Yes! Welcome back to the Paid Search Podcast. This week we discuss the age, income, and gender demographic targeting options in Google Ads. We talk about the different targeting options, how we use them, and what this data is based on.
Google Ads Help article about demographic targeting – https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/2580383
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Jason: Hey everybody, welcome back to the Paid Search Podcast, yes. My name is Jason Rothman, as always I’m joined by a very sad, sad human being, but the best average coach on the planet, Chris Schaeffer. Chris, how’s it going? We don’t care, all right.
Jason: Chris I don’t wanna hear how it’s going, but I want you to talk about demographics. Are you excited for today, living the present Chris, living the now, today’s episode on demographics, and we’ve got some interesting stories to talk about with income and that good of stuff.
Chris: Yeah, you guys be sure and stick around ’cause I have a story. I don’t often have stories. You know I’m in my house out in the … I’ve moved out into the country now, there’s only … there’s very few people around me, and I don’t have too many stories to share.
Chris: You know I’m not like Jason, where I can just run around and gallivant all over my city and have free time. I don’t have much of that. So my stories are very limited. So I’m very proud of my story that I have to share this week.
Jason: Looking forward to it Chris. So Chris, today’s episode is sponsored by Directive Consulting, DirectiveConsulting.com, the go to B2B and enterprise search marketing agency. They offer free custom proposals, so everyone check out their website, DirectiveConsulting.com.
Jason: Now Chris, yeah, we’re gonna talk about demographics. Today we’re gonna talk about what they are, how we use them, what data they’re based on and I think, just briefly, I’ll cover what they are, and then we will later on talk about how we use them, and then get into the story which relates to what they are based on.
Jason: So Chris, demographic targeting options. What are they? They are age, you can target people by different age groups in Google AdWords, Google Ads. You can target people by different genders, male, female, and you can target people by household incomes. Different bracket, so top 10%, and then in 10% increments down to 50 and then the lower 50% of income.
Jason: Then additionally on the display network you can do parental status. Parent, not a parent, scared of being a parent, but probably gonna be a parent soon. Rothman PPC, all right. So Chris, now unknown, the one thing that everyone needs to remember is that unknown is usually … Chris would you say it’s fair to say half the pie unknown?
Chris: Yeah, I mean yeah so Jason’s talking about gender and age, and all the different demographics you can target in AdWords. Google says, when we know that information, we target those people. When we don’t know, that falls into the third category, unknown, right.
Chris: So agenda is either male, female or unknown. So that’s why there’s the third category there. Yeah, Jason, you’re exactly right, I find that if you were to block unknown you’re effectively blocking at least 50% of your traffic. My understanding is this, when someone’s using a device that Google does not have log in information. They are not logged in to YouTube or Google or any type of Google property. They have not created an account, then they don’t know who they are. So they subscribe them to unknown.
Jason: I’m just reeling you in right now Chris, I’m reeling you in, reeling you in because someone did their research.
Chris: Am I sharing too much too quick?
Jason: Yeah, someone did their research and I’ve got something that says to the contrary.
Jason: Yeah, it’s interesting. We’re gonna dig into it. But before we do that Chris, let’s talk about how we use demographics. I used to only focus on demographics when it came to display campaigns, ’cause they were kind of more in your face in display than the old interface.
Chris: Yeah, used to be the only option we had. If you haven’t been in AdWords in a while, it’s the only option we had was to use demographics in display, and then they started adding to search.
Jason: Yeah, then they started adding it, and then now with the new interface, they make it really kind of easy and in your face to do demographics on search. It used to be, especially with income on search, you had to like pick out different locations and the income was tied to the location, but they’ve since changed that.
Jason: So Chris, before the show we did our normal thing where I come up with a great idea, you try to pick it apart, and then you get convinced that it is a great idea. I was like Chris, we are gonna talk about what the data’s based on, but first we do need to talk about how we use them, and it would be good to use this episode as a time to talk about how we use these different targeting options, and you said, no, no, our audience all knows about demographic targeting and they’re already up to date on it.
Jason: I challenge that Chris, I challenge that, I challenge you.
