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Supporting image for How to Better Target Your Ideal Customers with Google Ads – Brooke Osmundson 
Brooke Osmundson How to Better Target Your Ideal Customers with Google Ads
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Brooke Osmundson
How to Better Target Your Ideal Customers with Google Ads

Are your Google Ads missing the mark? Do you want to lower your customer acquisition costs and generate more leads and sales? Of course you do! And this week’s guest is just the person to get you there: Brooke Osmundson is a paid search expert, a Top 50 PPC Influencer, and she’s got over 100 articles under her belt at Search Engine Journal. She shares how to dial in your targeting for better results now! 

Rich: Today’s guest serves as the leader of digital marketing at Smith Micro Software with over 10 years of experience. She helps the business grow its digital success using tactics from paid search, social media, and programmatic marketing. With her experience and passion in analytics, strategic planning, and everything digital, she helps create relevant customer experience strategies at every stage of the user funnel. 

She’s been featured in several international marketing publications, spoken at industry conferences including PubCon Pro, SMX, MN Search, and Zenith, and has won multiple U.S. search awards for client strategies, and has been named to the top 50 PPC influencers. She also has over 100 articles published at Search Engine Journal and growing. 

Today we’re going to be diving into Google Ads with Brooke Osmundson. Brooke, welcome to the podcast.  

Brooke: Thank you so much for having me. And thank you for the intro. As a middle child, it’s always weird to hear nice things about myself, but I appreciate it.  

Rich: Well, you said some nice things about yourself, but then I was like, I know more things about Brooke, I’m going to add them into my introduction for her. So yeah, there might have been some surprises and Easter eggs in there for you.  

As I mentioned, you’ve written a number of articles for Search Engine Journal. I’m just curious, how did you get started doing that?  

Brooke: That is a great question. Because for being in PPC for over 10 years now, I would still to this day don’t really even consider myself a writer until somebody said, “You published over 100 articles”. And so that actually started a couple of years ago when I was working at the agency, and one of the partners at the agency has a good relationship with their previous experience and just with peers in the industry, and they were looking for more writers on specific topics. And so I started with writing one piece per quarter on a very specific topic that I was deemed an expert at or I spent a lot of time in. And that just started increasing in volume.  

And then pretty soon, about a year ago, they had come to me and asked, we see a need in the PPC category we have a lot of readers about SEO, analytics, content, but there’s a strong need for that. And so they’ve asked me, would you be interested in helping them keep our readers up to date on PPC news. And so that’s really how it just started growing in volume.  

And so a lot of my articles are mainly what’s new in PPC. And so it also benefits me, because it keeps me up to date. And it forces me to, when it’s so easy to brush aside, “I’ll read this later” and then never really get to it. So it’s been mutually beneficial on both sides.  

Rich: No, that’s great. I was looking through your LinkedIn feed today, and I noticed that you had spoken recently at PubCon, I believe on the title with something like, “Targeting with Intention”, or that was basically the theme of the talk. What do you mean when you say, “targeting with intention”? 

Brooke: So I love targeting. I love audiences. So that’s really my specialty when it comes to paid media. Because at the end of the day, if you are not talking to a qualified audience, you could just be wasting money. And there’s a lot of mechanics that can be automated and work for you or against you.  

But you are really in control, and you have to take back some of that control over who are you targeting, who are you talking to with your ads. And so that particular presentation was really a mix of strategy on how can you even craft or put together some of your known characteristics about your target persona, but how do you actually pull those levers? And it’s not even just, okay, who am I talking to? Is that correct? What am I saying to them, and does it match where they’re at from an awareness standpoint, all the way to they’re in their decision-making process?  

So the targeting with intention is really taking a step back and making sure the levers that you can pull, along with automation, makes sense with the messaging and you’re being very intentional and taking back some of that control. 

Rich: So when you think about your leader in digital marketing with Smith Micro, when you’re thinking about your own company, as well as perhaps as you’re writing these articles and thinking about different businesses, what are some of the first steps that you would recommend a PPC advertiser take when they start thinking about targeting their ideal customers or clients? 

Brooke: That’s also a great question. Because a lot of practitioners in paid media, they want to go straight for the execution. How can I do this in Google ads or Microsoft ads? And that’s great. There’s a lot of tools. At the end of the day, you need to take a step back and really start to work with the other teams in the business to understand who am I actually speaking to. And it’s likely more than one person in one department. You want to reach the decision maker, but they might not need to know the ins and outs of what you’re selling They just need to know that it works, that you’re a reputable company. So your messaging is probably going to have to be more in the weeds to whether it’s a product marketer or product manager or a retail store. 

So understanding all of the different people you might have to interact with, talking with your sales teams, the other brand managers, and then coming up with a plan for, I’m going to segment these groups into different cohorts. And then you start to look at how do I execute at that level for the platform and making sure your messaging matches with who you’re talking to. 

