Google Ads: How to Effectively Target Your Audience

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Google Ads offers extensive targeting options to effectively reach your prospective customers and retarget those already familiar with your brand.

Google Ads on smartphone

If you’re running a business, you’ve undoubtedly thought of spending money on advertising. Whether it’s an offline or online company, millions of businesses turn to paid online advertising to reach their target audience, increase brand awareness and drive sales.

Google Ads (formerly known as Google Adwords) is the largest paid advertising network that enables businesses to run PPC (pay-per-click) and display advertising campaigns.

Google Ads

Google processes over 5 billion searches per day, which gives marketers and business owners alike a significant opportunity to reach potential customers.

That said, a lot of businesses have been burnt by Google Ads. This is because it can easily drain the budget if targeting isn’t set up correctly or is too broad for Google to accurately determine the right customer.

In this guide, we’ll go through the targeting options available on Google Ads so that you can create effective campaigns that move the needle.

Setting Up Google Ads

Basic settings

Step 1: Log in or sign up using your email address.

Step 2: By default, you’ll be directed to create a Google Ads campaign using Google Ads Express, which is a simplified version of Google Ads with limited options available. We’ll be selecting Expert Mode.

Google ads advertising gool

Step 3: Next, you’ll be asked to select the main goal of your campaign. We’re going for “Website traffic.”

Campaign goal

Step 4: Next, select your campaign type. We’ll go for a “Search” campaign as we want our ads to appear in Google Search as opposed to displaying ads on partner websites.

Campaign type

Step 5: Before you jump to setting up your audiences and targeting, there are a few general settings to go through:

Google Ads settings

Here, you’re asked to set up your campaign name, start and end date, URL options, and the time when during the day you want your ads to appear.

Before we jump into setting up Google Ads audiences, it’s important to understand the importance of effective targeting. Far too many businesses jump head-first just to realize that their budgets have been drained without much impact.

What is audience targeting and why is it important?

Audience targeting gives businesses a clear insight into their potential customers, dividing them into specific groups based on their interests, behavior, demographics, location, language, etc.

Targeting the right audience is an integral part of a successful Google Ads campaign. Due to the fact that almost everyone on the planet uses Google to search for information and make purchases, Google has a vast user base, all of which have different lifestyles, interests, jobs and circumstances.

The biggest challenge many advertisers face involves finding the right audience for their product or service. Failure to advertise towards the right audience risks advertisers draining their budget on individuals that aren’t interested in what they have to offer.

Demographic data, such as age, gender, location, and average income, can play a pivotal role in reaching the right audience. As a business that wants to laser-target its customers, knowing where your customers are, who they are, and how much they earn is essential for a successful Google Ads campaign.

For instance, if we take sportswear brand Nike, their demographic data might indicate that their average consumer is between 20 and 35. This will not only help them formulate pricing but also avoid spending their budget on age groups that do not fit their target.

Campaigns often have different goals, which subsequently means that the audiences you target will vary from case to case.

Google Ads targeting best practices

1. Avoid broad targeting - If your range of targeting is too broad, you’re unlikely to reach your target audience. Consequently, your click-through rate and quality score will fall as the people who you’re targeting won’t be particularly interested in what you have to offer.

2. Location and language - Location and language is the foundation of successful audience targeting. It might be tempting to go for locations and languages that are more affordable, but these are unlikely to be effective. Ensure that you know where your target audience is. If you’re a UK-based business providing services in a 50-mile radius, targeting potential customers in the USA is inefficient. Use Google Analytics to see where your prospective customers are coming from.

3. Schedule - Setting up an ad schedule is an effective way to minimize your spending on clicks that are not bringing on the return. For instance, if you’re running a fashion brand for people aged between 30 and 45, it may be worth running ads outside of working hours. Even though people still browse through Google during work, it’s unlikely that they will covert right away. Making a purchase takes some time, hence it’s likely to happen during their free time.

4. Ad extensions and sitelinks - Ad extensions enable you to expand your ad with additional information at no additional price. Essentially, setting up extensions is a free way to extend your ad and attract more eyes to it. Extensions include sitelinks, callout, call extension, structured snippet, price extension, location, and more.

5. Don’t go too narrow - Granular selection and laser-targeting are effective, but going too narrow will leave your ads too refined to reach the targeted audience.

6. Engage with your audience - Conduct focus groups for better insight. Getting in with your customers to understand the specifics of what they want from you can help you get into their minds. Running polls on social media could be a great place to start.

7. Improve your Quality Score (QS) - Your Quality Score (QS) is Google Ads’ algorithm that determines how and where your ads rank. A lower Quality Score means that your ads will appear lower in search, resulting in fewer clicks and conversions. In order to improve your QS, you’ll need to make sure that your ad targeting is relevant, the copy is well-written, and your landing page is to the point.

8. Work on your landing page - As part of the Quality Score (QS), your landing page needs to be relevant to your ad. But not only that, your landing page needs to leverage conversions. At the end of the day, why run ads if they don’t convert well?

9. A/B Testing and Ad Rotation - Testing different ad messages and call-to-actions are essential in maximizing click-through-rates and conversions. Set-up ad rotation in Google Ads to ensure the best performing ad is shown to your potential customer.

