An Overview of Customer Audiences by Channel

List upload targeting is among the most powerful tools we have as PPC marketers and it’s certainly one of my favorite features.

But each major channel differs a bit in how the list uploads work. Things like what types of information you can upload and the minimum/maximum list sizes differ between channels.

To keep things straight, I’ve compiled a list of important facts to note about each channel’s list upload features, options and how to upload these audiences. In this post I’ll only be covering Google, Microsoft, Facebook and LinkedIn Ads, but there are certainly other channels that have these features.

Let’s hop in.

Google Ads

Google’s email list targeting product is called Customer Match.

Customer email lists can be used in Search, Shopping, Gmail, YouTube and Display campaigns. Once added, you can also add bid adjustments to the audiences.

These lists are matched by finding a matching Google account. If the user submits a work email and it is not associated with a Google account, you will not be able to target that user.

Google allows First Name, Last Name, Email, Country, Zip Code, Phone Number columns in the file, with the most important column being Email.

Customer Match lists do not expire, but it’s good practice to refresh them regularly.

Google recommends an audience list size of at least 1,000 users to prevent ads from not serving.

How to Upload Customer Match Lists

To get these lists uploaded, head to the Audience Manager section of Google Ads and click the blue plus sign button.

Click “Customer List”.

Name your audience, make sure your Excel file is formatted correctly with properly named columns, save as a CSV file, set a membership duration, and upload.

It can take 24-48 hours to process the list and match to users.

Once processed, you can add it to campaigns by selecting it in the Audience Manager interface and clicking the “Add to” dropdown and selecting “campaigns” or “ad groups”.

Once added to campaigns or ad groups, you can add bid modifiers to bid up or down on your audiences. You can do this by going to Audiences in the left navigation bar of your account.

Facebook Ads

Facebook’s email list targeting feature is called Custom Audiences.

The fields available are:

  • A Main Identifier is required: Up to 3 Emails per customer, up to 3 Phone Numbers per customer, Mobile Advertiser ID, Facebook App User ID, Facebook Page User ID
  • Additional Identifiers are: First Name, Last Name, Zip Code, City, State, Country, Date of Birth, Date of Birth Year, Gender, Age

Facebook requires at least 100 matched emails per list for targeting (lists this small may still struggle with delivery). In order to create a Lookalike Audience off of Custom Audience, at least 1,000 matched emails are required.

How to Upload Custom Audiences in Facebook

Within Ads Manager, select Audiences in the Shortcuts navigation bar on the left side.

Click the “Create Audiences” button and select Custom Audience.

Select Customer List.

Prepare your file with the appropriate columns, including at least one main identifier and add additional identifiers for a better chance at improving match rate. You can download a list template for a guide on columns, information formatting, etc.

I like to give my Facebook lists 24-48 hours to process. Once matched, you can add or exclude the audience to any of your ad sets in the Audience section.

LinkedIn Ads

LinkedIn’s list matching feature is called Matched Audiences. Uploaded lists can include email addresses OR account names.

LinkedIn and Microsoft Bing Ads (which uses LinkedIn’s targeting) are the only channels that allow us to target by company.

For contact lists, LinkedIn requires at least one of the following fields:

  • Email, First Name, Last Name, Company Name, Mobile Device ID
  • Country and Job Title can also be added.

For company lists, LinkedIn requires at least one of the following fields:

  • Company Name, Company Website, Company Email Domain, LinkedIn Company Page URL, Stock Symbol
  • Company Email Domain, Industry, City, State, Company Country and Zip Code can also be added.

The recommended size for company targeting is 1,000 or more companies. The maximum size is 300,000 companies in one list.

The recommended size for contact targeting is 10,000 emails and the maximum list size is 300,000 emails.

How to Upload Matched Audiences in LinkedIn

In order to upload a list of emails or company names, click the Account Assets dropdown within your account and select Matched Audiences.

Click the Create Audience dropdown in the right corner and select “Upload a list > Company/Contact”.

I always recommend downloading the company or contact list template to make sure your columns are named appropriately and in the correct order. (LinkedIn is very strict about these things.)

Upload your document as a CSV file. The maximum file size is 20MB.

It can take 24-48 hours to process and match the list, but once completed, your audiences are ready to be targeted or excluded from your campaigns.

Microsoft Ads

In order to utilize Microsoft’s Custom Audiences features, you will need an account with a supported data management platform: Adobe Audience Manager, Oracle Blukai, or LiveRamp.

Each DMP has its own enablement steps within the software, but once the integration is completed, your audiences will appear in the Audiences section of the Shared Library.

If you have access to one of the supported DMPs, you can use the following information as a remarketing list:

  • Purchase history
  • Renewal period
  • Lifetime value
  • Time since last purchase
  • Tenure
  • Status tier
  • Subscriber type
  • Customer referrals

These audiences can be utilized on the search network and Microsoft Audience Network.

One point that is important to understand when it comes to Microsoft’s audience is the differences in the available targeting settings. The “bid only” targeting option shows ads to people searching for your ad, with the option to make bid adjustments for the selected audience. “Target and bid” shows ads only to the selected audience, with the option to make bid adjustments.

Microsoft notes that a custom audience takes 24 hours to build and cannot be applied until there are at least 300 users.

Tips for Making the Most of Uploaded Audiences

Pair with other audience and retargeting features.

Assuming you have conversion pixels setup for all of the major channels, you can utilize custom audience lists along with site retargeting and lead gen form/video view retargeting options for even more powerful campaigns.

Use cross-channel retargeting to save money.

For B2B, LinkedIn is the #1 channel, but it comes at a premium cost (which seems to be rising all the time).

One of my favorite cross-channel tactics to is target specific job functions, titles or companies in LinkedIn and then use a cheaper platform like Facebook (but not during the holiday season) or Google to retarget to those same users. It’s not a perfect science, but it can help save some precious budget.

Using the correct exclusions.

When utilizing a myriad of audiences, exclusions are very important. Over and above excluding converters, you’ll want to make sure you’re excluding customers, leads, and retargeting users from net-new audiences. Depending on the number of campaigns and audiences you’re working with, this can be quite the undertaking, but is certainly worth keeping the data clean.

Refresh the audiences frequently.

It might seem like a no-brainer, but refreshing audiences regularly can slide past and suddenly it’s been 6 months.

Every other month or once a quarter is a great rule of thumb for most of my B2B clients, but eCommerce and businesses with quick sales cycle should certainly be refreshed more frequently.

Removing or archiving old audiences can help to be able to differentiate the same audiences with multiple list options.


I hope this helps you to identify the most useful channels for your custom audience strategies in upcoming or existing campaigns! There are a lot of options so you can certainly find a strategy that works for you or your accounts!

What is your favorite channel for custom audiences? We’d love to hear in the comments below!