Joaquin Lopez

AdWords Audience Targeting Tips

25th Feb 2014 PPC Blog, Google AdWords 8 minutes to read

AdWords Enhanced CampaignsWhen Google launched AdWords Enhanced Campaigns they gave us a range of new ways to target users by device, time and location. In fact, their new targeting features place less emphasis on the keyword and more focus on the audience.

So let’s look at effective ways to target users by audience instead of relying on keywords.

PPC Personas

Before you start an AdWords campaign it’s important you put together a persona of who you are marketing to. Personas are archetypal characters created to represent the different types within a targeted demographic.

Put together a range of persona questions to identify your target market. Example persona questions can include:

  • What device will my user use?
  • What is my user’s age range?
  • What is my user’s sex?
  • What are their interests categories?
  • What is their motivation to buy?
  • Where are they in their buyer journey? 
  • Do they commute to work?
  • What is their lifetime value?
  • When are they active online?
  • What is their geographic location?
  • What sites will they visit?

Once you have put together a marketing persona you can start to target users effectively by using the range of features AdWords has available.


It’s important you know your user’s working hours from their leisure time. Does your user commute to work? If so, when are they active? When they commute are they in research mode or buying mode? What are their average working hours? Do they work 9-5? Once you know the trends of your audience you can start to tailor the timing of your bids accordingly.

Time End


Weekend vs weekday traffic can have significantly different search patterns. Research your audience’s interests and find out which days of the week they are more active.  Tools like Google Trends and Twitter Search can help you find days with ‘peak interest’.

For example, users interested in running tend to search more for running related terms at the beginning of the week on Monday and Tuesday. This kind of information is invaluable to a marketer bidding on fitness related products.


These days location targeting is pretty accurate. On AdWords Enhanced Campaigns you can set bid adjustments for specific postcodes, cities and other geographic areas. Look in Google Analytics and sort conversions by location; this will help you see which areas to target and where to bid more aggressively.

For example, a school may only want to bid on a certain catchment area while an expensive car retailer would be be better off bidding in more affluent areas like London. For high income areas it is always worth increasing your bids. On AdWords Enhanced Campaigns you can set campaign bid adjustments from -90% to +900%.

Airports, Universities and Commercial Areas

As well as targeting specific locations you can target ‘places of interest’ in locations groups. The three main areas you can target are Airports, Universities and Commercial areas. For example a hire car company or a hotel could focus their bids and ad text around airport users.

Airport Targeting


Device bidding is an important part of modern day PPC. The device will often determine if they are in or out. One in three mobile searches is local so it’s important you have ad text and bids tailored for this user.

For example, if a user searches for ‘Bike Shop’ from a mobile they could be looking for a physical location to get their tyre fixed.  If they search from a desktop computer they may want to order a bike part online.

The example below shows how the user can differ when searching for the same search term from a different device:

Pizza 1

If you want to target commuters you should specifically target mobile devices. Commuters are often in research mode and will tend to make the final purchase from a tablet or desktop. You should bear this in mind when you split out your device bidding.

If you want to bid by device on certain keywords you should separate your key terms into their own individual ad groups. The more granular you have your ad groups the easier it is to tailor mobile specific bids to a particular keyword (see an example of ad group bidding below).

For example you may want to bid more for ‘Restaurant Bristol’ on a mobile device .

Ad Group Bidding


Weather can massively influence the way people search. If it’s raining more people tend to be online (on their desktop or tablet). If it’s sunny more people will be outside on their mobile devices. One tried and tested tactic is to increase AdWords bids on the days with bad weather (as more people are online).

Demand for certain products and services vary depending on the weather. For example users are much more likely to search for a barbecue on a sunny day. In contrast users are more likely to search for PlayStation games when the weather is bad.


You can automatically bid by weather using AdWords scripts. The weather script will programmatically fetch weather information and adjust bids in a matter of minutes.


In AdWords, targeting the right audience is essential. Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) allow you to tailor search-only campaigns to users who have already been to your site. This sophisticated targeting method can increase conversions in a number of ways.

