Get Smarter Display Targeting with Custom Intent Audiences

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

We’ve got a nifty little insider tip for you that is a powerful addition to display campaigns.

Having experienced impressive results using the feature and realising nobody appears to be talking about the bonus targeting option, we have stepped up to the mark to share this snippet of genius with you.

Released at the end of 2017, Custom Intent Audiences are an effective targeting feature that can seriously improve performance for display campaigns.

How? Keep reading…

What are Custom Intent Audiences?

Custom Intent Audiences go beyond other pre-determined audience groups and allow you to advertise to target segments that Google have determined are looking for specific products. Google determine this based on a users’ previous behaviour including Google searches, YouTube history and web browsing history.

For example, if Dave searches for ‘the Great British Bake Off recipes’ (you know how I’ll be spending my Tuesday) and scrolls through the GBBO website along with some other baking recipe blogs, he has shown an interest in baking. Dave might also watch a YouTube tutorial or two a week later for ‘20 Genius Baking Hacks’. Now, when a book store run a display campaign advertising a paperback copy of “Great British Bake Off: Perfect Cakes & Bakes to Make at Home”, Dave would be the perfect Custom Intent Audience to whom the ad would be shown.

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There are two Custom Intent Audience options:

Auto – Created:

Existing audiences whereby Google used machine learning to build them. Each audience has been created based off “the most common keywords and URLs found in content that people browse while researching a given product or service”. Google also carry out analysis on your previous campaigns to create audience suggestions.

Build Your Own Audience:

As the title suggests, you create your own Custom Intent Audiences. By manually adding in relevant keywords, URLs, apps and YouTube content you build a relevant audience best suited to your brand/product. Google recommend that a total of 15 URLs or keywords are added that are based around a common theme.

Both Custom Intent Audience options can be applied to display and YouTube campaigns.

What’s the difference between Custom Intent and other Audiences?

The difference between a Custom Intent Audience and In-Market Audience is highlighted in the title, in-market users are people specifically looking to buy a product whereas users with intent aren’t quite so far down the sales funnel.

The difference between Custom Intent Audiences and Affinity Audiences however is a little trickier to digest. Affinity Audiences are users with a high level of interest in a certain product/topic; as a marketer I’m interested in latest digital marketing news and updates and will often browse popular news/competitor sites to remain up-to-date. However, for another user who hasn’t invested as much time on these topics as me but has previously searched the same sites, they would be appropriate for a Custom Intent Audience segmentation.

Why use Custom Intent Audiences?

Two reasons:

  1. It can be applied to all situations.
  2. Cost-per-click for competitive search terms are typically lower in display than search advertising.

Before Custom Intent Audiences became available, PPC specialists used keyword targeting for display and results would be based on what keywords are on a specific web page. What’s different is we are now able to target what users are searching for. Making it a powerful tool in finding relevant audiences with real intent. Expanding the reach of a display ads campaign to a quality audience i.e. people with invested interest.

Having the ability to target a users’ search history makes it possible to have your brand become visible for terms that may be extremely competitive and expensive in search advertising. For example, campaigns we have run for some clients have up to a £70 CPC in search but using these same search terms for display targeting lead to a CPC of around £1 in display.

Whilst this of course is not a like-for-like comparison, this type of targeting is now an effective way of using display for performance marketing.

see sales sky rocket

How to use Custom Intent Audiences:

  1. Generally –
    To create a campaign targeting expensive search terms, since CPC is typically lower in display.
  2. Take on competitors –
    Avoid bidding wars for competitive terms and target competitor branded search terms.
  3. Complimentary product ads –
    An example would be mortgage providers or home removal services targeting searches like “Houses for Sale” since the user has shown an interest in moving home.
  4. Alternative product ads –
    Offering – as stated in the title – an alternative product. Another competitor-trumping approach whereby Cloud 9 hair tools may target “GHD”.
  5. Advertise events –
    Whether you’re exhibiting at a show or not, target the show’s name i.e. Google I/O to be visible to those interested in the event.

The list of appropriate uses is endless, making it a plausible campaign approach for most situations.

Custom Intent Audiences in Practice

We recently ran a display campaign for a client in the higher education sector during the extremely competitive clearing period.

If you’re unfamiliar with clearing, it’s a final pathway for school leavers to attend University when conditional grades haven’t been met. As you can imagine, over the results period at the end of August this search term became especially competitive, which is when our prospecting campaign began.

custom intent audiences result

We found that CTR for our Custom Intent Audience was largely above 1% and had more conversions than the remarketing campaign which was running alongside this campaign at the same time.

The performance of the prospecting campaign in its entirety resulted in the remarketing campaign achieving a 2.5% CTR. With the average CTR for display being  0.05%, results from our campaign were x25 better than average for initial display and x50 better for remarketing; I’m sure you’ll agree these are some huge numbers.

How does it work?

Because we have greater control over the audience targeting and have opened our campaigns up to a wider interested audience, we are finding that it’s improving ad relevancy and performance. By using Custom Intent Audiences and Remarketing in this way, we were able to attract an extremely engaged audience that were much more likely to convert since the prospects from our Custom Intent Audience were higher quality prospects at the start of our funnel.

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Sophie Monks

Senior Social Specialist

Sophie has over 6 years of experience in the social media and content space, working in both in-house organisations and agencies. She has worked with exciting established brands in her time such as Campari, Aperol Spritz, Oppo Ice Cream and PayPal Australia. She enjoys the content creation process – from mapping out the shot and…

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