5 Practical Tips to Step Up Your Audience Targeting Game

Whether you are managing search, social, display, or native ad campaigns, there is one thing you cannot escape: audience targeting.

For good reason, too.

Audience targeting has transformed how we serve ads and how we write ads.

Audience targeting took us from a relative guessing game in creating campaigns to something that resembles a sophisticated science.

With the broad use of audience targeting across the advertising ecosystem, it is easy to miss some strategies or overlook what would otherwise be a best practice.

With that in mind, let’s revisit some best practices and practical tips for stepping up your audience targeting game.

1. Think Outside the Box

A common trap for advertisers is to set up their audience targeting with too narrow a focus.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that you should go wild and ignore granular targeting best practices. (In fact, see tip #5 below.)

Instead, I urge you to think outside the box with your audience targeting.

Creativity here can take many shapes, but let’s focus on in-market audiences as an example.

Let’s say that you are advertising real estate mortgages. The go-to choices are obvious.

  • Real Estate > Moving & Relocation
  • Real Estate > Residential Properties > Residential Properties (For Sale)
  • Financial Services > Credit & Lending > Mortgage

What does “think outside the box” look like in this example?

For starters, put on your marketing hat and consider the person of your potential customer.

What else do you know about them?

Maybe they live in nice neighborhoods, drive nice cars, and have plenty of disposable income.

Now we can take a look at adjacent in-market audiences that align with the persona of our potential customer and not just those that align with our product or service.

  • Financial Services > Financial Planning
  • Autos & Vehicles > Motor Vehicles > Motor Vehicles (New)
  • Autos & Vehicles > Motor Vehicles > Motor Vehicles by Type > Luxury Vehicles
  • Event Tickets > Performing Arts Tickets > Broadway & Theater Tickets

You get the idea.

Open your mind to the idea of testing adjacent in-market audiences based on personas.

Test by applying as “Target & Bid” (or “Observation”) with a 0% bid adjustment with zero risks.

Thank me later.

2. Schedule Time to Audit Audience Performance & Make Changes

Seems obvious. Yet this one is missed. A lot.

As we just illustrated, there is a tremendous value in applying audience targets with a 0% bid adjustment to monitor the data and see what works.

That’s one of the single biggest benefits of these features.

However, we are all human and we forget things.

We forget to monitor those audiences and then adjust bids based on performance.

Do yourself a favor and schedule time to audit your audience targeting performance and make changes.

Depending on how many ad channels you are running and the size/scope of your campaigns, the frequency at which you set this reminder may differ.

My suggestion is to start with a weekly schedule (you can increase or decrease frequency later!) and do the following at each session:

  • Review usage of the various audience targeting types: Remarketing, In-Market, Similar, Custom, Customer Match, Custom Combinations, etc. Do you need to step back and think outside the box?
  • Review performance of applied audiences in your active campaigns and ad groups.
  • Apply positive (or negative) bid adjustments based on your performance goals and KPIs.
  • Make note of any necessary campaign or ad group adjustments to isolate specific audiences or serve unique messages for seasonality, etc.

3. Audiences Like Company: Bundling is Better

Your audience targeting options are a catalyst that can provide a boost (or limit scope) to your myriad campaign types, platforms, and digital advertising features.

The time-tested combination of broad match + remarketing audiences (broadience) has set a high bar for bundling features with audiences.

The same approach can be taken with dynamic search ads (DSA), too.

Shopping campaigns and audiences are magic together – especially with Product Audiences at work.

Think dynamic remarketing for search and/or native ads on Microsoft Audience Network (disclosure: I work at Microsoft).

Beyond features and targeting types, sometimes audience types can work well stacked together, like LinkedIn Profile Targeting + Remarketing, etc.

And this is why custom combinations became a thing.

Putting the power of if-this-then-that logic to work with audiences can lead to truly creative targeting opportunities.

4. Matching Audience to Message

One of the original benefits of audience targeting was this idea of “the right message, at the right time, for the right person.”

Powerful stuff, right?

Audience targeting has allowed us to know who we are targeting so that we can tailor the message.

We know this – and yet it doesn’t happen as much as it should (at least in this author’s opinion).

Tailoring your ads based on the audience requires extra effort, I realize this.

The payoff is typically there in the way of increased CTR and conversion rates.

When talking RLSA (remarketing for search campaigns), tailoring the ad message requires a separate campaign set to “Bid Only” (or “Target”) and this may be an inhibiting factor.

If that’s the case, let me introduce you to Ad Customizers.

On Microsoft Advertising, you can leverage audience ID for remarketing lists and in-market audiences as one of your Ad Customizer parameters.

In short, this means that you can create expanded text ads that will swap out titles or descriptions based on the audience targeting that triggered the ad.

Learn more of the “how to” here.

5. Don’t Fear Granularity

While you should absolutely think outside the box with your audience targeting, don’t fear granularity either.

Too often advertisers are applying audiences based on broad-stroke logic – all visitors, all converters, etc.

These catch-alls are a great starting place, but they are just that: a place to start.

Sophisticated and high performing campaigns that leverage audience targeting do so in a granular way.

What do I mean when I say granular?

  • Audiences are broken down by product/service type, category, and other ways that map to your website or business structure.
  • Audiences are broken down by time (days since visit, days since add-to-cart, months since last touch, etc.).
  • Product audiences provide the basis for granular audiences around how visitors interact with your ecommerce website. Most of the work here is done for you and enables dynamic remarketing on search and native ads on Microsoft Advertising.
  • Audiences that are built using URL parameters (UTM, custom or other) can allow you to segment by channel, campaign, keyword, etc.

Really, the world is (and should be) your oyster.

Take the time to think through:

  • How you want to slice and dice your data based on content, product/service.
  • Who your traffic is.
  • How they got to your website.

And with that, you’ve got five practical tips to step up your audience targeting game.

Now go put these tips into practice!

More Resources: