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Greetings readers! During this week’s PPCChat session, host Julie F Bacchini discussed targeting for PPC advertising, are experts using any first-party data for ad targeting? platforms with the best targeting options and more.

Q1: How do you decide on the targeting for your PPC advertising?

Campaign goals/objectives, funnel stage, personas if we have them, content (who is it designed to speak to) @beyondthepaid

My viewpoints (or, rather, the way I frame it) are slowly changing on this. But ultimately it boils down to one thing: who pays the client? That’s our ultimate goal whether it’s sales/leads. We just want to be in front of those who make our clients the big bucks. @gilgildner

Based on the buyer persona. @DianaAlinaAldea

I view targeting as a buyer persona question so typically will think about 1. Locations 2. Baked in audiences 3. Ways people search/consume content 4. Proactive exclusions (audiences, placements, negatives) @navahf

Campaign and business goals, as well as the reality of the business – what kind of business is it? Where is it? Who does it serve? etc. @revaminkoff

We always work with clients to figure out audiences to target and test and then utilize the tools available in the platforms to get as close as we can to what we want to actually target and/or test. @NeptuneMoon

Where I think some folks get “stuck” is in trying to do too many things in the same campaign or ad group/ad set. It’s not realistic to be able to cover all your market in a single campaign. @navahf

I love keywords because you can’t beat the high intent. But things have moved more toward audience targeting, so you’ve got to know the “who” that you’re trying to get in front of. Then you offer solutions to their problems/pain points. @robert_brady

We typically base our targeting on the client’s goals, their ideal customer personas, and top-priority locations. From there we do keyword/audience research & follow the data to finalize our targeting criteria & campaign structure. @adclarke10

We get into audience and targeting at the planning stage. a lot of our traffic sheets are built based on mapping platform audiences to the people we need to reach. @JuliaVyse

I have a comprehensive research process that I follow before setting a campaign. Be it for any platform. Step 1: Ask the basic Biz Qs. Step 2: Fill the research sheet. It includes these research: – Business – Industry – Audience – Current Market Trends. @1tagupta

Hey gang! Late to the party today! Ideally, when working out audiences I like to have a look at what data we have available and trying to build some rough personas to see if this correlates with what the client is seeing. @PPC_Fraser

Oh, an open question, I like it Firstly, we’d talk to the client about their offering and current customer base, as well as reviewing any analytics or advertising data already available. Secondly, we then look at KPIs as well as predicted/avg costs & CVRs @C_J_Ridley

My approach typically involves first understanding the product & identifying the core 20% of the target audience. Once I have a clear understanding of these factors, I begin to formulate a targeting strategy aligned with the specific stages of the marketing funnel. @sonofgorkhali

Finally, we’d work out which strategy, platform/ad types and keywords/audiences would work best to reach their target audience with the available budgets and set KPIs @C_J_Ridley

100% comes down to the audience I want/need to reach. @JonKagan

Combination of Clients input + product research + analytics, gads history, insights + gut, And then after a proper plan, trying to identify 20% that brings 80% results… somehow it works always for a good start. @bbn4SUM

Q2: Has your process for targeting changed in the last few years? Either how you think about it or how you actually set it up within platforms?

Speaking about search specifically, audiences have become a must-have instead of a nice-to-have. And you need to think outside the box for audiences – not just the obvious choices. Audiences also are a signal for smart bidding. @beyondthepaid

It’s expanded! the underlying logic is the same, but the in-platform set-up has evolved. @JuliaVyse

Keywords are vastly different now. The way we research is changing entirely. So now we are basically going back to Marketing 101 in a way…with an outsized emphasis on brand/awareness while making sure we capture all remaining intent-based searches. @gilgildner

ABSOLUTELY! However, the core strategy remains the same. Mechanically I now: 1. Cry over the loss of similar audiences and instead use custom intent audiences to focus competitors 2. Factor in the baked-in audiences in broad match. @navahf

Do we all use the Insights Finder? It’s fire! @JuliaVyse

It has changed a little, in the sense I noticed going very narrow or segmented doesn’t make a big difference anymore. Instead of creating huge audience lists, now it seems to be more important to give few but good signals to the campaign, so it can expand from there. @DianaAlinaAldea

Have found that approach to targeting has changed dramatically with the changes in platforms e.g. GA4 has had a big impact on collating data on audiences. Also, think that purges around FB audience data had hampered results. @PPC_Fraser

