Demographics for Search Ads – The Lowdown

DFSA-blog=-img Google has introduced a number of new AdWords changes in the last quarter, with expanded text ads and bid multipliers for tablet devices arguably being the most significant for Paid Search advertisers. However, over the last few weeks, they have rolled out the latest new feature for all AdWords accounts: Demographics For Search Ads targeting (DFSA)

Why Is This Important?

DFSA has the potential to top previous AdWords features in terms of the impact on Paid Search performance. This new demographic targeting option can be located under the audiences tab in the AdWords interface and makes it now possible to target and implement bid modifiers based on a user’s age and gender in AdWords paid search campaigns.


Demographic targeting options has long since been available on other numerous platforms including Bing Paid Search campaigns, the Google Display network and various social media platforms. Many would say this is a long overdue feature, as well as a much sought-after addition to the AdWords Paid Search advertising tool kit.

Best Practices for using DFSA

As with the existing bid multiplier options for devices including time of day, geolocation and RLSA audience, DFSAs now provide another insightful tool, allowing advertisers to spend their budgets more efficiently. Whether this will be through improved targeting bids and messaging for customer demographics, there are obvious key benefits to this feature. For example, if an advertiser in the pension release sector were to use this tool, users under the age of 55 would automatically be excluded to improve CPL.

Although, as an advertiser, you may already have a clear view of your core customer demographics, strategic decisions should always be based on analysing available performance data, i.e., just because women make up 70% of your audience, it does not mean that men driving the remaining 30% of sales convert at a lower ROAS. The performance by demographic segment can also vary significantly by keyword group/product category/service etc. for any one client so it is vital to not blanket bid multipliers across the board.

To ensure DFSAs are being implemented effectively, we would recommend:

1.  Analysing demographics performance reports by keyword group/product category/campaign or any other segment of your client’s activity where the demographic profile could vary.

2. Looking at your primary performance KPI (ROAS, COS etc.) for each age and gender segment compared to the average in order to calculate what bid multipliers you should be applying to your campaigns.


This client data shows two different product categories; the variance in the ROAS vs average by age group and gender differ significantly, therefore there is a requirement of separate demographic bid adjustments to optimise overall performance.


3. Considering which campaigns or ad groups would get a performance uplift through being filtered by age or gender – this will give the added benefit of being able to tailor ad-copy messaging and landing pages as well as simply changing the effective bid for different demographics, as seen with clients who stock both male and female product ranges or gift products in the run up to the Christmas period.

4. Don’t automatically exclude or reduce bids for ‘unknown’ traffic. You will notice there is a large unknown segment of traffic for both categories: Age and Gender. Google determines demographic information based on account holder information as well as user behaviour. However, there will still be a significant proportion of users who do not have a Google account and so their age and gender cannot be accurately determined based on search history. Google will automatically group this performance’s data under the ‘Unknown’ category. Google may also categorise those who are gender non-binary and under 18 into the ‘unknown’ bucket’.

Typically, the ‘Unknown’ age and gender category accounts for approximately 40-50% of traffic so it would be worth bearing in mind that this group will likely account for the majority of overall sales/revenue/leads, and should not be excluded. Alternatively, you may still want to implement a negative bid multiplier to the ‘unknown’ segment of age or gender if the ROAS is significantly below the average.

What’s next?

DFSAs being implemented within AdWords as a feature reflects AdWords’s evolution into becoming increasingly audience-centric. This is in comparison to preceding features: customer match and RLSA, both of which have limitations of previous site visitors/customers.

DFSAs however have wider potential due to not being limited in the same way by a fixed audience. It offers a significant opportunity for advertisers to improve the efficiency of their paid search campaigns in an increasingly competitive space.

So what’s next? Demographic bid multipliers for Shopping campaigns? Similar audiences for search ads? Further demographic segments such as parental status? Audience preference ad copies?

Watch this space!