About similar audiences on the Display Network

Similar audiences is a targeting feature based on first party data lists, most commonly remarketing lists, that helps you expand the reach of your best-performing audiences by targeting new users with similar characteristics to your site visitors.

Before you begin

Similar audience targeting is available for the Display Network, the Search Network, Youtube, Gmail, Customer Match, and apps. Similar audience lists are automatically created and updated in real time once you have set up at least one eligible list in the Google Ads Audience Center library. It's recommended that you have a remarketing strategy in place before running Similar audiences. Learn more About remarketing.

Benefits​

  • More reach: Extend the reach of your campaign towards new users who are similar to your existing users, up to five times more than with remarketing lists alone.
  • Improved conversion rate: See 41% more conversions by combining Similar audiences with Display remarketing.
  • Powered by machine learning: Similar audience lists are updated in real time using machine learning capabilities that analyzes millions of signals to optimize towards performance.
  • Easy to manage: Similar audience lists automatically appear in eligible Google Ads accounts. Eligibility is determined when there is enough statistically significant similarity found between new users and the original remarketing list.
  • Target efficiently: Original remarketing lists are automatically excluded from Similar audience lists, making sure you target new users only.

Simplified audience targeting

Similar audience targeting takes the guesswork out of your search for new audiences by automatically finding new customers similar to your existing customers. (such as ‘site visitors’, or ‘converters’’). Google Ads takes your existing user lists  and uses machine learning to understand what they have in common to find more like-minded customers. You can use Similar Audiences to find new customers similar to those already in your remarketing lists using criteria such as topics they like and sites they frequent.

Example

Say you've created a remarketing list of people who bought steak knives from your kitchenware site. Instead of helping you reach broad groups of people interested in "cooking," Similar audiences will identify that people on this list tend to browse sites specifically about "cooking steak" and "high quality knife sets" before coming to your site and making a purchase. Based on this, Similar audiences will then find other people with similar activity.

Your Similar audiences lists are automatically updated as the original list evolves and people change their browsing activity. So, you don't need to update the Similar audience list once it's created.

Getting new potential customers

With Similar audiences, you can boost the reach of existing remarketing campaigns, and drive new users to your site who are also likely to be interested in your product or service.

Even if these new Similar audience visitors don't immediately purchase from your site, if you've added the remarketing tag to your site, you can still reach out to them later through a remarketing list. By adding Similar audiences targeting, you can get more visitors to your website, and therefore more users onto your remarketing lists in a way that's intuitive and easy to manage.

Case study: ZOOT

ZOOT is a Prague-based clothing retailer that looked to increase audience prospectives and get more out of their campaigns. To achieve these goals, they implemented Similar audiences and Dynamic Display Ads. The Dynamic Display Ads showed products that users were interested in, resulting in more purchases and an overall doubled return on investment when compared to their previous campaign settings. ZOOT used Similar audiences to reach new users that their previous campaigns hadn't before. The Similar audience list proved so effective that new users provided 63% of the ZOOT's website traffic over the course of the campaign.

How it works

Google Ads looks at browsing activity on Display Network sites over the last 30 days, and uses this in addition to the content the user is viewing to understand the shared interests and characteristics of the people in your remarketing list. Based on this information, Google Ads automatically finds new potential customers whose interests and characteristics are similar to those of people in your remarketing list. The more characteristics and interests people in your remarketing lists share, the better Similar audiences works.

To find Similar audiences, Google Ads looks across the millions of apps and sites on the Display Network. As your remarketing lists change, your Similar audience will change as well. Similar Audience lists are created using machine learning and are built to adapt to changing markets and trends dynamically. These models find high-performing users who are similar to existing customers

Note

The original remarketing list is automatically excluded from your Similar audiences list. So, if visitors who are in a Similar audiences list get added to your remarketing list, they'll be removed from the Similar audiences list.

