Privacy prevails: Google discontinues Similar Audiences in 2023

Date
7 April 2023

Avid advertisers might already know, but for those who don’t: Google is discontinuing Similar Audiences in 2023. Do you feel a mild panic rising in your chest?

There’s no need to worry. Read all about the impact of Google’s decision on advertising in this blog.

A lot of people on a square from above

What are Similar Audiences?

Similar Audiences is a tool that relies on data from Google’s remarketing audiences. It helps advertisers reach a wider audience and convert prospects by looking for consumers with similar interests.

First cookies, now Similar Audiences. What is going on?

The news on third-party cookies is hot off the press and Google is announcing yet another change. Why did Google decide to discontinue Similar Audiences when it actually helped advertisers reach their audience? 

Google supports its decision with two arguments. They stated that the discontinuation of Similar Audiences is a result of: 

  • the evolution of online marketing goals;

  • the development of privacy-friendly alternatives.

Most likely, privacy concern is the deciding factor. 

Ginny Marvin, Google Ads’ official spokesperson, announced the end of Similar Audiences on Twitter: 


twittermessage

In the announcement, Google stated that they want to switch to “more powerful and durable automated solutions” (Google Ads Platform Solutions, 2022). 

What are the implications? 

Even though it seems like Similar Audiences is entirely disappearing, that is not the case. Google is well aware of how important it is to advertise products and services to a targeted audience. 

Moreover, Google would endanger its own business if it did not offer a solid alternative; advertisers would turn to other providers. Therefore, Google confirmed that Similar Audiences will be replaced by automated targeting and bidding solutions in the long run. 

In the meantime, Google offers a guide for each campaign type to support advertisers. Here are the key tips for each campaign: 

Search and shopping campaigns

For search and shopping campaigns, no specific actions are required to improve your performance. We do recommend using smart bidding to automatically value users based on conversion rate.

We also advise you to use the first-party audience insights feature on the Insights page. These insights will help you understand how the new automated solutions will work. The feature will be available at the end of March 2023.

At the end of 2022, a new customer acquisition target will be available for search campaigns. With this feature, advertisers can bid either higher or with a focus on new customers. This is useful because new customers often bring in more revenue in the long term. Performance Max campaigns already have this target.

tactic

Display, Discovery and video campaigns for conversion

For these campaigns, optimised targeting is the recommended solution. With optimised targeting, Google looks for new customers—outside your target audience—who are likely to convert. For example, they consider what consumers who recently converted are now searching for.

Some advice: combine optimised targeting with customer match segments. Your customers' email addresses, for example, are an additional source for optimised targeting to find new and relevant audiences.

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Research shows that advertisers using optimised targeting see an average improvement of 55% when using first-party audiences.

Video campaigns for awareness

Audience expansion allows you to reach relevant audiences without relying on third-party cookies. It is similar to optimised targeting, but there is an important difference. Audience expansion looks for audience segments that behave similarly to segments in your current audience, while optimised targeting looks for consumers outside your audience.

extension

You can increase or decrease the reach of these audiences in your settings, based on your targeting expansion. On top of that, you can view weekly display estimates. You can't do that with optimised targeting.

We should mention that this feature entirely relies on Google's algorithm. You can never know for sure whether Google is showing your ads to the desired target audience. So be careful with this feature.

similar audiences

Wrapping up Similar Audiences

How exactly is Google going to wrap up Similar Audiences? The discontinuation is split up into two steps. By August 2023, all Similar Audiences segments will be discontinued.

1. No new segments as of May 2023

As of May 2023, advertisers cannot add new Similar Audiences segments to their current Google Ads campaigns. Previous segments will remain available.

2. All previous segments unavailable as of August 2023

Google’s second and final step is set for August 2023. The tech company will erase all previous segments from all ad groups and campaigns.

As an advertiser, you will have access to the historical data of these segments.

What about Facebook?

Even though Google Ads confirmed that Similar Audiences will disappear, this is not the case for Facebook. Facebook has not yet confirmed that they intend on ending Similar Audiences (also known as lookalike audiences). We do know, however, that Facebook discontinued special ad audiences.

Special ad audiences had to comply with strict rules required for special ad categories. Those categories include ads for housing, credit, employment, social issues, elections or political issues. Facebook ended these special ad audiences to eliminate discrimination based on age, gender and location.

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We do expect Facebook to make the same choice as Google Ads. The high demands in terms of user privacy make it difficult to keep relying on third-party data. For now, you can rely on the interests and behaviours available when using special ad categories. Even though experimenting with broad targeting options might feel inefficient, we do recommend testing the (limited) alternatives Facebook currently offers.

Conclusion

Will the discontinuation of Similar Audiences have a big impact on your existing Google Ads campaigns? At the moment, probably not. But it is important to understand what is changing, why it is changing, and what alternatives are coming to the market.

And Google’s guide is the perfect tool to grasp the complexity of each campaign and prepare yourself for the end of Similar Audiences in 2023. 

Sources
Google Ads Platform Solutions. (2022, 1 November). Building more durable and effective audience strategies in Google’s ads platforms. https://support.google.com/google-ads/answer/12929853?hl=en

Tools & services talked about in this article

Robbe De Vos
Robbe De Vos
Digital marketer - iO

As a member of the original Google generation, Robbe finds himself on the front row every time the world's most important algorithm starts a new chapter. As a critical user but just as good as a digital marketer. In both roles, however, privacy is something he holds in high regard - as is ethical, sustainable data.

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