Google Will Sunset Similar Audiences in 2023 [Timelines & Next Steps]

By Tinuiti Team

It seems that the only constant is change when it comes to Google, and that sentiment certainly rings true as we take on 2023. The search landscape is constantly evolving and Google is finding new ways to drive business growth during times of uncertainty and to help businesses build more durable Google Ads strategies

In the latest announcement, starting May 2023, Google plans to sunset similar audiences. For the next six months, users will be able to utilize similar audiences while also exploring the benefits of automated solutions in preparation for this new change.

In the following article, we’ll dive into everything you need to know about the recent announcement and what marketers should do to prepare.


Why is Google Sunsetting Similar Audiences?

Marketers know first-hand how advertising practices are becoming more and more restricted and regulated due to privacy concerns. Google recognizes that the best way to stay ahead of these changes is through automation. With this update, Google plans on upgrading similar audiences to “more powerful, automated solutions, such as optimized targeting, audience expansion, and Smart Bidding.” This update will help marketers utilize first-party data to optimize campaigns to reach marketing objectives.

Should marketers be concerned about this new update? Josh O’Donnell, Sr. Strategist, Paid Search, and Connor Sheridan, Senior Manager, Shoppable Media of Tinuiti weigh in… 

“Google Ads specialists have gotten used to a lack of control with recent updates from Google including things like responsive search ads, broad match keyword enhancements, performance max campaigns, and optimized targeting. The latest announcement of similar audiences deprecation sounds scary, but it shouldn’t have a major impact on digital strategy. With the use of smart bidding & customer match lists, advertisers are already tapping into these signals with their campaigns. So if you haven’t adopted smart bidding already, there is no time like the present.”

– Josh O’Donnell, Sr. Strategist, Paid Search at Tinuiti


“Given all the changes Google has been making to prepare for a cookie-less world, it is unsurprising to see this announcement related to audiences and user privacy.  Luckily, Tinuiti is already a strong adopter of Google’s Smart Bidding, so our search and shopping campaigns will be well positioned to take advantage of this upcoming change as Google sunsets Similar Audiences, and hopefully see minimal impact to our client’s performance. “

Connor Sheridan

– Connor Sheridan, Senior Manager, Shoppable Media at Tinuiti

What about marketers who are using this feature exclusively? 

“Advertisers who are targeting these lists exclusively in Display and/or Video campaigns will still have all the benefits of similar audiences by ensuring they have a robust library of Customer Match lists and are pairing those with Google’s new Optimized Targeting in those campaigns. Google has also recently released a “New Customer Acquisition Goal” setting in Performance Max campaigns. This allows first-party data to be used exclusively for prospecting, which is very similar to how many advertisers use these similar audience lists today. This feature is expected to roll out to Search campaigns by the end of 2022.”

– Josh O’Donnell, Sr. Strategist, Paid Search at Tinuiti

How Can Marketers Prepare for This Change?

To prepare for the future of the web and the loss of third-party cookies, O’Donnell recommends that advertisers ensure they fully adopt smart bidding strategies and couple them with a robust library of customer match lists. Similar audience targeting isn’t going away, but the methods around how these lists are created and leveraged within campaigns are changing in order for them to remain effective solutions as privacy policies continue to reshape the web in the years to come. 

Within the recent announcement, Google shared the following chart to help advertisers prepare for the coming update:

For Search campaigns and regular Shopping campaigns:

 Chart with three suggestions to drive performance, value users, and acquire customers with Search and Shopping campaigns after Google retires Similar Audiences
Source: Google


For Display, Discovery, and Video action campaigns:

Chart with two suggestions to drive performance and value users with Display, Discovery, and Video campaigns after Google retires Similar Audiences
Source: Google


For YouTube Awareness and Reach Video or Consideration Video:

Chart suggesting advertisers use Audience Expansion to target personas for YouTube campaigns after Google retires Similar Audiences
Source: Google


What Happens Next?

Luckily, marketers have time to prepare for the sunsetting of similar audiences, but May will creep up quickly so it’s important to take the necessary steps so your business can be ready for what’s to come.

See below for Google’s proposed transition timeline:

Source: Google

Need Assistance Navigating this New Update?

At Tinuiti, we have a dedicated team of experts who can help you prepare for the sunsetting of similar audiences. If you have questions or concerns about this new update, please contact us today. We’d love to help set you up for success in 2023 and beyond.  

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