Epic Google Display Targeting Guide 2021

Google display targeting

What is Google Display?

While browsing articles from your favourite site or watching videos on Youtube, you will notice some images or gifs along the sidebar or near the main heading.

To reach potential customers, businesses can direct their ads based on demographics, placements, interests, audiences, lifestyle and more. Perhaps you were browsing a certain website but did not make a purchase, and before you know it, you see their ads on websites everywhere.

These banners you see are ads put up by businesses via the Google Display Network.

In terms of targeting, Google Display is divided into 2 main categories, people and content.

Depending on your objective, your ideal target audience may change. This guide covers the types of targeting on the Google display network.

Here are the different types of Google display targeting that can be utilized:

Google display targeting example
Screenshot from the Google Ads console.

People targeting 

  • Audiences
  • Demographics

Content targeting

  • Keywords
  • Topics
  • Placements

People targeting

Audience targeting for Google display ads

This is based on tracking a user’s online behaviour. Google display has several categories that effectively target the right users depending on your objective. 

Google segments audiences into the following categories:

  • Who they are
  • Their interests and habits
  • What they’re actively researching or planning
  • How they’ve interacted with your business

Who they are

Detailed demographics

Reach out to potential customers based on their detailed demographics. We’re not just talking about targeting via age groups or gender. Rather, detailed demographics via Google display ads takes this one step further by segmenting audiences into the following: 

  • Education – Are they a degree holder or currently studying? 
  • Home-ownership status – Are they renting or do they own a home?
  • Marital status – Single, married or in a relationship?
  • Parental status – Parents of infants (0 – 1 years old), toddlers (1 – 2 years) etc.
Detailed demographics example

A baby retailer can target parents of infants and toddlers for products such as milk bottles or prams. 

On the other hand, a tuition centre can reach out to parents of teenagers.

Their interests and habits

Affinity audiences

Reach out to audiences passionate in a specific topic. 

Affinity audience example

If you’re an e-commerce fashion brand, you can target potential customers who are fashionistas. This targeting is based on their online behaviour that allows Google to identify their hobbies and lifestyles.

Custom affinity audiences

To dive even further with targeting, we can combine different types targeting for maximum accuracy. This includes keywords, URLs, places and apps.

Custom affinity example

A gym can show their ads to people who have visited fitness websites have searched for terms such as ‘fitness classes’, ‘weight training tips’ or ‘orchard road gym’. 

What they’re actively researching or planning

Custom intent audiences

You can create a custom audience based on keywords and URLs as well with custom intent audiences.

So, what’s the difference between custom affinity audiences and custom intent audiences?

Custom affinity targets interests and habits while custom intent reaches out to audiences in the research or planning phase.

Note: Custom intent audience targeting is not available for Google search ads.

In-market audiences

If your marketing objective is to drive performance such as generating leads or driving online sales transactions, you might want to try targeting in-market audiences.

In-marketing audiences are people who have been actively researching and are considering to buy a product or service. 

In-market audience example:

A printing company can consider reaching out to in-market audiences that are interested in business printing & document services. 

A business software company can target in-market audiences interested in enterprise software. 

Life events

Reach out to audiences based on their life milestones. For instance, we can reach out to:

  • Aspiring or new business owners
  • Couples who are getting married soon
  • People who have recently moved
  • Recently retired individuals
  • Students that are graduating soon 

Targeting life events is great for certain businesses such as business services, wedding planners, event companies, photographers, movers, relocators, insurance, property agents, florists and more. 

Life event targeting example

An accounting firm can reach out to new business owners to provide accounting or bookkeeping services. 

A florist can promote their graduation flowers to students who are graduating soon. 

How they’ve interacted with your business


With Google display, remarketing allows you to target users who landed on your website but did not send you an inquiry or complete a sales transaction.

Perhaps the customer forgot to inquire or something came up while they were making the purchase. Whatever the reason, remarketing enables your business to reconnect and remind potential customers who are actively considering your products or services.

To further refine our remarketing audience, we can show ads to people who have landed on specific pages or completed specific conversion actions.

Remarketing example:

An e-commerce business can target customers who added products to their shopping cart but did not complete the purchase. 

Similar audiences

Similar audience targeting is pretty interesting. Google is able to identify audiences that showcased similar online behaviour as your converters. 

This means that you are able to reach out to potential customers that are likely to convert since they exhibit online habits similar to your own customers.

Customer match

Customer match allows us to target existing customers using your own customer list. This allows us to send tailored messages to different customers. 

Customer match example:

To increase new client acquisition, we can run a promotional campaign to reach email subscribers that have not converted into an actual customer. 

To increase the sales value of existing customers, we can run ads to cross-sell different products or services. 

Demographic targeting for Google Display

Demographics targeting is pretty straightforward. We are able to target people based on:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Household income*
  • Parental status

*Not available in all countries. 

Demographics targeting example:

A luxury car dealer might want to target people whose income level falls under the top 10% to 20% who are aged 25 to 64.

Content targeting 

Keyword contextual targeting

This form of targeting allows Google to serve ads to users who have searched for specific keywords.

Keyword contextual targeting example: 

For instance, if you are running an e-commerce store selling sneakers, you may want to target people who searched for keywords such as ‘buy sneakers online’. 

Topic targeting

With topic targeting, you are able to serve ads on specific web pages relevant to your topic.

Topic targeting example:

A stock trading app may target topics related to investing and finance. 


Managed placements is a direct way to place your ads on specific websites or apps that you want. Usually, these websites or apps would be regularly visited by your target audience, hence are relevant to your business.

Note: The placement has to be a part of the display network for your ads to show. This means that it does not have to be a part of Google’s display network!

Campaign types that are eligible for managed placements: 

  • Display network only
  • Search network with display select
  • Video

Based on our experience, managed placements tend to cost higher in terms of cost per click as compared to other forms of target for display ads. 

Placements include:

  • Websites
  • YouTube channels
  • YouTube videos
  • Apps
  • App categories

In conclusion

This guide summarizes the different types of targeting available on Google display. Constantly optimize your Google display campaign not just via targeting, but try different ad creatives and landing pages as well.

Digital Agency Singapore - Rogue Digital - roguedigital.sg

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