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What Are Custom Intent Audiences In Google Ads?

Custom Intent audiences are a fantastic way to have more control over how you seek out and target your desired audience. This article does a deep dive into custom intent audiences and how you can benefit from them.

Targeting the right audience is extremely important to the success of your campaigns. Custom intent audiences allow you to define and reach your ideal audience. With custom intent, you can go beyond Google’s pre-defied audience categories.

About Custom Audiences

Custom audiences can be setup for Display, Discovery, Gmail and Video campaigns. They are not currently available for Search campaigns. You can create custom audiences by adding website URLs, keywords and apps to your new audience. Google will then use its algorithmic-powers to take these inputs and show your ads to people with these interests or purchase intentions.

As an example, let’s say you are a local roofing company. You want to target people on the Display network interested in roofing services. You could create a custom intent audience with these inputs:


local roofing company

roofing company near me

roofing repair services

Local roof repair contractors

Website (URLs):

These URLs are examples, of course. The idea is to add competitor website URLs.

With these inputs, Google can now get an understanding of your target audience. Obviously, you are indicating that you are interested in showing your ads to people interested in roofing services. Google then goes to work and will start showing ads to people with these interests.

Custom Audience Inputs

Reach audience based onInputsAudience type
Interests or behaviorsKeywordsYou can enter interest that represent your ideal customer. These are entered using keywords or phrases. When you enter behaviors or interestes, you have two options. Google will interpret the inputs differently, based on which option you choose.
1. The default setting (broader): People with any of the interests or purchase intentions.
2. People who searched for these terms in Google properties like Google search and Youtube. This can be a little more granular than the default setting.
People who browse websitesURLsThis is where you can enter website URLs you think your target audience would visit (or be interested in). Google will show ads to people who visit these sites or go to websites similar to these URLs.
People who use appsAppsSimilar to URLs. Instead of adding URLs, you would enter Apps.

How To Set Up Custom Intent Audiences

Ok, are you ready to give it a shot? Let’s go through the process and an example.

Steps To Set Up Custom Audiences:

Step 1

Find the Display campaign you want to use and click on it.

Step 2

Click on the ad group you want to use. NOTE: This type of targeting is done at the ad group level.

Step 3

In the page menu (right of the navigation bar on the left side of the screen), click on ‘Audiences’.

Step 4

Find the pencil icon and click on it.

Step 5

This will reveal two options. Click on the ‘Edit Audiences’ option.

Step 6

Click ‘BROWSE’ which is to the right of ‘SEARCH’.
custom audiences

Step 7

Click ‘Your Custom Audiences’ which is towards the bottom of that section.

Step 8

Click on the blue + button that will appear on the next screen.

Step 9

Enter a name for your custom audience.

Step 10

Select one of the two options:

1. People with any of these interests or purchase intentions. Enter keywords describing your target audience’s interests or products/services they are searching for. With this targeting, Google will show ads for people with these interests or purchase intentions based on your campaign settings, such as marketing objectives or bidding strategy.

2. People who searched for any of these terms on Google. This is where you enter keywords people have actually searched for on Google. Google will show your ads to people who searched for these and similar terms. 
custom intent targeting

Step 11

Save your new audience when you are finished

If you want to expand your targeting, then you can. In the screenshot above, you will notice three additional options:

  1. People who browse types of websites
  2. People who use types of apps
  3. People who visited certain places

To use these sections, simply click on the link and add your inputs such as website URLs, names of apps or actual places people have visited.

To use these sections, simply click on the link and add your inputs such as website URLs, names of apps or actual places people have visited.

Custom Intent Audience Example

Let’s walk through a quick example. Let’s continue with the roofing. You are a local roofing company looking to target people interested in roofing services. Here is an example of how you might set that up using keywords and URLs.

I added six keywords that are highly relevant to what your target audience would search for. I also added the URLs of your competitors. I have no idea if these are real websites. This is purely for illustration purposes. These two sets of inputs gives Google good information about your target audience.


When you enter this information, you will notice data to the right. Based on your inputs, Google automatically generates this data. You can see estimated weekly impressions, gender statistics, age stats, parental status and the topics of your audience.

Final Thoughts

Google Search is generally the best option for direct intent – targeting people who are actively looking for a product or service. However, with Google’s improvements in custom intent audiences, Display is becoming increasingly better at targeting audiences that are highly relevant to your business.

We have been having more success using custom intent with our clients. In many cases, we use it as a supplement to regular Search campaigns. In these cases we use just a small percentage of the monthly budget for the custom intent Display campaigns. If you have not gone this route yet, I recommend testing it out. You may be surprised!