Audience Targeting Vs Keyword Targeting

The shared goal between audience and keyword targeting is to create a successful PPC campaign. In order to do so, you need to ensure that you’re targeting the most relevant users for your business. Easier said than done I know, but a highly relevant user is often somebody who is more likely to react or take an action when they see your ads.

So, that being said, what is the best way to reach your target audience? Is it via audience targeting or keyword targeting? Let’s find out.

What is audience targeting?

Audience targeting is essentially relying on a sequence of data based on things such as age, gender, wage, location, interests etc. Whilst there are many businesses and industries which thrive off audience targeting. I’d like to use a great example which challenges the relevancy of it. In a book I’m currently reading by Kirk Williams, “Ponderings of a PPC Professional” he gives a prime example of how audience marketing can often have its downfalls.

“I have two teenage daughters,” he revealed, with no small amount of pride.

“They are within 18 months of each other, so in age demographic targeting, they are the same person”

“They are both young women, so in gender demographic targeting, they are the same person”

“They are both my daughters in my care, so in income demographic targeting, they are the same person”

“They are both living in my house, so in geographical targeting, they are the same person”

“They share the same friends, so in social targeting, they are the same person.”

“However, in terms of personality, they couldn’t be more different. One is artistic and enjoys heels and dresses and makeup.” He reflected, “the other loves the outdoors and sports, and spends her time in blue jeans and sneakers.”

If an audience-marketing marketer selling spring dresses saw them in her marketing list, she would:

  • See two older high school girls with the same income in the same geographic area;
  • Assume they are both interested in what she has to sell; and
  • Only make one sale

The problem isn’t with her targeting, the problem is that not all those forced into an audience persona box will fit.

In my years as a PPC account manager, I do believe that audience marketing in general has improved. And there is certainly value in it (when it’s accurate). But I feel as though audience marketing relies too heavily on the law of averages.

What is keyword targeting?

Keyword targeting is practically the opposite of audience targeting, in the way that the user is pre-qualified due to the intent when featuring for keywords in your account. 

Keywords are extremely powerful as it takes a user to actually write, or speak, your chosen keyword, rather than assume their intent by demographic grouping.

In short (In my opinion), audience targeting is based on assumptions of users which fit the marketing templates. Whereas keyword targeting takes no notice of your age, gender, income or geographic location. It only cares about what’s on your mind, or what you’re actively searching to find, and that in my opinion, is what makes keyword targeting so powerful.

Without sounding too philosophical, keyword targeting is a form of communication, and when a user is actively searching for keywords you have in your account, you are essentially connected, and that is a targeting method in any industry which can’t be underestimated.

For example;

When a user types into Google “Converted barn wedding venue”

They’re essentially telling your client (Rustic Barnes UK) that they are searching for an idyllic converted barn for their wedding venue.

That’s when keyword targeting can accurately react with a suited ad which matches their users exact intent.

“Looking For Your Dream Wedding Venue? View Our Luxury Converted Barns – Contact Us Today”

Keyword targeting doesn’t go about its business hoping to find relevant users based on demographical assumptions, it responds to users which are actively interested in your business.

Whilst paid search is a rapidly changing industry, it still is heavily surrounded by the “search” aspect of course, which requires communication & words (until the time comes when the English language is taken over by GIFS and memes).

From a social media marketing perspective, audiences are much more targeted and can often provide some brilliant results for various industries. After all, there’s a reason why the demand for a high-quality social media management team has never been higher. 

Whilst paid search marketers have found some great success with audience targeting. I think, for the time being, we can confidently say that audience targeting for social, and keyword targeting for search is the most effective targeting method for their own respective sectors.

As a marketer, I will always keep an open mind, especially when it comes to learning new things and ultimately, providing the best results possible for my clients. 

So, if you’ve got some arguments against my views on audience targeting, then I’d be happy to hear you out (whilst wearing some industrial-grade ear muffs).


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