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Custom Affinity 2.0 vs. Custom Intent Audiences

Custom Affinity and Custom Intent audiences allow advertisers to utilise bespoke targeting that is more granular and brand specific than ever before. In this blog, find out which targeting method is most suited to your campaign and how to set it up.

Why is targeting important?

In programmatic our focus lies upon targeting audiences who will be most interested in our client’s brand, to use budgets most efficiently. This means we aren’t wasting money spamming anyone and everyone with ads that they may not have any interest in.

As part of the offering by Google’s Display and Video 360 (previously named DoubleClick Bid Manager), we are able to utilise Google’s data and capabilities to target users who we believe to be most relevant for your brand. If you’re new to all of this, Dan's blog on Google’s targeting capabilities gives some more insight into what features are available.

This blog will focus specifically on Google’s custom audience capabilities, what they are, how to use them and why to use them.

Custom Affinity 2.0

Custom Affinity capabilities were first developed for the Google Display Network in 2014 and the enhanced 2.0 version was released in 2018. This allows advertisers to create custom segments based on users that show an affinity to app installs, keywords of interest and URL targeting.

Custom affinity has the purpose of driving awareness and generating broad reach. It targets an audience by the media they consume online or by the products and services they’re interested in. Google’s algorithms use your inputted information, then define the audience without limiting the scale of your campaign. This is most relevant for a client interested in reach and branding.

Custom Intent

Google’s Custom Intent feature launched in 2018. Similar to Custom Affinity, advertisers are able to input keywords and URLs to find segments of users who are interested in your product (currently there is no option to add app targeting for Custom Intent). The advertiser is required to insert keywords and URLs related to the product they anticipate the audience to be actively researching.

Custom Intent looks for users who are researching or browsing pages related to the terms and websites inputted by the advertiser. For each page and user, the model then uses Google algorithms to predict the likelihood of conversions, by defining and reaching specific audiences as they are making a purchase decision related to your product or service. For Custom Intent, the algorithms utilise browsing history to allow you to target users who are one step closer to converting. This targeting would be most useful for a client more focused on driving conversions lower down in the funnel.

Which one should I use for my account?

The image below depicts where both targeting types fall within the funnel:

As you can see, Custom Affinity and Custom Intent both fall within the consideration section of the funnel, however Custom Intent is lower down and closer to the purchase goal than Custom Affinity. Use case depends on your client’s goals; whether their focus is primarily on awareness or if their priority is reaching people further down the purchase funnel.

Great, how do I set this up?

The table below shows how you would utilise keyword, URL and App targeting for both Custom Affinity and Custom Intent targeting. All keywords, URLs and apps are combined for Custom targeting to provide you with your target audience. Let’s pretend we’re creating targeting for a sports brand.





Custom Affinity

Enter keywords centred around interests your audience is likely to have e.g. football, basketball

Enter websites you anticipate your target audience to be using

Input apps your audience may be interested in

Please note, App Targeting is only available for Android apps

Custom Intent

Use keywords related to products and services your ideal audience is actively researching e.g. football gloves, basketball shoes

Enter URLs related to products and services your ideal audience is actively researching

Not available currently

It’s important to note that when using URL or app custom targeting, the user being targeted will not necessarily have visited that specific website/app, it simply means they are interested in the theme of the page/app you have targeted.

For example, if you were to target https://www.thebodycoach.com/, your users wouldn’t necessary have been on that specific website, and your ad may appear on similar nutrition fitness guide websites

A couple of tips and tricks to bear in mind when creating this targeting:

  • For Custom Intent, Google recommend 10-15 keywords/URLs of a similar theme.
  • There is no official recommendation from Google regarding number of keywords/URLs/apps for Custom Affinity, however our internal testing suggests that the more keywords/URLs/apps, the better the performance.
  • Keywords are broad match, meaning plurals and misspellings will be accounted for by the platform.
  • It is recommended to use brand terms or similar company terms.
  • Avoid URLs that require a log in, e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn etc.

If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to contact us.