Optimized targeting

Optimized targeting uses real-time campaign data to help you find new and relevant people who are more likely to convert within your campaign goals. You can use optimized targeting to expand to audiences who you may otherwise miss with only manual targeting. 

With optimized targeting, you can:

  • Expand to new audiences beyond your existing segments: You can optimize how your campaign finds relevant people based on conversion data to drive awareness, consideration, or conversions.
  • Improve toward custom performance goals: Using custom bidding with optimized targeting helps you anchor your campaign goals to the same key performance indicators (KPIs) as the automated bidding system. This helps customize how you improve your return on investment (ROI). 
  • Optimize campaign performance with or without third-party cookies: You can use optimized targeting with all audience targeting. This gives your campaign flexibility and durability when optimizing toward your campaign KPIs.

Optimized targeting is available for display, video, audio, and YouTube video action campaigns. You can turn off optimized targeting to restrict targeting to existing first-party audiences.

Topics in this article

How optimized targeting works

Optimized targeting models helps find new audiences who are more likely to convert using audience signals and real-time click and conversion data from your campaign. Audience signals are your manually selected audiences, which include the type of audiences who are more likely to convert. Audience signals help create a starting point for optimized targeting.

optimized targeting

There are two types of audience signals:

  • Respected inputs: You can provide hard constraints that limit who the ads serve to. These mandatory targeting signals make sure the right people see your ads while making sure your ads aren't associated with inappropriate content. 
  • Soft signal inputs: You can provide soft targeting signals that inform and guide optimized targeting, but don't limit who the ads serve to. Optimized targeting may serve outside these targeting signals as it finds better performing traffic.
Respected input examples Soft signal input examples
  • Geographic targeting 
  • Language settings
  • First-party audience exclusions
  • Brand safety exclusions
  • Placement targeting
  • Demographic targeting for display, video, and audio line items
  • First-party audiences inclusions
  • Third-party audiences inclusions
  • Google audiences, which include: 
    • Affinity audiences
    • In-market audiences
    • Custom affinity audiences
    • Custom intent audiences
    • Combined audiences
  • Demographic targeting for YouTube video action campaigns
Important: Optimized targeting may adjust how your campaign serves ads as it finds better performing traffic. Traffic to your manually targeted first-party audience list may be reduced if optimized targeting finds more traffic that earns the same ROI. You can turn off optimized targeting to restrict targeting to existing first-party audiences.

Examples

How you use optimized targeting depends on your campaign goals. Here are a few examples:

Expand your reach by finding customers beyond your existing segments

You can use targeting signals, such as custom audiences defined using keywords, to help inform optimized targeting when it expands you reach beyond your selected list to relevant audiences.

For example:

If your agency wants to help a book publisher acquire new customer leads for a new line of children's books. You could use optimized targeting with custom intent audiences defined using the following keywords: "children's books", "family-friendly", and "family books".

Since optimized targeting continues to optimize while finding new and relevant customers, it may stop serving to audience segments that don’t perform well to help maximize how you reach your campaign goals. For example, it could stop traffic to signals using “family literature” to optimize your reach.

Discover new and relevant customers further along the sales funnel

Optimized targeting forms an informed model using campaign data, which includes campaign KPIs such as clicks and conversions, combined with query signals from impressions to find customers at the bottom level of the sales funnel to drive conversions while maintaining cost efficiency.

For example:

You’re an advertiser who wants to help attract new and relevant customers for a well-established gaming company already popular with repeat customers. You could create a campaign using optimized targeting with a first-party audience list to help meet your campaign goals.

Optimized targeting would form an informed model by using real-time campaign data, which includes the first-party audience list, to help discover new and relevant customers beyond the first-party audience list.

Find new customers through pure prospecting campaigns

Optimized targeting can help you grow a business while helping you stay within budget through pure prospecting campaigns that help you find new customers who aren’t already familiar with your brand 

For example:

You’re an advertiser who wants to help grow a business with existing customers. You can discover new customers by creating a pure prospecting campaign using automated bidding that excludes the remarketing list of existing customers.

You can also provide additional audience targeting as soft signal inputs. Soft signal inputs aren’t mandatory conditions, but it helps guide optimized targeting. When providing audience signals, optimized targeting must be turned on to make sure that the signals are treated as signals and not mandatory constraints. 

This helps you efficiently use your ad budget to discover new customers who are more likely to generate sales while making sure your ads don’t serve to existing customers.

Brand safety and audience exclusions

Optimized targeting respects audience exclusions and doesn’t require changes to your brand safety settings. Learn more about Brand safety targeting

Use optimized targeting in Display & Video 360

Optimized targeting is available for the following campaign type:

  • Display, video, and audio campaigns
  • YouTube video action campaigns

Display, video, and audio

Optimized targeting is automatically turned on for new display, video, and audio line items using automated bid strategies when targeting the following audiences:

  • Affinity audiences
  • In-market audiences
  • Custom audiences

If your line items don’t automatically have optimized targeting turned on, you can update your bidding strategy and audience targeting to use optimized targeting:

  1. Go to Campaigns and then Line items to select a line item.
  2. Select Line item details.
  3. Under Bid Strategy, choose Automated bidding
  4. Under Targeting, choose Audience lists.
  5. For Audience lists
    1. Under Include, you can choose to target one of the following audiences to provide hints for optimized targeting:
      • First-party and third-party audiences
      • Google audiences
      • Combined audiences
      • Custom lists
    2. (Optional) Under Exclude, you can choose which audiences you don’t want to target. 
      Note: You can’t exclude the first-party audience list you’ve already targeted.
  6. Select Apply when done.
  7. Under Optimized targeting, select Use optimized targeting.
  8. Select Save when done.

