Display Advertising assessment study guide

About automatic targeting in Google Display ads

One of the most efficient ways to get great performance from Google Display ads is to expand your targeting reach automatically with the automatic targeting feature (previously Targeting Optimization). This lets Google find you more high-value traffic to help you drive more conversions efficiently. Automatic targeting offers better forecasting and control, making it easier for you to predict performance. 

With the default setting, automatic targeting more conservatively expands the reach of your Google Display ads to more relevant customers. As you maximize your settings, your reach will increase, giving you nuanced control over how broadly your Display ads are served.

Think of automatic targeting as a high-impact add-on that supplements the targeting you’ve already set up. This article explains how to optimize this setting to meet your campaign goals.

Before you begin

For instructions about turning on or off automatic targeting, see Use automatic targeting in Google Display ads.

When to use automatic targeting

Targeting optimization works best for advertisers in any of the following situations:

  • Find more customers
  • Identify the best targeting to reach your most likely customers
  • Increase reach without increasing bids or cost per customer

Automatic targeting results in new placements, so it's suitable for advertisers who don't have strict brand guidelines about where their ads appear. Keep in mind that you can still exclude placements from your ad group or campaign. It's not recommended, however—excluding placements can decrease the performance of your automatic targeting.

How it works

Most Display campaigns begin with automatic targeting enabled and set to the least amount of expansion. To focus on reach or performance, you can maximize for both by increasing to the maximum reach setting.

Increasing the rate of expansion will increase your targeting to reach more potential customers. You’ll also see weekly reach estimates based on your settings, which reflect the additional traffic inventory available and potential impressions. 

Expansion currently works across most display targeting tactics. For example:

  • For contextual targeting, such as content keywords, expansion is based on the keywords you’re currently targeting. Google Ads will expand to additional, semantically relevant keywords or topics. So if your keyword is “pens,” the first stage of slider may extend to “felt-tip pens" and “ballpoint pens,” but the maximum reach stage might show your ads in contexts related to “whiteboard markers” or “mechanical pencils”—if there’s data to suggest that those keywords will lead to conversions. 
  • For remarketing and similar audiences targeting, expansion is based on the audiences in your customer lists. If your remarketing list is for people visiting travel sites about Japan, automatic targeting may extend to show your ad to people visiting sites about Tokyo tourist destinations. If your similar audiences list is for people who have previously made a purchase on your site, automatic targeting may expand to include additional, highly relevant audiences. With the setting maximized, targeting might go further based on your performance and available, relevant audiences.

Availability

Automatic targeting is available for all Display ad groups. However, there is currently limited functionality on specific targeting types, such as Demographics and Placements in which targeting expansion feature is not yet possible.

Smart Display Campaigns

Smart display campaigns, which are highly automated, use another type of automated targeting, combining contextual and audience-based targeting. They also automatically remarket to people who've recently visited your site and who are likely to convert.  There is no need to use targeting expansion setting manually for Smart display campaigns.

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