How to Use Demographic Targeting in Google Ads

By Tinuiti Team

Demographic targeting in AdWords (now known as Google Ads) is critical for reaching your target audience.

Too often advertisers place so much emphasis on keyword-level targeting that they forget about the actual person behind the search.

Here’s a brief primer on AdWords Demographic targeting, how to effectively layer it into your Search campaigns, and some best practices from our experts.

“Demographic targeting enables advertisers to refine their audience targeting further and can be used to capture additional audience data. If you’re a company selling strollers, you can target based on parental status, and more specifically, parents of toddlers.”

-Michael Ward, Lead Retail Search Manager at CPC Strategy


What Is AdWords Demographic Targeting?

AdWords demographic targeting is a targeting method that enables advertisers to reach a specific audience based on age, gender, parental status, and household income.

Google Search demographics allow advertisers to refine their targeting on a granular level, improving their reach while also reducing wasted ad spend on users that don’t fit their target audience.


demographics google adwords


Google recently expanded their demographic targeting capabilities with the introduction of Detailed Demographics back in June, giving advertisers the ability to refine their targeting based on home ownership, education level, and marital status.


How Google Search Demographics Work

Google collects demographic information from users based on their settings and activity associated with their Google Account.

Advertisers can then use this information to layer in demographic targeting to their Google Ads campaigns, improving their ability to home in on a very specific audience.

Using these data points also give marketers a chance to easily test their targeting outside their usual audience.

“Even if you think any of these audiences aren’t relevant to your business or industry, you can add them to the campaigns at no risk,” says Ward.

“From there, you let the data tell you if these audiences are relevant or not.”


Case  Study: HYLETE Increases Text Ad Revenue by +450%

Hylete is an innovative, performance cross-training apparel company that partnered with CPC Strategy to grow their ecommerce branding and sales performance using Paid Google Search ads and Google Shopping.

Hylete optimized their Search campaigns on Google Ads by segmenting their advertisements based on consumer demographics and behavior.

Layering in demographic targeting (in addition to other targeting) enabled Hylete to achieve a 140% increase in unique queries, 1,611% increase in clicks, and a 62% decrease in CPCs (for branded clicks only).


hylete website


It’s just one example of how displaying highly tailored ads to users that fit their demographics (for example, showing gender-specific apparel) can result in improved performance.

You can read the full Hylete case study here.


How To Use AdWords Demographic Targeting

You can access the new Detailed Demographics in 4 simple steps.

1. Log into your Google Ads account.

2. Select a Campaign from the left. You can add demographic categories to Search, Display, and Video campaigns.

3. From the left, select Demographics.

4. You can now select demographic targeting categories from the top of the page.

5. Check the box for each demographic group you want to include in your targeting.


google ads demographic targeting adwords how to


6. Select the blue Edit drop-down to Enable your demographic targeting.

This is also where you can Exclude demographics and modify bid adjustments.


exclude demographic targeting make bid adjustments demographics google ads


AdWords Demographic Targeting Best Practices

While audience targeting may seem pretty straightforward, there are several strategies that you can implement to optimize your demographic targeting.


1. Know Your Target Audience (Really) Well

Like other AdWords targeting, you can achieve better results after you’ve gathered enough data to identify your best-performing audiences.

If you have CRM or other third-party data (such as data from Facebook audience prospecting), make full use of that information to identify your target audience further.

Once you know your buyer persona’s age, gender, income, education, and more — you can then laser in on a very specific audience using Google Ads demographic targeting.


2. Make Use of Exclusions

Similar to using negatives for keywords, advertisers can also exclude specific demographic categories from their targeting.

Exclusions can help you narrow your reach and also reduce wasted ad spend if you know a particular demographic isn’t relative to your targeting.


3. Segment Bids Based on Demographic Performance

A bid modifier strategy that prioritizes your highest converting audiences can help you reduce wasted ad spend and improve your ROAS.

You can segment bids by placing bid modifiers on specific demographics — an especially useful practice if you have an idea on how each demographic is performing.


bid modifiers adwords detailed demographics


“I added detailed demographic audiences using the Observation setting at a 0% bid modifier,” says Ward.

“When audiences have accumulated enough data (30 days worth), I change bid modifiers based on performance.”

“For audiences with strong conversion rates and high ROI, I raised the bid modifiers so we can get more aggressive with our ads and generate higher order volume.”

You can read more information on how to set custom bids for Display campaigns here and Search campaigns here.


Demographic Targeting: Key Takeaways

Demographic targeting is only one layer of targeting at your disposal; albeit an incredibly important one for reaching your most valuable audiences.

Make sure that you are implementing simple best practices, such as demographic-specific ads and demographic exclusions.

Once you have your demographic targeting where you need it to be, layer in additional targeting options to ensure your ads are hyper relevant to your target audience.


Want to learn more about Google audience targeting and advertising?

What is Google AdWords’ New Detailed Demographics Feature?

Google Custom Affinity Audiences | Quick Guide + How to Get Started

What are Google Custom Intent Audiences?

Google’s New In-Market Audiences for Search Ads + How To Use

7 Advanced AdWords RLSA Tactics You Should Be Using

Q4 Google Shopping Best Practices and Advanced Strategies

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