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How to Create Custom Audiences in Google Ads

With an accuracy rate of 50.4 percent, custom audiences in Google Ads are a must-use feature. Also known as Customer Match, this Google Ads feature allows your business to use customer match marketing and create a custom audience from your email lists, which you can upload directly to Google Ads. Ready to learn how to create custom audiences in Google Ads?

Watch our video below for the basics of Customer Match and read this post to get started!

1. Navigate to the Audience Manager

After logging into your Google Ads account, select “Tools,” represented by a wrench icon. It appears in the upper right-hand corner of your dashboard, next to “Reports” and “Go To.” When you click “Tools,” a menu will appear. A screenshot of the first step of creating an audience in Google Ads From here, click on “Audience Manager,” which is in the “Shared Library” menu.

A screenshot of the second step of creating an audience in Google Ads A new page will load, providing you access to remarketing audiences, as well as custom audiences.

2. Create a customer list

Build your custom audience by selecting, “Remarketing,” which is next to “Custom Audiences.” When the page loads, “Remarketing” is usually the default choice. When you’re ready, find and click the blue “+” icon in the top left-hand corner. A screenshot of the create button in Google Ads Then, choose “Customer List” from the drop-down menu.

A screenshot of a step in creating a custom audience in Google Ads Now it’s time to set up your new customer list. This process includes the following steps:

Audience name

When naming your audience, make sure you’re specific. Use a descriptive title based on the characteristics of your prospects.

For example, maybe you’re targeting a particular group of users based on their past purchases or location.  A screenshot of audience names in Google Ads

Data to upload

Next, you need to determine the type of data to upload. Data types include:

  • Email
  • Phone number
  • Mailing address
  • Mobile device ID

You can either use the template provided by Google or create a CSV file in Excel or Google Sheets. Here is what the provided template looks like: A screenshot of a custom audience template file While detailed, your CSV file doesn’t have to include all this information. If you’re only focusing on email addresses, for instance, you don’t need to add the mailing address, first name, or last name of an email subscriber.

A screenshot of a CSV file for Google Ads You do, however, need to make sure your file follows Google’s formatting guidelines. Keep in mind that your list cannot exceed 17MB, which is about 500 email addresses. It’s also worth mentioning that while Gmail addresses are generally more accurate matches, you do not need to limit your list to only Gmail addresses.

Google will do its best to match non-Gmail addresses to specific users. When you upload your file, select “Upload plain text data (unhashed)” or “Upload hashed data.” If you opt for unhashed data, private customer data, such as email addresses, phone numbers, first names, and last names will get hashed or encrypted on your computer before sending to Google’s servers. However, country and zip code will get hashed.

A screenshot of unhashed and hashed options in Google Ads

Membership duration

Next, determine membership duration, which determines how long a user remains on your list. While you can specify a select number of days, like 365, you can also prevent users from leaving your customer list. Just select, “No expiration.” A screenshot of audience expiration options in Google Ads

Audience description

While optional, it’s helpful to have a description of your Google Customer Match audience.

Use your description to mention any essential details about your audience or campaign. This information can help you and your team manage the campaign over time. A screenshot of audience descriptions in Google Ads

3. Upload Your list

After finalizing your preferences, click on the blue “Upload and Create list” button. A screenshot of creating an audience in Google Ads After you upload your CSV file, Google will confirm whether your list followed its formatting guidelines. In less than 24 hours, Google will match your customer list with its targeting data.

Note that the larger your list is, the longer this process will take. Once complete, you can view your report, which shows you:

  • Total number of customer matches
  • Number of matches found on each network (Search Network, YouTube, Gmail)

Now that you have your custom audience created on Google, you can create an ad campaign.

3 other types of custom audiences to try in Google Ads

Ready to go beyond Customer Match in Google Ads? Try these types of custom audiences:

1. Affinity

Affinity audiences are predefined categories of interests, created based on browsing and search history. They began as an option for businesses running TV ads, with the goal of expanding their online presence. A screenshot of choosing affinity audiences in Google Ads To create an affinity audience in Google Ads, follow the following steps:

  1. Create a new display or video campaign
  2. Navigate to “Audiences”
  3. Select “What their interests or habits are”
  4. Checkmark the categories that match your goals

Google provides dozens of options for affinity targeting. A screenshot of custom affinity audience creation

2. Custom affinity

Custom affinity audiences are highly tailored audiences based on recent browsing activity. As you can imagine, custom affinity audiences are quite granular. Instead of broad categories, you can build custom affinity audiences using a combination of interests in the form of keywords.

Google will come up with a theme for your audience segment based on the keywords you provide. You can also see a preview of the topics Google determines most relevant by using the preview tool. A screenshot of custom affinity audience creation To create a custom affinity audience, follow the same steps for creating an affinity audience:

  1. Create a new display or video campaign
  2. Navigate to “Audiences”
  3. Select “Custom Affinity Audience”
  4. Enter audience interests, URLs, places, or apps

As you build your custom affinity audience, Google will estimate the size of your audience.

3. In-market

With in-market audiences, you can target people who are ready to buy a product or service. Google qualifies someone as being in-market by considering their ad clicks and past purchases. It also looks at the type of content on the pages, in combination with recency and frequency of visits.

In-market audiences are useful, as they allow you to connect with users right before they make a buying decision. In short, you step in at the right moment to persuade the users most interested in your products or services to purchase. A screenshot for choosing in-market audiences in Google Ads To target an in-market audience segment, follow these steps:

  1. Create a new display, search, or video campaign
  2. Navigate to “Audiences”
  3. Select “What they are actively researching or planning”
  4. Choose In-Market Audiences
  5. Checkmark the areas of interest

With in-market audiences, you can target niche audiences with ease. The audience options for an in-marketing audience

FAQ for advertising with Google Ads

Got questions about advertising on Google Ads with custom audiences? Check out these answers:

How does it work?

Google Ads is an advertising system that functions as an auction.

Advertisers bid on keywords for their ads to appear in Google’s search results and across Google’s display advertising network. You can also create ads for YouTube.

How much does it cost?

Several factors can affect the cost of advertising with Google Ads, including the competitiveness of a given keyword, quality score of an ad, and how much you are willing to pay for a single click. On average, however, companies earn back $8 for every $1 invested in Google Ads.

How is ranking determined?

Ad rank is the product of quality score and maximum bid.

Quality score is a rating assigned to your Google account and depends on factors like click-through rate (CTR) and past campaign performance. The maximum bid is the highest value you are willing to pay for a click on your advertisement.

Learn more about advertising with Google

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