by Ana Gotter March 23, 2020

Improve Paid Search Performance By Layering Audiences and Clicks

PPC campaigns are competitive, and they can quickly become very, very expensive, especially if you aren’t using all the tools in your arsenal to lower those costs.

Let’s consider Google Ads, for example.

A single click can cost an advertiser tens or even hundreds of dollars depending on the keyword and its competition level, and it can do so without actually guaranteeing any kind of results after that click. If the search intent is even slightly off for the keyword you’re displaying, they might click and you lose the ad spend. A user might be searching for “telescope,” and while your ad selling telescopes makes sense, maybe they only want to attend an event that already has one.

There are a few tricks you can use to increase the likelihood that your ad campaigns will be relevant to the search in question while you simultaneously cut costs. Layering clicks and audiences in PPC marketing is a solid strategy for this that more brands and marketers should be using, and in this post, we’ll show you exactly how to do so.

What Does “Layering Audiences” Even Mean?

Layering audiences is the process of “stacking” audience targeting options in Google Ads against each other or with specific keywords in order to create narrow, hyper-focused ads that this niche group will connect with.

Let’s say, for example, that you’re trying to increase event registration at an all-women digital business conference designed to help women excel in their careers. You could use demographic targeting to ensure that only those who identify as women see the ad campaigns.

That’s a good start, but the audience may not be specific enough to get you the results you want at a lower cost. Maybe then you add on the life event targeting criteria “graduating from college,” because young professionals who need some guidance are your target attendees.

layering audiences

As your audience gets narrower, you’re increasing the likelihood that your ad campaign will be exactly what the individual is searching for or would be interested in. You can also get creative here with keywords, adding another layer to the strategy.

Maybe in addition to searching for a relatively high-cost keyword like “business conference,” which can be relatively high cost at over $4, you’ll add on keywords like “how to network” and “learn professional skills,” which both cost less than a dollar each. You could use messaging here like “learn how to start your career on the right foot” or “gain skills and make valuable connections that will benefit you throughout your entire career.”


Think of layering audiences like online dating. If you just get on the sites and try to appeal to everyone and talk to everyone, you’ll have wasted $30 per month on a subscription and a few disappointing dates.

If, however, you’re using filters to try to find the small niche of people you might connect with and create a profile tailored to those individuals, you’ll have much more success. There’s no point in appearing like an adventurous mountain climber, after all, if you want to attract a fellow nerd who likes to relax at home on Friday nights playing board games—even if it means you get fewer hits on your profile overall.

Types of Audience Targeting You Can Layer

Almost all PPC platforms allow you to select multiple audience targeting criteria in each ad campaign, effectively layering your audiences. You can therefore use audience layering on all PPC platforms, and layer audience targeting and keywords on search platforms like Google Ads, Bing Ads, and Promoted Pins.

Your targeting options include the following, depending on the specific platform:

  • Demographic targeting, including age and gender
  • Lifestyle targeting, including whether or not you’re a parent, a student, a homeowner, and your level of income
  • Remarketing, allowing you to target users who have interacted with your business in some way recently like visiting a landing page or interacting with your business on social media
  • Similar/lookalike audiences, which let you target users who are similar to existing customers or leads
  • Interest and behavior targeting, like the ability to target users who love yoga or who are regularly online shoppers
  • In-market audiences, who are actively in the market and researching a buying decision for something specific

The Do’s and Don’ts of Layering Audiences

Audience layering can absolutely help you increase relevant clicks at a lower cost, so even though setting up these campaigns might take a bit more time and strategy, it’s definitely a tactic to consider whether you’re on a tight marketing budget or not.

In order to increase your success with this strategy, however, you’ll want to follow a few best practices and avoid a few common mistakes. Let’s take a look at each of the do’s and don’ts of audience layering.

What You Should Do

Here are some solid best practices that you should follow when it comes to layering audiences on your PPC campaigns:

Focus on Your Buyer Personas

Start here. Who exactly makes up your overall target audiences, and what niches can they be broken down into? A mortgage broker, for example, might have young couples working hard to save every penny to buy their first house because they are getting married (in market audience for buying a house + life event targeting for getting married).

They might also have older couples getting ready to retire who want to buy a vacation home with extra income (income target + demographic age targeting + in marketing targeting). When you’ve got your core audience niches in front of you, it will be easier to decide which targeting criteria you want to layer.

