Demographic Targeting for Search: Reaching the Right Audience with the Right Ad

April 4, 2019

Ever wanted the ability to customize ad copy or landing pages based on a visitor’s age or gender? Google’s demographic targeting for search ads allows you to do just that.

This has long been a feature available to all advertisers running campaigns on the Google Display Network, but is now available to all advertisers on Google’s search network. As long as the necessary AdWords conversion pixel is placed on your site, enabling this feature in an AdWords account gains marketers access to click-through and conversion rates at the age and gender level.

This new feature provides the option to adjust bids up or down and tailor ad copy and landing pages based on a visitor’s demographic. This is powerful, especially for advertisers who are looking to better target their core audience or grow a new audience.

We decided to try out this new feature for an established advertiser to better understand ad copy and site performance based on different age groups. We knew their demographic skewed older based on third-party analytics data, but now with the new AdWords feature, we have the ability to see how those visitors actually performed from a click-through and conversion rate perspective. We also knew from the same third-party data that their competitors skewed more towards the millennial age group (18-34 years old), and this is the exact audience the advertiser wanted to capture more of.

After a few weeks of gathering data, we found that while the older age group drove the highest CTRs, they actually drove the lowest conversion rates when compared to the other age groups. A bit of a shocker. On the flip side, the millennials had the lowest CTRs and the highest conversion rates of all the age groups. Not a complete surprise.

Since the millennials were an audience we wanted to capture and grow, we tested the theory that it’s possible to increase click-through rates for this age group by customizing ad copy to their needs and interests. Knowing that millennials are a social media and technology-savvy demographic, we tested language in ad copy that incorporated this theme.

The results of the ad copy test were quite impressive. Click-through rates increased 28 percent for the millennial age group for the new ad copy compared to the original ad copy. These results highlight the fact that a cookie cutter creative strategy will not always capture an intended audience. While ad copy testing and optimization is important for improving click-through rates, customizing copy based on demographics is even more crucial to capturing the audience you want.

As marketers, the more tools we can harness to gain insights into demographic performance, the better equipped we’ll be at targeting and growing the audience we want.

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Mirror out the campaign(s) you’d like to create custom copy for based on the demo group you’d like to target. This option exists for both age and gender.

2. In the mirrored campaign(s), add only the demo groups you want to target, excluding all other demo groups. In this example, target the 18-34 age group only.

3. Be sure to exclude the target demo group from the original campaign(s) — exclude the 18-34 age group so the original and mirrored campaigns are not competing.

4. Create custom messaging by calling out site features, benefits, unique selling propositions, etc. that appeal to the demo you’d like to capture.

5. Continue to run the winning ads from the original campaign until there’s enough data from the new custom ads to determine ad performance.

6. Review ad performance after two weeks to see which ad resonates with your target demo and continue to iterate based on performance.

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