Reach people interested in your products or services

You can add interest categories to your ad groups in order to reach people interested in products and services similar to those your business offers -- even when these people are browsing websites or using apps not directly related to these products and services. By doing so, you can help boost your ad groups’ performance.

Adding interest categories to your ad groups allows you to reach people based on their interests as they browse pages across the Google Display Network. You can select from a wide-ranging list of these categories -- from autos and sports to travel and fashion -- and we'll show ads to people who are likely to be enthusiasts. Depending on your advertising goals and the stage of the purchase process your customers are in, you can choose to add different interest categories to your ad groups:

  • Affinity categories: Select from these categories to reach potential new customers and make them aware of your business.

    These categories were built for businesses interested in running a TV ad on a local station, or those currently running a TV ad who would like to extend the reach of a TV campaign to an online context for an efficient price.

  • In-market buyers (available only to campaigns targeting English): Select from these categories to find customers who are researching products and actively considering buying a service or product like those you offer.

    These categories are designed for advertisers focused on getting conversions from highly qualified customers. "In-market buyers" categories can help drive remarketing performance and reach consumers close to completing a purchase.

  • Other categories: Use these more granular categories to reach customers who may be likely to visit your site. You can also use these categories to show your ads to people who have interests that aren't included in the affinity or in-market categories.

Example

Say that you own a car dealership and want to advertise on AdWords. Here's how you could use interest categories based on your goals:

  • When to use "affinity categories": Your goal is to reach as many people as possible and drive awareness of your dealership, so that when people need to buy a new car or have their car serviced, your business comes to mind. You're probably running ads on local TV stations and want to complement this campaign with an online campaign to expand your reach. With affinity categories, you could go beyond car enthusiasts, and reach "green living enthusiasts" with ads about hybrid cars, "bargain hunters" with ads about a big sale coming up, and "luxury shoppers" with ads about high-end cars.
  • When to use "in-market buyers" categories: Your goal is to reach people who are actively considering buying a car and have narrowed their decision down to a handful of brands or types of cars. These customers are open to various options or dealers, but intend to make a decision soon. You could complement your search campaign or replace your display keywords campaign with "in-market buyers" categories, and reach people who are looking for "new sedans" or "new luxury vehicles."
  • When to use "other categories": While affinity and "in-market buyers" categories should serve most advertiser needs, these other categories are available for countries where "in-market buyers" categories may not currently be supported yet. "Other categories" may also let you reach people who might be interested in specific types of cars or brands not included in the affinity and in-market options.

How interest categories work

When someone visits a Google partner website, we may use the content of the page or website to show contextually relevant ads. We use the main topics and themes from the page as well as data from third-party companies to associate interests with a visitor’s anonymous cookie ID, taking into account how often people visit sites of those categories, among other factors.

Google may use information that people provide to these partner websites about their gender, age, and other demographic or interest information. We may also use the websites people visit and third-party data to infer this information. For example, if the sites a person visits have a majority of female visitors (based on aggregated survey data on site visitation), we may associate the person's cookie with the female demographic category.

In some cases, Google may charge advertisers a service fee for interest category targeting. If you're charged a service fee, your maximum bid is reduced before the auction and the fee is added to the closing auction price.

Keep in mind

We won’t associate with an individual’s cookie any interest categories considered sensitive, such as those based on race, religion, sexual orientation, health, certain financial categories, and others.

People can also always change their interest settings using Google's Ads Settings.

Learn more about how we match people to interest categories

We associate visitors with a category for 30 days. This can change depending on the sites they visit. For example, a dancing enthusiast would probably regularly visit dancing-related sites over long periods of time. If that person then moves on to another interest and is no longer reading as many pages about dancing as mountain climbing, we'll update the person's profile to remove dancing and include mountain climbing. If, however, the dancing enthusiast still continues to visit dancing websites for a long period of time, they’ll likely be included in that interest category for longer.

We use a combination of someone’s current page information and browsing history when choosing what kind of ad to show. The thresholds we use to determine if someone is likely to have an affinity for certain content are specific to each interest category. Many of the people we believe have long-term interests related to a topic may visit dozens of pages a month about that topic.

In the case of "other categories," over time, we may fine-tune any of these factors to better predict certain actions for a given interest, like ad clicks and conversions for advertisers related to the interest category.

Benefits and best practices

With interest categories, you can show ads to customers who are associated with the categories you've targeted, even when people are visiting websites that might not be contextually related to the interest category you selected.