  • Bid Strategy: Create one remarketing list for Home page visits and another for users who have looked for a specific product. Raise bids slightly for Home page visitors and bid aggressively to users who have looked at the specific product. This will increase conversions and tailor bids to the right audience.
  • Keyword Strategy: Broad keywords like ‘gift’ or ‘present’ will tend to bring in irrelevant traffic on a normal campaign but if you target users who have previously purchased gifts from the company the year before it will work extremely well. Using broad keywords with RLSAs works extremely well on universal calendar events like Valentine’s Day.
  • Ad Text Strategy: If you were an extreme sports retailer you could create three remarketing lists, one for surfing, one for snowboarding and one for skateboarding. When you remarket on the search network you can tailor your ad text to the user’s interest.

To set up RLSAs go to the specific ad group in your search campaign and click the ‘Audiences’ tab. Click the +remarketing button and add the list to your ad group (see example below).

To optimise your search bids for different remarketing lists you can use the bid adjustments feature to bid up or down by a certain percentage.



Interest Categories

Another way to target an audience instead of just using keywords is to use the Google AdWords Interest Categories. On the display network you can choose categories like sport, travel, cars, entertainment and you can show ads to people who have those particular interests.

You can add interest categories to ad groups to reach people interested in your product or service. The three main interest categories you can add are:

  • Affinity categories – good for expanding the reach of a TV campaign
  • In market buyers – good for targeting users who are considering purchase
  • Other – good for more specific niche areas i.e. pet lovers

Its best practice to have a separate budget and campaign for interest categories. You can add interest categories at ad group level. Simply click the Display Network tab under the Campaigns tab and select the ad group you want. Click ‘Add Targeting’ and select ‘Interests & Remarketing’ – here you can add the categories you think best match your business goals (see example below).

Interest Categories

Interest Categories

Demographic Targeting

On the display network you can target users by age range and gender. This can work particularly well when you combine it with remarketing. For example, a sunglasses website could remarket pink Ray Bans to girls who are aged 18-24 and have already visited their site.

The demographic targeting feature can enable you to bid higher for demographics that may be more likely to spend more.

Google have not determined the sex or age of all their users so you can exclude the users they have not identified by selecting the “Unknown” category.

To add age or gender targeting simply go to the Display Network tab and click “+ Targeting”(see below). Select the ad group you would like to target demographics to and then click “add targeting” and choose from:

  • Display Keywords
  • Topics
  • Gender
  • Age

Demographic Targeting

Demographic Targeting 2

Bidding Tips

If you choose to bid separately by time, location, device or audience it’s important you remember that all bid adjustments will stack on top of each other. For example, if your first desktop bid is £1 and you add an additional 10% bid for Oxford your bid will be £1.10. If you also set a bid adjustment of +10% for 8am to 10am your total bid will be £1.21

If you ever need to review your bidding strategy I would recommend looking at the Bid Adjustments report in Google Analytics. This report will show the performance of your traffic against the bid adjustments you have made (by time, location or device).

Google Analytics

When it comes to targeting the right audience Google Analytics is your best source of research. If you use GA to find your most common users you can group them into separate bidding segments. In Analytics you can see what your customers are doing on your site by:

  • Time
  • Device
  • Location
  • Day
  • Age
  • Gender


As Google continues to roll out new updates the importance of keywords will reduce and other targeting features will become more prominent. Research how people behave on your site and you will be able to target premium users and boost conversions.

Get Involved

Do you think audiences are the new keywords? Which targeting feature do you think still needs to be improved? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Image Credits

Analytics Concept from Bigstock
Pizza Diagram from Google

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Joaquin Lopez

Senior Paid Media Executive

Quags is a talented Paid Media specialist with several years’ experience and a particular talent for Facebook advertising, paid social ads and creatives. Also a sci-fi movie buff, gamer, lover of dystopian fiction and self-taught bassist, we’ve concluded that Joaquin has quite the creative streak. A recent trip to Japan unearthed a love for ramen noodles, so we now know what to bribe him with! Fun fact: originally from Chile, Joaquin’s surname means ‘son of wolf’.


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