Jason: I think if we audited all of our listeners AdWords accounts, just Google Ad accounts in general, in general, I think tons of them would not have any adjustments at the demographic level. I think that’s messed up man. I gotta be honest. I think it’s messed up from a guy who does a lot of B2C, a lot of like home service companies. For example, we’re building out a campaign from the great city of Ottawa, Canada.
Jason: That we have a window washing company based there. Dude man bro, like I don’t wanna target 18 to 24 year olds ’cause they don’t own homes or businesses where they need their windows washed. They need their mouths washed, the way those kids curse these days. Their middle name is the f word practically these days.
Jason: But they don’t have windows. So I’m just taking out 18 to 24 year olds. Additionally, Chris, those poor people in the bottom 50% of income, they’re worried about food, they’re worried about Netflix, they’re worried about, you know, whatever. Just the day to day expenses on food and basic entertainment, they’re not getting their windows washed on their mansions. So we’ve bid them down pretty aggressively.
Jason: So have I convinced you yet Chris, are demographics something you look at every time you build out the Google AdWords account or are you still skeptical and so focused on the keyword search that brought you all this success. You love the keywords, why would someone be searching for it if they weren’t needing it? What’s your take these days Chris?
Chris: Yeah, I’m with you that I will exclude certain extremes. Usually it’s always on the shoulders of the 18 to 24 years olds, honestly that’s what it usually comes down to. If I’m gonna exclude something, I knock out 18 to 24 year olds. But I rarely exclude any other- [crosstalk 00:06:43]
Jason: Unless I’m throwing a party, yeah.
Chris: Just pause for a second because just for you guys who aren’t watching on YouTube, Jason has a huge caterpillar of a mustache going across his upper lip, and he has at times popped into character. That’s what you’re hearing in his voice today is the character that he has … what’s the character’s name, does he have a certain name for your character?
Jason: I don’t give a name, I just come into town, find your women and blow out of town, yeah.
Chris: Yes, well [crosstalk 00:07:22]
Jason: If I’m throwing a party, I want those 18 to 24 year olds.
Chris: Yeah, right, thank you. I’m gonna call you Harold. I’m gonna call you Harold, I think that’s a good name.
Jason: Call me Harry.
Chris: Harry, Harry Harold, that’s it. So I usually exclude extremities of like 18 to 24 or maybe the highest bracket, the older bracket. But no, it’s not like I jump in there and say, 36 to 42 is out, you know I don’t want those because those aren’t demo. [crosstalk 00:07:51]
Jason: Okay, and you know what, I’m always the guy defending demographics and saying you gotta dig in and dig in and dig in, but like you’re saying Chris, I do over play it up sometimes, and yes, you wanna go cautious into these waters. Because you are limiting things when you take stuff out or bid down on them, and there’s just situations that Google can’t control that come up that make sense.
Jason: So let me give you an example Chris. Say some 45 to 54 year olds own a large house and they wanna get their windows washed. But they maybe just have iPhones, and they don’t even get on computers anymore when they’re not at work because they’re older and they wanna spend their time watching their big TV or cooking or whatever. They have smart phones, but they don’t even like getting on them that much for internet browsing.
Jason: The time comes when they need to find the window washing company, and so they get on their kids’ laptop, okay. Because it’s their kid, Google thinks they’re 18 to 24 or younger or whatever. Maybe in the unknown category, and at that moment, the kid will never have searched window washing companies near me, but the parent gets on there. It’s a kids’ browser basically, but they’re doing their one little research search that they do once every few months, and you wanna be there.
Jason: So that’s a situation where it would make sense to not turn something off. That goes back to okay, if you’re using keywords, then why would an 18 to 24 year old search that if it wasn’t like a weird situation, like their parent using their computer.
