Advanced Demographic Targeting for Search: Is it All That Great?

Advanced Demographic Targeting for Search: Is it All That Great?

About a month ago, Google launched the much-awaited ‘Demographic Targeting for Search’ feature, and we’ve been eagerly collecting data.



13 December 2016




Though the Demographic Targeting feature has been available in Display, YouTube, Gmail Sponsored Promotions and Mobile Apps since the beginning of time, Google has only just launched it into their most popular of platforms – Search.
It’s a great feature that allows Search traffic to be fine-tuned to age and gender targeting in addition to the basics of Keyword, Geographic and Remarketing lists. This improved segmentation and targeting is something that we have found to be extremely useful for our clients!
So let’s get into the nitty gritty. To do so, I’m going to break it down into three sections;
  1. Why is Demo Targeting important?
  2. How can I apply it? (my favourite!)
  3. How can this feature be improved?

Why is demo targeting important?

We have almost always been able to see Demographic segmentation information in Google Analytics, but we can now target this in AdWords Search. This is a big step forward in AdWords Targeting.

Breaking down your customer base into the highest-performing ages and genders allows you to place positive bid modifiers on highly profitable segments and negative bid modifiers on poorly performing segments. Sounds simple, right?

How can I apply it?

This is where it becomes a little tricky since Google only allows you to add a bid modifier on gender and then a separate modifier on age. This means that you can’t simply target females between the ages of 25-34; you need to place a bid modifier on females of, say, +5% and then a separate modifier, say +5%, on the age groups 25-34. This will also result in an overlap of these bid modifiers to lesser-performing segments. Now, this may not seem too bad until you look at some actual data.

To show you what we mean, we’ve pivoted out some actual data from a client account to show you the ROI from each of the category segments.

Notice how females are more profitable than males (that’s good; we can target that!). But look again, and you’ll notice that the unknowns within 35-44 and 45-54 fall far below the age group average.

One way of getting around this flaw is to place only very small bid modifiers on each demographic. Part of the logic behind this is that if you also have bid modifiers in place for Remarketing lists, Time of Day and Geographical areas, all these increases to the CPC will soon push the campaign into unprofitable territory.

The other option you have is a little more labour-intensive. As mentioned above, it’s not possible to target a specific age/gender segment on its own, it’s also not possible to place a -100% bid adjustment (the lowest possible is -90%). This means that if you wish to target 1 specific segment on top of your standard account, you would need to expand out a new campaign to target the age and gender you wish, with -90% bid adjustments on other ages and gender options.

Now, if you’re managing your AdWords account properly, you’ll already be Match-stacking your campaigns (campaigns targeting specific match types and only that match type). The effect of specific demographic bid modifiers would then be that you may end up with at least double the number of campaigns in your account! At present, the only way around this (without adding new campaigns) is to double up the targeting within the same campaign, thus risking applying bid modifiers to unprofitable segments.

How can this feature be improved?

Our bit of advice to Google would be to upgrade this targeting to the same sort of functionality applied to Time of Day targeting.

Thus allowing you to add pockets of targeting bid modifiers (Monday 9 am to 3 pm apply +30% bid modifier).

This slight change would infinitely simplify the account management process and improve the feature’s usability.

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Written by

Lewis Torossian
The dog and bone.
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