About audience targeting

You can add audience targeting to ad groups and reach people interested in products and services like yours. Audience targeting can boost your campaign's performance by reaching people browsing websites, using apps, or watching videos. Read the personalized advertising policy (formerly known as interest-based advertising) to help improve the experience for users and advertisers alike.

How audience targeting works

Audiences are groups of people with specific interests, intents, and demographics, as estimated by Google. You can select from a wide range of categories -- such as fans of sport and travel, people shopping for cars, or specific people that have visited your website.

Note: Data from your audience sources may be used to improve the bidding and targeting of your audience campaigns.

What their interests are


Affinity audiences were built for businesses currently running TV ads, who want to expand the reach of that campaign with an online presence for an efficient price.

Select from these audiences to reach potential customers at scale and make them aware of your business.

Custom affinity

With custom affinity audiences, advertisers can create audiences that are more tailored to their brands, compared to more broad, TV-like affinity audiences. Custom affinity audiences are created by using a combination of:

  • Interests entered as keyword phrases
  • URLs to create interest categories based on the content of the website
  • Types of places that people are interested in, or
  • Apps that an ideal customer might be interested in. This doesn't mean that your ads will show on the apps you specified, but rather to users that have similar apps on their mobile devices. For example, if you enter Google Fit, Google Ads will find users that have fitness-related apps

For example, rather than reaching the Sports Fans affinity audience, a running shoe company may want to reach Avid Marathon Runners instead. With custom affinity audiences, the shoe company can further define this audience by:

  • Entering interests like 5K in San Francisco, triathlon athlete, or long distance runner
  • Using URLs of websites with content about running, training schedules, marathon nutrition, and other marathon themes
  • Entering places that an Avid Marathon Runner might be interested in like gyms, sporting goods stores, and natural supermarkets, or
  • Entering apps in the Health & Fitness category that an Avid Marathon Runner may likely be interested in like Google Fit. 
Places targeting is only supported for Video campaigns on YouTube at this time.

What they are actively researching or planning


Select from these audiences to find customers who are in the market, which means that they're researching products and are actively considering buying a service or product like yours.

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

Life events

Engage with viewers on YouTube and Gmail around important life milestones, like graduating from college, moving homes, or getting married. By understanding when these moments are taking place, you can tailor your advertising to reach the right users with the right messages.

Like other important milestones, life events are infrequent, and as a result may reach smaller audiences compared to affinities. However, since life events may correspond with many related purchasing decisions, they’re often larger than in-market categories which correspond with a single purchasing decision. For example, someone who’s about to move will likely buy new furniture, moving services, mortgages, and other moving related items during the months of their move. 

Custom intent

Custom intent audiences allow you to define and reach the ideal audience for your business. Built with performance advertisers in mind, custom intent audiences allow you to go beyond pre-defined audience segments and reach people as they’re making a purchase decision.

For Display campaigns, you can use custom intent audiences either by selecting one of the auto-created segments or by defining your own audience — simply enter keywords, URLs and apps related to products and services your ideal customer is researching across sites and apps. For Video ads on YouTube, you can create an audience of users who have searched for certain terms on Google.

Search terms (YouTube campaigns)

  • You can now reach people on YouTube based on what they’ve searched for on Google.
  • Enter a list of search terms that match the terms your ideal audience uses to find your products or services. Enter more general keywords if you'd prefer to reach as many people as possible. For example, if you own a sporting goods store, you might want to choose general keywords like "basketball shoes" instead of more specific keywords like "discount blue high top basketball shoes."
  • Enter at least 50 keywords. Start with the keywords from your Search campaigns. Keywords are treated as broad-match.
  • Use the Keyword planner to: get suggested bid estimates, see how often keywords are searched, and how keyword search volume changes over time.

Custom intent: Auto-created (Display campaigns)

To make finding the right people easy, Google uses machine learning technology to analyze your existing campaigns and automatically create custom intent audience suggestions. These audiences are based on the most common keywords and URLs found in content that people browse while researching a given product or service. 

