Targeting Interest Categories in AdWords Display Advertising

Using Google AdWords Display Advertising, you can show ads to potential customers as they browse the web. There are several ways to target these customers. For example, you can select the specific sites that you want your ads to appear on (placement targeting), or create a context from a selection of themed keywords, placing your ads on related websites.


Alternatively, you can target users interested in a certain category, as judged by their browsing behaviour. They don't necessarily need to be visiting a website related to the selected interest category when they see your ad. They will see your ad as they generally browse the web, based on the interest that Google has picked up on them having.


Example of Targeting Users by their Interest:

Let's say, you own a toy shop specialising in collectable dolls and want to increase awareness that you have a large range of dolls for sale. It may not be possible to advertise on competitor sites that also sell dolls. What you can do though is target people who have shown an interest in dolls through their browsing behaviour. They may have even previously visited your competitors' sites. You can show your ads to them while they browse the web, on sites not specifically related to dolls.

What Interest Categories are there to choose from?

You can target people who've shown an interest in any of over 1600 interest categories. Interest categories and subcategories vary greatly, from hair care, to the Olympics, to car insurance and Bollywood movies. See below for some Interest Category examples.


How does Google Categorise people by Interest?

Google analyses the content of web pages that show its ads. From that it attaches a theme to each web page in the Display Network. When a user then visits a website within the Google Display Network, Google tags that webpage's theme to the user's anonymous cookie ID. As the user browses more sites with the same theme, that user is marked as having that particular interest. That user then fits within an Interest Category that's targetable to advertisers from within their AdWords accounts.

Google may also use information that people provide to websites within the Display Network. For example, when they sign in to a site using their Facebook or Twitter account login they may be providing their gender, age and other demographic information too.

Want to see how Google has Categorised your Interests?

Follow this link to see a breakdown of the Interest Categories that Google has attached you to.

You can also remove, add or edit your interests to be shown more relevant ads. Simply click through on the link above to see the options to do so.

How to Create an Interest Category Campaign?

  1. Create a New Campaign
  2. Go to Settings > Networks and Devices > Select only The Display Network (Broad reach)
  3. Create a New Ad Group within this New Campaign
  4. Click the Display Network Tab > Select 'Interests and Remarketing'
  5. Click the 'Change Display Targeting' button
  6. When on the 'Interests' tab, select the Interest Categories or Subcategories you wish to target (click add)
  7. Click 'Done' and 'Save' and be sure to add your Ads to be shown to your target audience.

When should you use an Interest Category Campaign?

- If you've found advertising directly on Display Network sites related to your products to be expensive, don't give up. Targeting Interest Categories tends to be less expensive.

- If you're maxed out on search traffic and want to expand your audience, consider creating an Interest Category campaign (as well as other Display Network targeting).

- If you'd like to build brand awareness to your target audience.

Tips for using an Interest Category campaign

- Have a separate ad group for each Interest Category. This allows you to show ads targeted to the user's interest.

- Have separate ad groups for image and text ads. This is a general best practice for advertising on the Display Network. This allows you to judge the performance separately and use different bids for each ad type.


If you're looking for additional AdWords management tips, here's a few that you may find useful:

About the Author: Louise McCartan

Former Google employee, now AdWords & SEO consultant in Northern Ireland for Search Scientist Ltd.

Read AdWords Articles by Louise

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