The “similar audiences” feature has been around for some time now, but this type of audience list is still heavily underused. So, what are similar audiences? Google uses your existing remarketing lists to characterise the types of users within them and then makes its own audience lists based on users that have the same interests and characteristics.
This list is made up only of people who have been browsing the Google Display Network (GDN) within the last 30 days. You can then use these lists to show both text and image ads to these audiences across the GDN.
You need to have a remarketing list with at least 500 cookies in order to qualify for similar audiences. Additionally, those users need to have enough shared interests/characteristics for Google to able to create a corresponding similar audience.
Thus, if your remarketing audiences are very broad at the moment, this might make it difficult for Google to create a similar audience list. If this is the case, try honing in on smarter remarketing lists using combinations, or based on people who visited a certain section of your site rather than your entire site. Once you get your targeting down, you should start to see similar audience lists appear.
These similar users lists can be found under the Display tab -> Ad Targeting -> Interests & Remarketing, or in your Shared Library under Audiences. They’ll fall directly under your existing remarketing lists, as shown below.
You may notice that although you have remarketing lists based on different time durations, you’ll always have the same number of people in your similar users list for matching remarketing audiences; this is because the similar users lists are just based on the last 30 days’ worth of data. With this in mind, if your audience composition changes over time, so too, will the composition of your similar user lists.
If you want to show just your similar user lists, you can do so using a filter as displayed below.
Remarketing is great, as it encourages traffic to come back to your site — but these people, of course, already know your site. If one of your goals is to get new visitors to your site and expand reach, then similar audiences is a great place to start.
Rather than guessing who your audience target might be and creating a contextual or topic-led Google Display Network campaign, you could launch a new campaign targeting people that Google knows have similar interests to your existing customers! The reach won’t be as wide as with contextual targeting or even topic targeting, but you can be more certain that you’re reaching the right audience by starting to expand traffic in this way.
As with most GDN activity, you can’t expect people to purchase your products right away; this isn’t search activity where there is intent to purchase. Instead, set up some goals in Google Analytics for other interactions on your site such as newsletter download, quote request, contact-us, a key page view, etc., and keep an eye on results that way.
You should also use Google Analytics engagement metrics to compare the metrics from this campaign to your other campaigns to judge performance. The bounce rate can be a great indicator of targeting correctness, so don’t forget to add this column in AdWords.
The visitors coming from the similar audiences lists will be added to your remarketing list so you can follow them up again later down the line. You could even use Google Analytics remarketing to build a list of people that specifically came in through this campaign so you can follow them up with different messaging!
Improvements have been made to reach an audience composition over the last couple of years; so, if you tried this when it was first released, it might be worth testing it out again. I would recommend starting this activity in a separate campaign with low bids, using the similar audience list tied to your best performing remarketing list first. Obviously, those are the type of users you want to come to your site!
As with any Google feature, it’s good to think ahead about what one might like to see next! Here are some of the features I would like to see:
My recommendation would be to give this targeting method a go, especially if you’re already running remarketing or GDN activity! Start small and work your way out into different lists based on performance; that way, you don’t need to allocate a huge budget for testing!
As mentioned before, it is key that you start from a strongly-performing remarketing list; trying to extract characteristics and interests from a small, badly-performing or hugely-diverse remarketing list will more often than not result in a badly-performing similar users list.
If you have any thoughts on this particular feature, please share them with me, and I can pass these on to the global product manager for similar users, who would no doubt be very interested in hearing any feedback.