Qualifying for Similar audiences

Google will automatically identify which of your remarketing lists qualify for Similar audiences based on a variety of factors, including but not limited to the following:

  • Minimum of 100 visitors in the seed list (remarketing list)
  • How recently these visitors joined the original list
  • The types of sites that these visitors browsed
  • List must be owned by your account, not shared

Many types of remarketing lists can be used to generate Similar audiences, including but not limited to: Website visitors, app users, customer match, video remarketing, CRM, Google Analytics, and more. Custom lists are not eligible. In some cases, there isn't enough information to generate a Similar audience list. In these cases, the list may appear as “Unavailable” in the Audience manager.

Similar audience lists are created based on users that share the same characteristics as seed lists without any geolocation restriction. Which means that if a business is based in Canada for example, the users in the similar audience list won’t be restricted to Canada only, they’ll be from different locations globally.

The list size available in the audience manager will show coverage for all regions possible. When creating a new campaign, apply geolocation restrictions if you want reach estimate only for a limited selection of desired locations.

Keep in mind

We don't support finding Similar audiences for lists based on sensitive categories, such as race, religion, sexual orientation, or health. All use of Similar audiences is subject to our Personalized advertising policy. People who don't want to be included in Similar audiences can opt out through their Ads Settings.

It may take up to 72 hours for your list to start serving. 

Best practices for Similar audiences

  • Use automated bidding: Similar audience cost per conversion can be up to 25% higher than Remarketing since those lists targeting new users. Leverage tCPA or tROAS for better performance results. If the main success metric is "conversion," use tCPA. eCPC is a bidding model designed to optimize for clicks, rather than for conversions.
  • Make your ads Responsive: Leverage Responsive ads design wherever possible so that your ads target the best customers with the closest accuracy. Try variations on 'call to action' text, images, etc.
  • Modify bids: Depending on your campaign performance, a higher bid can help you stand out or a lower bid can save on your budget. Smart Bidding raises or lowers your bids for you with impression-based adjustments.
  • Geolocations & languages: Evaluate whether you should make any changes to the geo & language due to particular aspects of your business. For instance, if your business only operates in specific locations or if your site is only available in certain languages.
  • Communicate with third parties:  If you see performance issues with your campaigns and use any third-party components, use the third party's support to check if they are working on any errors.
  • Campaign structure: It is possible to add Similar audience to an existing Remarketing campaign in a separate ad-group. However, it's recommended to have a separate campaign for better control of budget, messaging and measurement.
  • List strategy: Think through your Remarketing list strategy. Your strategy will influence what kinds of Similar audiences lists the system generates. Ideally, you should have your plans and goals in mind before setting up your initial Remarketing lists. It's recommended to start a campaign with your most successful lists. For instance, a "similar to converters” list or the ones with the largest volume of users.

Common issues with Similar audiences

Not enough reach (or similar audience list too small)

  • Try increasing your bid and checking your impression score metrics. Low bidding can lose impressions while high bidding can use up your budget too quickly. Low budgets can restrict how often your ads show while high budgets can make campaigns expensive.
  • Try adding an additional, or bigger Similar audience list to your targeting. You may have selected a list that is too small.

Similar audience list not generating

  • The Similar Audience list can take at least 48 hours to generate after the seed list is created.
  • Small Remarketing lists (<500 users), are more likely to not generate a Similar audience lists.

CPA too high

  • Try to reduce your target CPA or bid. The recommended way to reduce CPA is to wait for the learning period to finish (about 2 weeks) and then start reducing 20% week over week following up on how the list performs. If your bid is already low, try raising it. Sometimes a low bid only gains you access to low quality inventory.
  • Try new ad creatives and/or landing pages -  perhaps your ads don't have enough information or aren't convincing enough to push sales. Keep in mind that every time you change creatives, the algorithm will need some time to adjust to the change and find new patterns.
  • When planning for how you’re going to find new users, think about which attributes of those users are most important for your campaign as well as how much emphasis you want to put on view-through conversions.
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