Changes to audience targeting: Google Ads will no longer support similar audiences (also known as “similar segments”)

Starting May 1, 2023, Google Ads will no longer generate similar audiences (also referred to as “similar segments”) for targeting and reporting. If you have active campaigns with similar segments, those will remain with your campaigns until August 1, 2023. After August 1, similar segments will be removed from all ad groups and campaigns. You’ll continue to have access to historical reporting for similar segments from past campaigns.

In place of similar segments, different campaign types will offer different solutions to help you leverage your first-party data, reach the right audience, and improve campaign performance so that you can optimize directly for your business goals.

If you have been using similar segments on Display, Discovery, or Video Action campaigns, and haven’t yet turned on optimized targeting, you should turn on optimized targeting to reach additional relevant and expanded audiences and optimize for your conversion goals.

If you have been using similar segments on Awareness and Reach video or Consideration video campaigns, you should include your first-party data segments in your ad groups, and turn on audience expansion to reach people similar to those in your first-party data.

If you have been using similar segments on Search or Shopping campaigns and are not using Smart Bidding, you should use Smart Bidding with your campaigns. If you’re using Smart Bidding already, or running Performance Max campaigns, you don’t need to take any action, since Performance Max campaigns automatically leverage signals from your first-party data.

Note for Display & Video 360:
If you’ve been using similar segments on YouTube video action line items in Display & Video 360 and you haven’t yet turned on optimized targeting, you should turn on optimized targeting. For other types of YouTube video line items, you can use audience expansion when it becomes available in the first half of 2023.

Why is this change taking place?

With common online marketing approaches becoming more restricted, growing your business requires new, more durable strategies. The best way to stay ahead of these shifts is through automation, which helps you reach relevant audiences and measure results, in privacy-centric ways. That’s why we’ll upgrade similar audiences to more powerful, automated solutions, such as optimized targeting, audience expansion, and Smart Bidding, that will help you leverage your first-party data and optimize for your marketing objectives.

What’s changing starting in 2023?

  • First phase of changes (May 1, 2023):
    • You won’t be able to add similar segments to any existing campaign or ad group. But you can continue targeting any existing similar segments already attached to your campaigns and ad groups.
    • You will not be able to create conversion value rules based on similar segments but the existing conversion value rules will continue to work.
    • Similar segments will not be created automatically for your data segments.
  • Final phase of changes (August 1, 2023):
    • You won’t be able to use similar segments for targeting and reporting.
    • Similar segments will be removed from all ad groups and campaigns.
    • Similar segments will not appear in Google Ads, including in Audience Manager.
    • Similar segments will not be included in Google Ads insights or reporting. Historical reporting will continue to be available.
    • Conversion value rules using similar segments will not work, and conversion value will not be adjusted based on similar segments.

What can you do to prepare for these changes?

For Search campaigns and regular Shopping campaigns

Goal Current tactic Recommended solution
Drive performance

Observation or targeting of similar segments with Smart Bidding

+

Reporting on the similar segments

Action to take: No Action required

  1. All Customer Match lists (untargeted as well) will be included as a signal in Smart Bidding models automatically (unless you have opted out of this at the account level).
  2. Targeting: Similar segments will not be available for targeting
  3. Reporting: First-party Audience insights on the Insights page will enable you to understand how first-party segments are delivering value, whether through conversions or by providing signals for your bidding. These insights will be available to all by the end of March 2023.
Value users differently

Manual bidding on similar segments

or conversion value rule on similar segments

Use Smart Bidding to automatically value users based on conversions/conversion value

Conversion value rules: Similar segments won’t be available for value rules

New customer acquisition

Similar segment targeting of purchasers

New customer acquisition goal (available for Performance Max, to be launched for Search by the end of 2022)

For Display, Discovery, and Video action campaigns

Goal Current tactic Recommended solution
Drive performance and reach new users Target similar segments with or without optimized targeting enabled, while also utilizing Google’s audience in-market/affinity segments and custom segments

Action to take: Include your first-party segments;

If optimized targeting isn’t enabled, enable optimized targeting

Include your first-party data (for example, Customer Match segments) in audiences to be provided as hints for optimized targeting, which will help drive improved performance. Continue to lean into best practices in building custom segments and utilizing Google’s in-market/affinity segments.

Value users differently Target similar segments in different ad groups/campaigns

Action to take: Use optimized targeting in conjunction with your first-party lists as audience hints.

For YouTube Awareness and Reach Video or Consideration Video

Advertiser goal Current tactic Recommended solution

Target a specific persona for Awareness or Consideration

Similar segment targeting

Action to take: Use audience expansion

Use first-party data in ad groups and enable audience expansion to expand your reach to similar users, based on first-party data.

FAQs

1. What is optimized targeting and how do we use it as a replacement for similar segments?
Depending on the campaign’s goal, optimized targeting helps you reach new and relevant audiences that are likely to convert. Optimized targeting looks beyond manually-selected audience segments in the campaign to find segments that advertisers may have missed to improve the campaign’s performance. Instead of targeting a similar segment, you can turn on optimized targeting in the ad group and include your first-party data segments as hints. If you want to exclude users in your first-party segments, you can do this with audience exclusions.
2. What will happen to my historical data from my similar segments? Will I be able to use it moving forward?
You will continue to have access to historical performance data for any similar segments added to your campaigns and ad groups.
3. Will I experience negative performance changes or revenue loss?
These updates should not result in revenue loss. Alternative solutions described above should provide equivalent or better performance to your campaign goals.
4. What should I do to prepare for this change?
Refer to the table above that lists out specific goals and related actions to take. Also continue using Customer Match to reach and re-engage with your customers on Google Ads.
 
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