How to Approach Audience Targeting Evolution in AdWords


How to Approach Audience Targeting Evolution in AdWords

Tom Murphy, Robert Knapp & Meredith Spitz


Audience segmentation in search started with the keyword. Since that glorious moment, Google has introduced various new targeting features and ad formats but the real evolution beyond keywords began with pre-search audience segmentation.

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA) and Customer Match were fundamental departures from targeting search intent in a silo; from thinking about ‘what is she searching’ to ‘what is she doing.’

Google continues to unlock its vault of behavioral data, recently announcing a new round of innovations for its AdWords search platform including In-Market Audiences for search ads. 

More about In-Market Audiences

In-Market audiences allow advertisers to target users actively browsing, researching or comparing specific products or services. In-Market may sound familiar, as it’s been available in YouTube and the Google Display Network for some time. Digitas teams reported double digit increases in brand favorability and purchase intent. It was a matter of time before Google ported this capability over to paid search. After all, Google uses search history and site browsing as in-market signals. Early beta results across select verticals at Digitas saw a 10% conversion rate lift.

Keyword + Audience = New Dimensions of Intent

Taking a step back from the In-Market feature, advertisers should be thinking about how audience segmentation can help them invest search dollars more efficiently and strategically.

A simple first step is to pair your post-click conversion expectations per audience with the ‘aggressiveness’ of your keyword lists.

The next step is to think about how to use audiences in order to optimize toward some of the common audience targeting objectives as part of a greater cross-channel strategy.

Example Audience Use Cases in Search

1. Retention – Reintroduce your brand to an audience wandering into a competitive research space. A travel brand may not want to target ‘saving for vacation’ searches from just anyone, but existing customers might be more likely to re-engage with the right content.

2. Prospecting – Target lookalikes to hone search audiences more likely to be receptive to your brand than the search universe at large. Push more confidently into competitive generic search auctions at the start of the purchase journey here.

3. Acquisition – Suppress existing customers or visitors to engage net-new audiences. Here is where to make the most compelling pitch for your brand. A smart portfolio approach can grow the customer file at higher marginal cost while delivering on overall efficiency constraints. 


In-Market Audiences is the newest option in the search audience targeting arsenal, providing a new pathway in the never ending quest to engage the right consumers at the right moments.

Every search program should plug into a well-defined audience targeting framework that is compatible with greater cross-channel objectives around retention and acquisition. The days of talking brand vs. non-brand keywords or exact vs. broad match types in isolation are long gone.

Most importantly, the growing audience targeting capability in search doesn’t simply create new boxes for us to check, but new dimensions to be built, tested, and customized so we can get to know the consumer a little better than we did yesterday. 

Tom Murphy, Robert Knapp & Meredith Spitz

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