About audience targeting

You can add audience targeting to ad groups and reach people based on who they are, their interests and habits, what they’re actively researching or how they've interacted with your business. Audience targeting can boost your campaign's performance by reaching people browsing websites, using apps or watching videos. Read the personalised advertising policy (formerly known as interest-based advertising) to help improve the experience for users and advertisers alike.

How audience targeting works

Adding audiences helps you reach people as they browse pages, apps, channels, videos and content across the Google Display Network and YouTube. 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. Google Ads will show ads to people who are likely to be in the selected categories.

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

See the table below for a brief description of the different audience types to use for targeting in your campaigns:

Campaign type Audience type
  • Affinity, Custom affinity: What their interests and habits are
  • Custom intent, In-market: What they're actively researching or planning
  • Remarketing: How they've interacted with your business
  • Similar audiences: New users with similar interests to your site visitors
  • In-market: What they are actively researching or planning
  • Remarketing: How they've interacted with your business
  • Customer match: What you know about your customers' activities
  • Similar audiences: New users with similar interests to your site visitors
  • Affinity, Custom affinity: What their interests and habits are
  • Custom intent, Life events, In-market: What they are actively researching or planning
  • Remarketing: How they've interacted with your business
  • Customer match: What you know about your customers' activities
  • Similar audiences: New users with similar interests to your site visitors


What their interests are

Detailed demographics

Detailed demographics enables you to reach broad segments of the population that share common traits, such as students, homeowners or new parents.

Adding detailed demographics audiences to a campaign

  1. While in the overview page for your campaign, click Audiences from the page menu.
  2. Click the pencil icon .
  3. Under 'All audiences', click Detailed demographics.
  4. Under 'Detailed demographics', click on the name of the demographic to open a list of specific demographics for that group.
  5. Click the box next to each of the specific demographics to select them for adding to your campaign.
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you've selected every demographic that you want to add to your campaign.
  7. Click Save to add your chosen demographics to your campaign.

Affinity audiences

Affinity audiences were built for businesses currently running TV ads and 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 audiences

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 that 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 Southampton, 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 shops 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.

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. From the wedding planning to the honeymoon, advertisers from florists to insurance companies can have an active role to play in sending newlyweds on the right path.
The following life events can help you reach potential customers when their purchase behaviour shifts and brand preferences change:
  • About to graduate college
  • Recently graduated college
  • About to move
  • Recently moved
  • About to get married
  • Recently got married
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, removal services, mortgages and other moving-related items during the months of their move.

In-market audiences

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 to drive remarketing performance and reach consumers close to completing a purchase.

Custom intent audiences

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 categories and reach people as they’re making a purchase decision.
For Display campaigns, you can create a custom intent audience using in-market keywords – simply entering keywords and URLs related to products and services your ideal audience is researching across sites and apps.

In-market keywords (Display campaigns)

  • Enter keywords, URLs, apps or YouTube content to reach an online audience that’s actively researching a related product or service. 
  • It’s best practice to add keywords and URLs (ideally 15 total) that fit a common theme to help Google Ads understand your ideal audience.
  • Avoid entering URLs that require people to sign in, such as social media or email services.
  • Include keywords related to the products and services that this audience is researching; these will be used as the focal point for building the custom intent audience.
Set up Conversion tracking before you start your campaign

Custom intent audiences: Auto-created (Display campaigns)

To make finding the right people easy, Google uses machine learning technology to analyse your existing campaigns and auto-create custom intent audiences. 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 all-weather running 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.
For now, these auto-created audiences are available in English only.

Audience keywords

Now that Custom intent audiences is the new way to use Audience keywords, you may receive a 'No ads serving' error when both targeting options are used in the same ad group. This issue can only be fixed in the new Google Ads experience.
  1. Click on the campaign or campaign type in the navigation panel on the left.
  2. Click on Keywords in the page menu. 
  3. Remove Audience keywords.
    • If you want to reach users interested in these keywords, create a new Custom intent audience which uses the keywords and add it to an ad group. 


You can also reach people who've 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.

Similar audiences

Similar audience takes the guesswork out of your search for new audiences by automatically finding new customers similar to your existing customers. Google Ads uses machine learning to update similar audience lists in real time to compare new users to your remarketing lists. Using similar audiences targeting allows you to show ads to people who share characteristics with people on your existing remarketing lists. To avoid overlap, your original remarketing list is automatically excluded from your similar audiences list. Learn more about similar audiences

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 behaviour, 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 that you're a hotel provider, and a customer wants to have a holiday in Paris. This customer is researching many topics about Paris, such as its cultural attractions, restaurants, hotels and flight options. Since you've 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?