Setting up audience targeting

Now that we’ve established the importance of accurate audience targeting, it’s time to get to the nitty-gritty and explore the targeting options Google Ads has to offer.

When you scroll down from general settings, you’ll be asked to select your Audiences.

Audience targeting

If you’ve ever used Facebook Ads or Twitter Ads, you’ll be familiar with the above layout.

There are a few different options available to us. Please note that the availability of some options may depend on the campaign type you select.

Let’s get through each type:

Detailed demographics

Demographic targeting

Here, you are given the option to determine your audience, including marital status, education, parental status, employment, etc.


Last year, Google Ads took a slightly different approach to the targeting options available for advertisers, launching Affinity Audiences which were previously available only for Google Display Network and Video campaigns.

Affinity audiences

Affinity enables marketers to drill into the broad interests and habits of their audience.

Note: If you only select broad interests, your audience is likely to be too broad. It might be worthwhile to narrow down the audience with additional targeting.

Additional targeting


In market audiences

In-market audiences allow you to select what people are actively researching and/or planning.

Remarketing and similar audiences

Remarketing and similar audiences give you the opportunity to retarget people who are already familiar with your brand or reach new but similar audiences.

Combined audiences

Combined audiences is a powerful option when it comes to narrowing down your audience.

With this function, you can define your ideal audience more accurately by combining multiple audiences and finding that sweet spot in the middle.

In order to set this up, you’ll need to combine two or more audiences. You can also add an audience that you want to specifically exclude from your reach.

Combined audiences

In the example above, you can see that we’re targeting parents of toddlers aged between 1 and 3 years old that are also actively researching autos.

Once you have your target audience set up, it’s time to allocate a budget for your campaign and a bidding objective (in our case, we’re focusing on “Clicks”).

Budget & bidding

Next, you can add extensions to maximize your clickthrough rate.

Ad extensions

Once you press “Save and Continue”, you’ll need to set up an ad group where you’re asked to add keywords and phrases for which you want your ad to show up.

Ad groups & keywords

There are three different keyword match types you can use:

Broad match - keyword - A default option that will show your ads on any variation of your keyphrase

Phrase match - "keyword" - This option will match your keyphrase in the exact order but may add additional words before and/or after it

Exact match - [keyword] - Keeps your keyphrase in the exact order you set it up

It’s recommended to add around 15-20 keywords to each ad group.

If you’re setting up an ad for a digital marketing agency that offers various services, for example, social media marketing and search engine optimization, these two should be set up as different ad groups with their own set of keywords.

Once you have your ad group set up, it’s time to create an ad. This is where you have the chance to catch the attention of your audience.

Be clear yet creative.

Ad text

Your ad copy is what determines whether a potential client clicks on your ad or an ad of your competitor. It’s crucial to ensure that your ad copy matches the searcher’s intent and is relevant to your targeting options and keywords.

Once you have a few variations of headlines and descriptions added, proceed to set up your billing.

Once this process is complete, your ads will be reviewed and approved accordingly.

The advantages of audience targeting for B2B sector

B2B (Business-to-Business) refers to marketing that is aimed at promoting products and services to another business. One strong example of this is a digital marketing agency that offers advertising services to other businesses.

B2C (Business-to-Consumer), on the other hand, primarily focuses on advertising products and services to individuals, for example, a clothing brand.

For B2B campaigns, Google Ads provides marketers with extensive options to select and target the right people at the right time.

With B2C marketing, the decision-maker is often the individual who lands on your ad. If you do a good job advertising your product or service, the individual might make the decision right away.

This is rarely the case with B2B customers. The main challenge of B2B PPC campaigns is the ability to show the ad to the decision-maker. Oftentimes, ads would appear to people who work at a particular company, but do not necessarily have the ability to make a purchase decision. Essentially, this means that you’ll be needlessly spending your budget on something that does not bring the desired outcome.

On the other hand, in a race to find and target the decision-maker, some marketers become way too specific with their audience targeting options, resulting in lower search volumes.

As a result, a lot of businesses jump ship when it comes to the matter of paid advertising.

Luckily, the refined audience targeting in Google Ads enables B2B marketers to accurately target decision-makers.

For example, let’s pretend that you’re a payroll company for a real-estate industry looking to target small business owners.

In this case, you would want to create a combined audience to target small business owners in a real estate industry looking for a payroll solution.

This is possible with Google Ads.

Step 1: Create a combined audience

Combined audience

Step 2: Add small employers in demographics targeting

Targeting small emplyers

Step 3: We’ll then narrow down our target audience by selecting the industry they work in

Targeting industries

Step 4: We’ll narrow down our audience once again by adding “payroll services” from an in-market audiences tab.

Targeting payroll services

This way, we’ll be targeting people that match ALL of our conditions (i.e. small business owners in a real estate industry that are actively looking for payroll services).

Here’s how our final audience targeting looks:

Final audience targeting


Although setting up Google Ads doesn’t come across as very challenging, especially if you’re using Google Ads Express, successful targeting is only possible when you drill down into specifics and explore the power of audience targeting available at your disposal.

Selecting a few broad match keywords rarely does the job, resulting in wasted budgets and unfulfilled expectations.

As every industry has its caveats, it’s important not to be afraid to try and test out what works best for your business.

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