Jason: So you just wanna go cautiously, and maybe I’m making the case not to turn off 18 to 24 year olds, but usually we do. Another thing to look out for Chris in terms of how we use them, is 65+. Sometimes I’ve gotten some really bad results from 65+ Chris, and I think that’s because I can’t get in the mind of a 65, I can get in the mind of like a 50 year old, that’s kind of my temperament. But a 65+, I don’t know what they’re looking at when they see the internet, I don’t know what they’re thinking. I just think there’s probably quite a few miss clicks on there, like oh no, I was looking for the Yankees score, oh I’m on a power washing site, you know what I mean?
Chris: Yeah, yeah.
Jason: But again, recently we were running a campaign for people who needed a Medicare broker. Who needs Medicare if they’re under 65, no one. Only people over the age of 65 or near there, need Medicare. So you don’t need anybody 54 or younger.
Jason: So it depends on the advertiser. But I think it’s something at this point, Google’s gotten to the point where it is such a great option, think about your gender, think about your income, think about your age demographics every time you make a new search campaign. At least think through it.
Chris: Yeah, I think you’re right. I think when it comes down to it keyword search terms trump any type of decisions that you could make about your demographic that you’re targeting. Oftentimes when I work with agencies that deal with a lot of traditional media, I’ll get this long list of what their target demographic looks like.
Chris: It’s gonna be a mom and her 35, she’s gonna have you know one and a half kids, and she’s gonna drive this type of car, and there’s this long list, and in the end, that makes no difference to me. I use none of that information, because that’s not how a person is targeted in search.
Chris: So for me when it comes to this, it comes during the optimization phase. There’s the building phase of AdWords, which is when you’re launching a new campaign. Then there’s the data gathering phase, you know, which is things are starting to get some impressions, some clicks, some conversions. Then once you have that data, then you get into the final phase, which is optimization, which lasts forever honestly. They optimization lasts forever, you continue doing it. That’s when I start thinking about optimization and removing demographics and stuff like that.
Jason: That’s a great point Chris, and I think we have quite a few listeners who work at agencies or people who are freelancers themselves, and they take over AdWords accounts after running for a long time. It’s a great sales technique Chris to look at the demographic data on an account that’s been running for five years and say hey, your old manager, you never considered this, and look at the difference between women and men at the conversion rate, and we’re gonna do something about that and get you even more conversion.
Jason: So it’s definitely an optimization thing. I think the final point would be, it’s not that complicated, but just definitely review that data from time to time when you’re optimizing, and you will see interesting things in their Chris.
Jason: Like I have one company where women just convert at a lot higher rate than men, they just do. You wanna makes sense of this industry, nothing stands out why that would happen, but we don’t know things about maybe the person answering the phone on the intake just deals with women a lot better than men.
Chris: Ah, interesting, yeah.
Jason: You just never know the individual situation, and like you always say Chris, at that point, just go with the data, and you can bid up women, bid down men and get a better conversion rate, lower cost per conversion more conversions. So it’s an optimization thing, and that’s how you and I both use it.
Jason: Now, we’re about to get into the super interesting stuff on what this data is based on. That kind of will inform how much stock you put into it. But before we do that Chris, I wanna take a second to talk about today’s sponsor, Directive Consulting, DirectiveConsulting.com. They are a go to B2B search engine marking agency and this weeks’ growth story is describing their work with a top cyber security company.
Jason: This company had a top-notch brand, innovative products, but they were struggling to gain traction online, and they were worried about jumping into SEO, jumping into AdWords because it was a busy developed industry.
Jason: Chris, you and I hear this all the time. People have a solid business, they have a great website, a great brand, they wanna jump in there on AdWords, but they’re scared because they see seven ads, four at the top, three at the bottom, and they think how am I ever gonna compete, it’s too busy, it’s too competitive. But luckily, this cyber security company found Directive Consulting.
Jason: In the first quarter, Directive was able to increase their organic traffic by 128%, they were able to increase their overall leads by 251%. Directive did this for this company and I know they can do it for you. Head over to DirectiveConsulting.com, they offer free custom proposals. You got nothing to lose, request your free custom proposal and find out what Directive can do for you.
Jason: So Chris, talking about age, gender, household income and then additionally on display parental status, we need to know what the stuff is based on. I’m just gonna quickly run through this article that Google has Chris, because it talks about demographics, it talks about like age and gender and stuff and how they figure that out.