Audiences are more important even when using keywords because Google is using the match types much more liberally. @revaminkoff

LOTS of observational audiences to collect data – no harm and they can be very helpful. @revaminkoff

3. Have an honest conversation with clients about how much visual content they need for their desired market (and whether their best people want visual vs text). 4. Proactive exclusions at the start of the campaign 5. I think of keywords as audiences. @navahf

I would say the goals I have for settling on targeting have not changed. But, how I can actually target potential customers has almost completely changed. And that has required some pondering and updating of how we execute our targeting ideas. @NeptuneMoon

Echoing what others have said about audience creeping into search platforms. When talking to prospective clients, Q’s on existing audience lists now brought to the fore. No longer ‘we’ll get to that later @heyglenns

6. I no longer cling to analytics audiences if I have small accounts. Much better to use custom intent ones and let competitors pay for the data. 7. Social ads are no longer the hyper-target champions. creative has to be applicable for many. @navahf

Doing a lot of search advertising, the whole evolution of the role of the keyword continues to shake things up. It’s harder to only target very high-intent, high-converting keywords w/out also getting noise traffic. Balancing stopping waste & new opps is tough. @NeptuneMoon

I don’t think it’s changed too much for us on the platform side. But I definitely approach it differently with clients. Instead of trying to figure it out mostly on our own, I’ll ask for more detailed info up front, like sales sheets, buyer personas, etc. @adclarke10

Yes When budget and time allows it, in Search platforms, I like to use broader keywords (not always broad match though) to mine for data and identify the highly relevant and highly valuable (CVR or Conv. Value) search terms. @C_J_Ridley

Search-based targeting changed…with Google’s moved goalposts. We have “new” broad, phrase, exact (+ semantic) match types. Demand gen evolved (also platform-driven) to req. better inputs (creative, audience signals), trusting algorithms to find the right folks. @teabeeshell

I then layer audiences onto the broad keywords, while using the newly-mined terms as tighter keywords (not always Exact match) with no audience restrictions The audiences used are determined by client insights & the data collected while in Observation mode. @C_J_Ridley

Few parts majorly: – Intent Targeting I used to do it earlier but now, I test campaigns without it. – Keywords Targeting Doing Commercial & Transactional based targeting now. – Retargeting I find audience data relatively skewed with GA4 now. @1tagupta

Well Pmax has changed it, and losing similar audiences soon will change it for me. @JonKagan

Q3: Are you using “first-party data” in any of your ad targeting? If so, how and on which platform(s)?

Very little, but aiming to bring more in later this year. 1st party in public sector isn’t really a thing. @JuliaVyse

Yes, absolutely, except for clients in jurisdictions or verticals which restrict this heavily. @gilgildner

First-party audiences can be surprisingly tough for B2B advertisers. They’ll come to us and say “We have a list of 100 people, can we use that?” Size is a problem, as are match rates. @beyondthepaid

Yes, on all major platforms wherever possible. @timothyjjensen

I mainly use 1st party data lists on Google – customer lists to work as signals in PMax, or leads from gated content (case studies, webinar) in upper funnels with the intent of warming them up. @DianaAlinaAldea

Absolutely use hashed customer data whenever available. V1 = Manually, periodically download from CRM/CMS, reformat, upload/add as CSV to Audience in GAds. V2 = Push segments from Klaviyo/ESP to GAds for a “live,” always updated Audience. (Love this new method.) @teabeeshell

Absolutely we are – enhanced conversions are the best and targeting on conversion values is crucial. That said, it’s been really interesting to see which clients “cared” about #GA4 backups and who is coasting. @navahf

Have done some work with first-party data for clients. BUT… I always bring up liability when we talk about using 1st party data. And strongly encourage them to get their policies and terms in order BEFORE diving in too deep. It is advertiser who is liable now. @NeptuneMoon

On social, I use them to create lookalikes. @DianaAlinaAldea

Make sure you have language in your contracts about client being fully responsible for any first-party data the is provided and/or used on ad platforms! Clearly state that you’re relying on them getting permission. Talk to your biz insurance agent about this too. @NeptuneMoon

Yes – mostly for retargeting campaigns, as well as excluding existing customers/leads, on Google Ads, Microsoft Advertising, and LinkedIn. @adclarke10

Yes, we’re using first-party data for audience exclusions in our some Google Ads accounts and then some Google Analytics segments too (GA counts as FPD right?) @C_J_Ridley

Yes, both for targeting and exclusion. On every platform we can. @JonKagan

Absolutely. Especially since it enhances smart bidding by adding that key signal. Mostly I either manually download and add it from various CRMs or try to synchronize it with tools like Klaviyo/Zapier. @bbn4SUM

Q4: Which platforms have the best targeting options currently, in your opinion and why?

