Google Combines Affinity and Intent into Audiences. What Does This Mean for Marketers?

Google Combines Affinity and Intent into Audiences. What Does This Mean for Marketers?

Trapica Content Team

Industry News
4 min read
April 29, 2021

Recently, Google announced that it would streamline all audience options and combine custom intent and custom affinity into custom audiences. As well as Discovery, this applies to all campaigns across Display, YouTube, and Gmail.

If you have experience with Google advertising, you’ll know that custom affinity and custom intent were an important part of campaign creation. Now, instead of the two options, marketers will just see custom audiences. When setting up an audience, this appears at the Ad Group and Campaign level. To get set up, head into Tools, then Shared Library, and adjust the audience types from here. 

As a marketer, you’re probably wondering how this change affects the way you operate. When you build an audience, it’s then available throughout your Google account. Let’s explore some of your options: 

New Custom Audience 

When choosing an audience, you should see an option to create a custom audience in blue at the bottom of the page. At this stage, you can enter some keywords that are relevant to your search. Google then looks for users who have shown an interest in these topics. In other cases, it might be that the consumer has shown an intent to purchase items relating to your keywords. Google then uses this as a basis to find consumers with an interest. 

We can also add specific search terms to boost the audience. Again, Google will look for people who have typed these terms on YouTube, Google, or another product from the brand. 

Previously-Created Audiences 

Not everybody will want to create a new audience. Some will want to use a pre-existing audience. As you open the Audience tab, you’ll see that there are three sections including Search, Ideas, and Browse. With this last option, you’ll be taken through to a page showing several options, all previously-created audiences should show. If you hover over an option, it will expand to show more information. This includes all the keywords, weekly impressions, and what the estimates are based on. 

What if you have a custom intent or custom affinity audience with keywords? How will the platform adjust to account for this new change? There are three circumstances that we need to address in this regard: 

Custom Intent on Display

If you have a custom intent audience on Display campaigns, it will change to ‘People with any of these interests or purchase intentions’. 

Custom Affinity on All Campaigns

In this case, it changes to exactly the same as custom intent audiences on Display campaigns. 

Custom Intent on Discovery, YouTube, and Gmail Campaigns

If your campaigns are active across these three Google products, it will change to ‘People who searched for any of these terms on Google properties’ (this includes YouTube and Google). 

Other Options for Targeting Methods 

When browsing through the platform, you may also notice that other targeting methods have various options available. After clicking the expansion links, you should see the following subsequent options: 

  • People who have visited specific places 
  • People who have browsed a specific type of website 
  • People who use a specific type of app 

As you play around with the options, Google estimates audience size. For the moment, further insights are available as you expand the items. However, this is not yet available for placements and app usage. Instead, it displays the URL targeting options and search terms. 

Choosing an Audience - Google’s Process 

With all of these changes, you might wonder how Google chooses an audience. As marketers, we need to know that our money (or the money of our clients!) is spent wisely. Ultimately, it comes down to two things: your bidding strategy and the campaign goals. When Google optimizes audience choices, it pays attention to these two factors and allows this to guide performance, reach, or consideration. 

As advertisers, our role is to guide Google technology in the right direction. Some have complaints about Google as an advertising platform, but often it’s actually the business or marketer failing to point Google the right way. With this new change, as with any other improvement over the years, we need to ensure that we’re guiding the platform correctly. 

When we set up the inputs, Google then uses this as criteria from which to choose. One mistake that marketers make is thinking that a prospective customer needs to meet all these criteria, when in reality Google actually selects from them. Don’t be cautious because you think that there is a lack of interest. Google will find people with an interest in one or another of the options. 

What Does This Mean for Marketers?

Google is making the transition automatically, which means you don’t have to do anything to your account. We recommend checking your campaigns and noticing the differences in the settings. However, the inputs will be migrated automatically to the custom audience type (if they haven’t already!). 

It should be noted that the concerns regarding custom intent and affinity audiences disappearing should  be put to rest. After the changes, you also shouldn’t notice any changes with regards to functionality or performance. If you have custom affinity or intent audience types with keywords, they move across to the correct category with no input from yourself. 

Creating a Custom Audience in the Audience Manager 

What if you’ve never used custom audiences on Google and now want to get started? Well, it’s just as easy and beneficial as ever. When creating a new custom audience, you can either base it off people with specific interests/intentions or people who have searched for specific terms on a Google product. 

After choosing an option, click the links underneath this pane and expand the targeting. While some will want to include apps in this list, others will include URLs or the name of a physical store. For example, you could include those who have visited a music store. Let’s say that you want to target a young person that interacts with the Facebook app and attends a university, this is possible with custom audiences. 

As mentioned earlier, the reach estimate will fluctuate as you add and remove targeting options. This all depends on the bidding strategy and campaign goal, and the audience's target for performance, reach, or consideration. 

For those with little experience in this area, these new changes don’t affect the performance of Google custom audiences. They provide flexibility for business owners and marketers when targeting. You set the inputs, and Google works hard to find people who meet the criteria (or at least one point of the criteria). 

It’s important to know the difference between OR commands and AND commands (in other words, the difference between expansions and refinements). When you choose expansions for places, URLs, and apps, these are…well, expansions and not refinements. While OR commands locate people who like A or B, AND commands require a qualified individual to like both. 

Other Changes to Google Advertising

2020 has been a crazy year for businesses of all sizes and marketers. While trying to deal with a global pandemic, Google still seems to roll out changes to its advertising platform at the normal rate. 

Just a couple of months ago, Google revealed new advertising policies in Canada and the United States. The goal? To make advertising on the platform fairer for all involved. For example, companies selling credit products or running an ad for housing solutions aren’t able to target their audience based on age, parental status, gender, ZIP code, or marital status. According to Google, companies shouldn’t be allowed to make assumptions on income or wealth based on these attributes. 

All companies with a campaign targeting through these means received a message of the policy changes and were asked to make adjustments. If this message was ignored, Google said that these accounts would not have access to new campaigns.

By combining intent and affinity audiences, Google is showing its willingness to improve the platform and make it more accessible for everybody. 

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Industry News
4 min read
April 29, 2021