01 December 2022

Deprecation of similar audiences

Deprecated Similar Audiences

In summary

  • Similar Audiences are being deprecated in Google Ads in 2023.
  • This update will have a greater impact on Youtube and Display campaigns.
  • Similar Audiences are being replaced by new privacy-focused audiences.
  • Whilst advertisers can expect less granular visibility on their data, Louder expects the impact on campaign performance to be minimal.

Impact timeline

  • Now: No changes
  • May 2023: Similar audience segments will stop being created automatically on the back of manually created audiences.
  • August 2023: Similar audience segments will be removed from the Google Ads platform.

Similar audiences will be deprecated

On Thursday, November 3rd 2022, Google announced the deprecation of Similar Audiences.

Starting May 1, 2023, Google Ads will no longer generate similar audiences (also referred to as “similar segments”) for targeting and reporting.

From August 2023, those audience segments will be removed from campaigns and adgroups. This means historical reporting will no longer be available.

The news comes as a new privacy-preserving set of measures for which Google is replacing existing products (e.g. similar audiences) with existing and new audience features: Audience Expansion and Optimised Targeting.

What are similar audiences and what are they used for?

Similar audiences were introduced to Paid Search campaigns in Google Ads back in May 2017 as a response to Facebook Look-A-Like audiences, but similar audiences had been available for some time for Display campaigns.

Those semi-automated audience segments are created by the system when Customer Match lists (1P data audiences created using email addresses or phone numbers) or Remarketing Lists (tag-based audiences) are added to the account.

Marketers then added those similar segments to their campaigns or ad groups to feed additional insights to the bidding algorithm (Paid Search) or for incremental reach for Display & Youtube campaigns.

Those audiences were particularly used in performance strategies to identify similar users to recent converters.

Why do we care?

Similar audiences were one of the alternatives to cookie-based audiences and allowed marketers to target and adjust bidding on audiences with a theoretically higher propensity to convert.

In a world where the number of cookies available for audience creation is in free fall and where media budgets’ efficiencies are under scrutiny with the looming promise of a recession, similar audiences were a tactic of choice for most advertisers.

Decrease in campaign reach

Similar audiences were a safer and more controlled tactic to target unknown audiences. For campaigns using audiences as the sole targeting method, the deprecation of similar audiences may decrease campaigns’ ability to reach a wider pool of users.

Similar audiences are replaced by new audience features

Google Ads will be replacing similar audiences with 2 different audience formats: Audience Expansion and Optimised Targeting.

  • Audience Expansion: Goal-based audiences that marketers can enable with a tick of a box in their campaign settings to reach users that are similar to their manually added audiences and that are likely to convert. Louder understands that feature to be the closest alternative to the former Similar Audience.

  • Optimised Targeting: The objective is the same in that this audience format finds new and relevant audiences that are likely to convert. The difference is that this audience feature looks beyond manually-selected audience segments.

Note: Do not confuse audience expansion (G-Ads, tick box) and targeting expansion (DV360, interest affinity scale).

Whilst Google said back in 2021 it would not develop any solution that tracks users across the web after the deprecation of 3P cookies, it seems those new audience features come as a change of heart following feedback from advertisers and the need for additional audience targeting solutions.

Similar audiences will not be replaced in Paid Search At the time of the writing of this article, the audience features mentioned above have not been made available for the Search network.

Enabling automated bidding will be the only solution to leverage the Engine’s conversion signals. If only using an intra-day bidding solution and/or a 3P Search bid platform, we recommend assessing if the current setup is aligned with best practices and whether it leverages all the available data and signals available.

Marketers may not be without any solutions. Tools such as Search Ads 360 (SA360) provide features such as Conversion Value Rules to adjust the importance of audience segments in their bid strategies. With this feature, the role of custom audience segments combined with propensity modeling leveraging 1P data will become front and centre of any audience strategies in Paid Search.

What can we do?

Whilst officially similar audiences are being deprecated, they are being replaced with new audience features that will operate in a similar fashion.

  • Turn on Ads Data Hub: For more control, marketers and advertisers should turn to new marketing technologies such as Ads Data Hub. Louder has covered the importance of such future technologies in our article about walled gardens, data clean rooms and third party cookies - how campaign measurement is poised to change in 2021 and beyond!
  • Start testing the new features: from an operational and immediate point of view, Louder recommends testing those features ahead of the change in May to assess the performance impact. Louder can assist with the development of robust testing frameworks and protocols to help assess the impact on both reach and conversion rates.

On their support portal page, Google has recommended actions for each campaign type.

Is DV360 impacted?

No, the platform did not have similar audiences except for Youtube campaigns.

Need more info about the Google Ads update? Get in touch with our Louder team.

About Arthur Hascoet

Arthur Hascoet specialises in performance media strategies and automation opportunities. In his spare time he enjoys the great outdoors and discovering the unsealed tracks of the backcountry.