New and Improved from Google

bicycle race

We’ll discuss what’s new and improved from Google, specifically custom intent audiences and better page speed insights. But first will you indulge an editorial note?

Very high on my list of good advice for bloggers would be, “Don’t go two and a half years without blogging, if you want people to take you seriously.” I should have practiced what I would have preached. In fact, I’ve blogged quite a bit elsewhere — about politics, religion, books, etc. — but I haven’t written here since about a year before Google rolled out expanded text ads, which I love, and responsive ads, which I would love if they were less of a black box and if some of the text formats weren’t ugly.

I’m back with a few notes on two recent bits of news, one new feature and one improved feature, and also with the intent to make the next gap between posts fewer days than the last one was months.

Custom Intent Audiences in AdWords

Several weeks ago, Google announced an assortment of innovations. The most intriguing for me is the custom intent audience, a new targeting method available on the Google Display Network. There’s a variant of this which Google will do for you, but the hands-on possibilities are what most interest me.

Here’s what Google says: “Built with performance advertisers in mind, custom intent audiences allow you to go beyond pre-defined audience categories and reach people as they’re making a purchase decision. For Display campaigns, you can create a custom intent audience using in-market keywords — simply entering keywords and URLs related to products and services your ideal audience is researching across sites and apps.”

That’s a little murky, so I plied one of my Google agency reps with questions the other day. Keywords can indeed play a role, but here’s the fun part: I can give Google a list competitor web sites — even specific pages at competitor websites — and my ads will run for people who have recently visited those sites (or pages). This is a bit like hijacking competitors’ remarketing audiences.

For example, for an ad campaign touting Hyundai Sonatas, I could target people who have recently visited Accord pages at Honda’s site and Camry pages at Toyota’s site, to say nothing of selected pages at and anywhere else people might go to shop for comparable, late-model used cars.

We’ve started implementing this at the day job (I’m Enterprise PPC Manager on the Omnichannel Campaign Experience Team at Axis41, A Merkle Company). I’ll be doing it soon for a couple of small clients I keep on the side. And it’s only a matter of time before competitors start doing it to my clients and to you, if they’re not already, and there’s no good way to stop them. So just plan on beating them.

To set up a custom intent audience, you need to be in new AdWords interface, looking at a display campaign or ad group. (You won’t see these options if you’re looking at a search campaign.) Select “Audiences” in the menu to the left. Then, if you’re in a campaign, you’ll have to choose an ad group. If you’re in an ad group, click on the pencil (edit) button and choose “Edit audiences” or click on the “Add audience” button.

Then choose “Intent,” followed either by “Custom intent audiences” (to apply one you’ve already made) or “New Custom Intent Audience,” to create one.

At least that’s how you do it at the moment, and it currently looks like this screen shot. Note that I’ve already defined a “Competitors” audience for this account.

AdWords custom intent audience

(Click for larger image.)


For a more detailed tutorial, see this good piece at Search Engine Land.

Improved Google Page Speed Insights

Google’s Page Speed Insights have long been a staple of my colleagues’ SEO work and my own work in PPC. They’ve recently become deeper and more helpful.

Google Page Speed Insights

(click for larger image)

Formerly, a page’s mobile and desktop ratings were based on Google’s own load and examination of the page. They still give that — the Optimization number in the screen shot — but if there’s enough traffic data, they also give a Speed rating based on actual performance for users. Here (above) I ran it on, which is fast. (Mobile is shown here.)

Next I ran it on, which is also fast (here showing desktop), but doesn’t have enough traffic data for the new Speed rating.

Google Page Speed Insights

(click for larger image)

With the possible exception of your mother, any visitor to your site is likely to respond negatively to a page that loads slowly, especially on a mobile devices. Slow speed increases bounce rates, because patience is largely a forgotten virtue. But Google also takes page speed into account in algorithms which rank organic search results (SEO) and determine landing page experience and therefore quality score in PPC. Word on the street is that speed’s place in these algorithms will only get bigger in the foreseeable future.

In the end, these numbers and Google’s suggestions only help if we act on them. This site’s numbers were much lower earlier this week, so I installed, configured, and activated a highly-rated WordPress plug-in, W3 Total Cache (the free version), which improved things dramatically.

Posted in PPC, SEO