Advanced audience targeting tactics
Facebook and Google’s ad platforms offer an arsenal of segmentation options that can help you reach your highest potential audiences. Here are some of the best places to start.
By Gilad Ben-Nahum
Small, extremely specific audience segments are the key to getting the most out of your ad budget. Both Google and Facebook (and to some degree other search engines and social media platforms) have a variety of advanced targeting features that allow you to get as specific as you can imagine when creating an audience. Combining these advanced features together takes skill, but it also allows you to be more effective with the ads you’ve worked so hard on (or paid top dollar for). So if you feel you've mastered your digital campaign basics, it's definitely worth taking this extra step.
Advanced Google targeting
Remarketing Lists for Search Ads (RLSAs) is a powerful feature of Google Ads that allows you to customize your search campaigns for customers who have already visited your site (you’ve marketed to them once on your site, and you’re “remarketing” to them on Google).
Not only that RSLAs help you target audiences that have proven their interest in your brand, as far as search is concerned they also allow you to bid on keywords at a lower price than you would ordinarily. Instead of competing for the term "naked makeup" in general, you're now competing on specific people (your retargeting list) that are using that term, and this typically drives the bids down drastically.
However, most people use RSLAs thoughtlessly—they simply hit these people with an ad that maybe offers them a coupon (and often offers them nothing but the product they were viewing previously on the site), and then call it a day.
Segmenting your remarketing audiences and targeting them with personalized offers—for example, after they’ve engaged in a certain behavior on your site—will prove much more effective.
Remember, remarketing is targeting people who have come to your website—this is already a subset of your existing audience. Some portion of the people who have visited the website recently are never going to buy, or won’t buy for a while. Thinking critically about how to narrow down that audience results in higher conversions.
For instance, you might target only visitors who are existing customers, have a high average spend, and are searching competitor brand names. You might target only visitors who have never made a purchase and are not on your mailing list. You might target only visitors who have visited a particular page a certain number of times and have purchased a particular product in the past. And you can target only those visitors who have added an item to their shopping cart but never made it to checkout.
This is only scratching the surface. Google, for one, allows you to create custom affinity audiences, where you build an audience with very specific interests. You can even enter website addresses when you’re not sure how to describe someone’s interests (for example, you might enter American Eagle’s website when you’re not quite sure how to describe an interest in this type of fashion). Essentially, you’re building a “look alike” audience that “looks like” the type of audience that visits those websites and has those interests (without being that exact audience).
Once you’ve built your custom affinity audience and they start to see your ads, you can then funnel them down into an RLSA list. You’ll know already that they have particular interests and are similar to the audiences on the websites you’ve listed in the custom affinity audience, and you can now start narrowing further with the RLSA tactics described above.
You can effectively do the same thing with in-market segments. In-market segments are customers who are ready to buy in a specific industry (telecom, automotive, real estate, etc.). When you advertise to these audiences, you can then retarget them in an RLSA. You’ll already know that they are ready to buy and have a higher chance of converting than the average searcher who is just inputting keywords.
Advanced Facebook targeting
What I love about Facebook advertising is how many different options you can choose when defining your audience. You can target by age, by life events (marriage, divorce), by how many kids they have, where they live, what they do for a living, their income, what bands they like, who they know, how and where they travel, sports they’re interested in, what they drive, where they donate time and money… you get the idea.
It’s like custom affinity audiences on steroids. The value of this is that, with a little bit of effort, you can create some very specific audiences who are more likely to purchase a particular product/service, thereby increasing conversion. Rather than marketing your entire brand, you can market each product and each service to the people most likely to buy now.
The hybrid approach
Most businesses never think twice about running social ads and search engine ads separately, but because Google Analytics allows you to tag the website address connected to your Facebook ads, you can build an extremely specific audience in Facebook and then use the audience that’s been created in a remarketing campaign in Google Ads.
For example, you might target a large group of potential buyers who have similar interests and demographics as your existing customers while excluding your existing customers from the audience. You can then retarget these customers on Google search, knowing that you’re now reaching a large audience on Google who has never interacted with your brand and has the potential to become a buyer.
Take your time and experiment
Ads on Google and Facebook are like any other type of marketing technology—you need to play with it a bit to see how it works.
This means spending money and understanding from the beginning that you’re going to have to pay to learn for a while.
Once you’ve gotten some experience putting together different audiences and trying out different tactics, you’ll be able to reduce the cost of advertising while increasing your effectiveness.
Combine the most effective methods, especially when they’re helping you achieve your advertising goals. Once you have this understanding in place, you’ll be able to improve your advertising (and maybe even your messaging and product/service offerings) and better connect with the audiences who are the best fit for you and what you do.