When someone says Google Ads, most of us imagine ads in search results.

However, there are several campaign types in Google Ads – Search Network, Display Network, Shopping, Video, and App. Select one depending on your advertising goals and budget.

In the Search Network, advertisers should use keywords and match types for targeting prospects that use relevant search queries.

However, in Display Network, things work differently.

Do I need to know about Google Display Network (GDN) targeting?

The short answer is ‘yes’.

However, you can avoid learning about the specialized targeting features of GDN in two cases:

Here are two reasons why you won’t need to use the specialized targeting capabilities of GDN:

  1. You set up a search campaign and switched on the ‘Include Google Display Network’ option. In this case, Google will automatically target relevant customers in GDN (based on your audience in Search Network). Remember that Google expands reach to Display Network only if you can't spend the entire budget on Search Network.
  1. You set up a Smart Display campaign. In this case, Google will automatically target the audience based on the likelihood of conversion. At first, it will target customers who have visited your website at least once before. After that, targeting will be gradually expanded to include a new audience.

Apart from these cases, you need to target your ads accurately to ensure that they reach the right people.

Here are two prominent ways of targeting your ad:

  1. Audience targeting features define people who will see your ads
  2. Contextual targeting features define where your ads will appear


Along with these two ways, we have demographic targeting as a way to acquire a broad reach (if we need it).

Demographic targeting

Demographic targeting options:

  • Gender: "Female," "Male," and "Unknown".
  • Age: From “18-24” to “65 or more" or "Unknown".
  • Parental status: "Parent," "Not a parent," or "Unknown".
  • Household income: From “Top 10%” of the population with the highest income to “Lower 50%” or “Unknown”. It’s only available in some countries.

Tip #1

Don’t use one targeting feature by itself. Instead, combine with others.

Tip #2

Don’t exclude “Unknown” options without a solid reason because it doesn’t necessarily mean bad. Doing this will only shrink your reach, so include them in your list.

Audience targeting

Remarketing audiences

  • Website visitors. The first thing that comes to mind when we say “remarketing.” You should create at least three audiences: All visitors, Converters, Non-Converters. If thousands of users per day visit your website, you can also segment them based on the products they’ve viewed.
  • YouTube users. First of all, you need to link your YouTube channel to your Google Ads account. After that, create audiences that include viewers of your videos -all your videos or specific ones, as you see fit.
  • App users. Audiences can be grouped by users who have installed your apps on their devices. Learn more about mobile app conversion tracking.
  • Customer lists. To create audiences based on CRM data, you need to ask your account manager for access to the Customer Match feature. If your account meets the requirements you'll get it. After that, you can create audiences based on clients' email addresses, phone numbers, and other contact information.
  • Similar audiences. People who have similar characteristics to people on your existing remarketing audience lists. For starters, try to use the “Converters” audience as a source.
  • Combined lists. You can combine various attributes to create a specific audience. For example, you can group them on characteristics of your “personas” that represent segments of your target audiences. Or you could also unite the audience of your website and the audience based on clients' contacts.


Short term interests

  • In-market audiences. People who are looking to buy a product from one of pre-created by Google categories.
  • Custom intent audiences. Your own “in-market"-like audiences. Use keywords that describe your product, URLs that potential customers could have visited, and YouTube videos that they could have watched (around 15 in total). Don't mix the different intents in one audience.
  • Life events. This targeting is available only on placements owned by Google (such as YouTube or Gmail). There are some pre-created audiences in a few categories, for example, Business Creation, Marriage, Moving, Retirement.

Long term interests and habits

  • Affinity audiences. Group people by interests or habits from one of pre-created by Google categories.  This one has a broad reach, but don’t use this targeting feature by itself but in combination with others.
  • Custom affinity audiences. Your own “affinity”-like audiences could be defined by using keywords that describe an interest, URLs of content about that interest, or apps (as examples of what type of apps your audience installs). Don't mix the different interests in one audience. If you need to target a few interests, create an audience for each one.

Detailed demographics

  • Parental Status. From infants (0-1 years) to teens (13-17 years).
  • Marital Status. Single, In a Relationship, or Married.
  • Education. Current College Students, High School Graduate, Bachelor's Degree, or Advanced Degree.
  • Homeownership Status. Homeowners or Renters.

Tip #1

 If you don’t know which audience to choose, start from variants shown on the Ideas tab.

Tip #2

To better understand how audience targeting features behave, look at how Google sees your account.

Contextual targeting

  • Keywords. This outdated form of targeting has been replaced by Custom intent audiences targeting.
  • Topics (or Themes). This one has a broad reach, though it may not be accurate. Don’t use it by itself - overlap it with other targeting features.
  • Placements. This one offers more precise targeting than Topics. It is beneficial for targeting your ads to specific YouTube channels. If you get decent results from ads, reach out to the owner of that channel for product placement or collaboration.

Targeting expansion

This option can automatically increase the reach of an ad group. But don’t rush to switch it on –use it only after you’ve achieved decent results with that ad group.

Narrow targeting and observation mode

You can overlap different types of targeting to narrow down your audience.

Or you can add the targeting in observation mode, but this won’t narrow down the audience. It just gives you more data and the option to adjust bids based on this information.

In the end

Your method of targeting in GDN should suit your goals.

Use our guide to ensure that you understand both and then set up an ad campaign that will yield results.

When you launch the campaign, you can control the performance of various ad groups in Google Ads reports, but there is a better way - the statistics dashboard in eLama.