Google Has A New Audience Update!

On this episode of E-Commerce Marketing with the Pitbulls, Andy and Lindsey are discussing a recent email sent by Google regarding Similar Audiences.

Lindsey assumes the role of a client and asks Andy what this email means and what she should do about it…

These emails tend to cause a lot of anxiety and confusion resulting in clients emailing and asking tons of questions.

In this email, Google is letting us know that they’re making an update to Similar Audiences. In May 2023, you will no longer be abba to create any new Similar Audience. Then in August, any current Similar Audiences you’re using for targeting will go away. 

Similar Audiences are where you can feed data to Google and have it figure out similar people to target with your ads. Then Google creates an audience called ‘Similar to…” - whatever you called your original audience. It would be a more general, larger audience of people who demographically look like or have similar behavior to your original audience. 

While Similar Audiences are going away, you will still be able to achieve the same results, but it will become a campaign setting. And there are two ways to set this up.

The first is Audience Expansion and the second is Optimized Targeting. Inside the campaign itself, you can turn on Optimized Targeting or Audience Expansion. If you’re targeting your purchasers audience and you have Optimized Targeting turned on, Google’s going to send your message, on search or YouTube, beyond your original audience, essentially giving you a similar effect to creating a separate audience and targeting them separately.

Audience Expansion is explicitly expanding your targeted audience. It’s actively taking entire audiences and breaking them down more granularly. It’s not the exact audience you might select yourself, but Google is basically looking for people it believes are similar to the people you told it to target. 

Optimized Targeting is a little more specific and a bit more touchy around optimized behavior. It takes all the audiences you’ve provided and targets other people who behave like them. It’s a little more specific, set up for specific audiences and behaviors you’re already seeing from your current campaigns.

The other big difference is the types of campaigns. For Optimized Targeting, that’s only going to be available in Display Discovery and Video campaigns. Audience Expansion can be used with a number of different campaigns.

Separately, Performance Max has what they call Audience Signals, which will operate similarly to Optimized Targeting. You won’t give it an entire audience to target. Instead, you’ll give it some signals and it will grow and hit other campaigns or audiences beyond that. 

The email also mentioned Smart Bidding, which is basically any time you’re not using Manual Bidding. If you have Audiences turned on in the Observation settings, you’re not targeting people, but you’re looking to maximize conversations, conversion value, cost per conversion, or ROAS. These are audiences that we’re looking at - observing - and Google uses that, like Performance Max, as a signal. 

You could create a Purchaser Customer Match audience and turn it on in the Observation setting inside any campaign that’s running Smart Bidding strategy. Google will start looking at purchasers who look like your purchasers. In the past, you would have to put in similar audiences as well as “Similar to…” purchasers. You don’t have to worry about that anymore. Google is already using that purchaser as a signal and expanding based on Smart Bidding and observing purchasers.

In the short term, you don’t have to do anything. In May 2023, if you’ve been relying on “Similar to…” audiences, you’re going to want to start turning those off. Just make sure you have Smart Bidding turned on and you’re using the Observation settings. You can also go directly to the campaign settings and turn on Optimized Targeting or Audience Expansion.

In the long run, it shouldn’t be too much of a change if you’ve been running Smart Bidding or Automated Bidding processes. And if you’ve been using Performance Max, this shouldn’t have any effect on you because it’s already set up in your Audience Signal.

However, depending on what kinds of campaigns you’ve been running and what kind of updating you’ve been doing, this would be a good time to check in and make sure you’ve got alternatives to “Similar to…” audiences: Optimized Targeting, Audience Expansion, Smart Bidding with Audiences set up in the Observation setting.

The long and short of it is, don’t worry too much about this. It’s not a giant change and won’t impact too many people. If you set up your ads a long time ago, are using manual processes, or haven’t had an agency or internal team take a look at it in a few years, now’s a good time to check it out and make sure everything is how you need it to be.

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