GDN The “Other” Targeting Options – A Quick Explanation

September 18, 2013

Here I am again to try to explain the complexities of the Google Display Network or GDN. Today’s topic will be the other targeting methods other than display keywords and Placements which I have discussed in the past. However, if you haven’t looked at my article on display keywords, please check it out here or my article on placements here. I will be referring to some of the ideas that I wrote about in those articles.

What are the other targeting options for the GDN?

The other targeting options for the GDN are Topics, Interests, Remarketing, Gender, and Age. I am not going to be covering remarketing in this post as our buddy Paul has covered the topic in detail here. Remarketing needs to be covered in detail so check back for more posts from Paul on that topic.

As for the “other” targeting options, here we go.


Topics are simply categories that Google has grouped websites into. The simple advise on how to use them is to never use them! (discliamer: Unless you really have a good reason why you need to use them). The reason I say this is that topics pull in a broad range of websites. Far broader than you probably want. It is true in all kinds of PPC the broader you target, the more likely it is that you will waste money.

There is nothing that topics do that you can’t do better with Display Keywords and Placements. If you really want to cast a very large net then you can go ahead and use topics. however, remember that I warned you so don’t complain when your CTR and conversion rates are very, very low.

Interests, Gender, and Age

If you didn’t already know Google is collecting data on every searcher to determine what everybody’s interests are, what gender they are and what age they are. You can even see what Google thinks your gender is, your age is, or your interests are. To find out first do a search on Google then click on the icon that the arrow points to in this picture. This will pop up an info box, click on the link in the box it should say Ads settings.

At the page you should be at now you will see all of the PPC ads and how they were matched to the search term. (hint: This is a cool way to spy on how your competition is using keyword match types and you could use this to find new exact match terms that you should use.) At the bottom of the page there is a link to “control your ad settings”, click on that. Now, if you are still with me you can see what gender Google thinks you are, what age Google thinks you are, and what Google thinks you are interested in on the search and display networks. If you are logged in to a Google account some of your information will come from that.

Here is what I see for myself:

Google thinks that I am a 24-34 year old male who is interested in business, technology, gaming, and programming. Which is pretty close.

Spooky, huh, but this is how Google determines how to serve ads with these targeting methods.

How should you use these targeting methods?

If you bring your mind back from thoughts of skynet and back to pay-per-click ads… My suggestion for using these targeting methods is the same as with topics, don’t them unless you really know what you want and how these targeting methods will work for you.

The reasons for this are first, there is the problem of them being very broad. You can eliminate this to some degree with clever use of display keywords and/or placements in the same adgroup but just make sure you know what you are doing.

The second reason is that Google’s guesses are often wrong. You may have noticed in looking through who Google thinks you are that you disagree with a lot of it. When I first found this a year or so ago, Google thought that I was a 45-54 year old female, who was interested in everything under the sun, from cats to hip-hop music. This was probably because it was my work computer and my searches relate more to our clients and less to my interests (and I have edited it since as you can see above). However if you were targeting middle aged women, who like cats, you likely would have served me ads and I really am a 26 year old guy who likes dogs.

The moral of the story is to be careful with these targeting options. It is amazing what Google can do with its ad serving platform. Just keep its limitations in mind when you are working with the Google Display network. And don’t forget that just because a targeting option is there, doesn’t mean you have to use it.

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