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Better Targeting = Better Leads -- Demographics for SMBs

Carrie Hill
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Demographic targeting can be intimidating. The words bring to mind an army of mall survey-takers and weird statistics. But it doesn't have to be scary! Applying some small business common sense to the topic can bring you some great rewards, once you understand who wants to buy what you're trying to sell.

This article assumes a few things:

  1. You may already be running PPC advertising campaigns.

  2. You know the demographic groups you should be targeting.

Many banner advertising opportunities and targeted Web site ads are available, if you have a ton of money to throw at demographic marketing. For our purposes, we're not going to spend any more money than we're already budgeting.

Keep in mind, the narrower your demographic target, the less often your ads will show -- and the clicks will be less expensive. What do you gain from this? Your traffic numbers might dip, but your conversions should increase, because you're showing your ads to those people most likely to buy your product or service.

With narrow targeting, 1 in 10 might book as opposed to 1 in 200. Considering you've decreased your CPC and traffic volume, those 10 clicks will be significantly less expensive than 10 clicks might have been previously.

Google AdWords

There are various degrees of sophistication available within Google AdWords. Available ad targeting includes demographics such as age, gender, annual household income, ethnicity, and family size. This affords a variety of opportunities to show your ads to a narrow but very specific audience.

If you're running content network ads, you can also use site targeting to show your content ads only on sites that fit your demographic profile.

MSN AdCenter

Microsoft's AdCenter offers a very good, if less sophisticated, demographic targeting tool. You're able to target users via age and gender, which is somewhat less sophisticated than Google, but still useful for narrowing your visibility to your target demographic market.

One thing I really like about AdCenter is its tool that allows you to enter a URL or a keyword phrase and see the general and predicted demographic distribution for that URL or keyword query. This is handy as a research tool when trying to decide which demographics to target with which types of terms. I'd even use this when looking at demographic targeting in my AdWords campaigns.

Query: Brooklyn NY pizza

Yahoo Search Marketing

Yahoo Search Marketing plans on rolling out a form of demographic targeting sometime this month. I'll post a comment to this article as soon as I have info on what shape and form that will take.

Social Networking

Beyond PPC advertising, social networking is a great way to reach, engage and interact with potential customers on their "turf" and on their "terms." This serves a few purposes:

  1. You're becoming their "friend" on their terms, which -- if played right -- means you're going to be a trusted resource. How do you do this? Don't go for the hard sell. Participate, ask questions, answer questions, and be handy and helpful.

  2. You aren't relying on some third party to pull those users into your site -- you're pushing yourself out to them. Being in the right place at the right time is really what marketing is all about.

How do social networks figure into demographics? It can be as simple as searching for your target demographic and seeing where they're "hanging out" and interacting. Using the AdCenter tool mentioned above might also be a good way of gauging the interest and reach of a particular site.

Here are some examples of demographic targeting via third party Web sites:

  • Twitter. According to the AdCenter tool, this site has a male-majority audience in the age groups of 18-34.

  • Facebook. According to the same tool, this site has a female-majority audience in the 18-24 age range. If you're selling shoes or purses, do it on Facebook -- yeah that's stereotypical, but that's what I shop for. In the words of Garfield, "I resemble that remark!"

  • About.com Senior Travel Forums. If your lodging property caters to the over-55 crowd, check out this site. You don't necessarily need to be 55 to join, but you can definitely help people plan vacations to your area when they're looking for information.

  • Family- or food-oriented Web sites and forums. These are great places to market your kid's clothing shop or an online cookbook or kitchen store. Fitting what you sell with who is buying is a free way to generate traffic and buzz around your products.

Looking for more advice on how to improve your rankings or revenue from search with no dollar investments -- aside from the time it takes to research and implement these changes? Then check out my previous two installments of Little Biz: "SMB Link Building Without a Dime" and "Marketing your SMB with Time & Elbow Grease."

Join us for Search Engine Strategies New York March 23-27 at the Hilton New York. The only major search marketing conference and expo on the East Coast, SES New York will be packed with more than 70 sessions, plus more than 150 exhibitors, networking events, parties, and training days.


SimilarWeb Search and traffic sourcing are both crucial to luring shoppers to your website. In this article, "2 Successful Holiday Strategies for Online Retail", you'll learn how to use a two-pronged approach for your holiday search campaigns that combine top keywords with the best referral sites. Data in this article comes from SimilarWeb.

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