HomeBlogThe 8 Coolest Ad Targeting Features in Marketing Right Now

The 8 Coolest Ad Targeting Features in Marketing Right Now

Author: Larry Kim
Last Updated: December 2, 2021 | Marketing Ideas

It’s hard to believe that just ten years ago, I was still placing magazine ads in print publications! Banner ads came along and mirrored the function of those print ads, but now we have these incredible new ad formats with way more data and ad targeting options so you can laser-target the exact people you want to hit.

awesome ad targeting features

“Pay and spray” is a thing of the past. Long gone are the days of blasting out generalized messaging you could only hope might appeal to the odd person and wouldn’t offend anyone. All you really knew is that it was too boring and generic to really resonate with any large group of people. Today we live in a brave new world of ad targeting, where consumers are practically throwing data at marketers, crying, “Target me! Personalize your offers for me! Give me only what I want and nothing else!”

Here are my 8 favorite ad targeting features right now – the coolest, most exciting options that are going to help you find your absolute best audience and focus your budget only on them.

#1: Custom Audiences in Facebook

If you already have a list of client or lead phone numbers or emails, or a decent volume of web traffic, Custom Audiences helps you get in front of those people with ads while they use Facebook.

facebook custom audiences

Upload your phone or email list in CSV or txt format to target your existing contacts. Or, you can tag your site visitors and retarget them on Facebook based on a ton of different parameters, such as which pages of your site they visited or what actions they took on-site. This in an insanely awesome targeting feature that allows you to stay connected with just about every one of your leads, customers and website visitors as they’re going about their business on Facebook.

#2: Tailored Audiences in Twitter

Not to be outdone, Twitter has a similar feature of its own. Twitter’s Tailored Audiences also lets you create an audience out of your email/phone list or site traffic. One word of caution: I have noticed that Facebook is far more effective at matching User IDs to lists, so Twitter may not be a great option unless you have a fairly large list or site traffic.

This is a cool feature because it allows you to meet people in the networks where they already hang out, with the in-stream ads inherent to both Facebook and Twitter. They’re unobtrusive and you can really customize the messaging with the information you have about each audience segment, making it not creepy at all but a compelling experience for your audience.

#3: In-Market Audiences for Google Display

The trick to getting someone to convert is getting the right offer in front of them at the right time – when they’re ready to buy.

In-Market Audiences on the Google Display Network allows you to target display campaigns to people who are already further down the funnel and ready to make a purchase.

in market audience targeting

Google uses factors like the content on sites browsed, the proximity and frequency of visits, clicks on similar ads, and even conversions to determine which searchers are “in-market” for specific products and services. They then connect specific display ads to those users.

Commercial intent in a beautiful thing…doesn’t it just make you giddyat the possibilities? It’s amazing!

#4: Custom Affinity Segments for Google Display

Update: Custom intent and custom affinity audiences have merged and are now simply called custom audiences.

Affinity Audiences, launched with the GDN last fall, allow you to target predefined audiences who might be receptive to your ads. The problem is, these audiences are pretty broad and you could end up wasting a bunch of money on irrelevant clicks and impressions.

Custom Affinity Segments takes the concept a step further and allows you to drill down into specifics and create your own subsets of each Affinity Audience. For example: While it’s helpful to target food lovers, it’s more useful to a beef brand to specifically target people who are interested in steaks and hamburgers, as determined by the keywords they use and websites they visit.

custom affinity audience targeting

Laura Collins created a fantastic guide on Custom Affinity Segments for Search Engine Land; check it out to see how they work and how to set it up.

#5: Recent Purchasing Behavior

Facebook and Twitter’s respective partnerships with data power players Acxiom, Epsilon and Datalogix allow them to offer incredibly powerful ad targeting options based on what users have actually purchased recently in the real world and online.

Facebook ad targeting purchase behavior

Data from loyalty programs and credit card companies is matched with specific Facebook and Twitter users, who each have about 1,500 data points attached to their profile, on average. Advertisers can then target audience segments by thousands of different purchasing behaviors. This ad targeting feature is super powerful, especially when you use several indicators in tandem to really drill into a better understanding of a smaller audience.

#6: Life Events Targeting on Facebook

At some points in our lives, we’re almost certain (or at least far more likely) to be interested in a particular product or service: Newly engaged couples are going to be searching for a honeymoon destination. A woman with a new baby is apt to be receptive to diaper and formula offers. An 18-year-old going off to college might be in the market for a car.

life event ad targeting

Targeting life events on Facebook is amazing because you tap into that elusive element of intent we talk so much about. Why waste budget targeting every woman between 18 and 45 who’s used the keyword “baby” somewhere, when you really just want to reach new mothers? This ad targeting capability is a great way of reducing waste and getting in front of people with a very specific need you may be able to solve for them.

#7: Lookalike Targeting

Custom Audiences are fantastic, but what if your audience is really small? You may just be working on building up your email list and site traffic, or maybe you just want to expand to get in front of more people like your customers and site visitors.

lookalike audience targeting

Lookalike Audiences basically mirror your Custom Audiences. Facebook or Twitter (whichever one you’re using) will look at your Custom Audiences and see what characteristics define it, then create a Lookalike Audience of other users with similar traits and characteristics. Score! It’s like cloning your best prospects.

#8: Demographic Layering

Of course, with each of the above ad targeting features, you want to be careful to avoid becoming too broad. Keeping your ad targeting narrow and highly specific helps you keep engagement high and avoid wasted impressions, clicks and budget.

coolest ad targeting features

Demographic layering is the magic sauce you layer over each of the above features to make it super impactful and precise. In addition to using your Custom Audience, you can layer over demographics like location, to make offers specific to customers in different geographic regions. You can tailor your messaging to men or women, or to people in different age groups.

Together, these new ad targeting features empower you to create your absolute best, most targeted message: a relevant, engaging ad designed with specific people in mind, one that elicits an emotional reaction and inspires them to convert.

BONUS AWESOME AD TARGETING METHOD: Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSA)

Remarketing Lists for Search Ads lets you target Google search ads to people who recently visited your website, letting you customize your ad messaging and/or keyword bids and budgets accordingly. We’re finding that on average, using RLSA will double click-through-rate (which raises Quality Score), which results in cutting CPCs in half. They also convert at roughly a 2x higher rate because you can be sure that the searcher is already familiar with your brand.  For more information about RLSA, check out my recent presentation at PPC HeroConf from earlier this year!


RLSA Will Save The Day! from Internet Marketing Software – WordStream

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Meet The Author

Larry Kim

Larry Kim is the founder of WordStream and CEO of MobileMonkey, a chatbot building platform.

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