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It has been over a year in beta, but in May 2017, Google finally announced that it is rolling out Google Similar Audience for Search and Shopping worldwide.

Similar audiences have long been available for display campaigns. The great news for online retailers and advertisers is that it’s now available for Search and Shopping too.

Alongside Google similar audience for Search and Shopping, the search engine also rolled out Customer Match.

What is Google Similar Audience for Search and Shopping?

Google similar audience for search and shopping optimizes your new customer targeting

Google Similar Audience is a new feature in audience targeting that helps online retailers and advertisers to find and connect with new, relevant consumers. By expanding the audience reach to highly relevant people, it both streamlines and boosts your customer acquisition. It is available for both Google Shopping and Search campaigns.

Similar audience lists consist of people who have not visited your site, but share interests with people who have.

The idea is that shoppers with similar browsing behavior as your previous site visitors or customers are more likely to also be interested in your products. Ideally, you would expect them to in turn be equally interested in purchasing your product too.

As Google puts it:

“By adding similar audiences to your campaign or ad group targeting, you can show your ads to people whose search behavior is similar to those of your site visitors. These people are more likely to be potential customers.”

The Technical stuff – how does it work?

Similar audiences works in conjunction with remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA). Google constructs the lists from data and users contained in your RLSAs.

Essentially, AdWords works to process and understand aggregate behavior of the customers contained in an RLSA. Google will then work to track users exhibiting similar search and browsing behavior, such as those using related search queries, for example.

Google will establish if this browsing behavior indicates similar interests and characteristics as users in an RLSA. If so, Google will add them to a similar audience list.

Based on this information, Google can then target the similar audience with Google Shopping or Search ads.

Here’s a great example from Google of how it all works in practice:

“Say you’ve created a remarketing list of people who bought running shoes from your sporting goods site. Instead of helping you reach broad groups of people interested in “running,” similar audiences will identify that people on this list tended to search for “triathlon training” and “buy lightweight running shoes” before coming to your site and making a purchase. Based on this, similar audiences will then find other people with similar search behavior, such as people who searched for ‘buy lightweight running shoes”.

From May 2017, a similar audience will appear automatically for each RLSA you create. After that, simply add the relevant audience to an ad group or Google Shopping campaign. You can find the metric and data listed under audiences in the shared library in Google AdWords.

The lists are constantly and continuously automatically updated as users’ activity changes. Once a user in a similar audience visits your site, Google will automatically remove them from the similar audience.

Qualifying for similar audiences

Since Google pulls the data required for similar audience lists from RLSAs, it’s essential to have these already setup. But, there’s still some other qualifying criteria.

First off, an RLSA requires at least 1,000 cookies to be eligible. Google will then look at other factors, such as:

  • How many visitors are on the list
  • When users joined the list
  • How similar is the behavior of those on the list

If there’s insufficient data for any of these factors then similar audiences may not be possible. In that case, the list would appear as ‘unavailable’ in your shared library.

What kind of results is Similar Audience seeing?

First off, how is the format performing so far? In relation to standard marketing efforts towards new customers, the results are unsurprisingly an improvement. One campaign that beta tested the format saw an 11% increased in CTR and 22% more conversions in just two months.

So far, advertisers have noticed that impressions, click-through-rate (CTR) and return on investment (ROI) have been more favourable than standard remarketing, despite using higher bid amounts.

Reason being, Similar Audience users are much more relevant and likely to convert than a standard audience. Ultimately, this should lower the number of targets completing undesired actions in the conversion funnel. So, advertisers deemed it worthwhile to increase their advertising budget, safe in the knowledge this would lead to increased conversion.

What are the Benefits?

So, with all that in mind, how can similar audiences help your online store? Take a look at the benefits below.

  • Easily create credible prospective customer lists – Google has really streamlined the customer acquisition process. Not only that, but you can target new customers with an extra layer of relevance and accuracy. This means that your new customer marketing efforts should perform better than ever.
  • Increase the number of desired actions for new visitors – similar audience users should be likely to follow through on actions that you want, such as click-throughs or conversion. In turn, your cost-per-acquisition should decrease – while ROI increases – as Google targets only the most relevant users. In today’s competitive market, cost effective solutions like this are highly valuable.
  • Further insight into different user behavior – you can setup similar audiences for whatever you like. Whether it’s cart abandoners or users who convert, it’s all down to what you define in the RLSA. Hopefully, you’ll be able to see what behavior links to those users who are more likely to convert.
  • Upgrade your remarketing lists – By adding the remarketing tag to your website, similar audience users that visit your site but don’t convert will be added to your remarketing lists. So, you can automatically grow your remarketing lists with quality acquisitions who are likely to convert and who you can retarget at a later date.
  • Dynamic compatibility – You can optimize even more by adding a similar audience or RLSA to dynamic search ads.

Tips to optimize your Similar Audiences and boost results

Though there are many ways to optimize, you’ll first want to make sure you have a solid foundation of comprehensive remarketing lists for search ads (RLSA). Ultimately, the performance of Similar Audience will come down to the size and quantity of RLSAs you have.

  • Build multiple RLSAs – including everything from converters to cart abandoners. The greater the sample size, the more ad impressions and a larger Similar Audience you’ll get.
  • Start with Similar Audiences set as ‘bid only’ in AdWords – this way you can monitor the results without necessary increases in budget or management. After some time, you should start to get much more data on Similar Audiences and what is working well. This will be great for Google Shopping campaigns as you will have greater insight into what differentiates converting and non-converting users
  • Using this data you can then optimize your bidding strategy – once you have sufficient data, you can bid differently on each resulting Similar Audience based on how valuable that particular remarketing list is. Increase your budget for well performing keywords and groups that you know are more likely to covert, such as ‘similar to converters’
  • Once you’ve got lots of data, you can change your bidding strategy to ‘target and bid’ and exclusively target a Similar Audience – this way, you’ll have much more control over the cost of each audience, rather than relative bid adjustments
  • Apply your remarketing lists to dynamic search campaigns – this will have a knock-on effect on Similar Audience and add a further level of optimization

Your Google Shopping product feed

Google Similar Audience for Search and Shopping is a useful tool you can employ to maximize your Google Shopping campaign. Nevertheless, that’s not all your Shopping campaign will rely on. The content in your ads is just as important – and this is pulled from the so-called online product feed you upload to the Google Merchant Center.

For a comprehensive guide to creating a top quality Shopping feed, why not check out our best practice guide to optimizing your Google Shopping product feed?

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