If you've been looking for more control over who sees the ads you run via Google AdWords, here's your chance. Google began beta testing demographic bidding back in January and opened the program up to all AdWords advertisers last Friday. Granted, when they say all AdWords advertisers, they mean all the ones utilizing the content network, but this new feature still gives small business owners far more control than they've ever had over who sees their AdWords ads.

So what is demographic bidding? In Google's own words:

Demographic bidding helps you display your ads to specific gender and age group audiences on some sites in the Google content network, giving you more control over who your audience is and greater insight into how your ads perform with certain demographic groups

Basically, the system works like this: Google partners with quite a few content sites to help distribute your AdWords ads beyond simple search results. Many of the content sites Google partners with require users to log in and complete a personal profile. (Think MySpace.) On these content networks, Google is now giving you the control to say which of these members you want to view your ads. Right now, you can break ad views down by gender and age range.

While Microsoft's adCenter has had demographic targeting options in place for quite some time, the only demographic Google AdWords was able to offer was the ability to select specific content networks based on their overall demographic info. Google's new demographic target option will give advertisers increased control within those networks to make sure their ads are showing only for the groups that will click through and convert at the highest rates.

Setting Up a Demographic Targeting Campaign

If you'd like to check out the new system, here's a quick walk-through of the options you'll need to complete to get your campaign up and running.

Step 1: Go to your campaign page and click to edit an existing campaign.


Step 2: Scroll to the bottom of your campaign options and select "View and edit options" under "Demographics."


Step 3: Go through the gender and age listings and exclude or increase your bid for each bracket. (Note: Your increased bids for gender and age will be added together when appropriate. Be aware of this when creating your bidding strategy.)


Step 4: Sit back and wait for the new results to come in.

Demographic Reporting Tool

The nice thing about Google's new system is the reporting follow-up. Rather than simply giving you the tools to increase or restrict your bid for certain groups, they've gone the extra step to create solid reporting data to help you see if your demographic targeting is actually working. The new Demographic Report is available in the Report Center.

This report breaks down impressions, clicks and conversions by age and gender. This allows you to get the type of information you need to calculate maximum per click bids for the campaigns that are working and to lower bids (or shut down the ads completely) for the gender and age ranges that aren't performing well.

Here's a breakdown from Google's tutorial on the Demographic Reporting showing what data pops up in each section of your report.


You can use the data to refine your campaigns over time. Even if you didn't start off with the goal of doing demographic targeting, there's no reason not to take a look at this data and make adjustments to your campaigns. This especially holds true if you sell a product that tends to skew toward one gender or the other or is especially attractive to specific age groups. A few minutes spent browsing the Demographic Reporting could save you a decent amount of ad dollars in the long run.

Demographic Bidding and Demographic Site Selection are NOT the Same

It's important to note this new demographic bidding option is not the same as the AdWords' Demographic Site Selection option. The AdWords Demographic Site Selection option is aimed at helping you select entire web sites to advertise on. The new Demographic Targeting option is aimed at helping you select the specific individuals on a web site you'd like to target. Don't make the mistake of thinking these two tools are interchangeable.

Once again, it's nice to see engines increasing their targeting abilities on paid search. Giving small business owners the chance to really dig down into their accounts so they can spend their money only where it has impact goes a long way toward helping make the paid search process more affordable. Google offers quite a few tutorials on how to set things up and it's only a matter of time until more articles start to pop up detailing the many ways to fine tune the process. In the mean time, it's a good idea to make sure you're taking full advantage of each and every feature available to you so you know your pennies are stretching as far as possible.

March 25, 2008

Jennifer Laycock is the Editor of Search Engine Guide, the Social Media Faculty Chair for MarketMotive and offers small business social media strategy & consulting. Jennifer enjoys the challenge of finding unique and creative ways to connect with consumers without spending a fortune in marketing dollars. Though she now prefers to work with small businesses, Jennifer’s clients have included companies like Verizon, American Greetings and Highlights for Children.

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