Table of contents

    Each of the ads we create in Google Ads or any other advertising system reaches some kind of audience – sometimes more specific, sometimes less so. Selecting the right audience is one of the most important steps in creating and later optimizing a campaign. Of course, the format of the ad, its message, etc. is important, but without a well-chosen target audience, even the best ads won’t do anything. 

    ad targeting types - interests

    Setting a specific target audience narrows down the audience we are targeting with our advertising, which ultimately improves our CTR, the leads acquired become more valuable and sometimes we even manage to save some of the budget. 

    We can divide our audiences based on this: 

    • who they are;
    • what habits and interests they have;
    • what they are looking for;
    • whether they have interacted with our ad, website or app before and may return;

    This is so-called “audience targeting.” There is still a distinction between “page content targeting” – contextual targeting – but about that in the next article 😊

    Who-they-are? – or demographic segmentation. 

    The most basic method of audience segmentation is called Demographic Segmentation. We determine such values as:

    • gender (female / male / unknown)
    • age (18-24 / 25-34 / 35-44 / 45-54 / 55-64 / 65 and over / unknown)
    • parental status (has children / no children / unknown)
    • level of household income (in Poland this targeting option is not available, and we do not receive data on users in this matter)
    • geolocation (specific location / radius within the “pin”).

    What if we want to target ads to users under the age of 18? Parents can create Google accounts for their children under the age of 13 using the Family Link app. These users can be shown ads. However, we cannot target ads only to children under 13 years old. 

    Category “Unknown”

    Google Ads does not know or can’t determine the demographics of all users. The “Unknown” category includes individuals for whom age, gender, parental status, or household income are not specified (these may include those not logged into the browser or browsing in private – incognito mode, for example).

    Additionally, some sites in the ad network disable demographic targeting, so if you want to display ads on these sites, leave the “Unknown” category selected. When we target ads according to specific demographics, the “Unknown” category is included by default, as this allows us to reach a much wider audience.

    The “Unknown” demographic category can be excluded if we are sure we want to limit the campaign to a narrow audience. Excluding this category may result in a lot of people (which may include our target audience) not seeing our ad.

    The “Unknown” demographic category can be excluded if we are sure that we want to limit our campaign to a narrow audience.

    How demographics are defined?

    A very interesting point is how Google “categorizes” us, how we end up in a particular audience drawer.
    If we are logged into our Google account then we can check the demographics we are assigned to at this link: and verify that this is the correct characterization. We can also edit this data. In addition, some sites such as social networks can provide the above data to Google.

    Sometimes we determine your demographic data based on your activity on Google services or ad network. For example, when you view YouTube videos or sites on an ad network, Google may store an identifier in your browser using a cookie. This identifier can be associated with a demographic category based on the nature of the sites visited (e.g., baby stores – the user may be a parent).

    For campaigns displayed on Google’s site or app, the estimated demographics of users are based primarily on their activity on Google services. For campaigns displayed on a non-Google site or app, the estimated demographics of users are based primarily on their activity on third-party sites and apps. 

    Please note that for users who have not consented to ATT (iOS) for Google’s iOS apps, the estimated demographics used in these apps do not depend on users’ activity on third-party sites and apps. The activity of these users in these Google iOS apps will also not be used to estimate demographics when displaying advertising campaigns to these users on third-party sites and apps.

    In the case of demographic data in mobile apps – here we use an advertising ID associated with the user’s mobile device that remembers the apps used. We can assign this ID to a specific demographic category based on browser history and app activity on that device.

    Google is not able to collect or estimate demographic information about everyone using the web or mobile apps, so if we limit targeting to specific demographic groups, ads may reach a limited audience. We need to be aware of this. 


    It could be said that geolocation is just one element of targeting ads relative to demographics, but it is such an important and complex issue that I decided to elaborate on it separately.

    Targeting the specific location of our ads is important to most advertisers. How many of us have the ability to distribute our products or services around the world? I believe it is only a fraction of all the people who ultimately use Google Ads. So if we don’t want to end up with a local, stationary store offer at the other end of the country, where our services don’t have a chance to physically reach, then let’s consider geolocation well. 

    The selection of a specific location does not happen at the level of audience selection, but at the level of campaign settings. We can choose from: neighborhoods, cities, regions, countries and use the radius option. 

    In the option with a radius, we can use miles or kilometers – choose a city or the exact location of our company and hit people within a radius of x kilometers with our advertising. 

    Analogously, we can also exclude locations where there are users to whom we do not want to display ads.

    “Google Ads allows you to target ads only to locations that meet the minimum area and minimum number of users requirements and allow you to comply with the minimum privacy requirements. If the selected target location does not meet the privacy requirements, you will not be able to target ads to it in the Google Ads interface.” Here we can find information on which countries we currently cannot target our ads to:

    Location targeting options

    Once we’ve chosen the specific location to which we’re targeting our ads, we need to select one of the options that allow us to include and exclude users based on their likely or frequented location and/or places of interest.

    By default, location targeting includes a user’s physical location as well as a location related to their interests. More sophisticated advertisers (e.g. digital margeting agencies) use these options to limit targeting to a subset of these categories. We can only use them in search networks and ad networks.

    Let’s explain all the given options one by one:

    1. Presence or interest: people who are currently in your chosen locations, regularly frequent them or are interested in them:
      It is selected as the default option. So our ads will reach people who, let’s say, live in Warsaw, frequent it (e.g. work there) or are interested in it (e.g. plan to move to Warsaw and frequently search related phrases in Google) 
    2. Presence: people who are currently in your chosen locations or regularly visit them:
      In this option we already target our ads only to people who live in the location or frequent it
    3. Interest: people searching your selected locations:
      This option is best illustrated by the example of going on vacation. I assume that before we go somewhere we search for information about that location – whether there are restaurants nearby, whether we can rent a car, whether we can buy a day trip to a local attraction. And ads with this kind of targeting will display just for us. Of course, we can also use this default option here and test which one works better for us. I always encourage testing 😊

    Analogously, we have for location exclusions (we do not have an option to exclude only people interested in a particular location).  

    Remember also that Google’s location determination is not 100% precise and it may happen that our ad will be displayed to a user who is not related to our location only, for example, only drove through it. 

    In the second part of the article we will discuss targeting: 

    • segments of audiences with similar interests
    • standard segments
    • life events
    • recipients in the market
    • Your data segments

    Let's talk!

    Aneta Siemieniak
    Aneta Siemieniak

    He has been involved in SEM for more than two years, constantly developing his knowledge and deepening his skills. She owes her very rapid growth to her independence and courage in managing client projects in the field of social media and search engine advertising. She has worked with brands such as E.ON and Vectra.