For example, insights from existing campaigns may show that people who’ve visited a sporting goods website have also actively researched rainy day workout shoes. Google Ads may then auto-create a new “waterproof trail running shoes” custom intent audience to simplify the process of reaching this niche segment of customers. These audiences are constantly refreshed, and so you may see improved performance over time.

For now, these auto-created audiences are available in English only.

Custom intent: Build your own audience (Display campaigns)

You can apply keywords, URLs, apps, or YouTube content to Display campaigns to reach an online audience that’s actively researching a related product or service. To help Google Ads understand your ideal audience, it’s a best practice to add keywords and URLs (ideally 15 total) that fit a common theme. Avoid entering URLs that require people to sign in, such as social media, or email services. Include keywords related to the products and services this audience is researching, which will be used as the focal point for building the custom intent audience. If possible, it's a good idea (but not essential) to set up conversion tracking before you start your campaign.

Audience keywords

Now that custom intent audiences is the new upgraded version of Audience keywords, you will receive a “No ads serving” error message when both targeting options are used in the same ad group. This issue can only be fixed in the new Google Ads experience.

  1. Select the campaign or campaign type from the navigation panel on the left.
  2. Click Keywords in the page menu. 
  3. Select the Audience keywords from the list, click the Edit drop-down menu and select Remove.

Note: If you want to reach users interested in these keywords, you can create a new custom intent audience which uses the keywords and add it to an ad group.

How they have interacted with your business


You can also reach people who have already engaged with your company’s products and services, including past visitors to a website, mobile app, videos, or given you their contact information. Read About remarketing to learn more and see below for the different types of remarketing lists: 

  • Website visitors: These lists track user behavior in your website and will add those users according to criteria specified by you or Google Ads, if automatically generated. These criteria can be visits, click-in source, click-out location and the various stages of a conversion
  • YouTube users: Users that view and/or interact with your video ads are added to YouTube lists. These remarketing lists can be created by first linking your YouTube channel to your Google Ads account. Learn more in About remarketing to YouTube viewers.
  • App users: Users that have your app installed on their device are added to these lists and become eligible to be shown your ads while in other apps on the Google Display Network. Learn more About remarketing to App users.
  • Customer list: Lists generated based on the Google Ads Customer Match feature. Customer lists allow you to upload contact information that your customers have shared with you, like emails or zip codes, to show ads to your customers as they browse across Google's properties like Google Search or YouTube. Learn more About Customer Match.
  • Custom combination: A type of list created when you manually combine two or more existing remarketing lists.

Similar audiences

Similar audiences targeting allows you to show ads to people who share characteristics with people on your existing remarketing lists.

About dynamic prospecting

Dynamic prospecting is one way to extend  the power of your feed-based dynamic remarketing to reach new users with your high-performing products. Unlike dynamic remarketing, which is focused on getting the most value out of your existing customers, dynamic prospecting is used to acquire new users. This difference makes dynamic prospecting the preferable method if you’re a new advertiser or if you’re targeting an audience different from your own first-party data (including your remarketing lists).

How it works

Dynamic prospecting uses machine learning to predict which feed items prospective buyers are looking for. Using historical feed performance and user behavior, dynamic prospecting predicts which new users are most likely to perform well for items in your feed. Once the system finds statistically significant relationships between feed items and user intent, it combines that possible intent with demographics-based information such as age and gender to match the user’s intent with a relevant product in your feed. The products in your feed are evaluated and selected based on performance, relevance, and other factors to determine which ones are most likely to lead to conversions.

Smart Display campaigns are recommended for dynamic prospecting campaigns, since they can simply and easily combine dynamic remarketing users with prospecting users for effective full-funnel setup.


Imagine you're a hotel provider, and a customer wants to take a vacation in Paris. This customer is researching many topics about Paris, such as its cultural attractions, restaurants, hotels, and flight options. Since you have enabled dynamic prospecting, every new bit of relevant information in this user’s journey that indicates their travel intent to Paris, helps Google's systems know that showing your Parisian hotels to this customer is more likely to lead to a relevant, assistive-style ad that this user may be more likely to convert from.

Was this article helpful?
How can we improve it?