When you’re browsing the web, do you ever feel like you look something up one day, and then get hounded by ads for it for the week after?

By now, most people are at least generally familiar with the notion that their web activity influences the ads that they’ll see later–that or they just think the world is full of coincidences. But lesser known are the exact mechanisms that companies can use to, well, “follow” their prospective clients around.

Targeting Google Ads Display Advertising 

Using online display advertising can be a bit tricky–it’s good for producing a ton of impressions and clicks for a relatively small amount of money compared to search advertising, but it doesn’t yield the same high caliber of traffic. Even if you’ve defined your targeted locations well, just turning on a display ad to show to any and all web users in that geographic area is no more likely to produce engagement than just throwing a billboard on the highway outside of town. At that point, it’s a misuse of all the great technology you have at your disposal.

To properly utilize Google Ads and the Google Display Network, your online banners need some form of enhanced targeting to ensure they’re going to people who have a higher likelihood to patronize your business. Here’s three main ways to do that. 

 

1. Remarketing

 

The most obvious and prescient method is remarketing. For this, you’ll need to set up a Google Tag Manager account (free) for your website and install the associated code onto your site. Once that’s there, you can create a remarketing tag within the Tag Manager account that will fire when someone interacts with your site.

Tag Manager will gather the data, and if properly linked to your Google Ads account, you will then be able to use that information as a target audience automatically. When setting up your targeted audience, click “Browse”, then “Website visitors” and you will be able to select a subset of people who have previously visited your site through Google Ads (“All visitors (Google Ads)”) or even a more specific group, like people who have previously browsed your product inventory.

 

2. Customer Lists

 

Another way to retarget high value customers is extremely simple: Customer lists. If you have their contact information, perhaps through a mailing list or promotion signup, you can simply upload a properly-formatted spreadsheet containing that information into Google Ads, which will then go about matching the web users and culling them into a targeted list. 

It only works for those with Google accounts–like a Gmail account or a YouTube login with matching information–but given the ubiquity of Google’s online services, it has a very high match rate. But, you’ll need a substantial number of contacts already for Google to accept and use such lists.

 

3. Smart Audiences

 

The last key display ad targeting method, and perhaps the most practical, is to let Google do the hard work. Because everyone uses Google for everything, it has obscene amounts of data, and can use that to learn user tendencies and create smart groups based on interests and internet behavior. 

I, for instance, am currently searching for a new used car. I’ve spent hours Googling resources about various recent sedans; I have browsed dozens of Subaru Legacy and Impreza listings using Google Chrome on both my phone and laptop; I have made calls to Subaru dealers directly from Google Maps. And, wouldn’t you know, I’m now seeing used Subaru Legacy ads from dealerships whose sites I didn’t visit.

This is because all that web behavior has almost certainly put me into one of Google’s smart audiences–which your business can then select to target its display ads at people who have been actively and recently looking for the products and services you provide.

Target Wisely

All these methods have their merit. Perhaps you want to reward customer loyalty, so you go with a manually-created customer list. Maybe you want to keep bringing people back to the site in hopes of spurring a sale that way, you use remarketing. Perhaps you just want to cast a wider, smarter net with little work, you select a Google audience. Or you can combine all three.

No matter your goals, there’s always a way to target your Google Ads display advertising better. Is the future a little creepy? Yes, sure. Can your business take advantage of it to sell more product? Absolutely.

Ryan Black

Ryan Black joined PCG Digital in 2018 as a content writer. He’s a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and the best friend of a small Australian Cattle Dog. When he’s not at work writing about cars, he’s usually at home writing about hockey, his favorite sport.

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