How to Use Google’s Custom Affinity Audiences

How to Use Google’s Custom Affinity Audiences

Narrowing your target audience can be a challenge, especially when working within Google’s Display Network.

AdWords offers helpful targeting tools, but what happens when the defined target audience is too broad and remarketing is not available?

Welcome to Custom affinity audiences, a tool that lets you define your target based on interests and URLs that are likely relevant to the audience you want to reach. Custom Affinity Audiences gives you the ability to tell Google which type of audience you want to go after. Google creates these audiences based on people’s recent search behavior, sites visited, and actions on these sites. The following are some of the scenarios where custom affinity audience can help.

Create a Niche Target

If you’re in a niche industry or targeting a distinct audience, the flexibility of custom affinity targeting can help you build the right target audience. For example, say I’m an e-commerce bike retailer who’s ready to a run a brand awareness campaign around my new elite mountain bike selection. It’s important to narrow my targeting since most people shopping for a new bike are probably not looking to spend $2,500 to $7,000 on an elite mountain bike. To find this small group of people who are can be challenging, considering the closest related audience Google offers is “bicycles and accessories.”  

With custom affinity, however, I can create an audience bucket using URLs of industry publications that are popular among mountain bikers. Another audience could be created using URLs of other mountain bike retailers. I can then test the two to find the better performer.

Target Your Competitors

If you’re a new business trying to break into a market or introduce a new product, custom affinity could help get your ad in front of users who frequent your competitors’ websites. To be clear, custom affinity doesn’t act like a remarketing list. Currently, there is no way of remarketing to your competitors’ audiences. Instead, Google will build an interest list based on your competitors’ keywords and URLs. Custom affinity lists will be more effective if the URLs, interests, and keywords you plug in follow a consistent theme. Also, if your competitors are large companies, you might want to consider creating several custom affinity audiences for each competitor.

Build Your Custom Affinity Audiences

(Old AdWords Interface)


  1. Navigate to the the Display Network tab, and click “+ Targeting.”
  2. Once there, click “Add targeting,” and select the targeting segment “Interests & remarketing.”

  3. Use the drop-down menu to choose the second option, “Custom affinity audiences.”

  4. Now you can begin to define your audience by adding the URLs, interests, or keywords you determined important for your custom audience.

  5. Don’t forget to save.

Build Your Custom Affinity Audiences

(New AdWords Interface)

  1. Select your ad group, click the Audiences tab, then click “+ Audiences” to create a new audience.

  2. Click Affinity and then select “+ Custom Affinity Audience,” located below the “Affinity audiences” menu.
  3. Now you can begin to define your audience by adding the URLs, interests, or keywords you determined important for your custom audience.

  4. Don’t forget to save.


Final Note

Custom affinity audiences is a useful tool when you’re operating on a limited budget and trying to get your ad in front of a particular pool of customers. You can also further narrow your targeting by layering it with display keywords and demographic targeting.

I encourage any digital marketer to experiment with custom affinity audiences to see if it can help your campaigns reach the right customers.


  1. I am trying to setup an affinity audience but it is not working. The estimated audience size always stays at 0 – 100k and the demographics are not populating. Is there something I am missing?

  2. I second Zuzanna`s comment,

    I don`t know if I have entered too many or not enough interests?


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