infographics that make data easy to consume, understand, and use in your market analysis.