4 Smart Tactics For Advanced Google Ads Audience Targeting

Gone are the days of relying solely on keywords to drive your PPC success.

With relaxed keyword match types, using audiences in Google Ads has become ten times more complex.

Using audience targeting is no longer an option for campaigns; It should be part of your overall campaign strategy.

Here, you’ll learn four advanced audience targeting techniques to better target your PPC to leverage budget and increase return on ad spend (ROAS).

1. Smarter Use of Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs)

Remarketing lists for search ads (RLSAs) allow you to customize your search advertising campaigns based on user behavior of previous visitors to your website, and customize your bidding/targeting options around those users as they search on Google.

Example: Target people who spend more than the average purchase return when searching for competing brands.

This approach will allow you to target and show ads to users who have historically had a high conversion value for you whenever they search for one of your competitors on Google search, which can help you avoid losing customers to your paying competitors.

For example, an online grocery retailer can identify shoppers who spend above the average order value each week.

In this scenario, the advertiser could set up a separate campaign to target and bid on competitor terms, but use RLSAs so that ads are shown only when users on the list are searching.

This is a great way to ensure that your budget is only spent on retaining profitable clients.

If you want to apply this tactic to your account, you will first need to find the average purchase return per user reported in your Google Analytics account by going to Monetization > Overview:

Screenshot by the author, March 2022

Once you find your average order value number, you will be able to create an audience list using the online audience builder Composition > Audiences In Google Analytics:

4 Smart Techniques for Targeting Your Advanced Google Ads AudienceScreenshot by the author, March 2022

You can set event parameters and add any conditions:

4 Smart Techniques for Targeting Your Advanced Google Ads AudienceScreenshot by the author, March 2022

This tactic is especially effective in industries where consumers are not loyal and may often switch between different retailers to get the best deal (for example, in retail grocery stores).

By applying this list, you can customize your ad copy and advertise loyalty discounts to these customers to prevent them from abandoning your brand in favor of a competitor:

An example of how to send messages to RLSA audiences in Google Ads.Screenshot by the author, March 2022

2. Bringing together social audiences and RLSAs

with more than 2.9 billion Monthly Active Users Facebook has no rival when it comes to the size of its audience.

While Facebook targeting can be useful for reaching audiences, another major benefit that Facebook offers lies in the potential precision with which you can target Facebook users.

Unlike Google Ads, Facebook contains information about what users are already “like” or following, in-depth data from users’ personal profiles.

The benefits of using social ads in conjunction with search campaigns can be huge.

For example, a recent case study from Facebook showed that Brand Bombas experienced a 27 lifting points In ad recall for evergreen campaigns when custom audience targeting is used.

Despite this, I still come across many brands whose approach to advertising on both Facebook and Google is not aligned and therefore they fail to share insights gained from one platform to another to maximize success.

Example: Use Facebook to detect new potential buyers and then target those people in your search to increase their likelihood of converting.

Facebook is one of the best platforms for expanding your reach and identifying new users who are not actively searching for your products or services at the moment.

By tagging ads you run on Facebook targeted to these new audiences, you’ll later be able to target ads to those users when they search Google with keywords at the top of the funnel, increasing the likelihood of Facebook clicks converting into new customers.

To do this, you will first need to create a new Facebook campaign designed to target new leads that you are not already targeting with your search ads (excluding existing site visitors and mailing list members):

Target new leads that you aren't already targeting with your search ads.Screenshot by the author, March 2022

By tagging the resulting Facebook campaign with UTM tags, any clicks from that audience will be recorded in Google Analytics under the campaign name you set.

You will then be able to create an audience list in Google Analytics which consists of traffic from this specific Facebook campaign:

4 Smart Techniques for Targeting Your Advanced Google Ads AudienceScreenshot by the author, March 2022

Remember, like any audience list you create, the list must have at least 1,000 members before it can be eligible for use in Google Search.

Once you have populated your audience list with enough Facebook traffic, create a Google Ads search campaign that includes only the top keywords in the funnel such as informational queries related to your product/service (they need to be at the top of the funnel because this audience is not searching on specifically about your product/service).

Finally, apply a remarketing list to the ad groups created in your search campaign, choose a target and set up your bid, so that search ads only appear to users from the list of new leads discovered on Facebook.

I highly recommend this approach if you feel you have exhausted the current demand for Google search in your industry, as it allows you to effectively generate search demand by reaching new users and promoting consideration of your product or service.

You can also use this same strategy with Microsoft Ads to maximize your reach.

3. Use custom affinity audiences

Google launched habit Close audiences to give advertisers more granular control over their audience targeting options on the Display Network.

This addresses an issue with standard affinity audiences in Google Ads where there is no predefined affinity audience suitable for each business.

Custom affinity targeting can be set up by going to the Display Network campaign in Google Ads, and click Targeting > Audiences > Custom Audiences > New Custom Audiences.

Here you can create your own specific audience using free interests entered as keywords and/or use URLs as a proxy for interest bundles:

Create your own specific audience using free interests.Screenshot by the author, March 2022

In this example, custom affinity targeting generated an audience of “garden lovers” using interests (keywords entered) and URL targeting.

Get real-time demographic insights as you build your audience. This can help increase accuracy to ensure that the right people are targeted.

While custom affinity targeting allows for more control over the Google Display Network, I think it’s best used for brand building.

You can take a more granular approach to Google Display Network targeting by layering custom affinity audiences with other forms of targeting to increase campaign efficiency.

4. Combine market segments and remarketing

In-market audiences allow you to set up your campaigns to reach people who are further down the funnel and more willing to make a purchase.

Google ranks users precisely so you can target the ones who are most interested in their offers.

Google states that you can differentiate interest from buyer intent by leveraging real-time data and a powerful ranking system based on demonstrated market behavior.

In-market audiences can help increase conversions, helping you connect with consumers as the last step before making a purchase decision.

To target an audience in your market, you’ll need to go to Targeting > Market and life events > Market segments.

Here you’ll see a list of nearly 500 available audiences on the market, with the option to sharpen the higher-level categories (explained below).

Simply click on the “down” arrow in each market category to browse the audience you want.

Choose from over 500 market audiences in Google Ads.Screenshot by the author, March 2022

The real impact on conversions comes when you use market segments in conjunction with website remarketing lists.

Place market segments at the top of your remarketing lists to increase reach while maintaining a high degree of relevance with the goal of boosting overall conversions.


Paid search keyword costs continue to rise every year. If you haven’t increased your marketing budget to keep up with this shift, you’ll need to get creative to drive new order growth.

Many advertisers are shifting huge portions of the budget to other platforms like Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok, largely due to their superior audience targeting options (not searcher intent) and lower cost-per-clicks.

With that in mind and the increased use of automation in Google Ads, I believe Google will continue to add in its options for audience targeting in a privacy-centric manner.

The PPC landscape is always changing. Make sure you keep up to date with the latest features as well as test some of the tips above to see if they can deliver improved paid media results for your business.

More resources:

  • Remarketing Guide: 8 Types of Remarketing You Should Do
  • How to launch your first Google Ads remarketing campaign
  • PPC 101: A Complete Guide to the Basics of PPC Marketing

Featured image: Jirsak/Shutterstock

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