When it comes to Google Ads audience targeting, there are a number of different audiences you can use. They can be bucketed into three main types: Google’s audience segments, “your data” segments, and “custom” segments.
Custom segments are what I want to dive into today, because in my opinion, they’re one of the most powerful and underutilized features in Google Ads. Read on to find out:
- What Google Ads custom segments are
- Why you should use them
- How to create custom segments in Google Ads
What are custom segments in Google Ads?
Google Ads custom segments let you leverage Google’s proprietary data about its users in ways that are unique to your business. You can create custom segments using up to three criteria:
- The interests and products/services people are searching for
- The types of websites people browse
- The types of apps people use
By “up to” three criteria, this means that you can target just one of those criteria or any combination of two or three.
This custom segment targets all three criteria: interests, types of websites, and apps.
Once you create a custom segment, you can add it to your Display, Discovery, or Video campaigns. You can also add custom segments to your audience signals for Performance Max campaigns, which Google considers a best practice (and I agree).
Why you should use custom segments in Google Ads
There are two main reasons why I believe custom segments are so darn useful.
Highly specific targeting
First, while there are thousands of Google Ads audience targeting choices, many advertisers are just not able to find the right ones for them. For example, what if your target audience is digital marketing professionals? Or doctors? Or people who are alums of Ivy League universities?
Custom segments let you create the perfect audience for your needs by leveraging Google’s immense data about user behavior based on their searches, the websites they visit, and the apps they use.
Lower competition & costs
Custom segments can save you money on your Google Ads. Since you’re the only one who will have this custom segment in your account (after all, it is custom!), competition may be lower, which means potentially lower ad costs.
Also, we know that Search CPCs are rising, and Search ads are getting more and more expensive each year (check our benchmarks!) In comparison, CPCs on Discovery are generally quite affordable.
Custom segments allow you to reach people who have been searching for your keywords, just not in the moment they’re actually searching. Right people + different time = still powerful results. Create a Discovery campaign targeting a custom segment of your top Search keywords, and watch some magic happen!
How to create a Custom segment in Google Ads
To create custom segments in Google Ads, go to Tools & Settings, and then select Audience Manager.
Choose the Custom segments tab:
You can then create a custom segment using one or any combination of these three criteria:
1. Interests or behaviors
You can create a custom segment to target people with specific interests or purchase intentions, or who have searched specific terms on Google.
For example, I’ve run a YouTube campaign advertising my Google Ads course targeted to a Custom segment of people who have searched for “google ads course,” “adwords course,” “learn google ads,” “google ads training,” etc.
Note! There’s one finicky little nuance to be aware of, though. If your custom segment includes a list of terms that people are searching for, this will only work as intended on Google-owned properties: Discovery and YouTube.
On the Display network and Video partner sites, your search terms will be treated as general “interests” rather than specific things people have searched for. So keep that in mind when picking your campaign type and settings!
2. Types of websites
You can also create a custom segment based on the types of websites people browse.
For example, a business I was advising was trying to reach dentists and people who work in dental offices, so they targeted a custom segment of industry news-type websites for dentists.
3. Types of apps
And finally, you can create a Custom segment based on the types of apps people use.
For example, if you want to reach small business owners using Google Ads, you can target a custom segment of people who have apps like Shopify, Wix, Etsy Seller, Ecwid Ecommerce, etc.