New AdWords Customer Match Beats Out Facebook Custom Audience Match Rate


Last week, Mark reported on a new AdWords feature called Customer Match, a new targeting option that allows advertisers to create custom audiences for their AdWords campaigns based on email lists that they can upload directly to AdWords.

We knew this was a big deal, but after testing this new functionality ourselves, this is without a doubt THE most exciting AdWords update in the history of the platform.

Think I’m being dramatic? Read on to see why you NEED to start using this feature right now.

The AdWords Customer Match Rate is AMAZING

We uploaded around 357,000 customer emails to AdWords to test Customer Match’s accuracy. This data was encrypted prior to upload to protect customer privacy:

AdWords customer match custom audiences 

Based on this uploaded list, Google determined that approximately 180,000 of the contacts we uploaded were using Google products:

AdWords customer match custom audiences

Based on this data, we determined that, in this experiment, Customer Match had a match rate of 50.4% – holy moly!

After seeing how effective Customer Match was, I couldn’t help but wonder – what would happen if I compared the match rate of the list I uploaded to AdWords with Facebook and Twitter’s match rate? I uploaded the exact same list into Facebook and Twitter, and I simply couldn’t believe what the data was telling me – AdWords completely crushed Twitter’s match rate, and even beat Facebook!

AdWords Customer Match email match rate comparison

As you can see in the figure above, AdWords Customer Match does an incredible job of matching advertisers’ email lists with customers using Google products. It’s even better than Facebook, and pretty much puts Twitter to shame.

It's worth noting that while Google "won" in this test, it was a very close call. It's also worth noting that your results may vary depending on the size of the list you upload, as well as other factors - in your tests, Facebook may well perform better than Google. Either way, both Google and Facebook are excellent platforms for identity-based marketing. One thing that's abundantly clear from this test is that Twitter has the most work to do.

What’s most interesting to me isn’t necessarily the absolute number of matches (though that’s still pretty exciting), but rather the relative match rate comparison between two identical customer lists across the various platforms. Since this test used the same data set, it’s incredible how much more accurate Google’s matching is than Twitter’s, and that it even outperformed Facebook’s matching, which has been around for much longer.

Right out of the gate, Google has proven that its customer matching is extraordinarily powerful, much more so than we expected.

Why AdWords Customer Match is So Exciting

I’m not kidding when I say that I think this is the most important and exciting update to AdWords ever. This not only allows advertisers to target prospects more efficiently, it also represents a fundamental shift in how AdWords is evolving to meet the needs of advertisers in today’s marketplace.

I’ve talked a lot about “identity-based” marketing in the past, and this just goes to show how seriously Google is taking targeting options. In my opinion, custom audiences are the most powerful aspect of paid social, and it’s thrilling to see AdWords going in this direction, too.

‘Similar’ Audiences

Something else that advertisers should be psyched about is Customer Match’s Similar Audience functionality. This allows you to find new prospects based on parameters identified in their uploaded lists, even if they haven’t interacted with your site. In our example above, we had a match rate of more than 50%, equaling a potential audience of 180,000 people. By using Similar Audiences, we can effectively double our reach and target customers who share similar characteristics.

For advertisers running both PPC and paid social campaigns, AdWords’ Customer Matching is the perfect logical progression. Since custom audiences are part of what makes paid social so powerful, it’s amazing that advertisers can apply these same strategies to their AdWords campaigns, too.

What’s Next for AdWords Customer Matching?

At WordStream, we’re SO excited for what this will mean for advertisers, and we’ll be continuing to test just how good Customer Matching really is this week.

We’ll be live-blogging several tests as part of campaign case studies to really push Customer Match to its limit, and we’ll be sharing the results on social media, so if you’re thinking about using Customer Matching, stay tuned to find out just what this feature can do!

UPDATE: In November 2017, AdWords further expanded Customer Match to include targeting by phone number and address.

Find out how you're REALLY doing in AdWords!

Watch the video below on our Free AdWords Grader:

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Dat To
Oct 06, 2015

Thanks for sharing your view on this.

The Customer Match’s Similar Audience functionality is so exciting!

I thought FB's Look-a-Like Audience feature was revolutionary, now this!

What is the minimum list to upload for Adwords' Customer Match?