Try Automated Bidding

Automated bidding can be a bit of a mixed bag, but it is designed to help you optimize for high-quality clicks. Run a few campaigns testing out automated bidding to see if it yields better results. If not, you can always adjust the bidding strategy at a later date.

Customize Your Audience Targeting for Each Platform

If you had exceptional results with audience targeting on Google Ads and want to try a similar campaign on Facebook, first remember that you’ll need to adjust your campaigns.

There’s a big difference between demand harvesting (aka capturing users who are already searching for products like yours when they see your ad) and demand harvesting (which is where you’re trying to capture interest and convince someone they need something they weren’t looking for). You may need to shift your audience targeting for each platform and the messaging accordingly.

Be Aware of How Narrow the Audience Gets

Audience layering naturally narrows down the audience. There may be 10,000 people in your zip code who love yoga, but only 4,000 who love yoga and vegan food. While narrowing down the number of users you reach is natural and kind of the point, you want to avoid creating an audience that’s so incredibly small that you’ll struggle to gain traction with it.

For some small local businesses, several hundred years (300+) may be enough, though it’s always best to have at least 1000 potential users who can see your ad for best results and to minimize frequency. For larger brands, you want at least 10,000 potential audience members.

A/B Test Everything

Your audience layering may not pan out exactly how you were expecting. That’s okay, nothing wrong with that; marketing is all about trial and error. Just make sure that you’re carefully watching different audiences to look for winning combinations, and use what you learn to shape your campaigns moving forward.

What You Should Avoid

Audience layering, unsurprisingly, can obviously become a little complex. To ensure you’re keeping your campaigns working well for you (and avoiding shooting yourself in the foot), avoid the following mistakes that could hurt your overall performance:

Using the Same Messaging Regardless of the Specific Audience

This is a big nope, but we see it happen more often than you’d think. The whole point of audience layering is to create more relevant messaging, so you want to take advantage of that and actually customize the messaging. 

Think about it this way: you wouldn’t be thrilled if you were searching for flowers for a family member’s funeral, and all you saw when you searched were joyful ads talking about beautiful weddings and the happiest day of your life. Florists would want to tailor their ads accordingly, using the happy, fluffy language for audiences specifically containing those who were engaged and planning a wedding, and only those searches.

Picking Demographics Just for the Heck of It

All marketing requires that we go on a hunch every now and then, but you don’t really want to pick audience targeting criteria “just because.” Your demographics and your other targeting criteria should absolutely be strategically chosen based on known audience niches that you want to target. If you start adding on random criteria without knowing why, you’ll struggle to see results.

Bidding High on Lower-Value Audiences

Let’s go back to the florist for a second. I knew someone who dropped $20,000 on their wedding just on flowers alone. Weddings are a cash cow for florists, so it makes sense to bid high on these high-value, high-reward audiences.

You’ll want to change your bid, however, when targeting audience sectors that are known to be a little less profitable overall. If you’re advertising “elopement flowers” for example, where the bride and groom only get flowers, you may want to decrease your bid compared to someone who wants your 5k wedding flower extravaganza package. You’d definitely want to lower the bid even more if advertising prom corsages, too.

Consider the profitability of each audience when deciding which bids you want to raise or lower, and remember to adjust as necessary.

Final Thoughts

Understanding your target audience has been and will always be at the core of marketing. If you don’t know who your audience is or what they need from you, you’ll struggle to ever connect with them in a meaningful, effective way, and your campaigns will fall flat.

Audience layering essentially takes the knowledge that you have of your audience and breaks them down into distinct niches that are identifiable by a few key traits (see college graduate + female, or retiree+ high income + in market for a house). If you need to, take some time to dive deep into your audiences now, using analytics tools like Google Analytics and even Facebook’s Insights to learn more about the customers you have and the types of customers you want. This is an investment that will always pay off.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for assistance in determining how to create campaigns utilizing audience layering (or testing their effectiveness), you can learn more about how we can help you by getting in touch here.

What do you think about layering audiences and clicks to drive more results at a lower cost? Have you ever used this strategy before? If so, what targeting criteria worked best for you? Share your thoughts, experience, and questions in the comments below! 

  • Google Ads

  • PPC

Ana Gotter

Ana Gotter is a freelance writer specializing in social media and content marketing, though she writes on a variety of other niches and subjects. She can be contacted at

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