Winning B2B Results with Google Search Ads Audience Targeting

This is a guest post by Mary Hartman, Sr. Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing.

A whole world of audience targeting is opening up to B2B marketers these days, from LinkedIn Profile targeting on the Bing Ads Network, to leveraging Facebook B2B Lookalike audiences.

Among all the possible targeting methods, Google Ads audiences may seem a lesser choice. But for many marketers, layering affinity audiences or in-market audiences from Google with search keywords has become a great way to cultivate more qualified leads.

Running B2B campaigns on Google search ads can be a minefield, with expensive CPCs for bottom-funnel, “sure bet” keywords. And more general keywords often lure innocent consumers to click on B2B ads, resulting in higher CTRs, dings to quality score, and frustrated salespeople contacting less-than-ideal prospects when they could be chasing bigger, more qualified prospects.

In order to cut waste on already running search campaigns in Google Ads, more marketers are using In-Marketing audiences and more as a targeting layer on Google Search. Read on for our data and tips on how you can put into place your own test.

Part 1: The Data

This client is a B2B software client who had a recurring pain point that is common among B2B marketers: Google Search was drawing in unqualified leads who could not use their software, which is designed to support larger enterprise-sized businesses.

Search efforts were resulting in a mix of non-business and extremely small business leads and industry types. Like many B2B companies, the offers in the ads are not strictly demos and trials but include education-based calls to action for whitepaper downloads – something a person working in the industry but not looking to buy software is eager to convert on, much to the sales teams’ chagrin.

After a period of research and observation, we adjusted specific Google search campaigns to only target only the following audience tests as mandatory targeting layers:

  1. “Enterprise Software” In-Market audience
  2. “Network & Enterprise Security” In-Market audience

The test began on January 10th, 2019.

Since the test began, we have experienced the following changes in the test campaign:

  • Conversion rates across all campaigns have increased by 36% from 7.66% to 10.46% period over period. Audiences, in particular, saw a conversion rate lift of +147.22% from 4.51% to 11.15%.
  • CTR decreased 30% from 1.44% to 0.99%.
    • We are taking this as a good sign that discerning shoppers are now thinking before they click, compared to “happy-clicking” prospects who are not within our target audience.


Above, you can see the high conversion rates we started to see coming from In-Market audiences in particular for this search campaign.

  • Total conversions remained the same even with an increase in spend, but remember that our goal was to increase lead quality, not lead volume.
  • Checking the back-end CMS, total qualified leads from Google Ads doubled.
  • A caveat: We have made major adjustments to social ads as well during this time period, so some credit must be given to more qualified retargeting audiences. However, the numbers above reflect the results of a prospecting campaign test only, with retargeting audiences excluded from the test.

Part 2: Creating Your Own B2B Google Search Audience Test

Step 1: Observe the Audiences First

Before you dive into audience targeting, first get your data together by turning on multiple audiences for observation only in your current search campaigns.

These audiences should not have any bid adjustments applied to them for a clean test, and include all the audiences that might be relevant to your product. Google offers a wide variety of audiences that can be applied to search campaigns.

  • In-Market audiences are actively researching products and actively considering buying a service. Some B2B options include:
  • If there is no specific In-Market audience to fit your ideal target, create your own Custom Affinity Audience and observe how many of your already converting leads fall within that audience type.
    • Custom Affinities can be created from keywords and URLs.
    • Hanapin has seen great results when an affinity audience is created using competitor URLs or even news sites that are specific to the industry.

Step 2: Determine which audiences are performing well and set up a well-controlled test.

It’s easy to spot which audiences are performing well. In the data above, a key indicator was this data on the In-Market audience performance when it was running in observation mode:
Cost per conversion was more expensive, but the conversion rate was 10.67% compared to the standard 6.87% of all other audiences.

This was an indication that lead quality was stronger if we were to test the in-market audience with the search keywords. Before we began the test, we made sure the client was willing to pay more for better-qualified leads.

Step 3: Begin the Test

  • We recommend testing in high volume, high-spend campaign, since adding the audience layer is sure to cut your traffic significantly.
  • Start with a specific set of keywords that tends to already convert well so you can compare lead quality before and after the test.
  • Brace yourself for less spend and inform your client that spending may decrease during the testing period, especially if you are adding more than one audience layer in addition to search keyword targeting.

Step 4: Prep for Results

  • Ease your worries by remembering that Google has been honing their in-market audiences since 2014, whereas Bing launched in-market audiences just last year. Google is also home to a ton of businesses who share their data with the search giant. More than 3 million businesses and 70 million enterprises use Google for business, so it’s likely that Google will understand which users are from businesses and which are not.
  • This doesn’t mean we should completely trust audience targeting. Continue to observe your average CPCs, impression share, and see if there are changes to the types of keywords drawing traffic as your test progresses.
  • As data is collected, consider how you might want to adjust your ad copy or offers to better match audience characteristics in the future.
  • Don’t forget to observe demographic data like gender, age, and household income, and make bid adjustments to those targets if needed. Don’t be over-eager with making adjustments, however, until you have sufficient data.

Step 5: Regularly Check the Audience Creator for New Targeting Options

In March, we spotted new Affinity Audience targeting options, a sign that Google is constantly rolling out new options with little fanfare.

Marketers should regularly check the Google Ads platform for new testing opportunities, as Google continues to expand our choices:

  • Define your audience by Place: Based on the data Google cultivates from people visiting physical business types.
  • Define your audience by App: Based on the apps that users have downloaded and/or use regularly.

B2B targeting in Google Search can be difficult. So, to give your salespeople a boost in qualified leads and less dead-weight, we recommend taking the steps above for marketers who are new to audience targeting in Google Ads.

About the Author:

Mary is a Sr. Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing. During the span of her early career, she worked in traditional advertising, lead generation, and SEO before developing a passion for PPC management and strategy in 2012. She has managed campaigns for a wide variety of industries, from local to B2B, for 8 years. Mary blogs at and has spoken at PubCon Florida in March 2019 and will be speaking at HeroConf Philadelphia in April 2019.