An Introduction To Google Audience Targeting

audience targeting
Erika San Jose
by: Erika San Jose
We explore how beauty brands will benefit from advanced audience targeting to identify customers on the Google Display Network and Google Feeds through Display and Discovery Ad campaigns.

Many consumers in the market for beauty products spend a large portion of their time searching for products online; researching and reading up on the latest products and trends on beauty and lifestyle websites, how-to guides on blogs, tutorial videos on social channels like YouTbe and Instagram.

Fortunately for skincare and beauty brands looking to get the attention of these potential customers, many of the websites they visit are a part of the Google Display Network (GDN) meaning as an advertiser, you can take advantage of a range of targeting options that are perfect for honing in on this type of consumer.

What is the GDN & Google Feeds?

As the world’s largest online display advertising network, Google Display Network, or GDN, is one of the most powerful tools for any brand looking to reach huge numbers of consumers. The reach is huge – it has millions of websites in its inventory (from small niche blogs to colossal sites like YouTube) and it serves adverts to over 90% of all internet users, showing hundreds of billions of adverts every single month.

An example featured on

Your brand can show video, text and image adverts on sites that have chosen to sign up with Google and be a part of the network.

Discovery Ads provides the opportunity to reach up to 2.9 billion people monthly across Google Feeds. This includes YouTube Home and Watch Next feeds, the Gmail Promotions and Social tabs and Discover.

Over the past few years, there have been some very interesting new targeting tools and audience options that can make a huge difference to online retailers and brands looking for real bang for their buck. Here are some of the main ones that we’ve seen work well for clients in the beauty space:

Affinity Audiences

In the beauty sector, we benefit hugely from people being incredibly passionate about the subject, dedicating a lot of their spare time exploring the latest products and seeing what influencers are saying. Advertisers can leverage these passions and the interests of their target customers via Affinity Audiences. 

Google builds Affinity Audiences by analysing a person’s overall lifestyle and their long-standing interests to get a better sense of who they are; exploring their browsing history and the pages they’ve previously visited. It considers which ones they spend more time on and which they regularly frequent.

Using this information, Google then associates a number of interest categories to that user, and if these match your brand’s offering or complement it in any way, then it can be a great place to pick up new customers who are already very interested in what you’ve got to offer. From broad to specific, there are whole ranges of Affinity Audiences already in place and ready for you to use. 

A great example of an Affinity Audience from the world of beauty is the “Beauty & Wellness” category, as well two subcategories, one for “Beauty Mavens” and another for “Frequently Visited Salons”. For each of these you can show adverts across the Display Network (including ads within Gmail and on YouTube) as well as target these individuals with your Google Search Ads, should you want to.

In-Market Audiences 

In-Market audiences allow brands to show videos, banners and text adverts to users when they are showing buying intent for the products you offer. Similar to Affinity Audiences, in-market audience groups are based on Google analysing the behaviour of people online and then assigning them to a category. The difference is the intent behind that activity, as unlike Affinity Audiences which are all about long-term interest in a subject matter, in-market audiences represent short-term interest that disappears as soon as they make a purchase. 

Google looks at the kinds of searches people are making and whether they have a commercial intent, the websites they are visiting and if they are clicking on ads. All of this shows that the user is in a buying mindset and they get categorised into the most relevant In-Market Audience. You can then choose to advertise to them during this period where they are far more likely to make a purchase.

The In-Market Audiences that cover beauty are vast. They include:

  • Bath & Body Products
  • Anti-Aging Skin Care Products
  • Face Lotions & Moisturisers
  • Facial Cleansers & Makeup Removers
  • Hair Care Products
  • Eye Makeup
  • Face Makeup
  • Lip Makeup
  • Nail Care Products
  • Perfumes & Fragrances
  • Spas & Beauty Services
  • Manicures & Pedicures
  • Tanning & Sun Care Products

Looking at it from a user funnelling point of view, Affinity Audience visitors are at the top-of-funnel or “awareness” stage where they are researching topics in a fairly passive manner, whereas In-Market visitors are much farther down that journey and more likely to be in the “consideration” or even “purchase” stages. Beauty and skincare brands have the benefit of using In-Market audiences during seasonal shopping events such as Black Friday and Christmas, as it allows them to direct target shoppers around these vital periods.

Custom Audiences

One of the more interesting developments with GDN targeting over recent years has been the addition of Custom Audiences. You have a whole different way of targeting prospective customers thanks to the ability to use the keywords they have recently used in Google search, mobile apps and the websites they have recently visited. This gives display advertising a whole new approach as brands can mix the high intent of search advertising with the low cost of display.

Some key features of Custom Audiences for brands to remember…

Can you target direct competitors? Yes, technically if someone is searching for rival beauty brands and visiting their sites, this can be the low hanging fruit and allows brands to offer quick new sales and easy market share.

Can you target complementary products? Yes, if your products are related or relevant it’s a good idea to feature complimentary products. An example would be if you sell moisturisers with SPF and someone is searching for sun lotion then this consumer could be a potential target for your brand. If you offer hair maintenance products and people are searching for hair straighteners or visiting the GHD site then these are probably worth advertising to.

Can you target broad keywords? Search terms like “makeup”, “cosmetics” or “xmas gifts” are too generic and highly unlikely to be a profitable way to spend your Search Ads budget. But if you are doing display advertising and using Custom Audience to appear for people who have recently made those searches, the significantly lower cost of traffic changes the rules and means that these people may now well be worth showing up in front of.

The key thing with Custom Audience is to consider the various ways your target personas interact with search engines as well as other relevant websites, then start testing out ads. 

Similar Audiences

If you are running Google Remarketing campaigns then an option that’s available to you is to extend your activity to Similar Audience types.

Often, remarketing audience lists perform really well but they aren’t that extensive. By their nature you are limited to only targeting past website visitors and then usually only the ones who have got to the shopping cart or purchase stage. Similar audiences are powerful as it allows you to expand these lists.

This is a feature that allows you to seek out people who Google believes are comparable to those on your remarketing lists and advertise to them.

If you’ve used Facebook Lookalike targeting in the past, or some of the Programmatic prospecting tools then this won’t be alien to you, it’s based along the same lines. Google looks at the people on your remarketing lists and seeks out others that are comparable.

This can be very powerful – Google data says that this tactic more than quadruples the reach of your remarketing lists and when you use this feature you should see a 41% uplift in conversions. These figures are close to what we’ve seen happen within client PPC accounts.

Customer Match

Customer Match audiences lets brands use both online and offline data to reach and re-engage with consumers across all advertising platforms from Google. This includes Search, YouTube, The Shopping Tab and Google Display. Customer Match uses information consumers have already shared with you to target those customers as well as other consumers like them.

Customer Match audiences also allow brands to optimise campaigns by adjusting their bids on what they know about consumer activity online. For example, brands can reach new audiences on YouTube by targeting audiences similar to their most valuable customers. On the GDN, brands can reach similar consumers using personalised adverts on the display network.

Would you like a guiding hand to make the most of the Google Display Network? Our Paid Media team can help with as much or as little guidance as is required. Drop us a line to let us know how we can help!

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