Affinity categories

  • Benefits: These categories can help you increase awareness of your brand and products, and reach new potential customers.
  • Bidding: You might want to use cost-per-thousand-impressions bidding (CPM) when you target affinity categories. With CPM, you bid for your ad based on how often it appears on the Google Display Network, so you're less likely to limit your reach too much.
  • Targeting: If you add topics or demographic targeting to your ad group, in addition to affinity categories, you could set your custom bids on the affinity categories and set bid adjustment on the topics or demographic groups you've added. Learn more about bidding on the Display Network.

    You can use Frequency capping to let AdWords know that you don't want to show your ads to a customer more than, for example, seven times.

  • Exclusions: You can exclude topics, keywords, or placements that don't align with your brand, for brand safety.
  • Ads: You can use the Ad gallery to create display ads, which can work better than text ads for affinity categories. Engagement ads also work well with affinity brand campaigns that use interactive rich media.
  • Measuring performance: To measure performance of your campaign that targets affinity categories, you can use the Reach and frequency report, which can help you find out how many people saw your ads and how many times they saw them over a certain period of time. Reach is the number of unique customers exposed to a particular advertisement during a specified period of time. Frequency is the minimum number of times a unique user saw your ad over a given time period.

"In-market buyers"

  • Benefits: Adding these categories to your ad groups can help you reach people who are actively considering buying a specific product or service.
  • Bidding: CPA bidding is an effective strategy to use when you target "in-market buyers" categories. With CPA bidding, you tie your bidding strategy closely to actual sales, so you can monitor and control ROI effectively. If CPA bidding doesn't work for you, you can choose CPC bidding. CPM bidding isn't recommended when you target "in-market buyers" categories. (For more sophisticated bid optimization, learn about flexible bidding strategies.)
  • Targeting: To improve the efficiency of your "in-market buyers" campaign, don't add any other targeting methods to your ad groups. Adding more targeting methods will limit your access to these audiences. Instead, you might want to set your custom bids on in-marketing categories and set bid adjustments for customers of a specific age range or gender, or for when your in-market category matches a specific topic. For example, on your in-market category “Sedans,” set a bid adjustment for people within that audience who also happen to be browsing pages related to the topic "Autos & Vehicles."

    While you can use frequency capping to let AdWords know that you don't want to show your ads too many times to a given customer, in-market category targeting learns and optimizes ad frequency to deliver conversions based on historical performance. Further manual optimization might simply limit your reach.

  • Exclusions: You can exclude topics, keywords, or placements that don't align with your brand, for brand safety.
  • Measuring performance: Conversion Tracking is highly recommended as the best way to measure performance of your in-market campaign. As the goal of in-market audience targeting is to deliver conversions at lower cost, Conversion Optimizer can also be a very effective tool to enhance ROI for conversion-tracked advertisers.
  • Availability: In-market categories are available only to advertisers with English-language campaigns. We'll be expanding to additional languages in the coming months. Stay tuned!

Other categories

  • Benefits: Adding "other categories" to your ad group can help you bring traffic from people interested in your products or services to your website.
  • Bidding: You can benefit from automatic, real-time bid optimization to help improve the performance of your campaign. Learn about cost-per-click (CPC) bidding, Conversion Optimizer, and flexible bidding strategies to benefit from this bid optimization.
  • Measuring performance: To measure performance of your interest category campaign, you can use Conversion Tracking.

Tip

Interest category campaigns can also help you expand your remarketing lists. Once someone visits your site after clicking an ad, for example, you can add that visitor to your remarketing lists so you can show that person ads while on other sites on the Display Network.

Tailor your ads and bids to specific interests

Suppose you sell cars and want to reach people on auto websites. You believe that the brand of cars you sell appeals to a wide variety of people, but some of them may react more positively than others to certain types of ads.

For example, you could add the "Green Living" and the "Auto Enthusiasts" affinity categories to your ad group, and show people associated with these categories ads about hybrid cars.

If, for example, you think people in the "Green Living Enthusiasts" affinity category are 30% more likely to buy your car than the typical auto enthusiast visitor, you can bid 30% more to show your ad to any visitor in "Green Living Enthusiasts" category.

How interest categories differ from topic targeting

In a nutshell, the difference is context. Topic targeting allows you to place ads on pages directly related to the topic you've selected. With topic targeting, your ads are more likely to be contextually relevant. Targeting by topics is an alternative to selecting individual placements where your ad can appear, or individual keywords that will trigger your ad.

By contrast, interest categories allow you to reach visitors across the Google Display Network who’ve demonstrated specific interests, regardless of whether your ad correlates with the particular topic of the page they're currently on.

Next steps