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For episode 168 of The Search Engine Journal Show, I had the opportunity to interview Amy Bishop, Owner and Marketing Consultant at Cultivative.
Bishop talks about audience targeting in paid search – what features exist, the types of reports to leverage, and what PPC marketers need to know to succeed.
How would you define audience targeting to somebody who might not know much about it?
Amy Bishop (AB): Audience targeting is really important because as the industry evolves, we’re seeing looser match types. This means a heavier reliance on audiences will likely be more prevalent in the future as a way of making sure that you’re hitting that right target.
There are a couple of different audiences that are available to search marketers and they really fall into two different buckets.
There are third-party audiences including:
- In-market audiences are the audiences that are built off of folks that have indicated through their behavior that they’re in the market for a certain product or service.
- Affinity audiences are a little bit more general. As Google would actually say about their own audiences, they’re meant to be more like the targeting options that you would have in broadcast media such as television.
Then there are first-party audiences that we can build off of our own cookies.
Last but not least, there are also similar audiences or lookalike audiences, depending on which platform you’re using, that will then allow you to find folks similar to the people that you have in your cookie pools.
I like to create similar audiences just for the very best performing first party audiences. Otherwise, they can get a little bit too broad and a little bit too general and don’t necessarily perform as well.
What are some of the options that people should really be paying attention to right now when it comes to audience targeting?
AB: Beyond the audiences that you can apply into search, with Display or YouTube there are also custom intent audiences and they function a little bit different on YouTube and Display.
On YouTube, you can use them as a form of search retargeting, which is powerful. You can target folks based upon the terms that they’ve recently searched for on Google.com.
On Display, they’re a little bit more of like a contextual target, but it’s still a really good way to reach that audience.
But beyond that, I also like to take a look at the buyer journey and just find ways to:
- Create audiences throughout the journey.
- Build out lists based upon priority pages and micro-conversions via Events and Goals and long buying cycles.
I like to build audiences based upon active top-of-funnel campaigns so that I can also be sure to reengage those audiences and monitor the performance of those prospects that originated from those campaigns.
If you’re looking for really the best audiences, I would say that it’s going to vary based upon your business. I like to use a lot of custom reports in Google Analytics to try to identify those audiences, analyzing things like:
- Average session duration.
- Page depth.
- Sessions to transaction.
- Session count.
So for instance, at what page depth does the value seem to increase and then using that to define parameters for your audience.
Also understanding things like:
- How many sessions does it usually take to convert somebody?
- How many days does it take to convert after that first visit?
You can use that as a way to build audiences and as a benchmark to improve upon as well.
What is your actual process for building audience reports?
AB: I usually build out some different custom reports within Google Analytics. Then, I analyze the data within those just to try to understand if there is a certain demarcation within that particular dimension that I’m looking at where the audience seems to have a higher propensity to convert.
A lot of people, for instance, bank on audiences of greater than 30 seconds and then they’ll create that audience for all of their clients.
But if you actually look at your data, depending on what you’re selling, 30 seconds on site might be a long time. For certain products, that may not be any time at all just depending on how much research and how much there is to do and read about the product before making a decision.
So building out some really quick custom reports is a great way to do that. Also looking at things like :
- Google Ads Audience Insights
- Google Analytics Demographic Reports
This helps you understand which third-party audiences your converters and purchasers are most frequently associated with. It is also a great way to identify prospecting audiences.
Brent Csutoras (BC): If I was doing this, would I start making custom ads for each different audience?
AB: Yes, absolutely. Ideally, I would map out audiences using a worksheet to identify:
- Where people are in the buying cycle.
- What are the actions and resources they’ve engaged with would tell me where they are.
- What they’ve already done and what they’ve already seen.
- What they might be interested in seeing next.
Mapping that all out in a worksheet helps to keep everything organized and define what that next step should be for that person. You can then use that to create ad copy.
You don’t necessarily have to structure all of your campaigns based upon audiences either because we have the option to customize ads using the conditional function with audiences.
This enables you to update the ads per audience without having a really insane hyper-specific structure where each of your campaigns are only targeting one particular audience, which would be really hard to manage.
What would you consider to be some of the more advanced ways of dealing with the audiences?
AB: I would say one of the most valuable steps that you can take that I don’t see a lot of advertisers taking yet is making sure that you have the audience report set up in Google Analytics (it doesn’t set up by default).
Even after you create your audiences to send them over to Google Ads, you also have to go in and check the box to send them to Google Analytics as well.
For instance, you might have certain audiences that you’re running in Facebook and in Google Ads. You’re reporting on the performance of all of those things within each of those platforms.
Now, with the Google Analytics Audience Report, you can:
- Create those audiences within Google Analytics.
- Enable them for Google Analytics reporting.
- Have one cohesive view of all of this performance in one place.
I’m a huge fan of the report in Google Analytics because it allows you to analyze the performance of up to 20 audiences that you’ve created, which then enables them for use in custom reports and custom segments.
The best part is that you can dig into performance of micro-conversions, top-of-funnel campaigns and understand not only what targeting is working best (which audiences you should use for targeting) but also which channels and what points along your customer journey are really performing well. What does that influence really look like?
For instance, for most of us, we might have ebooks somewhere throughout the journey. We might be trying to get people to sign up for the newsletter.
We might be trying to get people to subscribe to our blog, but we don’t necessarily know what the influence of those actions are and if it’s going to result in a purchase later in the buying cycle or not.
As we’re reporting on performance by channels, we’re looking at the acquisition reports and it’s the last touch. So of course, it’s doesn’t look good for our top-of-funnel channels.
But if you have all of this data enabled through audiences and pulling into the Audience Report, you could see the longer-term performance of folks that fall into those audiences because of certain channels that they’ve come from or because of certain actions that they’ve taken throughout the journey.
It can help you to define:
- What your targeting options should be.
- What should that journey look like.
- What channels are working best for top-of-funnel.
- What’s ultimately resulting in revenue down the road.
How can one use that audience data to improve your business as a whole?
AB: You can use the audience report to understand which channels and micro-conversions are most effective. We can use those particular audiences as a custom view segment over almost any report within Google Analytics.
Not every report allows you to use a custom view segment, but for essentially any report that allows you to use a custom view segment, you can use any particular audience.
You can look at things like:
- The Behavior Reports to understand which content resonates with each audience.
- The Flow Reports to understand where people are dropping out of the funnel, how people are returning, and what that path looks like for them.
You can use all of this information then to validate if what you had originally mapped out is correct or if you need to make any changes on-site just to try to make sure that you’re retaining people…
There are a lot of really good ways that you can look at that on an audience by audience basis. I know that that sounds like a lot of work… But it can really pay off in spades when you’re starting to look at your audience as different groups of individuals as opposed to looking at everybody as all one generalized pool of people.
I know when we’re looking at website data, it’s really easy to just think of everybody as being in this one big group. But then when we go back to mapping out our campaigns and planning everything, we’re thinking about our different personas and who people are and what markets that they fall into.
It’s important to keep that. This is a really great way to make it actionable through your analytics instead of looking at everybody as just one big pool.
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Featured Image: Paulo Bobita
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