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

By Tinuiti Team

Google delighted advertisers back in 2014 when it announced a new targeting feature that allowed you to reach the exact audience you were looking for — based on their website visits, keywords searched, and more.

Custom Affinity Audiences quickly became a favorite for businesses small and large for prospecting, reaching qualified customers, and supporting top-funnel objectives.

This guide is a quick rundown of what Custom Affinity Audiences are, their targeting advantages, how to get started, and some tips from our PPC experts.

google custom affinity audiences

“Custom affinity audiences give you the opportunity to target different audiences and doesn’t limit you to the predefined segments that Google has for in-market, affinity, etc. This is especially helpful if you’re selling products that are super specific or niche. You can create audiences using keywords, URLs, places, and even apps.”


dianne manansala cpc strategy


Dianne Manansala, Lead Retail Search Manager at CPC Strategy

What Are Custom Affinity Audiences?

Before Custom Affinity Audiences, there were Affinity Audiences, which placed audience targeting into pre-defined buckets based on interest category. While this was great for big-budget advertisers, for smaller businesses it meant wide and costly targeting.

Let’s take a quick look at how custom affinity differs from other audiences on AdWords.

Custom Affinity vs Affinity vs In-Market Audiences

Google’s affinity audiences are groups placed into predefined buckets of general interests. These audiences are created by Google based on browsing and search history.

As expected, affinity audience targeting can be very broad. 

In-market audiences are users who have shown intent to compare and purchase a specific category of product. This can be valuable for marketers looking for high-intent shoppers that are looking for a particular item.

However, this in-market intent is temporary and doesn’t paint an overall picture of a user.adwords audiences type

With Custom affinity audiences, marketers have the option to create their own, highly tailored audience in AdWords based on their most recent web activity.

Google pools together data from user search history, keywords used and website visits that gives marketers a better overall picture of a target user’s behavior.

Using this data allows marketers to better control their targeting with smaller and more refined audiences.


The Advantages of Custom Affinity Audience Targeting

Compared to other audience targeting methods, Custom Affinity targeting offers advertisers several unique advantages.

These include the ability to target:adwords search





What’s more, is that you can layer custom affinity audiences with additional targeting to create an even more refined group of users.

Google gives a great example of how marketers could leverage custom affinity audiences to reach marathon runners:

For example, rather than reaching the Sports Fans affinity audience, a running shoe company may want to reach Avid Marathon Runners instead. With custom affinity audiences, the shoe company can further define this audience by:

  • Entering interests like 5K in San Francisco, triathlon athlete, or long distance runner


  • Using URLs of websites with content about running, training schedules, marathon nutrition, and other marathon themes


  • Entering places that an Avid Marathon Runner might be interested in like gyms, sporting goods stores, and natural supermarkets, or


  • Entering apps in the Health & Fitness category that an Avid Marathon Runner may likely be interested in like Google Fit.


Dianne Manansala says,

“We’ve seen good results using Custom Affinity Audiences for branding and awareness, and these performed really well in terms of quality impressions and wide reach. Running against other custom affinity targeting layered with topic targeting has also worked really well in terms of impressions, low CPCs, and low bounce rates.”

How to Create a Custom Affinity Audience

Creating your own custom affinity audiences is quite easy. Here’s how:

1. Create a new Display Campaign (or edit an existing one)

2. Go to Audiences

3. Select Affinity and Custom Affinity



4. At the bottom, select Custom Affinity Audience

create custom affinity


5. You are now given the option to name your new audience and input specific interests, URLs, places, and apps

custom affinity targeting

6. After you’ve finished inputting your variables, you can preview the estimated size of your custom affinity audience

dianne manansala cpc strategyThat’s it — you now have your own custom affinity audience to ready for targeting.

“I’d recommend using CAA if you are looking for branding and awareness, as you can get some pretty wide reach with this targeting option alone. If you’re not looking for that wide reach and more quality traffic, I would layer on other relevant targeting options like custom affinity + topic targeting.”

Have you used custom affinity audiences? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.

Want to know more about AdWords audience targeting? Check out our post What are Google Custom Intent Audiences?


You Might Be Interested In

*By submitting your Email Address, you are agreeing to all conditions of our Privacy Policy.