If you’re a small business and you’re trying to compete with the big dogs’ in the industry, then advertising on AdWords can be a little challenging because the competition usually involves more experience, more insights and more money to reach out to your target audience.

While it might be overwhelming to take on the competition, you can utilize Google’s Custom Affinity Audiences to compete with these giants and win. Custom affinity audiences are TV-styled audiences that are designed to help advertisers connect with their ideal customers online.

Custom affinity audiences speedily became a favorite for both small and large businesses alike because they’re essential when it comes to supporting top-funnel objectives, searching out for and reaching qualified customers. You can use custom affinity audiences to decide your target affinity audience using specific categories, places, keywords and URLs on the Google Display Network (GDN).

This is particularly helpful to those who’re selling super-specific products.

In this article, we’re going to give an overview of affinity audiences, custom affinity audiences, the perks of custom affinity targeting, and then we’ll dive into how you can create custom affinity audiences for high converting google ads.

Let’s read on.


To begin with, we will quickly define what “Affinity Audiences” are before diving into the world of custom. You can imagine affinity audiences to be similar to TV audiences- where excitedly generalized types of people watch different TV channels.

So channel E4 would represent younger demographics (probably those chilling in their university dormitories), whereas BBC one would represent the older demographics, people interested in news and politics….

You get the idea right?

Even though there is some certainty in this system of categorization, it’s very presumptuous, broad- it’s a wide and costly targeting option for smaller businesses.

custom affinity audiences

Google achieves something related by penetrating and incorporating acquirable information from a particular user. Like the time they spend on different sites, the pages they frequently visit, their search patterns and so on. The outcome is a predefined audience structured by predisposition or affinity such as “Food and Dining“, “Travel” and “Sports fans.” But remember that all these are large TV-style audiences and not a perfect science.

That’s where the concept of customer affinity audiences comes in handy: they show their worth by giving you the ability to define your audience and giving you more control over who sees your ads.

Let’s take a look at what custom affinity audiences entails.


Custom affinity audiences are fundamentally an audience that you create yourself. They’re a more tailored version of affinity audiences which allows you to reach out to predefined audiences that could be more receptive to your ad messaging.

For instance, if you’re interested in targeting people with a craving for food and you’re using affinity audiences, then you could use the “Foodies” audience. Furthermore, if it’s people who love big cars, then you can use “SUV or Truck Enthusiasts”. There are tons of option that you can choose from, and these options are suitable for a wide range of verticals.

Regrettably, most of these audiences are relatively broad, and Google predefines them. So even though there’s a great selection, they don’t incorporate every base. If you’re looking to promote a “niche based product”, affinity audience might not be ideal, and that’s where a custom affinity audience comes in handy.


Compared to other forms of audience targeting, custom affinity targeting offers several unique benefits to advertisers. These include the ability to target:

  • Users that visit your competitor’s website
  • An audience based on specific URLs
  • Consumers who use specific apps
  • Consumers that use particular search terms and keywords

What’s more?

You can incorporate custom affinity audiences with new targeting to get across to an even more refined group of users.

Google gives a great instance of how marketers could leverage customer affinity audiences to reach out to marathon runners.

For instance, instead of reaching out to the “Sports Fans” affinity audience, a running shoe company might want to reach out to “Avid Marathon Runners”.

With the help of custom affinity audiences, the shoe company can further define this audience by:

  • Entering interests like 5K in San Francisco, long-distance runner or triathlon athlete
  • Entering places that an Enthusiastic Marathon runner might be interested in like sporting goods stores, gyms, and natural supermarkets
  • Using URLs of websites that has contents about marathon nutrition, training schedules, running and other marathon themes
  • Entering applications in the Health and fitness category that an Avid Marathon Runner might probably be interested in


The process of creating a custom affinity audience is pretty simple and straightforward so that anyone can give it a try.

Let’s take a deep dive at the steps involved in creating custom affinity audiences for high converting google ads.

Step 1: You’ll need a “Display Network Only Campaign.”

To begin with, you need to log in to your AdWords account. If you don’t have a “display network only campaign,” then go ahead and create one for yourself. Only fill in the relevant information.

Don’t be scared. You’re not going to use this campaign to run your ads; you need the option to build your custom affinity audience. (yeah, sometimes, AdWords makes it tougher than it’s supposed to be. Whatever it might be, embrace it because it’s going to be worthwhile).

Step 2: Find where to Build these custom affinity audiences

Immediately after you’ve created your mock “Display Network Only” campaign that has a single ad group, you can click on the “Display Network” tab and click the “+TARGETING” button. Beneath the “Add targeting” drop-down menu, click on “Interest and Remarketing.” It should look like the image below:

Once the “Interest and Remarketing” targeting option is opened up, select the “Custom affinity audiences” option that is situated in the “Select category” drop-down menu.

Once you’ve selected it, you’ll see a page that looks like the image below. Click on the “+create custom affinity button.”

custom affinity audiences

You’ll see an overlap pop up box, which gives you a choice to create your Custom affinity audience by adding specific URLs, places, apps, and interests.


Step 3: Build your Custom Affinity Audience(s)

The benchmarks for setting up a custom affinity audience(CAA) is to think of a minimum of five different URLs, places, apps and interests that correctly define the kind of audience you’re trying to target.

Once you’ve made all your selections, the AdWords system will then inform you more about the audience they have for you- the topics, the demographics, how many cookies, and so on.  You can always preview the estimated size of your custom affinity audience.

Beautiful and smart stuff- you now have your custom affinity audience ready for targeting.

custom affinity audiences

If it looks appropriate, then you can save the audience.