Jason: But it doesn’t talk about specifically income and that’s where I wanna pick your brain about in a second. But, just to get some information from Google and what we’ll have this link in the show notes, they basically say, how does Google determine demographic information. So this is the interesting thing here Chris, they say, when people are signed in from their Google account, we may use demographics derived from their settings or activities on Google properties depending on their account status.
Jason: They can edit their information in their settings. In addition, some sites might provide us with demographic information that people share on certain websites, such as social networking sites. So, let me translate that for everybody, we have no clue. They look at your account settings, but they also are saying they get information from your activity on Google properties. In addition, some sites provide Google with demographic information, including social networking sites.
Jason: So it’s not only what’s in your gmail Google account, your settings, but it’s also the way you browse the internet and different sites you visit while you’re logged into your account. But here’s the interesting thing, for people who aren’t signed into their Google account, we sometimes infer their demographic information based on their activity from Google properties or the display network.
Jason: For example, when people browse YouTube or sites on the display network, I guess that means sites that are running Adsense, I think. Google may store an identifier in their web browser using a cookie, that browser may be associated with certain demographic categories based on sites that were visited.
Jason: So for example, Sarah’s favorite hobby is gardening. Many of the gardening sites and blogs on the display networks that she visits have a majority female readers. Based on this, Sarah’s browser, when she’s not signed in from her Google account, could be added to the female demographic category. As a result, Google may show Sarah ads from advertisers who have chosen to show their ads to women.
Jason: So, they’re looking at your settings in your Google account, they’re looking at your traffic, sites you visit on the display network, when you’re logged into your account, they’re getting information from sites including social networking sites, but this is something I didn’t know before today, even when you’re logged out of your Google account, so you’re not even logged into an account. Google looks at what your browser is seeing on the display network, different sites that run Google Ads, and they’re saying okay, this browser looks at sites that are related to gardening, gardening is related to women quite a bit, we’re gonna go ahead and make the call that this is a female browser.
Jason: I guess they do the same thing with age as well. So Chris, news to you? It was news to me this morning.
Chris: Yeah, yeah, I mean this is … I never really dug into it because it didn’t really make a difference to me as an advertiser.
Jason: ‘Cause we’re so focused on keywords.
Chris: Yeah, I mean we’re focused on the results of this data, not so much where the data comes from. But the reason we’re talking about this is because of an email that I was forwarded from a client, and we’ll read the email here in just a second.
Chris: But this came into question because Jason, what you said was very interesting. We have to be very clear. You said in your read there, you said the word cookie. But, Google does not read what is on your browser cookie, Google does not look at what websites you’re going to. This is only information that is publicly, well not publicly, but only information that’s garnered through a network of what Google already has out there.
Chris: If Google has ads on a certain site, they’re able to see that this browser went to this page, and they can have a cookie that assigns that specific browser, that specific device an ID number, and then they know what this person’s doing.
Chris: So I wanna draw a difference, because in a second I’ll be reading this email and you’ll notice the words that are used in the email manipulate the meaning of exactly what Google’s doing, and it makes it sound as though Google has way more information and power into individual and personal information than they really do. That’s not the case. They use information acquired through their network, through what someone’s doing, but not you personally, not your device, not what’s in your browser history, and not just stuff that they can just pull off of your device and download it and use it.
Jason: Yeah it’s not, it’s kind of like, from what I gather from that article Chris, obviously they don’t, if you don’t have a Google account, they’re not going into your browser and looking at every site. Like it’s obviously not what’s happening. But it almost seems like that for a certain percent of the websites you visit.
Jason: Because what they’re saying is, if you go to sites with the display network and you’re logged out of your Google account, they’ll still associate your browser with different sites that they have code on through the display network through people running ads. Then that’s how they kind of see the mosaic of that browser. So I would say they can kind of see what sites you visited, at least sites they have ads on.
Jason: But again, call me naïve, but it does not make sense to me that they go, oh, this Jason Rothman’s browser, he lives here, he … like I don’t think they do that Chris. I think it’s all about just cookies and code and …call me naïve, but there’s nothing you can do. I mean it’s on, people are running Adsense, you’re browsing the internet.
