Custom Intent Audiences: What Are They and How To Get Started

Bryce Hamlin
By Bryce Hamlin

As many of you know, Google has released sweeping updates to their advertising offering over the last few months. Most notably, a complete rebrand of Google AdWords, sunsetting that name in favor of the network-agnostic Google Ads. The name change came with a complete update to the advertising UI/UX, giving the platform a brand new look at feel. You can read more about the rebrand and UI changes here.

The update wasn’t just aesthetic. Google actually added a few features that are exclusively available in the new UI – my favorite of which is the addition of Custom Intent Audiences for the Display and YouTube Networks.

Custom Intent Audiences

So.. what are they?

In short – a merger of search data & display advertising. Google’s finally giving us the ability to leverage the power of search network targeting (keywords) on the display/YouTube network.

Yeah, you read that right.

You can build cold traffic audiences based on their search intent via keyword lists. Custom Intent. Get it now?

I’ve used these to push more top-funnel traffic (with intent) for a B2B lead gen client, target people looking for gyms and serve them a YouTube ad for my fitness client, and even promote a client’s presence at an exhibition to people looking for things to do in that city on the weekend.

Basically, they’re super versatile. So how do we implement these audiences?

How To Get Started

First, head to your GDN/YouTube campaign (or make a new one). Click the edit button → audiences → select your ad group, where you’ll be brought to this screen.

Select the second option What they are actively researching or planning..

…and then click New Custom Intent Audience at the bottom which will take you to this view..

This is where the (proverbial) money is made! What you do from here is up to you and what you’re looking to accomplish. I’ve had success just duplicating my low-funnel search keywords custom intent, but again, it totally depends on your goals.

You can also check in on potential audience size to make sure that your campaign has the proverbial fuel it needs to perform.

How To Optimize

The good news here – optimizing is easy! You want to keep a close eye on the websites your ads are serving on. While the audience you’re targeting will be relevant, some sites may not give your brand the best look.

The second (and most important) part to this is Ad Creative. You can’t just throw any old ad in here, this is the first impression that people have of your business. What do you want them to think when they see your ad? How do you want them to feel? What’s the next logical step for them to take once they’re on the site?

Answer these questions, and you’ll be on the right track with this prospecting campaign.

If you haven’t linked Google Analytics up either – do that ASAP. You aren’t going to see many conversions from Custom Intent – GA site behavior metrics are the way to go. Look at:

  • Average Time on Site
  • Average Pages per Session
  • Bounce Rate

These are the most important metrics for a prospecting campaign. How are people interacting with the site on their first visit? What works? What doesn’t?

In Conclusion

Custom Intent Audiences have HUGE potential on the Display network. YouTube too – though I didn’t get too much into that.

Give it a shot! It’s cheap impressions, cheap clicks, and can provide your site with a brand new stream of high quality, high intent traffic.

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Bryce is a Paid Media Account Manager at Power Digital with experience with both Google and Facebook advertising. He attended SDSU (not too far from our office!) and has been apart of the PDM team since 2015. He's been passionate about technology and entrepreneurship his entire life and this passion translates through to his work in Digital. Out of the office, you can find Bryce at the beach, on a hike, or anywhere that has live music!