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Getting less prescriptive with search advertising

Google is constantly classifying everyone it can into different ‘audiences’, which it makes available to us as advertisers. The most-used type for our clients are remarketing audiences (previous visitors to their websites), but there are all sorts of other audiences, including Google-observed habits and interests, demographics, recent purchases and even the black box of ‘similar interests’ to your website visitors. If used well, these audiences can provide some interesting results.

The key is often to use them in combination with another targeting option: ‘broad match’ keywords. Many businesses use up most (or all) of their budget on ‘exact match’ targeting, and that’s understandable. Specifying the exact search result that you want your ads to appear alongside is easy to understand and very effective. However, we all know that the long tail of search covers many more searches: that is, related searches including, but not limited to, a term; and searches containing similar terms. This is Google’s ‘broad match’, and targeting it is a daunting prospect.

It’s less daunting if you combine it with audiences. There’s only a small chance that someone searching for red widgets will be interested in your blue ones, but someone searching for red widgets who Google has identified as being interested in blue widgets? That’s a different matter.

If you’re on top of your exact match advertising, and you know your ads are good, this sort of approach is well worth investigating. You’ll need to monitor its effectiveness well, but I’d hope you do that for all your campaigns anyway. I do believe that in the longer term, Google will incentivise all advertisers to be less prescriptive and let it choose the most effective searches and audiences. It’s not a bad idea to start thinking that way now.