Chris: Yeah, so Jason do you think now’s a good time, I’ll go ahead and read this, ’cause I think it’d be a good time to kind of differentiate a line between what people see.
Jason: You can, but I want you to be like the government, I want you to redact some things Chris. This isn’t 2002, my names not 50 Cent, you’re not Ja Rule, I don’t have beef with people, okay. This was an interesting example that you found, but there’s no need to create Behind the Music okay, when Jason gets shot when he’s going out to get his mail. I don’t need that in my life.
Jason: I got enough people threatening me, okay. So redact some names here Chris.
Chris: You’re right.
Jason: Redact some unique identifiers, don’t put any cookies on this email, just do your thing here Chris, but keep that in mind, okay, keep that in mind.
Chris: Thank you, Jason always the cautious one when we’re on air, but very aggressive when he’s off air. That’s very interesting, thank you. I guess that’s Harry Harold talking.
Jason: Chris Schaeffer, passive aggressive on the air, passive aggressive off the air, very interesting, very interesting.
Chris: Exactly the same, exactly the same on and off air, that’s right. Okay, so all right so this is from Mr. Nobody, okay and I’m just gonna read-
Jason: Or Mrs. Nobody, or Mrs. Nobody, or group of people, or a business, or an association of retired people, they don’t even know.
Chris: Come on.
Jason: I’m messing with you.
Chris: All right, here’s the email, it’s very short. Google Ads, formerly AdWords has added new targeting options that would allow you to drive affluent visitors to your website. This includes-
Jason: That’s true so far, true so far.
Chris: True so far. Here’s where it makes a big difference. This includes using IRS tax return data, let’s highlight that and put a question mark next to it. As well as a users browsing and search history to identify high income residents in said city, okay, well not said city, redacted city I should say.
Chris: Affluent targeting allows certain advertisers to generate quality leads in a way that has not previously been possible. Okay, so let’s break this down real quick.
Jason: Chris can you give us some context? This was … give us some context, this was one of your clients getting a pitch from some other average kind of person.
Chris: This was a cold email, this is a cold pitch email directly to someone that has ads out there, and they’re literally trying to squeeze the client and get them to jump, by using inflated language that if was true, would be a huge lawsuit for Google, because this insinuates that Google has IRS tax return data on individuals, which is ridiculous. Let’s jump on that first.
Jason: And browser history.
Chris: And browser history and search history to identify.
Jason: Total browser history.
Chris: To identify who they are, so the whole context here is that they know how much you make, they know who you are, they know what you’re searching, and they know what websites you’re going to and they’re serving you ads based on that information.
Chris: That is a half-truth, and honestly when I hear half-truth, that means it’s a lie. Because there is no half-truth, it’s either a lie or the truth. So I say this is absolutely a lie, and let’s break it down with the first thing.
Chris: IRS tax return data. I was curious and I wanted to go straight to the source, so I called up my peeps at Google and I said listen, I need to get some information here. I’m pretty sure I know what’s correct, but I want you to tell me, does Google have IRS tax return data. Jason, to my surprise, they said, well yes, we use tax return data, IRS tax return data, and I was like, well really, wow, that sounds scary.
Chris: They said well, we use publicly available information across the entire United States and parse that down to a zip code, and use what’s in that zip code to assign a person that’s searching within that zip code a qualitative amount of income data for that zip code.
Chris: So 90210 is gonna have a different zip code than 0451, right. Because these are separate sides of the country, different types of area codes, and individual information is not assigned, it is a generic publicly accessible information. Beyond that, there’s even some privately purchased information that’s acquired through surveys and data, through credit bureaus and stuff like that. This stuff can be purchased by anybody and Google just uses what’s on the market.
Chris: This is not personal information, this is not something that Google can say, X person makes 40,000 dollars a year, we’re gonna serve ads to them based on how much they make because we know what their tax information is. Totally incorrect.
