Date posted

12 Apr 2023

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Google removes “similar audiences" in another move towards automation

Google Ads is an essential tool for online advertising. Not only does it have an unmatched reach across search, websites, YouTube and other Google properties like Gmail and smart shopping, but its vast amount of data means advertisers know their products will be seen by the right people at the right time.

Google introduced “similar audiences” in 2017 to allow advertisers to target users with similar interests, demographics and behaviours to their existing first party data using machine learning. This eased reliance on third party data or interest/in-market targeting which is being eroded by privacy measures, like the demise of third party cookies.

Goodbye to similar audiences

From May 2023 Google will sunset the creation and addition of “similar audiences”, these will then be removed from existing campaigns from August 2023.

For the many advertisers that use these lookalike audiences as integral targets for their campaigns, this will likely cause concern. But fear not, Google claims this move is not to restrict the use of automated audiences but rather to push advertisers further towards accuracy using automation. In sunsetting “similar audiences”, Google aims to increase the effectiveness of its advertising platform and improve the user experience.

So, what does this mean for advertisers? 

This is a continuation of the trend to shift focus from manual techniques to trusting automated methods.

Google Ads is also recommending that advertisers use automated campaign types such as Performance Max, which are designed to simplify the process of creating and managing campaigns. These campaign types use machine learning to optimise ad placements and targeting making it easier for businesses to advertise effectively on the platform. This means that ensuring that your tracking tools and first-party data is accurate is increasingly important.

Another significant change is the increased emphasis on audience targeting. Google is encouraging advertisers to use its Audience Solutions, which includes tools like Customer Match, Remarketing, and audience signals as seen with Performance Max. 

To prepare for adopting more automation advertisers should:

  • Start moving campaigns over to automated bidding strategies.
  • Use experiments to test which are the best settings for each goal.
  • Collect trustworthy first party data which is essential to ensuring audience signals have integrity moving forwards.

It can be daunting to give control over to AI but the more data collected and structures tested the more likely advertisers are to find success with automation.

Saving time and resource through automation

While the changes may take some time to get used to, the move towards automation and audience targeting will ultimately benefit advertisers. By relying on machine learning to optimise bids and placements, advertisers can save time and resources, allowing them to focus on other channels. Moving to Google Analytics 4 will increase the visibility of touchpoints towards a conversion allowing advertisers to better understand where else in the customer journey they can spend time optimising.

In conclusion, the changes to Google Ads may seem intimidating at first, but they are ultimately a step in the right direction. By phasing out manual targeting and encouraging the use of automation and audience targeting, Google Ads is making it easier for advertisers to reach their ideal audience and generate more conversions.

As always, while automation and targeting are critical, a well-crafted ad is still essential for the success of a campaign and it’s more important than ever to focus on creating ads that resonate with the target audience, ensuring that they stand out from the competition. 

If you need support adapting your audience strategy to incorporate remarketing across search as well as increasing first-party data collection in the platform to improve the accuracy of your targeting, please get in touch.