What is Google Ads Audience Targeting? (And How to Use It)

Google Ads audience targeting has focused on keywords for forever. It’s been an approach that has existed for such a long time because of how efficient it was to get your products in front of ideal audiences.

You would research keywords, put them in a list, then create the ads that match the search intent of those lists, and set up bids that were based on the worth of the keywords people were searching.

What if I told you that this wasn’t the only way you can do a paid search? 😲

Google has slowly been incorporating additional features that let you switch your paid search strategy to using audience targeting.

In fact, if you’ve been creating Search campaigns over the past few weeks through Google Ads then you’ve probably noticed these audience targeting strategies that have been added into your paid search strategy.

So, with that in mind, let’s compare keyword targeting and audience targeting, and learn how to use both in your paid search campaigns.

What is Keyword Targeting?

Keyword targeting works by setting up your keywords for a display ad or video ad, and then shows that ad to users who search that keyword or visit websites that contain your keywords.

Here’s how it works:

👉A user types the keyword into Google.

👉A search results page pops up with paid ads and organic listings.

👉The user clicks on an organic listing, which takes them to the webpage.

👉If the webpage has an ad widget, then your display ad may be shown.

For Pay-Per-Click campaigns, Keyword Targeting is the way to go!

Not only is this route cost efficient, but it also means your display ad can show on various websites, you won’t be competing with national brands for keywords, and your text ad won’t be listed next to your competitors on results pages. 

With Keyword Targeting, you’re able to be actively in front of users as they search and compare. This is so important because only two percent of consumers actually end up converting.

The other 98 percent? They’re still “thinking about it” (aka it’s going to sit in their cart for weeks until they forget about it).

But guess what? You’re still paying for those clicks when you’re using paid search ads!

So, if you’re running a PPC campaign, or are going to be running one in the future, just try a Keyword Targeting campaign, compare the results, and go from there.

Related: What Are Negative Keywords and How Can They Help You?

How is Google Ads Audience Targeting Different?

Audience targeting is all about the people

It’s quite literally how social media platforms, like Facebook Ads, work.

When it comes to audience targeting, you aren’t plugging in keywords you hope your ideal customers are using. Nope. You’re actually targeting the characteristics of your perfect audience.

You can choose the age, interests, gender, behaviours, income, and so much more that match your ideal client.

Audience targeting is a fantastic tool to utilize for getting your brand and products in front of audiences who are more likely to convert, but it’s not without its downfalls.

The Cons

When you use audience targeting on social media, like Instagram or Facebook, it heavily relies on on-demand creation. Your ideal clients are finding you on their own – you have to actively seek them out to make sure your ad is being placed in front of them, which is not how search ads through search engines work.

Just because someone fits your ideal client description, whether it’s through their age, demographics, interests, behaviours, or all of the above, it doesn’t mean they want to buy what you’re selling. This could ultimately lead to tons of ad impressions, but little to no clicks. 

Or worse, tons of clicks, but little to no conversions. 😰

Herein, is where the problem with audience targeting lays.

So instead of waiting for your audience to come to you when they realize they have a need, you’re going to them and trying to generate enough interest and buying intent to get them to convert, even if they weren’t interested in the first place. 

Let’s recap:

Pros – You get to choose exactly who sees your ads.

Cons – You also have to generate buying intent from ground zero.

Can You Do Both?

Each strategy has its own strengths and weaknesses.

Keyword targeting is efficient at getting your ads in front of an audience who is ready to fork over their wallet, however, you have significantly less control over the type of audience your ad is shown to.

Audience targeting lets you choose your perfect customer…but it’s unlikely most of those customers are looking to buy.

Por Que no las dos? (Anyone else gets that reference?)

Have I got news for you!

Google has actually added audiences to the targeting option for paid search campaigns.

So, when you go to set up a new campaign, you can find these options under “targeting and audiences”. If you want to add audiences to an existing campaign, you can do so by clicking “audiences” in the left-hand sidebar of your Google Ads account.

Compared to targeting options in platforms like Facebook, Google’s audience targeting options don’t quite live up to expectation but take into consideration the audience’s behaviour on Google versus on Facebook.

But even without the options, Facebook offers, audience targeting will still prove valuable in improving the targeting of your paid search ads. 


Even though Google’s audience targeting approach still has a long way to go, you can still overcome many problems that are associated with paid advertising. So, make sure to go give it a try and let me know if you like the changes!

Also, if you need help with nailing down the audience targeting in Google Ads, drop a comment below. I’d be happy to help!

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