If you’ve struggled to get results from advertising on the Google Display Network, we have good news for you.

Google’s Custom Intent Audiences bring a whole new level of granularity to your targeting. In other words, where you used to feel like you were paying hundreds of dollars to shout your brand message into a void, it’s now easier than ever to show your display ads only to users most likely to take action right now.

Let’s define Google’s Custom Intent Audiences, and then we’ll share our step-by-step tips for getting the most out of this powerful tool.

What Are Custom Intent Audiences?

In November of 2017, Google launched Custom Intent Audiences.

This was a major reveal, because up until that point, targeting was broad and sometimes not as relevant as some advertisers would hope – especially compared to the hyper-focused targeting capabilities of Facebook.

Before Intent Audiences, advertisers relied mainly on “Affinity” audiences, which were groups of people who shared long-term interests that were relevant to your target keywords or URLs. And while Affinity audiences are still around (and are a great way to build brand awareness and grow your market reach), they’re not as effective at advertising to internet users at the moment they’re ready to make a purchase.

Custom Intent Audiences allows you to show your ads to people whose search intent aligns with what you’re selling. As an advertiser, you can imagine how powerful this is. But if the differentiation between these two audience types is foggy, here are a few examples:

  • A children’s clothing retailer wants to advertise clothes for newborns.
    • Affinity: People who have bought children’s clothing online, or who have shown an interest in babies.
    • Intent: People who are looking online for newborn clothes right now.
  • A marketing technology company wants to sell their software product to entrepreneurs.
    • Affinity: People who are interested in martech, software as a service, or entrepreneurship
    • Intent: People who are starting a business and need an app to help with their marketing.
  • A local coffee shop
    • Affinity: People who live in that specific location, and are coffee drinkers
    • Intent: People who are looking for a not-too-busy place to meet a prospective business partner at noon.

There are two ways to use Custom Intent Audiences – by creating them yourself, or letting machine learning do it for you. Creating your own audience is best for experienced Google advertisers who have solid market data to draw from. Auto-generated audiences, on the other hand, are best for those who are newer to Google Display Advertising.

Here’s a rundown of how to use Google Custom Intent Audiences.

How to Use Google Custom Intent Audiences

  1. Create a display campaign.
  2. Go to the “Audiences” page.
  3. Select “Targeting.”
  4. Choose “Intent.”
  5. Choose whether you want to create your own intent audience, or use an auto-generated one.

Creating Custom Intent Audiences

  1. In the “Intent” section, choose “New Custom Intent Audience.”
  2. Name your audience.
  3. Enter keywords and URLs that are relevant to your customer’s search intent. Google states that it’s a best practice to use 15 keywords or URLs that share a common theme, and pertain directly to products or services that person is researching.
  4. Choose “Create.”
  5. View the estimated reach metrics for this audience.
  6. If you’re not satisfied with the estimated reach metrics, go back and add, remove, or change the keywords and URLs you entered in step three.

How to Use Google’s Auto-Generated Custom Intent Audiences

  1. In the “Intent” section, choose “Auto-Created.”
  2. Look under “New Audiences.” These are the audiences Google has generated for you. Hover over each to read a description of that audience.
  3. Select the best auto-generated audience for your campaign.

To get the most out of Google’s Custom Intent Audiences in your advertising campaign, set up conversion tracking on your destination page before you begin. Why? This will help you get the most complete picture of how effective your “Intent” campaigns are, giving you ideas about how you might improve your campaigns in the future.

Also, make sure your campaign messaging aligns with your audience. Think from your customer’s perspective, and take the time to learn the language they use to describe the problems they’re facing. If you use that same language in your text, you’re far more likely to catch their eye – and win the conversion.