Michael Henderson
Oct 06, 2015

Great discovery! This is very intriguing! I would imagine a big part of this has to do with the gobs of users that give old, crummy emails to social networks in order to avoid inbox overload. If I'm filling out a form on a website I'm actually interested in hearing from again, I'm not using the same login email for Facebook or Twitter.

Terry Whalen
Oct 06, 2015

Larry, why do you think this excludes good ol' Google Display Network? Why only YouTube, Search and Gmail? Seems like a mistake, no?

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

it's because they don't own the GDN. that is rented properties across the internet. they would have to update their privacy stuff across the network to be allowed to track people by email. There are also limitations on what you can track on a third party site. Youtube, Gmail and search are all google owned and operated, so there's not an issue.

Oct 06, 2015

Great information ! shared in my network.

interesting read
Oct 24, 2015

Wow, awesome blog format! How long have you been running a blog
for? you make blogging look easy. The entire glance of
your website is excellent, as neatly as the content material!

Justin Lofton
Oct 07, 2015

Great article Larry! Customer Match will be a game changer for marketers and advertisers. We are already working on the integration into to automate the process.

Vikash Kumar
Oct 07, 2015

Really great feature added to Google Adwords so far. Custom match helps advertisers to target their favorite customer list.

Oct 07, 2015

This is great feature of Google Adwords. However, I can't find it in my Adwords account although I read that post:

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

should be live in all accounts by now..

Ruth Cowan
Oct 07, 2015

I think the new customer match feature will be excellent for encouraging brand loyalty but I'm interested to see how it works on Google Search. How will Google manage relevance of paid search ads returned when logged in users are using Google Search, if this isn't triggered by keywords?

For example, if I’ve signed up to my local plumbers email list but I’m logged in and searching for a dentist – I don’t want to see plumber ads when I’m looking for a dentist. Neither do I want to see ads for the hundreds of other email newletters I’ve signed up for etc.

Can you explain how it works on Google Search? It makes sense to me on Gmail and You Tube because you’re using display ads but I'm intrigued about how it works on search!

Oct 08, 2015

It will work like a normal search campaign but with a bid adjustment if people are in the Customer Match list - i.e. you will still need to have the relevant search keywords (in this case your plumber would have to have dentist keywords, which they won't) - Customer Match would just allow you to bid more if someone is on the list of addresses.

e.g: You have a search campaign with keyword "Local Dentist" on it with a 1 dollar CPC and a Customer Match bid adjustment of +20%

If a user searches Local Dentist but is not on your Customer Match list, your bid will be 1 dollar
If a user searches Local Dentist and IS on your Customer Match list, your bid will be 1.20

Hope that makes sense :)

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

i think this is just like RLSA. if you targeted a person, and if that person searches for a particular keyword, your ads will be eligible to show. but that doesn't mean they will be displayed automatically, rather it will be entered into the auction. from there, google will determine which ads to show, and in what order, based on ad rank (your bid, quality score, etc.)

Oct 07, 2015

Is this Wordstream's customer list? Or a list of your clietn?

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

yes, in this example i used our in-house list (data was encrypted and never sent directly to adwords or facebook - just a hash of the data). but you don't need a huge list. it is great to use a small, targeted list. like your customers or prospects.

Rumenigo Fernandes
Dec 04, 2015

I read in a blog that we need to have 1000 email ids per list is this correct?

Kyle Petzinger
Oct 07, 2015

Very excited to give this a try with our B2B focused clients. I anticipate a lower match rate, however, since fewer business emails are tied to a Google account. Not too surprised by your results since I imagine a major source of email capture for you is via the AdWords grader (aka a known Google account email).

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

yes indeed. for this particular case study, would focus less on the absolute % match rate (50% or whatever). the point was just to show that (a) the match rate RELATIVE to FB is comparable and (b) twitter match rate is terrible...

Oct 08, 2015

Good find, but not everyone has a freaking 357K targeted email list.

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

it should work on smaller lists. even 500 names.
actually, the smaller the list, the more targeted you can make the messaging. better to target smaller lists.

Greg Simerlink
Oct 08, 2015

I'm curious how granular the data they use is to match up similar customers. I'm looking forward to seeing the tests that you run and what types of results you are seeing.

Thanks for the heads up about this product!

