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Use affinity audiences to increase the ROI of your online ads

Back to all resources

Use affinity audiences to increase the ROI of your online ads

Key take-aways

As people spend more of their time online – from shopping to search and messaging – they deposit valuable data. Dog lovers buy leashes, foodies watch cooking videos, and technophiles read technology news. Google Ads captures these digital signals and organises people into affinity audiences.

Businesses can improve the return on investment (ROI) of their advertising spend by creating display ads for affinity audiences. In this article you’ll learn more about affinity audiences and how you can use them to enhance your Google Ads campaign results.

1. What are affinity audiences?

2. How do affinity audiences work?

3. What are the benefits of affinity audiences?

4. How can I improve my ads even further?

What is ROI?

How much profit you've made from your ads compared to how much you've spent on those ads.

Learn how to measure your ROI

1. What are affinity audiences?

Affinity audiences are groups of people who share similar interests or hobbies, such as pet lovers, sports fans, or avid investors.

The concept of an affinity audience was originally developed for TV advertising because businesses wanted their TV ads shown to the audiences that were interested in buying their products. For example, sports equipment manufacturers wanted to show their TV ads to sports enthusiasts. The networks that sold TV ads created affinity audiences to allow businesses to select affinity groups from a list.

Affinity audiences work just the same in display advertising online. Business owners can drive up their advertising ROI by selecting groups of people based on their interests.

2. How do affinity audiences work?

Google Ads groups people by affinity based on digital signals such as their search history, the videos they've watched, and email activity. Business owners can select these affinity groups in one of three ways:

Based on their interests

Google learns people's interests and habits from the keywords they use to search and the websites they visit. Within Google Ads, there are 12 interest group categories, which include:

  • Banking & Finance
  • Beauty & Wellness
  • Food & Dining
  • Sports & Fitness
  • Travel

Each category contains one or more affinity audience. Within the Travel category, there are Business Travelers and Travel Buffs. Within Food & Dining, there are Cooking Enthusiasts, Fast Food Cravers, and Foodies. If a small business like an upscale Italian restaurant wants to rule out those who like fast food or those who prefer to cook for themselves, they can select Foodies.

More advanced advertisers can also create custom affinity audiences by inputting relevant keywords, website URLs, or locations that their desired audience visits, such as the supermarket or sports arenas. A London tailor, for example, could build an audience of men who might need tailoring help by entering the websites of its top competitors and selecting locations they visit such as ‘Department Stores’.

Based on whether they are in-market

Today's shoppers increasingly search online right before they're ready to buy. For example, according to Think With Google online searches for the word ‘menu’ have increased 55% over the past two years, and often occur just before someone visits a restaurant.

Google uses recent search information to determine whether potential buyers are in the market — called ‘in-market’ — for a particular type of product or service. By selecting in-market affinity audiences, businesses can reach potential customers at the moment they're ready to buy.

Businesses can choose from 19 in-market categories, including:

  • Apparel & Accessories
  • Beauty Products & Services
  • Education
  • Event Tickets
  • Real Estate

Similar to interest-based audiences, each in-market category contains one or more affinity audience. A Manchester retailer, for example, can select people who are only interested in Activewear or Swimwear within the Apparel & Accessories category. Advanced users can also create custom in-market affinity audiences using keywords, URLs, and places, so that same Manchester retailer could reach people searching for the term ‘Manchester clothing store’.

Based on previous interactions with your business

Businesses that are interested in driving repeat purchases can reach existing and potential customers who have already visited their website. To use this option, known as ad remarketing, businesses must first use Google Analytics to create a list of recent website visitors. Once set up, the Manchester clothing retailer could create ads for people who have visited its website over a specific period of time, such as in the last thirty days.

3. What are the benefits of affinity audiences?

Affinity audiences can help companies select potential customers who are more likely than the average person to notice or respond to their ads. Specifically, these audiences can help small businesses to:

Build brand awareness

Businesses can create display ads for interest-based affinity audiences who are more likely than most to engage with their ads and remember their brand. This increases the quality of their website traffic and shop visitors.

A second-hand clothes shop in Cardiff, for example, could restrict its ads to the affinity audience ‘Bargain Hunters’, who are more likely than the average consumer to click, visit their store, and share product links with their friends. The second-hand shop would achieve a wider reach with its ads for the same advertising investment than if it had simply run ads without including Bargain Hunters.

Find new potential customers

Businesses can create display ads for in-market affinity audiences with the goal of increasing sales. Business owners increase their advertising ROI by showing display ads to these highly receptive potential customers who are more likely than most to buy a product or service.

What is Google Display Network?

A group of more than 2 million websites, videos, and apps where your visual display ads can appear.

Discover more about Google Display Network

4. How can I improve my ads even further?

Business owners can improve on their success with affinity groups by narrowing their audience further. For example, a Sheffield shop owner could learn that potential customers of a particular age range or from a certain region are more likely to buy. With this information, the shop owner can create display ads based on:

  • Demographics: factors like gender, age range, parental status, and household income
  • Placements: whether ads are shown on websites, YouTube, apps, or within app stores/li>
  • Geography: particular countries, regions, cities or postcodes
  • Languages: the languages your potential customers speak

With a narrower focus, businesses can design distinctive ads to appeal to each of their chosen groups. For example, a Canterbury beauty shop might decide to create an ad for female fashion lovers aged 24-35 living within 25 miles of its location. The more specific and relevant the ad, the more likely it is that audiences will notice and click, so the beauty shop owner might select an image of a 26-year-old woman in front of Canterbury Cathedral as part of their ad design.

Businesses can also adjust their bidding strategy for affinity audiences to permit Google Ads to compete harder and pay slightly more for clicks from highly-relevant potential customers. A business owner that applies a 20% bid adjustment to the affinity group ‘Sports Fans’ may spend more on ads, but will increase their chances of connecting with high quality potential customers.

Affinity audiences give businesses plenty of options to make their ads more relevant to prospective customers. By creating display ads that are focused and specific, business owners have the chance to improve their advertising ROI, increase their brand awareness, and connect with potential customers at the right time.

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