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NEW in AdWords: Demographic Targeting for Search Campaigns

April 9, 2018

Although Google has always offered advertisers a lot of control over which search terms their ads match on with different keyword match types and negative keywords, many advertisers often struggle to match a user’s intent to their searches.

As SEMs spend so much time doing keyword research, building keyword lists, and reviewing their keyword performance it’s easy to forget that their customers aren’t keywords – they’re people. A 19-year-old and a 70-year-old searching Google for the term “hair extensions” are likely looking for very different products. And a man and a woman searching for “leather boots” online aren’t likely to be searching for the exact same pair. Members of the same community who have vastly different household incomes might not be looking for the exact same product or service despite using identical search queries.

“User intent” begins with the user and with this in mind, most online advertising platforms like Facebook and Bing have offered demographic targeting for their campaigns. Well, starting today, AdWords has enabled advertisers to target age and gender demographics within their search campaigns.

The new demographic targeting options can be found at the ad group level of Google AdWords search campaigns. From the “Audiences” tab, a new subtab named “Demographics” is available and shows the performance data of how different ages and genders perform in that ad group. Advertisers can use this data to either create bid adjustments for different demographics or can exclude certain aged users or genders from seeing their ads on the SERP.

adwords demographic targeting

Just like when using demographic targeting for display campaigns, advertisers can dive into a more granular view of how layered demographic options, like women ages 25–34, perform in their search campaigns by selecting “View demographic combinations.” Unlike on the display network, search advertisers can’t specifically target users based on their parental status at the moment.

demographic targeting for search campaigns

Demographic Targeting for Search: Case Studies

Although new to most advertisers, some Wordstream customers have had the chance to test this targeting feature out in advance while demographic for search targeting was in beta. Their success stories speak to the versatility of this type of search demographic targeting.

Plastic Surgeon excludes men from seeing their ads

As it turns out, women tend to be the only ones getting breast enlargement treatment these days. Interestingly, however, the bulk of people searching for “larger breasts” online tend to be male! What a crazy unexplainable twist!

A plastic surgeon client of ours had struggled to deal with the problem of men’s “curiosity” with his search ads for years. Recently, using AdWords’ new demographic targeting, he was able to block men from seeing his ads on the SERP. After excluding males from seeing his ads for female procedures, his search costs and CPAs were cut in half without losing a single lead!

Does Google AdWords Work? Find out here!

Florist creates a bid adjustment for men

A local florist client of ours discovered that although men made up relatively little traffic to her site, men that did arrive on her site were considerably more likely to convert and when they converted they typically spent considerably more than their female peers!

gender targeting for google search ads

Were these men true gentlemen? Did their wives discover them clicking on my plastic surgeons’ ads? The world may never know. Regardless, my florist was happy for their business. In response to observing men’s higher conversion rate, she bid more aggressively for men searching for flowers than women with a bid adjustment. The result is that now she attracts a lot more men to her site and men now make up the majority of her online sales via her search campaigns!

Retirement planner only shows ads to older users

My mother and I recently had a serious conversation about planning for retirement. Despite her youthful glow, she’s approaching retirement and her planning consists of a well-managed 401k, low risk domestic bonds, and drawing from equity she’s built over years of working hard every day. In contrast, I am 27 and like most millennials, my retirement planning relies pretty heavily on getting selected for a reality TV show and winning an indiscernibly large amount of money. The amount of money I put aside each month for retirement is laughable and I’d rather not discuss it further. Needless to say, when we both search online for “retirement planning,” we’re very different consumers.

For one of our clients who focuses on retirement planning, she ran into the problem that she previously attracted all types of people when she ran on generic keywords like “retirement planning,” and while people of all ages converted well on her site, she was only interested in the older users who were willing to invest more toward planning their retirement.

Using these new demographic targets for her search campaigns, she was able to exclusively target users above the age of 45. As a result, she’s not only cut her advertiser costs significantly but she’s also improved the quality of the leads her AdWords campaigns are driving!

Best Practices for Using Search Demographic Targeting

Don’t trust your gut – use data!

Chances are you or someone on your team already has an idea of what your customer demos look like. But before you run into your search campaigns and exclude everyone who isn’t a male between the ages of 18 and 34, use the performance data in the demographics tab to see how different demographics convert on your site.

Remember intent trumps identity! Although they may not be the bulk of the market, there are enough young people who knit that excluding them from your yarn campaign may be a poor decision. Similarly, as a recent ThinkWithGoogle study reveals, many of your preconceived demographic targeting choices may inadvertently omit large shares of your potential customers.

age and gender targeting in adwords

More importantly though, your customer may not always be your consumer! That 40-year-old man searching for “luxury handbags” on Google is no different than that 40-year-old man hopelessly lost in the local Victoria’s Secret – they’re both (probably) shopping for someone else!

adwords demographic targeting

Cater your ad and offer differently to different demographics

As mentioned earlier, a man and a woman both searching Google for “leather boots” are looking for two different types of shoes. By creating two separate ad groups, one targeting men and the other targeting women, you can serve different ads to these different users, each promoting the appropriate brands and types of shoes they’d be interested in and direct traffic to a landing page featuring men’s and women’s boots, respectively.

Don’t exclude the “Unknown” demographics

When Google can’t profile a user’s gender or age, it will automatically group their performance data under an “Unknown” demographic for gender or age. Google may also classify users who are gender non-binary or users under the age of 18 in this classification.

Although it may be frustrating to not have insight into this group of users, avoid excluding this audience! In some cases, Google may not be able to identify large portions of your traffic so removing this “Unknown” audience has the potential to really reduce the number of clicks and conversions your ads generate.

When used correctly, Google’s new demographic targeting options have the chance to be game changers for your search campaigns, particularly in industries that have unique demographic profiles to their customers! We’ve had the chance to see these demographic targeting strategies work well for some of our clients. Have you seen any interesting demographic trends within your accounts?

Mark Irvine

Mark Irvine

Mark is a Senior Data Scientist at WordStream, focused on research and training for the everchanging world of PPC. He was named the 5th Most Influential PPC Expert of 2017 by PPC Hero.