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

they use google log-ins. thing: youtube, gmail, even google+. whatever email is associated with your google accounts. that is how they target you.

Oct 12, 2015

Any update on the results?

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

we will be publishing a series of case studies in the next few weeks. stay tuned!

Oct 13, 2015

Is Custom match similar to retargeting? what is the difference?

Larry Kim
Oct 14, 2015

in retargeting, you're targeting people who visited your website (you don't know who they are - only that they checked out your website). in customer match, identity is known because you are uploading a list of emails.

Adam Hoog
Oct 14, 2015

Seems like a stretch to call it "THE most exciting AdWords update in the history of the platform" when there isn't the option to target the display network. RLSA is really just another bid modifier and YouTube ads are difficult for a lot of advertisers to do well with (outside of branding).

That leaves Gmail Sponsored Promotions, which would essentially target your same email list (but you have to pay to do so).

The only really cool feature I see here is the ability to target similar audiences through GSP, and that's likely only going to work if you start with a sizable list to begin with.

Paul A.
Oct 15, 2015

So, if you are a small business, where would one get a good email list, buy one? Generally this give poor results. Thoughts?

Dave Ball
Oct 22, 2015

Paul, this highlights the importance of developing an email list from your site. You need to give people a reason to sign up -- get a newsletter, download free content, get more information, etc. It's worth the time; here is one more way to leverage (and monetize) the effort.

Oct 15, 2015

Am I right that only the matched customers that are signed in with that specific email ID when they are searching will get targeted?

Oct 15, 2015

What are your thoughts on similar audiences with Custom Matching? Meaning does Google use the same methods to find a similar audience? And how effective has that similar audience been? The Similar audience seems like a black box and a mystery for matching.

We have loaded a list in of 31,000 emails and it's populating now. I'm hoping to use this tool to find amazing new leads based off that list.

So how good were those 180,00 matched users for you? Have you generated quality leads from it or new signups?

Oct 16, 2015

Hi Larry - that is a fantastic post and very interesting! In terms of using these new lists, I assume it's mainly for bid adjustments on your search campaigns, allowing you to bid higher on a customer that is on your database? The same way you can use the re-marketing lists to bid higher. Is there any other use for this that you can think of? Thanks,

Hung-Hsun Huang
Oct 22, 2015

Hey Larry, great post and thanks for sharing this. I have a simple question here.
Q: What does the email match rate means here? What does that mean the uploaded but unmatched email addresses are not using google's products?


Oct 26, 2015

Hi there...when I attempt to run a campaign, I am not getting any impressions to my uploaded list. Am I missing a checkbox somewhere to have my list targeted? (I ask the question this way because you replied to a question talking about 'Customer Match bid adjustment of +20%')

I did successfully upload (and get approved) a list of 1900 people and just over 1000 were in the Google network. I have also run the campaign with my relevant keywords.

But its just not appearing that my target list is getting any impressions.


Oct 27, 2015

As an update to this, I did set my settings to 'Target and bid' and my bid adjustment to +25%.

I also have my max bid at $50 and my daily budget at $150.

Still no impressions...

To recap, my goal here is explicitly target people on my list. Thus I have not uploaded any keywords because I am not wanting to target by keywords. Does Adwords still require me to have an element of keyword targeting to use this feature?

Feb 17, 2016

Did you ever find out why your impressions aren't showing for your list? I've been having the same problem since this rolled out & Google help couldn't even tell me what is wrong. I was really excited about this option & really want to use it!


Nov 30, 2015

I was surprised to learn that this hasn't been rolled out to Display yet.

My impression was that this would be remarketing without cookies - but it's not. It sounds like it is only used for search campaigns. Has anyone else found success or a good use for this? It sounds a lot like the same process for RLSA...

Feb 09, 2016

Has anyone hit a audience size limit when uploading their lists?

Geoff Marcy
Oct 24, 2016

One thing I found anti-climatic about Customer Match as it relates to the Similar Audience feature is that its still only restricted to Gmail Ads and YouTube (video ads only). And in order to build a similar audience around your customer list, it currently must match a minimum of 5,000 emails, which mean you probably need a customer list size of 9,000 email or more. Would love for this to open up to Google Shopping and Search at least (which they work on new T&C's for the Display Network). For now, Facebook Lookalike has the edge here.

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