What are Custom Intent Audiences and why should I use them?

Custom Intent Audiences (CIAs)are essentially highly-targeted audiences that can be created in Google Ads to target users who are showing search and website viewing behavior that indicates they have intent to purchase products or services similar to what your business offers. They have been around for a couple of years but are often a forgotten or overlooked audience that can be used for driving online conversion activity!

This audience type is very similar to the pre-built In-Market Audiences that are available within Google Ads. However, some industries do not have pre-built audiences available or they may reach too broad of a market. Custom Intent Audiences on-the-other hand allow you to take your targeting to the next step and specifically hone in on search keywords or website URL traffic behavior that can reach an audience that is more likely to benefit from seeing your ad.

What can I target with Custom Intent Audiences?

The best thing about CIAs is that you can choose as broad or as specific of keywords and URLs as you want! In some circumstances (like limited budgets), you may want to get as granular as possible to maximize the potential for conversion activity. Below are some recommended strategies to help get this audience into action.

Start from where you are

Take the top keywords from your existing paid search campaigns and start from there. We like to export our top paid search keywords and do a quick copy & paste into the audience set-up. Google Ads will then offer up a list of suggestions that you can easily add to the audience if you deem them relative to your existing keywords. This could help increase(or refine if you are going more granular) your targeted audience size.

The more, the merrier –so look to include at least 50 keywords if possible.

Target your biggest competitors

If a search user is logged into their Google account (who isn’t all the time, right?), Google is able to collect browsing data from the different websites that user visits during their web sessions. If a search user is visiting one of your top competitor’s websites, it is safe to say that this user is more than likely to also benefit from your product or service –so why not target them with a display ad and capture that business? We can do this with a CIA by simply inputting the website URLs of your competition.

Take it a step further and be sure to add in your competitor’s brands and products as keyword targets to ensure total ad domination!

Let listing websites do the heavy work for you

Many service and product categories have listing websites. Consider letting these types of pages help narrow down the specific, local traffic that you want. These types of websites generally rank very well organically, so the click traffic they receive is substantial and will help get your ads in front of highly targeted users fast. Just remember to use the local URLs to keep your audience narrowed down.

Below are some examples to help get the strategy gears moving, but a quick search for “Best [anything] in [location]” will generate some good targets.

  • Automotive listing websites like Cars.com or Autotrader.com
  • Apartment listing websites like Apartments.com or Rent.com
  • Local Services listing websites like Houzz.com or AngiesList.com
  • Lawyer listing websites like BestLawyer.com or Justia.com

Consider your user's needs and wants

Often, we silo ourselves into a box by only thinking that our targeted audience is going to search a handful of specific keywords. This works well for search(since we want to target lower funnel users with that network)–but we are talking display here, so we need to throw that mindset out of the window and consider the full user journey. Most likely, your product or service is meant to satisfy an issue that the user has, so this means that we should be in front of them with an ad right at the moment that they are searching for ways to solve that issue.

For example, a new freshman going to a new university knows that they need housing for the upcoming school year. However, they might not be as concerned with finding the right apartment (which is what you are looking to provide them) at that moment because they are wanting to find a roommate first. So, by considering that they may be searching terms like “find roommates at Texas A&M” or “roommates in College Station”, you can target these keywords and get your display ad directly in front of the student before they have even considered the actual apartment. We just generated big brand awareness points that could result in multiple future residents!

This is a strategy that can be used across any industry so take some time to consider your target user’s customer journey with thoughtful keyword targets.

Reach customers when they don't know they need you

Consider the idea that most consumers may be searching for and buying products or services that are complementary to yours is next-level marketing. For example, when getting a new cell phone, we typically need a phone case, new earbuds, multiple chargers, etc. Or, maybe we bought a new house and don’t realize we now need lawn service. Or, maybe we just purchased a new mattress but didn’t consider new bedding. Literally, anything that is sold is complementary to another product or service!

Develop a strategic keyword and URL list to build this type of CIA. For example, the consumer who just bought a new mattress (or maybe is considering one) probably did a lot of searches for mattress reviews and sales, looked at mattress store websites, and probably even searched for how to dispose of your old mattress. As an advertiser selling bedding, you can target this specific user through these types of searches and URLs with ads for your luxurious, 1,000 thread count Egyptian Cotton bed sheets, generating brand awareness, product consideration, and potentially impulsive purchases!

google search for coffee

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