Google Ads Targeting

Google Ads Targeting: Wonderful or Worrisome?

Author Nina Grewal 8 min read time

Google Ads is by no means a Night Stalker – a great Netflix true-crime series, do go and watch – but it does have ways of making sure you see ads specifically. Google Ads allows for users to be targeted by demographics such as location, age, gender, and even by your interests and purchase intent (i.e., we know you’ve been spending a bit too much time online shopping. It’s okay, we’ve all been guilty of this for the past year).



I am going to discuss a few of the types of targeting available to us on Google Ads. Retargeting is covered on another blog here, which also happens to be written by me. (No self-promo going on here, I promise it is useful information).


Demographic Targeting:

Google Ad’s demographic targeting can target or exclude people who identify as a certain gender, age group, household income (in select countries), and parental status (Gmail, Video, and Display only). There is a specific list of available ages (over 18 only), genders, household income bands, and parental status’ you can choose to either include or exclude from your campaigns, once data has pulled in.

Say you own a health shop catering to young women, and want to make sure your ads are seen by women of a certain age only – this is where demographic targeting will become your best friend.



In the above example, you can then exclude men as a demographic from your Google Ads targeting, and if your health products are aimed at Gen-Z women in addition, you can exclude ages outside of the 18-24 age bracket, just to make your ad visibility that much more specific.


Location Targeting

If you want to get specific with where in the world your ads are showing – not a problem at all. Google Ads can target countries, locations within these countries, or a specific radius, which is extremely useful if your business is geo-focused.



The location options let you target people who are in, regularly in, or who have shown interest in your targeted locations. You can also simply target people in or regularly in your targeted locations, or people who are just searching for your targeted locations.

You can also exclude users in locations and users who have shown interest in these locations. If you don’t want your ex seeing your ads, go ahead and exclude the radius around their house, they’ll be none the wiser.

Some examples of how you might use location targeting is if you are a brand delivering goods worldwide:

  • It would be wise if you target all of the countries your business is located in and delivers to
  • If, for example, you apply this and see your business giving you a low CPA in specific cities but a high CPA everywhere else, then target the high ROAS cities only
  • If you feel like your business would do better locally, remove existing location targeting, and simply use the radius targeting option to show ads to users who are in close proximity


Device Targeting:

Whether you own a computer, mobile phone, TV, tablet, or all of the above – Google Ads Display and Video campaigns can target the users of the above devices. This is really useful depending on what service you’re advertising for – you want to advertise an app exclusive to tablets? Go ahead and target tablet devices only.

For Search, the most precise you can get is by adding bid adjustments to the devices your ads are showing on, in order to increase or decrease the ad frequency on a device by lowering or raising these bids.

Display and Video ads go all in and take no prisoners – not only can you target by device, you can target by things such as the operating systems, the model of the device, and also networks.



For example, if you owned an iOS Apple device shop, and wanted owners of iOS Apple devices exclusively to see your ads, by clicking on ‘Device Models’, this brings a drop-down menu of particular iPhone/iPad/iPod models. You are then able to target users of these models in order to bring the most relevant traffic to your page, which is a no-brainer if trying to refine your ad audience.


Audience Targeting:

Audience targeting is probably one of my favourite methods of targeting on Google Ads, you can show your ads to people based upon their hobbies, interests, marital status, product categories they’re looking at online, YouTube videos they’re watching, etc.



Note that there are two types of settings you can apply to audiences within a campaign:

  • Targeting: this means that you are only targeting the users in the selected audiences for your campaigns. In short, your ads will only pop up for people in these audiences, which is a bit limiting
  • Observation: this setting means that you aren’t only targeting the users in the specific audiences you have selected – you are ‘observing’ how your ads do with these audiences without cutting back on ad exposure. This is useful if you want to assess which audiences will be most effective to switch to the ‘targeting’ option

In a nutshell, audience targeting works by targeting users according to their interests and habits, what they want to buy (online window-shopping, as I like to call it), and some slightly more detailed demographic information than we have discussed above – known respectively as Affinity, In-Market, and Detailed Demographic audiences.

Affinity audiences focus on what people are most enthused about, where their interests lie. For example, if your business was a cosmetics brand and you were looking to target users who have a heightened interest in beauty products, you could select the Beauty & Wellness category. This would show ads to users who have been making beauty-related searches and site visitations, which will increase the chances of them clicking on your ad and producing a conversion.

In-Market audiences – or online window shopping audiences –  are more focused on what users want to buy as opposed to their specific interests. In-Market audiences show ads to users who are in the ‘consideration’ stage of buying something, perhaps adding items from similar websites to yours into their cart, or even having bought something from you before.

Detailed Demographic audiences do exactly as they are described – they go into a bit more detail than the demographic types we have covered above and allow for refinement if you are looking to target someone of a specific status. The available demographics to target are:

  • Parental status
  • Marital Status
  • Education
  • Homeownership Status
  • Employment

For example, if you wanted your ads to cater to single parents of a specific education level, Detailed Demographics would be your go-to method of targeting.



You may be thinking: ‘How does Google Ads know where people live, how old they are, and what gender they identify as? They may as well know security questions to online banking apps! It might freak my customers out…’ This isn’t marketers being stalkers!



It’s quite simple, really: Google Ads is not always going to be 100% accurate, but depending on user settings in Google accounts (i.e., listing age/gender) and how one uses Google in general, this can then be used to gain an idea of what demographic a user is in. So basically, we’re just working with what we’ve got, and this helps to show ads to the most relevant users.

Sometimes users are listed as an ‘Unknown’ demographic when looking at data your account is pulling in, but this is to be expected – we may be able to get super granular with our targeting, but Google isn’t going to have access to the status of all internet users on Earth. An option could be adding the ‘Unknown’ category as an exclusion, but if most of your conversions/traffic is coming from there, you might negatively impact your account.

I hope the above has been useful in shedding some light on how some of the targeting options work on Google Ads – demographic and audience targeting is the opposite of creepy, really: you’re helping customers by serving them the most relevant ads possible in accordance with who they are as a person, and what they are most interested in.

You’re not a stalker – you’re a productive marketer.



Nina has spent over two years working on the PPC team, leading campaign and account plan creations and providing general account management for a number of clients, of which include Roche and The Royal Collection Trust. She also has expertise in paid social ads, having run both LinkedIn and Facebook campaigns alongside PPC.