I mean, best? I like Google keywords + audience layer. I like TikTok interests + followers I like Pinterest & LinkedIn for specificity in more abstract audiences. Even Spotify targeting is pretty great. no full-on BEST anymore IMO. @JuliaVyse

Side note: does anyone else wish that Ad Platforms would automatically be in “Observation” mode for all built-in audience segments, so you can start collecting relevant data immediately and then narrow it down to only the audiences you want to Observe or Target? @C_J_Ridley

Twitter is again very diverse, but it’s harder to achieve what you can with Google, for example. @DianaAlinaAldea

Good targeting: Google, LI So So targeting: Bing Bad: FB, Insta @sonofgorkhali

So this is going to seem like it comes out of nowhere, but @amazon is pretty fantastic for targeting options. After them, both @GoogleAds & @MSFTAdvertising are pretty robust. I’m not a fan of how hit-and-miss #facebook is. @navahf

Google Ads is still probably the best/most direct for targeting. Microsoft tries and mostly succeeds. LI unrivaled for biz targets. Twitter & FB – messy. I also like Quora in the right situation. @NeptuneMoon

Wow, complex/nuanced question based on what I’m trying to accomplish. Would agree with others who rank Google and LI toward the top here. @timothyjjensen

I truly love @MSFTAdvertising LinkedIn targeting, but it struggles due to volume @JonKagan

So long as Google preserves some semblance of KW targeting, there is no other (probabilistic) targeting that comes close. Accuracy is highest when customers raise their own hands, self-identify. Scale is finite scale, so colder demand gen will always be necessary. @teabeeshell

Being mostly in the B2B & lead gen space, we have the most success with LinkedIn & Google Ads. Keywords & custom audiences are my favourite options on Google, and LinkedIn’s value is in the vast number of combinations & exclusions that we can use. @adclarke10

Q5: What is your biggest ad-targeting frustration?

The lack of B2B targeting options in most platforms other than LinkedIn. Keyword ambiguity in search that’s only gotten worse – although if you can find the right audiences and layer them, keyword targeting has actually gotten better. @beyondthepaid

I find audience overlaps to be sooo frustrating. It’s hard to know which audience was the one that made the difference. @revaminkoff

Location exclusions, and detailed audience exclusions. Across platforms. and of course, clients who want to measure awareness campaigns with traffic Goals. but I don’t think Google can solve that. @JuliaVyse

The accidental industry flagging that causes targets to come across as a violation of policy. I don’t mind playing by the rules – I do mind when I do play by the rules and get flagged anyway XD Also audience size too small. @navahf

Keeping track of constant changes in what we can/can’t target -Lack of understanding of actual intent in many cases (come on AI, get it together) @timothyjjensen

The shrinking data pool for search terms and the ever-loosing settings for match types. I understand why audience targeting has been limited for GDPR reasons and privacy but when I see screenshots of 60% of search terms being listed as “Other” it scares me. @C_J_Ridley

Honestly, it is probably the whole “just tell us your dreams & let us figure it out” mantra of the platforms. I want a better mixture of business input WITH the power of a bajillion data points within a platform. @NeptuneMoon

I don’t have smth that frustrates. But an incident came to mind – the fact you cannot retarget an audience of video viewers on LinkedIn unless it has more than 300 users, but it doesn’t give you any insight on how close you are to that number. @DianaAlinaAldea

Despite my best targeting efforts, still seeing spam conversions (obviously fake lead data being submitted). Who is out there submitting spam leads to pump up the conversion rates on their junk search partner sites? Wait. @robert_brady

I’m making my peace w/ fewer targeting controls. (There are still paths to success.) The lack of actionable data/targeting *insights* drives me mad. Google withholds b/c they don’t exist…or they would lead advertisers to spend in ways less profitable to Google. @teabeeshell

Keyword matching has been much less clean the last 1-2 years, which continues to be a pain (both Google & Bing). I’m also not a fan of Microsoft’s recent move that forces us to run Search campaigns on the Audience Network. The traffic quality just isn’t good there. @adclarke10

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