Jason: So the income bracket, top 10%, top 20, whatever. That is primarily, not primarily, but when they say IRS data, that’s based on the overall IRS data that’s publicly available per zip code?
Chris: Yes, the information is broken down to the zip code level, but yes, I mean its public information, and just to be clear, when the person does a search, they are assigned a specific zip code because there’s no where that you’re not gonna get a zip code, and ISP is gonna provide a zip code for that location. That location is going to have data assigned to it, an idea of what percentage that person is in.
Chris: If they’re in a zip code that the average income is 40,000, they’re gonna place that on a bracket according to where that is nationally. Is that in the top 30%, 40%, 50%, top 10%? It’s going to assign that a certain bracket, and then that’s where we as advertisers make judgments on how we bid.
Chris: So you are not bidding on individuals, you are merely bidding on public information available at a generic level. That’s the truth.
Jason: Now one thing I don’t think we know the answer to this, but I’m gonna figure it out from Google and maybe get back to everyone on the show. If I’m targeting the great state of Oklahoma, and I say top 10% of income, is that the top 10% of income in Oklahoma, in the area I’m targeting, or is it the top 10% of income nationally, which would be smaller than the top.
Jason: Because the top 10% in Oklahoma is gonna be a lower income than the top 10% nationally, I think. So I’m wondering, like you say you’re targeting just a city. Say like Albuquerque, top 10% in Albuquerque is gonna be a lower number than top 10% say if you did Los Angeles. So that’s something we’ll have to get from them.
Jason: But what’s interesting here Chris is it really does matter. You told me the kind of client it is, it really would be good for this client to target people who were affluent, because the more money they have, the more money he’s gonna make. But the person sending this email, there was no need to stretch the truth.
Jason: Which, if someone’s stretching the truth, we call that a lie.
Chris: Yeah, the part that I had a problem with, just infuriated me, was, says has new targeting options that will allow you to drive affluent visitors to your website. This includes using IRS tax return data as well as the users browsing and search history.
Chris: Okay, so when you read that as a full thought, it infers that they’re using tax return data as well as a users, that’s the difference, browser. So next we get into the browser and search idea here. So Jason as you said, browser and search data, that is a misrepresentation of what is actually being used to gather information.
Chris: This is not locally stored on your computer. Here’s the difference, this person is inferring in their email, that the information that they’re using is locally available on that person’s hard drive and Google’s using that. That’s not true, that person has a locally stored cookie, which has a number on it. That number references databases that have information about certain cookies that have made decisions about gender and all this kind of stuff.
Chris: But, they don’t open up your browser history and go through it and make decisions about what ads you’re gonna see. That’s not the case at all. So that’s the second part that I really have a problem with because this is not locally available information. This is information that Google has gathered through their own network, which is a private company looking to do this on their own, and gather it within their own reach.
Jason: Yeah, and if you go to someone’s website who has Google Adsense, which makes them part of the display network, you’re giving up some data. They’re getting some data from you even if you don’t click on an ad, and that’s just the name of the game. Like you’re giving something to them, some anonymized data, and then you’re getting back some probably free content.
Jason: So that’s just the way it goes, but I think this was a good discussion Chris. Just recapping, all of our demographic options when it comes to search especially, then knowing what level to use them at. For us, it’s kind of like thinking about them as we enter a new campaign build, but it’s more of an optimization thing, seeing what the data brings in.
Jason: Then thirdly, just doing your research, do your homework reading these articles, and then Chris called Google about the income thing. Knowing what the data’s based on and then making a decision how much stock to put into it, and that sort of thing. But it’s at least good to know what it is based on.
Jason: So Chris I think that was a good discussion, for more discussions everyone, tune in every Monday to the Paid Search Podcast. I wanna take a second to talk about the PPC questions and answer show, new episodes come out every Tuesday, every Wednesday, we take your questions, and we answer your questions directly. One question per episode, and you can send us your questions at PaidSearchPodcast.com on the contact page. If you have a specific question, send it in.
Jason: Chris, with that said, that’s all I’ve got this week, you have anything to add?
Chris: We’ll catch you guys next week.