YouTube & partners video action campaigns

Optimized targeting is automatically turned on for YouTube video action campaigns when you create YouTube line items that target the following audiences:

  • First-party audiences
  • Google affinity audiences
  • In-market audiences
  • Custom audiences

If your line items don’t have optimized targeting automatically on for your YouTube line items, you can update your bidding strategy and audience targeting to use optimized targeting:

  1. Go to Campaigns and then Line items to select a line item.
  2. Go to Line items details.
  3. Under Targeting, for ad groups targeting using Audience Lists:
    1. Under Optimized targeting, select Use optimized targeting.

You can add the following targeting signals to optimize targeting for your YouTube video action campaigns: audience segments, custom segments, and customer data segments.

Note: Optimized targeting is only available for YouTube video action line items if you're using audience lists for targeting.

Bulk enable optimized targeting for multiple line items

You can turn on optimized targeting for a bulk set of line items setting the optimized targeting field to TRUE

To learn more about available line item fields in the version 6 structured data file (SDF), go to the Display & Video 360 API guide.

Turn off optimized targeting

You can turn off optimized targeting if you want to restrict targeting to manually targeted audiences. 

To turn off optimized targeting for your display, video, or audio line items:

  1. Under Optimized targeting, select Use optimized targeting.
  2. Select Save when done.

To turn off optimized targeting for your YouTube video action campaigns:

  1. Go to Campaigns and then Line items to select a line item.
  2. Select Line item details.
  3. Under Targeting, for ad groups targeting using Audience Lists:
    1. Under Optimized targeting, deselect Use optimized targeting.

Reviewing campaign performance

You can generate an offline report using the optimized targeting dimension to measure which impressions come from optimized targeting and which come from your selected segments:

  • Yes: Impressions that come from optimized targeting.
  • No: Impressions that come from your selected segments.

The following dimensions are compatible with the optimized targeting dimension:

  • Advertiser
  • Insertion order
  • Line item
  • Date

Learn more about Dimensions in reports.

Your average cost per action (CPA) may fluctuate when you initially use optimized targeting. Your CPA will become more consistent over time when optimized targeting learns which targeting works best to get the most conversions. This is similar to how automated bidding models work today.

Considerations

When using optimized targeting:

  • There are no minimum audience list size requirements.
  • Your ads may serve to users beyond your chosen targeting signals.
  • Your ads won't serve to audiences that you exclude on your customer data segments.

Limitations

  • Optimized targeting isn't available for connected TV (CTV) line items.To learn more about widening your reach for connected TV (CTV) line items, go to Audience expansion for connected TV line items.
  • It's not recommended that you target a first-party audience list positively and negatively at the same time.
    • Targeting an audience list positively and negatively at the same time cancels out both actions.
    • Optimized targeting uses your manually targeted audience segments as starting points to find new audiences.

Frequently asked questions

What's the difference between optimized targeting and audience expansion?

Optimized targeting works differently than audience expansion and the same limitations won't necessarily apply.
You can learn more about the difference between optimized targeting and audience expansion in the Audience expansion for YouTube FAQ

What makes optimized targeting different from targeting expansion?

Optimized targeting works differently than targeting expansion. There are key differences between targeting expansion and optimized targeting:

Optimized targeting is more flexible and dynamic:

  • Optimized targeting works together with the bidding system to achieve the same campaign goal to achieve the best ROI.
  • It uses a manually selected audience segment as a starting point, then finds new audiences by gathering real-time conversion data from your campaign.
  • Optimized targeting uses the performance of manually targeted lists as a benchmark to find equally performant impressions.

Targeting expansion expanded against a pre-set criteria:

  • Targeting expansion used a selected audience segment and expanded it by finding similar audiences that fit a criteria, such as sharing similar interests.
  • While targeting expansion used data such as clicks and conversions, it uses campaign data and performance metrics at a lesser extent than optimized targeting.

How do I prepare for optimized targeting in Display & Video 360 if I use targeting expansion?

You can identify and review line items affected by the migration from targeting expansion to optimized targeting by downloading a CSV file.

If you’re using targeting expansion with fixed bidding line items, consider using automated bidding. After early May 2023, fixed bidding line items using targeting expansion will only serve using manual targeting and may pause if targeting first-party audiences with seedlist exclusion.

Why did my targeting expansion line items pause?

Targeting expansion is no longer available since early May 2023.  Existing line items using targeting expansion have been automatically migrated to using optimized targeting. Since optimized targeting is only available for line items using automated bidding, some fixed bidding line items which didn’t have automated bidding turned on were paused. 

If your fixed bidding line item was previously using targeting expansion was paused, you can use optimized targeting by turning on automated bidding and adding an eligible audience targeting.

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