How to Build Highly Effective Google Ads Custom Audiences

By Brad


General, PPC Management

Google Ads custom audience segments can be a powerful way to reach your target market. Unfortunately, most custom segments aren’t created correctly. These segments either use too many targeting options, skip over vital settings, or are built for mass views as opposed to reaching the correct audience.

In this video, we’ll walk you through how to build highly effective custom audience segments in Google Ads that can help you reach your target audience.

Here’s the transcript of the video:

0:00:00.5 Speaker 1: In Google Ads, if you go to your Tools and Settings, Audience Manager and then click over to Custom Segments, you can build your own audiences. Now, one of the biggest problems when people build audiences is they make just huge lists of semi-related terms. And these could be sometimes 100 words long. And problem one is you have massive volumes that come with this. A trillion impressions a week is a lot of impressions most people just can’t afford. Secondly, not all these words are really converting. And so we don’t want to just make large lists of words. We want to be a bit more strategic in how we’re creating our various lists. So let’s look at the options and then see how to build these properly. There’s a few options when building lists.

0:00:53.1 S1: First, we’re going to choose our country and language. And instead of choosing all campaign types, we often want to look at a specific one. Display video, discover or Gmail. And the reason why is how your segments are used. We’re going to start with just display here. Option one is you can make a list of words for people with any of these interests or purchased intentions, so that means they may have a long-term interest, they may want to purchase it. Our second option, people who search for any of these terms on Google. Now that sounds great. It’s a search term until you read the fine prints. Only on campaigns running on Google properties, which would be most of our impressions for a video, that’s YouTube, discovery, Gmail, or display where most of our impressions are not on Google properties.

0:01:46.1 S1: So for other campaigns, terms will be used as interest or purchase, not actually people who’ve searched for. So if you make a whole lot of random terms, you’re using display, which is mostly not Google. These are actually functioning like interest and purchase. Now secondly, when we create audiences, we want to watch the volumes and see if they exponentially suddenly increase. For instance, if we say interest or purchase intentions for Bing Ads management software. We have 10 million to 50 million impressions. All right? Now if we say, “Okay, what about Google Ads management software?” We’re, again, at 10 million to 50 million impressions. Now, so we would think 10 million to 50 million for Google Ads, 10 million to 50 million for for Bing Ads management software, there’s probably some overlap.

0:02:39.5 S1: So if we added both the terms, maybe 75 million impressions at most. But when we add Bing Ads management software, we suddenly jump to a billion impressions. Google’s not necessarily looking at each of these individually, they’re suddenly saying, “Well, ads is the common word and management software is a common word.” So therefore we just suddenly went from 50 million to a billion impressions. This is why when you’re making these lists, you often want to put in your keywords one by one to see if suddenly they exponentially increase. Now secondly, this lets us realize that we want to make small concentrated lists of very similar terms. If we say Bing Ads, so we’re same overall theme audit software. Well that’s still, that’s actually even fewer impressions, which is unusual because they’re saying any of these interests.

0:03:40.1 S1: So technically this shouldn’t lower our impression volume, it should increase it. So that’s something with your volume counts that aren’t quite right all the time when you’re using these segments. But what we’d want to make is one segment of Bing Ads a different segment, that’s Google Ads, a different segment that would be maybe PPC management software. As you think through the different custom segments that you want to make, smaller groups are better, not just for targeting but for bid purposes as well. Now, if you’re mostly running things on video discovery and Gmail, then we could take the same terms and have one list, which is people with interest in, a second list for people who searched for these terms. They could be the same words. For instance, when we name our segments, we often like to name our list things like searched for, and then in this case Bing Ads software.

0:04:43.5 S1: And then if we were going to remake the same list, then we just say interest. That way we can have the same keywords and lists used in two completely different ways, whether it’s interest or search for, add both of these lists to our ad groups. It could be the same ad group, but because we have now two small lists, we can bid differently based upon our metrics for each one. This is why it’s very important when you’re making your custom segments to not just add 50 keywords and look at your keyword list and copy and paste it, but instead make smaller lists that are highly targeted. ‘Cause remember, you can also use audience bid adjustments with target CPA bidding, target ROAS bidding, and of course, manual bidding. So if we see both these lists, or maybe we have 10 of them, they’re all converting, but at slightly different rates we can change our bids. And we’re using Target CPA, or target ROAS, we can just use bid adjustments instead.

0:05:47.2 S1: Now there are other options for targeting, people who browsed websites. Now be very careful of just using all your competitor URLs. For instance, if we put in our site,, Google says we’re going to get 1 billion to 5 billion impressions a week of people who are similar to this. Now, that’s a really big number if, just to show you accuracy here, if we say, we again see 1 billion to 5 billion. So while it’s sort of flattering, Google thinks our URL could get a 5 billion impressions, probably not the same as Google Ads. Now, what makes us even stranger is if we say, “Okay, instead of, which only PPC managers really go to to log in, what if we just say” People who go to Google is 50 million to 100 million impressions. Well, there’s no way that drives 10 times more unique type of people than Google does.

0:06:53.6 S1: So be very careful with the URLs. It can be useful to make a string of competitor URLs, and make it its own segment, but then when you are adding it to ad groups, you’re often using the narrow targeting option of, people who went to these URLs and people interested in XYZ. Instead of an OR operator, we want to use the narrow targeting for an and operator. The same goes for apps like URLs. They can be very broad very quickly. When you’re creating audiences, you often want small lists of words. It could be one word, it it could be five to seven, 10 words, but you often want very small groups and you’d rather have many small audiences than one giant one. Then you can take your keywords, make one for people with interests, and then have the same keywords, people who search for. Just name them differently so you know the difference.

0:07:53.8 S1: Once you’ve made your list, then you’re going to go ahead and create your ad groups for them. If you see very different keywords in the URLs such as Bing Ads versus Google Ads, that would want to be a different ad group, so the ad can echo what the list is within our Google Ads software ad group. We could have both these lists in the same ad group, because the same ad would work for both. Probably would want the same for Bing, probably would want a different one for PPC management software. And so when you’re creating your list, think about your ad, what is the ad going to say, what should trigger that? Secondly, as you’re adding keywords, keep an eye on the volume. And then third, you can just duplicate the same keywords in multiple lists, rename them so that way you’re dealing with a larger number of smaller lists and can really understand what converts. So you know what list to keep, what lists to delete, and where to use audience bid modifiers. And with these tips, you should be able to make very effective custom segments to use in your Google Ads account.

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  • David

    Thank you for your video, very useful. What is your reasoning when it comes to using this custom audience in observation vs targeting ? Do you first start in observation and then monitor the results, if many conversions and good CPA switch to targeting ?

    • Brad

      With targeting, the user must meet all the criteria to view your ad, which can include keyword searches for RLSA or other display targeting options. Generally, on search you are using observation for bid modifiers and data. On display, you are using targeting just to target those users (plus bids).

      If you have a lot of data, then you might have some RLSA campaigns that are using targeting so you can manage budgets between audience & non-audience users or you need to tailor the ads beyond what ad customizers can handle.

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