What are audiences in Google Ads

An audience is just one of the ways Google allows us to better target our potential customers when we are running a Google Ads campaign. Audiences are groups of people with specific interests, intents, and demographics, as estimated by Google, based on the many data points Google has on hundreds of billions of users around the world.

Simply put, you can choose from a huge range of interests, such as sports fans or people shopping for cars, but also more classic segments, such as age, location and gender, and more specific behaviors (such as people who have already visited your website, or performed a specific action).

Audiences are an essential part of any paid search marketer’s marketing strategy. They enable you to segment your target markets, allowing you to improve the bidding and targeting of your campaigns.

Types of Audiences in Google Ads Search Campaigns

There are many types of audiences, but we are going to focus on the ones you can apply to Search campaigns:

  • Affinity: Reach the right users at the right time by tailoring your ads to match their interests or what they are passionate about. For example, sports fans or pet lovers.
  • Detailed Demographics: Reach users based on long-term life facts. This includes their marital status and whether they have kids or they are homeowners or not. But it doesn’t include shorter or one-time events, such as people who are currently newlywed, just had a baby or just graduated.

  • In-market: Reach users based on their recent purchase intent. Were they recently looking to buy garden wares and searching accordingly on Google? Then they can be targeted via this kind of audience.

  • Your data segments (formerly known as Remarketing): Reach out to more of your audience by targeting the ones who have engaged with your brand before.

  • Website and app visitors: Reach people who have previously visited your site and/or your app.

    • Customer Match: Reach your existing customers based on data imported from your CRM software.

    • Similar segments: Reach new users with similar interests to your existing customers, or website visitors.

1. Defining and applying Audiences in Google Ads

You can apply audience segments to your campaigns, both at the campaign and ad group level. Once your campaign is created, you’ll see an Audiences item on the left sidebar menu.

There, you can choose what audiences to apply to each campaign or group, and you can also decide whether you’ll use this audience to segment your targeting for that campaign or group, or you’ll use the audience on “observation” mode.

2. Audience "Targeting" setting

When using the “Targeting” setting for your campaigns or ad groups, only the members of that specific audience will be reached by your ads.

One important thing to note; for Display campaigns, if you don’t add a targeting method to an ad group, the only restrictions to where your ads will show are in the campaign and account settings, such as content exclusions, locations, and languages. This means your ads could run pretty much anywhere on the web, across the Display Network and YouTube, within your campaign and account settings.

Therefore, Targeting is highly recommended for all advertisers in their Display campaigns. For Search campaigns, the Targeting setting is an optional way that could help in certain cases to reach your desired target customer.

3. Audience "Observation" setting

When using the “Observation” setting, the reach of your campaign or ad group isn’t affected. The “Observation” setting won’t change who can see your ads or where they can show. However, choosing the “Observation” setting means you will be monitoring how ads are performing for your selected placements, topics, or audiences while your campaign is running. It’s a way to enhance your reports for that particular campaign or group, so you can make decisions on whether audience targeting will improve your performance or not.

Based on this information, you could make bid adjustments on certain criteria. You could also decide to create new ad groups with targeting criteria based on your observations.

We recommend using “Observation” setting if you don’t want to narrow your campaign’s or ad group’s targeting further at this moment, but you want to monitor how certain criteria perform with your ads. The “Observation” mode is a recommended setting for all Search Campaigns. It’s also recommended if you’re an advanced user of Display campaigns.

Also, for campaigns that use Smart Bidding, first-party audience segments added under the “Observation” setting will be used as signals for Smart Bidding Strategies.


We are big proponents of making your campaigns and groups as specific as possible (see our post on long-tail keywords or campaign structure, for example), and targeting audiences allows for further refinement of this strategy. Even if you’re not ready to use it to its full extent yet, you can at least use the Observation setting on some audiences or segments that you deem relevant to your campaigns to gain more data and insights on how to further improve your campaign.

With this information, and the automated management of keywords and Quality Score optimization offered by OrbitalAds, you will be well on your way to dominating your niche with the most effective and efficient PPC campaigns. 

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