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AdWords Fundamentals: Exam study guide

2.3 Targeting your audience

Showing your ads to the right customer is a key part of a successful advertising campaign that helps you reach your goals. Below, we'll review the different ways in which you can use AdWords to display your ads.

Keyword targeting

As you learned in a previous module, on the Search Network, AdWords will use your keywords – words or phrases that are relevant to your product or service – to show your ads to people searching for similar terms. On the Display Network, when your keyword matches a webpage's concepts or its central theme, your ad is eligible to show on that webpage (we call this an automatic placement).

You'll want to choose high quality, relevant keywords that can help you reach the customers you want, when you want. We'll go over more tips on how to build a great keyword list later, but below are a few important details about keywords.

Keyword match types

You can use keyword match types to control which searches trigger your ad. Each match type (which is specified by a special symbol) will trigger your ad to show for a customer's search in different ways.

The chart below serves as an introduction to the different match types, ordered from broad to narrow.

Match Type Special symbol Example keyword Ads may show on searches that Example searches
Broad match none women's hats include misspellings, synonyms, related searches and other relevant variations buy ladies hats
Broad match modifier +keyword +women's +hats contain the modified term (or close variations, but not synonyms), in any order hats for women
Phrase match "keyword" "women's hats" are a phrase, and close variations of that phrase buy women's hats
Exact match [keyword] [women's hats] are an exact term and close variations of that exact term women's hats
Negative Match -keyword -women are searches without the term baseball hats

You can use broad match, for example, to show your ad to a wide audience, or you could use exact match to show your ad to specific groups of customers. In general, we typically recommend using a "broad-to-narrow" strategy – start with broad match keywords and then monitor your keywords' performance over time to make your keyword match types more specific if you find that you are is showing for too many irrelevant variations of your keywords.

Bear in mind that you can use match types with campaigns that show ads on the Search Network. On the Display Network, keywords are treated as broad match.

Negative keywords and keyword exclusions

You can also add negative keywords for campaigns that show ads on the Search Network or keyword exclusions for campaigns that show ads on the Display Network. Negative keywords prevent your ads from showing to people searching for those terms or visiting websites that contain those terms. When you choose negative keywords, you'll want to choose terms that are similar to your keywords, but signal that people are looking for a different product or service.

Display Network targeting

In addition to keywords, you can use different targeting methods to match your ad to places or audiences on the Display Network.

Let’s take a look at three categories of targeting methods:

Contextual targeting: Match relevant website content

Website selling tents

You can target based on relevant website content in two ways:

  • Keywords: AdWords looks for websites with content related to your keywords, to show your ads. Your ad may also show on websites that someone visits after they’ve viewed another website that is related to your keywords.
  • Topics: Similar to keywords, this lets you place your AdWords ads on website pages about the topics that you choose. Instead of developing a list of words or phrases, you choose categories of information, such as “Autos and Vehicles”.

With keywords and topics, Google selects relevant placements on the Display Network based on website content and other factors, to show your ads.

Audiences: Reach specific groups of people


You can target your ads based on audiences in these ways:

  • Audiences: Depending on your advertising goals, you can choose the audience that best matches your customers. To drive brand awareness, use affinity audiences to reach TV-like audiences on a broad scale. To reach as many potential customers as possible with an affinity to a specific product area, you might try adding custom affinity audiences. To reach specific audiences actively shopping for a product or service, use in-market audiences instead.
  • Interest categories: This allows you to reach people interested in products and services similar to those that your business offers. When you target interest categories, you can show your ad to people who demonstrated specific interests, regardless of whether your ad correlates with the particular topic of the page or app that they're currently on. You’ll find interest category targeting alongside remarketing in your account.
  • Remarketing: This option can help you reach people who have previously visited your website while they visit other websites on the Display Network. You’ll find remarketing alongside interest categories in your account.
  • Demographics: This option allows you to reach people who are likely to be within the age, gender and parental status demographic group that you choose.

With audiences, you don't manually select places to show your ads.

Managed placement targeting: Select specific websites and apps

Managed placement targeting allows you to pick individual websites, or mobile apps where you want to show your ads. For example, if your typical customer spends a lot of time on a specific website and you want your ads to appear there, you can add it as a managed placement.

Location and language targeting

With location settings, you can target the geographic areas in which you'd like your ads to appear. You can select entire countries (such as the United Kingdom or France), individual regions or cities within a country (such as the county of Derbyshire or the city of Paris), or certain distances around your business location (such as within 20 miles of Manchester).

Why use location targeting? It helps you to focus your advertising on areas where you can find the right customers, and restrict it in areas where you can't. It's a good idea to select the region in which your customers live and where your business can serve them.

For example, if you run an e-commerce business in the United States that ships to certain states, you can target only those places. Or, if you own an Italian restaurant in San Francisco, you can choose to show your ads only to customers within a few miles of your restaurant.

If you're trying to communicate with customers who don't speak the same language, you can use language targeting to show your ads to customers who speak a particular language. Your ads can appear for customers who use Google products (such as Search or Gmail) and third-party websites that are part of the Display Network.

Language targeting helps make sure that your ads will appear on websites that are written in the language of the customers whom you'd like to reach. Bear in mind that our ads and keywords should be written in your target language – AdWords doesn't translate ads or keywords.

Let's say that you're an international women's clothing retailer, and that you want to show your ads to Spanish-speaking customers. You can create a campaign that's targeted to the Spanish language, and show your Spanish language ads to customers with a Google interface language set to Spanish when they search for dresses.

Device targeting

You can also reach your customers while they're on the move by showing your ads when people are searching or visiting Display Network websites on their mobile phones with full browsers, such as iPhones and Android devices. Depending on your goals, you might want to target one or multiple devices.

Mobile devices with full internet browsers, such as smartphones, can display websites similar to the ones that you'd see on a desktop computer and mobile-optimised websites. High-end mobile devices can also host apps, which people can download from the app store in their device or from a website. This wide variety of media available on mobile devices means that you can display your ads in many different ways, and tailor your message to be compelling to customers on mobile devices.


Antoine targets Fiona's Search campaign at people in the United Kingdom, since her company doesn't offering delivery outside of that country. Using language targeting, Antoine sets up the campaign so that only English-speaking customers will see Fiona's ads.

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