Google AdWords has finally rolled out Demographics for Search Ads. The feature, announced in June, allows advertisers to target age and gender demographics in search campaigns. Interestingly, Google has chosen not to provide targeting by parental status, which is included in display demographics campaigns.

Today I’m going to discuss how Demographics for Search works, how it can improve performance, and how to implement it in minutes.

How Demographics For Search Works

In a nutshell, you can now view performance and set bid adjustments for gender (Male, Female, Unknown) and different age groups (18-24, 24-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65+, Unknown). Demographics are pulled from Google user accounts and are optional fields. This means that searchers not logged into a Google account and those that haven’t filled in demographic information will be categorized as Unkown.

Bid adjustments for search demographics can only be set at the ad group level. Through experimentation, I determined that bid adjustments can be set between -90% to +900%. And you can exclude age groups or genders by removing those targets completely.

Unfortunately, Google is not providing historical demographics performance data. If you look at a recent report you’ll find that most of your traffic is recorded as Unknown. This means most advertisers will need to collect some data before implementing changes.

How Demographics For Search can Improve Performance

Bid adjustments and exclusions improve campaign performance just like any other targeting/adjustments. Let’s say you sell luxury brand women’s shoes. You check demographics reports and find that the Female audience converts at $25 cost/conv. whereas Males convert at $145 cost/conv. and Unknowns at $92 cost/conv. You can generally afford about $50 cost/conv. and can make some bid adjustments to drive more conversions at an affordable acquisition cost. And, you may also find that certain age groups do not perform well.

Even before you have supporting data, you may know from other sources (Facebook Ads for example) that certain groups perform better for your products. Or, you may even assume as much given what you sell. Bargain brands, for example, often perform better with younger audiences. You could, then, set up some initial bid adjustments and exclusions when you build your campaign. Just don’t forget to monitor performance and adjust as needed.

Implement Demographics For Search Ads

Open up the search campaign of interest and then choose an ad group. Click on the Audiences tab and then the Demographics button. First, we want to have a look at the existing performance data. As with all data analysis, choose a period of time that is long enough to provide statistically relevant trends, and short enough to reflect current market trends and changes to your offering.

You should see a breakdown of performance by age and gender. And if you are reading this article around October/November 2016 you will find that most of your data is sitting in the ‘Unknown’ demographic audiences.

Things to remember before we start making adjustments.

First, like all bid adjustments, they will compound your max keyword bids (e.g. base bid of $2.00 x 1.3 location adjustment x 1.5 schedule adjustment x 0.5 demographics adjustment = $1.95). Second, making radical changes to demographics bids, such as excluding several age groups can have a profound effect on your impressions volume. Third, you should always balance lead/sales volume and cost per lead… get as many leads/sales as you can at an affordable cost/conv.

In the women’s shoes scenario above, we know that we can afford about $50/conversion. And we know what the existing cost per conversion numbers are. Here are the adjustments:

Gender Current Cost/Conv. Target Cost/Conv. Bid Adjustment %
Female $25 $50 100%
Male $145 $50 -66%
Unknown $92 $50 -46%

Bid Adjustment % = 100 x Target Cost/Conv. ÷ Current Cost/Conv. – 100

Adjustments are instantaneous. You do not need to ‘save’ your work when you’re done. Keep in mind that if you track revenue, you could add the ROAS KPI column to your report and solve for that instead of Target Cost/Conv.

Next, you can follow this same approach for age bid adjustments.

When to exclude certain target groups?

If you are constantly hitting your daily budget cap this can be a great way to cut your targeting down to improve profitability. To figure out what cutting an age or gender group will do simply divide the cost for the groups you’d like to exclude by the total cost for all groups. The returned percentage will give you an idea of how much you can cut your ‘potential daily ad spend.’ Remember, that since you are hitting your cap, you may not see your actual ad spend drop until you get below the threshold of what your campaign could really yield. But you will most certainly see your cost/conv. drop and lead volume increase.

Want to automate this? No problem. You can create automation rules to activate and deactivate target audiences based on a wide range of KPIs.


Demographics for Search Ads could have a profound effect on performance for many advertisers. It’ll be interesting to see the numbers pour in over the coming months. Think these are only helpful for B2C, think again! Even in the B2B world, performance skews around demographics. Learn more about demographics for search ads from Google.

Check out your demographics performance reports, you might be surprised.

Need help with implementing this, check out our Search Engine Marketing services.