About "Targeting" and "Observation" settings

There are a variety of campaign and ad group targeting methods available to help you reach potential customers. You can target your ads by choosing criteria, such as audiences you’d like to reach or content you’d like ads to appear on.

In some cases, you may want to observe how ads perform when a customer matches specific criteria, yet you may not want to restrict your ads to only show with that criteria. The “Observation” feature allows you to monitor and set custom bids for criteria without restricting your reach.

This article explains how targeting and observation settings work. For step-by-step instructions on setting up this feature, check Select targeting and observation.

About the "Targeting" setting

When you’re using the “Targeting” setting for your campaigns or ad groups (like affinity audiences, placements or remarketing), you’re telling Google Ads who you’d like to reach with your ads or where you’d like your ads to show on the internet.

For Display campaigns, if you don’t add a targeting method to an ad group, the only restrictions to where your ads can show are in the campaign and account settings, such as content exclusions, locations, and languages. This means your ads can run anywhere on the web, across the Display Network and YouTube, within your campaign and account settings.

When to use it

Use the “Targeting” setting in your ad groups or campaigns, when you want to narrow your ad group to only show to specific audiences or on specific content you’ve selected. Targeting is recommended for all advertisers in their Display campaigns.

Keep in mind
  • Targeting restricts the reach of your ad group.
  • In addition to narrowing your reach, you have the option to use custom bids or bid adjustments on specific criteria within your targeting. Learn more About bidding features in Display campaigns.

About the "Observation" setting

When you use the "Observation" setting, the reach of your campaign or ad group isn’t affected. In other words, the "Observation" setting won’t change who can see your ads or where they can show. However, the "Observation" setting allows you to monitor how ads are performing for your selected placements, topics, or audiences while your campaign is running. Note that "observation" shows you how additional criteria perform when they fall within the scope of your existing targeting.

You can then use this data to guide further actions in your campaign, such as making bid adjustments on certain criteria. You could also decide to create new ad groups with targeting criteria based on your observations.

You can apply the "Observation" setting by going to the “Edit all targeting” page. You can also add an observation method from that method’s reporting page, if that method isn’t used for targeting in the ad group. Note: You can’t add an observation method when you first create an ad group.

When to use it

Use the "Observation" setting if you don’t want to narrow your campaign’s or ad group’s targeting any further, but you want to monitor how certain criteria perform with your ads. The "Observation" setting is recommended for all Search campaigns as well as the Display campaigns of more advanced advertisers.

For campaigns that use Smart Bidding, first-party audience segments added under the “Observation” setting will be used as signals for Smart Bidding strategies. Learn more About audience segments.

Keep in mind
  • The "Observation" setting does not restrict the reach of your campaign or ad group.
  • Data is reported for ads that meet criteria selected for both observations and targeting.
  • In addition to observing the performance of criteria, you have the option to use custom bids or bid adjustments on specific criteria within your observations. Learn more About bidding features in Display campaigns.



Abbey owns a store that sells motorcycle jackets for women. For her ad group “Female Motorcyclists,” Abbey selects the “Female” gender under demographics and the affinity audience of “Motorcycle Enthusiasts.” These “Targeting” selections will narrow the reach of her ad group, so her ads will only show to women who have an interest in motorcycles.


Abbey wonders whether many of her customers are interested in buying activewear. She wants to know more, but she doesn’t want to further restrict her ad group’s reach. She clicks the pencil icon on the Audience page, selects her campaigns, selects audiences based on "What they are actively researching or planning," selects Apparel & Accessories and then Activewear for observation criteria.

With this observation setting, Abbey can view reports on how many ad impressions appeared to users who were also in-market for activewear. Keep in mind, observations are reported when they overlap with existing targeting (in this case "Activewear Female and Motorcycle Enthusiasts").

So, if ads shown to users also interested in Activewear perform differently from other ads, Abbey can adjust her bids higher or lower for this audience. She could also create a new ad group that targets those users interested in Activewear, if she wanted to use a special landing page or offer for them.

Targeting and Observation availability

In Display Network campaigns

Recommended usage: “Targeting” and “Observation”

You can use the following targeting methods for your campaign or ad group:

  • Display/video keywords
  • Placements
  • Topics
Note: Demographics and Display/video keywords only use the standard “Targeting” setting. By default, all demographic groups are targeted, unless you make any changes.

You can use the following observation methods for your campaign or ad group:

  • Placements
  • Topics
Note: Display/video keywords can’t be used in Observation mode.

While it’s possible to use a combination of one targeting method and one observation method (for example, Topics targeting and Placements observation) in the same campaign or ad group, it isn’t recommended. Doing so may limit the results of your actual observation.

We recommend that you set up your targeting based on the results of your observation, so that you can maximize the results of your actual targeting. For example:

  • Topics targeting and Placements targeting
  • Display/video keywords targeting and Placements or Topics targeting

In Search Network and Shopping campaigns

Recommended usage: “Observation”

You can use “Observation” for Audiences, which includes data segments for Search ads. Learn more About your data segments for Search ads.

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