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Interest Category Targeting in Google AdWords

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A long sought-after and powerful behavioral targeting mechanism is now available to all AdWords advertisers. The new targeting feature for the Display Network, Google Interest Category Targeting, had been in beta since 2009.

How does this work? For the most part, having your ads shown on sites in the Display Network relied upon the content of the page to trigger ads. If an article was about cameras and that's what you sold, your ad might display on that page. Targeting your ads by Interest Categories adds a new layer on this.

From the Inside AdWords blog:

"With contextual targeting on the Google Display Network, you can find people the very moment they express interest by browsing relevant content. But what happens if someone who has been browsing for cameras then goes on to read a separate news site or favorite blog? A marketer for a camera company would like to show that interested user an ad, but they can't use contextual targeting to reach them, since the site is unrelated."

That's where these behavioral categories come into play. When someone's profile relates to a category you assign your ads, you can target that user with your ads, even if their future browsing is on unrelated sites. Handy!

For the past two years Google has been amassing and combing its user browsing and profile data into an initial taxonomy of over 1,700 categories. To see how Google has profiled you for targeting (and to refine or opt-out), check out Google Ad Preferences. It was shockingly accurate with it's suggestions for me and that's the point.

Google is tracking you and building a profile based upon your interests. Creepy? Yes. But very powerful if you can flip it around for your own advertising gains. Let's dive in!

AdWords Audiences Tab

The settings for Interest Category Targeting are in the Audience Tab of your Adwords Campaigns. To make sure you can see the proper tab, select it from the dropdown menu at the right of your tab bar.

In your selected ad group, once you click on your new Audience Tab you should see a button allowing your to +add audiences. This button will enable you to start searching, browsing, and selecting Interest Categories for your ads.

AdWords Add Audiences

The most versatile function, and something that I'm sure you'll be able use to your creative advertising advantage, is the new Custom Combinations feature. In short, you can take your selected interest categories, match them to various remarketing lists with and/or/not functionality, and create some very unique behavioral opportunities for your targeting across the Google Display Network.

Using this method you could feasibly target someone who had come to your site but not yet become a customer while excluding those who had. I know I get tired of getting followed around by an advertisement for something I just purchased. Perhaps you could even step up your game one more notch and offer a special ad for visitors who had purchased, as a thank you or a discounted upsell opportunity.

AdWords New Custom Combination

Google has once again upped the ante on the advertising game and, for the first time in a while, reignited my interest in the Display Network. What can you do with Google Interest Category Targeting?


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