Here’s how to use custom intent audiences in your GDN campaigns
Contributor Grace Kaye walks through the process of creating custom intent audiences and offers tips for getting the most out of the capability.
Custom intent allows you to expand outside of predefined audience categories, identifying new prospects that are likely to be in the market for your product or service.
With your choice of keywords and URLs, Google builds audiences based on consumers’ behavior on the internet, allowing you to target audiences who have demonstrated an interest in similar products. Thanks to this close connection to intent to purchase, custom intent targeting is a great conversion-driver.
How to get started
To find custom intent audiences, go to the audiences interface of a display campaign, select “Targeting,” and then choose “Intent.”
Next, you’ll have to choose whether you give Google keywords and URLs to build an audience around, or whether you want Google to use machine learning to determine the traits of your ideal audience. This is based on insights from current campaigns you’re running, finding correlations between audience interests to create new segments. (NB: automated custom intent is only available in English at the moment.)
We don’t use automated custom intent audiences at our agency, but they’re a good option for beginners, as Google lets you see the keywords they base their automated audiences on, which can be interesting to learn from.
If you choose to use automated custom audiences, select “Custom intent audiences: auto-created.” To create your own, click on “New Custom Intent Audience,” and once you’ve chosen your keywords and URLs, you’re good to go!
I recommend using at least three to five keywords or URLs; Google suggests a total of 15. You’ll be able to see an estimate of impressions generated by this new custom intent audience.
One of the great things about custom intent audiences is that they can be as broad or as targeted as you want. However, they really shine when they comprise narrow segments of relevant audiences, so the next step once you’ve set up and observed your campaign is to enhance your level of precision.
For every third-party audience, you should also make a custom affinity and custom intent audience. Sure, they might require a bit more effort to set up, but we’ve seen that they perform a lot better than third-party party audiences.
From there, it’s a game of constant optimization: make lots of custom intent audiences in all your campaigns and keep track of how they’re all performing. Unfortunately, you can’t edit them directly — you’ll have to make a new custom intent audience to improve upon the last one.
Get creative with composing your audiences
It’s important to get creative with the URLs and keywords you use. Play around with different options. Think about what your target audience members are browsing on the internet — what they’re reading, what they’re researching, what they’re interested in.
The goal is to reach an audience that is looking into products or services similar to yours. You can try a full set of URLs from your website, all branded keywords, a handful of generic terms, or mix and match all of those together.
I highly recommend a competitor-oriented approach, using only competitor brand keywords and URLs to set up a custom intent audience. For example, for a client in the financial industry, we created a custom intent audience based on people searching for financial services, including those browsing on competitors’ and comparison sites.
This performed incredibly well, so we then made a separate custom intent audience for each one of the competitors (the more precise, the more targeted the ads are, and the better they perform). Compared to third-party audiences and keyword targeting, we tend to see more impressions, higher CTRs and lower CPAs.
Of course, you’ll want to keep using other targeting options like custom affinity and keyword targeting in your campaigns to keep them diverse and high-performing. With the ongoing implementation of GDPR, no one is really sure about the future of third-party audiences, so making use of custom intent is a great way to keep performance on track.
Custom intent offers a granularity in targeting similar to what’s available for other channels, like social, that was lacking from GDN before. There truly is a lot of potential here, though it will take some experimenting and optimization to see what works best.
We don’t know exactly how Google makes custom intent audiences; predictive audiences are complex and difficult to perfect. However, it seems that Google really is on the right track with targeting options for Display, and we’re very excited to see what’s in store for the future.