Apr 10, 2018

Google Ads custom affinity audiences: tips for B2B marketers

By Supermetrics

Google AdsPerformance Marketing Analytics

[ Updated Apr 10, 2018 ]

10-MINUTE READ · By Tina Arnoldi on April 10 2018.

There is no shortage of ways to reach people through Google Ads. With the Display Network reaching 90% of people online and remarketing an option to connect with past site visitors, it seems impossible to escape from Google ads. (Even with the recent changes in ad-blocking on the Chrome browser.) In this post, I want to introduce Custom Affinity Audiences and explain why they matter for B2B.

Affinity audiences are not new. Google introduced them almost five years ago. They give us the opportunity to reach people through a combination of factors, such as interests, demographics, and browsing behavior. This was magic for the B2C market, which is clear when you look at the categories for predefined audiences, such as include arts, entertainment, and luxury shoppers. But it wasn’t the best for the B2B market I serve, which is often consists of high level decision makers in IT. The introduction of Custom Affinity Audiences at the end of 2014 has helped.

With this tactic, I can combine a list of relevant keywords and web pages to create an audience. Google takes those entries and creates a cookie pool of people which match the criteria I set. Note that it is not an exact match of searchers, meaning I don’t have the exact people that can be defined by that activity. Instead, it’s based on personas, meaning a marketer can build out multiple personas based on research and then use that discovery to create custom audiences. There are several strategies for utilizing these audiences in B2B marketing.

To reach a competitor’s audience (sort of)

Combine the data you know about your competitors, such as their websites, products, and relevant keywords, or their brand name, to build an audience. You are not targeting their exact audience. Instead you build based on that persona developed from your research. Google uses what you enter to find people with similar interests across the web. This gives you the potential to get in front of people who may not yet be familiar with your brand.

To connect with people based on what they read

Is there a site you would love to be on that does not allow for placements?. List relevant trade publications or news sites that your audience tends to read rather than competitors sites when you create your audience.

When you can’t access your client’s data

I have client who has to jump through some serious hoops to get approval to remarket to previous site visitors or use CRM data for Customer Match advertising. If you find yourself in this situation, you can build out personas based on what you know about the client or utilize research they have already conducted. (If you can at least view their Analytics data, see if they enabled demographics and interests and if that audience matches the personas).

To reach the “non-decision makers”

According to Forrester, 70% of B2B buyers research online before reaching the sales department and much of that research is likely done by someone other than the primary decision maker. For lack of a better term, these are your “non-decision makers”.

You already know that a number of people are involved in large B2B purchases, 5.4 on average. But these decision makers have to learn about your product somewhere and that introduction may be from employees who do not have a role in the final decision. What do you know about that person? Create that introductory audience separately and use messaging that’s more educational to build awareness of your brand so you are top of mind later in the process.

When you want to target a location

In a digitally connected world where our reach is now global, it does not matter where businesses are located. The B2B world is much more complex than B2C and the physical location of the vendor rarely matters for big purchases.

Even though the business location does not matter, where your audience spends time does matter, such as at large industry conferences. Create your custom affinity audience based on your predetermined criteria, then choose the zip code where that industry conference will be held. This is a very narrow targeting and a good example of layering strategies.

For all audiences, make sure you’re promoting great content

In the early research stages, people look for great content – not your product. The below image from Eccolo Media highlights the need for quality content. And if your content is original research, you will have even more of an impact since 74% of B2B buyers are influenced by that type of content in their purchase decision.

You’re selling an idea and what you sell depends on who you sell too. Assuming you developed audiences based on multiple personas in your organization, you will want slightly different messaging for each audience. Do not make the mistake of only one message for all Display campaigns.

For example, the employees doing initial research will not respond to a “make an appointment” message. It does not make sense when they are educating themselves about their problem and may not even have a brand in mind. The appointment or demo comes later in the process. The right message for the right segment relies on tightened themed audiences.

Wrapping up

Keep in mind that custom affinity audiences are about reaching people across the web, with the key phrase being “reach”. If you use this strategy in your Google Ads campaigns, do so because you want to reach those B2B buyers very early on, rather than reaching them when they are ready for purchase.

As you create audiences, compare Google’s view of your audience to your Google Analytics data for your new and existing visitors. This strategy of using Custom Affinity Audiences may not work for every single B2B digital marketing campaign, but fortunately Display Network advertising is often less expensive than the Search Network and like with all Google Ads campaigns, you can turn this one and off. The fun part of digital marketing is testing new ideas!

About Tina Arnoldi

Tina Arnoldi is Analytics and Google Ads Qualified and one of the few people in the United States recognized as a Google Developer Expert(GDE) for marketing. Her agency, 360 Internet Strategy, is also a Google Partner. You can learn more about her on LinkedIn

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