Four Ways to Pinpoint your Targeting with Google Custom Audiences


1 Four Ways to Pinpoint your Targeting with Google Custom Audiences1.1 What are the custom audience options for Google Ads?1.1.1 1. Targeting behavior and interest1.1.2 2. People who visit different types of websites1.1.3 3. Types of apps are used by people1.1.4 4. People who […]

Four Ways to Pinpoint your Targeting with Google Custom Audiences


We have seen many features in Google Ads over the years. There are some things that come and then go, while other times we see a modified version of the same thing.

One of these features has been updated recently is the Display Network’s targeting options.

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Particularly, Custom Intent Audiences as well as Custom Affinity Audiences were combined to create Custom Audiences.

Instead of choosing from a pre-made list from Google, you can create your own audiences based upon their interests and search history. I have really enjoyed using Custom Audiences and I would like to share my knowledge with you so you can get better ad performance. These include:

  • Behavior & Interest
  • Types of websites visited
  • Types of apps that were downloaded
  • Visited category

What are the custom audience options for Google Ads?

Display and YouTube ads can be used to create custom audiences. Let’s discuss what each targeting type is and how they can be used. I will also give strategies to get the most from them and show how you can set up Custom Audiences within your account.

1. Targeting behavior and interest

The first box we’re presented with is to target users based on their interests or behaviors. The description Google provides is available by hovering over the support box.

“Include keywords and phrases that best describe your ideal customer. Based on their activities and behavior, your ads will reach people who are likely to be interested or have purchase intent for your keywords.

What we’re trying to do here is almost use targeting similar to keywords to find users who have either been conducting research around specific topics or have shown interest in a product, solution, service while on Google.

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google custom audiences--target by interest tab

If you want to target people who are looking for a used car to purchase, then you can type in “best used cars” and Google will give you suggestions based on what users have searched for. As you add more keywords, you’ll see the Audience Insights chart on the right adjust based on the audience you’ve selected to include.

Google properties vs. the Google Display Network

These Custom Audiences have a great feature: you can use your list on Google-owned properties.

These buttons provide some insight, and you will need to choose one to build your audience.


The first option here means that you’ll be targeting users just as mentioned before: based on their interests and purchase intentions.

The second option is the most interesting. People who searched these terms on Google.

This means you’re effectively doing search retargeting for any of the terms you add (and any terms “similar” to them) as long as your ad is going to run on a Google-owned property.

These properties are Google-owned:

  • YouTube
  • Google Discover
  • Gmail

Unfortunately, the Google Display Network is not one of those owned properties. Each website is owned individually by users or companies, and they have opted into Google AdSense for monetization.

In the end, we’re able to retarget people based on what they searched for on Google, then put our relevant ads in front of them when they are watching videos on YouTube, checking their email, or discovering new topics on mobile. This is some powerful stuff!

2. People who visit different types of websites

Below the keyword section is a new header which says “Expand audience and also include”. This is followed by a list with three additional types targeting.

People who visit different types of websites are the first.

google custom audiences--target by type of website browsed

Google asks you to list the websites that your target audience visits in URL form. It is important to note that this section does not target specific websites, but is a way to use the audience insights provided by those sites to discover new users.

If you know the places where your customers hang out online, this can be a very powerful type of targeting.

Avoid broad sites for websites and focus instead on specific and closely related sites. It’s better to target local dealers and larger national websites for used cars than just the Ford, Chevrolet, and Volkswagen websites. While users might be interested in purchasing a car from these sites, there could be many other reasons people visit those websites.

3. Types of apps are used by people

This next option for targeting is similar to website targeting options but it includes apps.

google custom audiences--target by apps used

Consider the apps that your customers might use. It could be a permanent app or something temporary. These apps will likely be less useful for your used car because you won’t use them anymore after you have purchased it.

To get started, I enter a few companies that I know are important to many users who are trying to find a used vehicle.

google custom audiences--example of app targeting, apps similar to kelley blue book

Google populates a list of names as I type them in and suggests apps based on my themes.

You can continue using apps similar to Kelley Blue Book which allows you to determine the price of a used vehicle. You could also include apps such as Credit Karma, which may help you find people who want to improve your credit score in order to buy a car.

Think of the different types of apps users might use to either help them make a purchase or show interest in your product or service and how you can leverage those for Custom Audience building.

4. People who have visited certain places

This last option of targeting is focused on the places that your customers have recently visited.

google custom audiences--targeting places visited

These will be groups of physical locations, not individual places. However, they can be extremely useful depending on the person you are trying to reach.

Two quick searches were conducted for my used car.

google custom audiences--targeting places a person searching for a used car would visit

Each of these locations could have potential for great value. For my purposes, Used Car Dealers is very relevant. However, even if you search for “car dealership”, there are still some interesting options. These could be great options to target if my hypothetical used car dealer only dealt with one manufacturer or if I manage the used car business at a particular brand’s dealership.

How do I create a custom audience?

The name Custom Audiences might suggest that you would build these in your audience manager, but that’s actually not the case.

You will need to create a display or video campaign to build custom audiences. Or navigate to an existing ad program to leverage audience members.

After you have clicked the blue plus button, go to the Audiences tab.

google custom audiences--add audience button in google ads

You’ll find Custom Audiences at the bottom of this list.

google custom audiences--custom audience option in google ads

You can choose Custom Audiences from the top of the list if you have them. You can also create one by clicking “+ Custom Audience”.

google custom audiences add custom audience option in google ads

This audience builder will be sent to you.

google custom audiences--new custom audience tab in google ads

With Custom Audiences, go beyond the keyword

While Google’s targeting options may change from time to time, I believe we are in a great position to use Custom Audiences. There are many targeting options available that go beyond broad interests. Search Retargeting is available across all Google-owned networks. However, we can target people based upon specific websites, apps and physical locations. It’s time to go beyond the keyword. If you want to improve your targeting on Google, you should test Custom Audiences.

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