If you want to reach out to more audience in the future, all you need is to iterate through the whole process again, but instead of creating a new custom affinity audience, you can just select the custom affinity audience you’ve built before and implement with different parameters (URLs, places, apps, and interests).

Yeah, it works.

Now, here’s something you need to figure out before you begin to run ads to these new set of custom audience you’ve built. Your messaging is the real key that’ll determine the success of your custom affinity audience marketing.

Let’s show you some strategies that’ll help you benefit from customer affinity audiences.


Confidently, now that you have a better understanding of customer affinity marketing, you’re more inspired like never before to give it a try. Now, we’ll show you a couple of ways that you can use CAA to target relevant audiences:


Remember that custom affinity makes use of your audience’s recent search patterns and behaviors. Rather than what they just typed into the search engine at that moment. Also, it’s doubtful that these audiences don’t even know who you are yet.

So, you need to remember that this is cold traffic. If you had a brick and mortar store, your audience would be your window shoppers.

What this means is that you need to look for compelling ways to engage and communicate your message to these audiences because you don’t advertise with search, interest and remarketing traffic the same way. You wouldn’t communicate to in-store customers, window shoppers, and customers at the checkout the same way, right?

For community affinity audiences, short video/image ads to pre-sale content pages or longer video ads to landing pages usually work out fine.

If you need an app to make those video’s, then read this article of the best video editing apps in 2019

Below is a quick three-step guide on what your customer journey should look like.
  • Move them closer to a buying decision: ensure that what you offer is a reasonable next step for the potential customers to take.
  • Grab their attention: try as much as possible to start your interaction with something like “Did you know.” This method tends to work fine because many people don’t anticipate a question at the beginning of a video. It’ll also grab your audience’s attention by opening a curiosity gap in them.
  • Provide useful information only: it’s cool to unpack a case study that is centred around a single case study. Ogilvy discovered that when placed side by side, “demonstration” TV ads sold about four times as many people than TV ads that only promoted a product. The same applies to YouTube ads.

Never forget, Simplicity wins the day: try not to overcomplicate things.


One of the great ways to reach out to relevant users is by targeting conventions, conferences, and tradeshows. Those that attend such events are more likely to be engaged in your products/services much more than anyone else. Also, these set of people pay close attention to attend these types of events so you’d imagine that they would be interested in the said product/service.

Let’s use SMX London as an instance- a conference that encourages the latest updates in the world of digital marketing every year. If I’m looking at targeting the digital marketing fanatics, then I’ve found a jackpot audience.

I’ll merely use https://marketinglandevents.com/smx/london/ as the most relevant URL and keywords like “search marketing,” “PPC,” “SEO,” “digital marketing” and there we go. Google should be able to understand the audience I’m defining and target my ads to them.

custom affinity audiences


Customer affinity audiences offer a window of opportunities through which you can reach out to your competitors’ audience. By using a specific page or site of your competitor as URL targets and entering their brand keywords as interests, you can effectively and efficiently aim at relevant users on the GDN (Google Display Network).

Depending on who you have as competitors, just doing the above will be enough. However, in some cases, you’ll have to manage the targeting more carefully. If you have massive competitors, then you might try to target page-specific URLs and probably create a single campaign for that competitors CAA so that you can efficiently manage your budget and expenses.

Otherwise, you might be targeting those small competitors in a local region. In which case, you can throw your competitors domain in the URL section and develop your interest items a bit- by including their brand and the products or services you’re competing on.

Here’s what you might likely do if you were to be a local massage clinic, offering sports and physio massages.

custom affinity audiences


If you own a “tennis racquet” business then targeting interests like “forehand tennis tips,” “tennis practice,” “improve tennis service” might pay you some dividends.

Want to know why?

This target audience will give you a better shot of getting in front of users who are active. Instead of merely targeting “tennis enthusiasts”- an example of a predefined affinity audience.

Those who’re looking to improve their tennis skills don’t watch it. Instead, they play it with racquets. At least you know that you have a better chance of going with this route.

When you narrow your audience segments, you’ll be able to target users who’re lower down the conversion funnel. This metaphor is used merely because at the top of the funnel, there are loads of people who are remotely connected with the sport of tennis. But then as you improve your targeting, the volume of prospects reduces but the probability of converting a prospect into business upsurges.

Ensure to target the lower funnel because the process is very cost-effective.

custom affinity audiences


Does any of the following initiative describe your advertising goals?

  • Advertising tailored contents to specific users
  • More controlled targeting on GDN
  • Branding
  • Increasing market reach while driving valuable actions on your site

Considering the very nature of the way custom affinity audiences are set up, they’re useful and practical for diverse situations and businesses.  

There are factually millions of different ways that you can reach out to relevant audiences just by familiarizing yourself with various items (URLs, places, apps, and interests).

Even if you’re a pretty new business sells “tennis racquets”, although the market is fiercely competitive and enormous, you can still think of tactical ways to target significant users and raise your brand awareness.


Custom affinity audiences are the best, creative and cost-effective way to reach out to new users. They offer many benefits, allows for more control on the GDN (Google display network) and they’ll help you to drive incremental conversions.

What we’d recommend is that you go into your AdWords account and try to play around with custom affinity audiences. Try to build a few audiences based on niche celebrity names, relevant websites, relevant brands, competitor’s websites, search keywords, and so on.

If you’re in a properly-defined niche industry that has little to no vagueness like “forex trading” vs. “consulting,” then you might find high-performing audiences that’ll work best for you.

Try as much as possible to “niche down” to a specific topic.

Have you used custom affinity audiences before? Got any question about this article? We’d be eager to hear from you; leave us a comment below.

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