So really starting back to the basics and gets into the identifying personas, and everybody’s heard so many different ways on how to do that. I won’t say there’s a right or a wrong way, but looking at the overall bigger picture instead of just jumping into the execution of how do I target these people. 

Rich: And are you generally running different campaigns for those different personas above and beyond maybe targeting by geography or anything like that?  

Brooke: I would say yes. So I’m in a unique position, actually, where I help our company talk to other business decision makers for the products that we have in our software and tech company. So I’m looking at not only just geography and both U.S. and internationally, how do you speak to them. There’s a lot of localization. But the example I just gave was, again, how do I talk to a product marketing manager different than I would talk to a CMO or a VP?  

But then on the other side, when I work with some of the different wireless carriers and really talking to their consumers, now I’m on the consumer side of things. So it’s not just one to say, oh, I want to reach all of your consumers. Now we’re segmenting who’s going to use our product. Are they a certain age group? Are they parents of children with certain ages? How many people do they have in the household? Do they have elderly parents on their lines? So the more you can segment and talk to those different groups of people, they’re going to care about one set of features, for example, compared to another set where they may have a lot of different things in their lives going on so they might care more about where their kids are, even their parents. Versus maybe I want to put parental controls on my kid’s iPad, they don’t have a phone yet.  

So these are all just hypothetical examples. But the more you segment, the more granular and focused you can be on what problems are you solving for them.  

Rich: You use a phrase, talk to somebody a few times in there ,talking to an audience member or something like that. And so that to me sounds like we’re talking about certain language, the language that they would use, and we want to use their language. And yet paid search seems to be so keyword driven. Is there always an overlap between keywords and the words that the typical customer will use? Or do we have to use a little bit of alchemy to find something in the middle? 

Brooke: I love this question. Because I see a disconnect both with companies internally, for example, how a product team talks about their product and what it does, versus the marketing team and how do they talk to the customers. The disconnect happens when they don’t know how their customers are talking about whether it’s the product or service or even how they’re searching. 

So yes, paid media is primarily keyword search driven. And we can argue about how relevant that will be in the future for a different time. But it does come back to that keyword research. And starting with the basics, what does your product do or serve, how does it work. And then when you’re starting your keyword research, you’re going to find out pretty quickly with lots of different tools looking at the search volume. You might think, oh, this is a really popular search term, this is how people are searching, but it’s not going to yield a lot of results.  

Then there’s that disconnect, and you need to find what other verbiage or language are consumers using to actually find out about this product or service that I have that I’m not even thinking about. So there’s likely going to be some overlap. But just because your product says that it does X, Y, and Z, the language in your ads will have to reflect how a consumer is searching for it and how they perceive your product.  

Rich: All right. I want to come back to something else that you said earlier, where you were talking about some of the demographics of your target audience. And I think there’s a lot of people out there who think that Facebook and social ads are very driven by demographics, and they know everything about us. But search ads are always driven by keywords, first and foremost.  

What type of demographic information can we use for targeting and maybe filtering that down beyond geography? Beyond that, what are some of the other things that you might use to really find and target that ideal client?  

Brooke: So with Google ads specifically, and I will say there are some hidden gems in Microsoft Ads, I’ll speak about that in a second. But with Google, I like to use their detailed demographics audience segments. Those came out, gosh, maybe 2019. Don’t quote me on that exact year, but around that time, and a lot of it was still in beta.  

So what that means is, PPC managers are able to segment further. And some of these detailed demographics would be, what is this user’s highest education level? What company size do they work for? Now that’s not as granular as you can get with LinkedIn, but it’s somewhere to start. What industry do they work in? And again, those are more high-level. But this is a chance for more B2B companies to try to layer on some of that and have search work with them and not against them with those really large CPCs that I’ve seen. 

On the consumer side there’s, are you a homeowner or a renter? What sort of life events are happening? Are you getting married? Are you looking for a home? Are you parents? And not only are you parents, but what age ranges are your children? So those are a lot of the different detailed demographics.  

And then you have all of your, they call them ‘in market segments’. And essentially what that means is as long as you’re not completely opted out of tracking, they’re grouping you into certain interest categories of what are you browsing on the internet? For example, I was just looking at, this is ridiculous, but water fountains for my cat, because I need him to drink more water. So I’m looking for all these different things. And pretty soon, I’ve got different ads from other companies. So I’m probably grouped into that crazy cat lady segment. But I promise, I’m not crazy.  

So those are all things that you can layer on top of your search campaigns, especially if you’re going after broader keywords. But you still want that relevant audience. You can target them specifically.  

Rich: I was about to ask, when you’re first starting a campaign, would you start a little bit more broadly and just be focused on the keywords? Or would you be running two campaigns – one that’s maybe same keywords but for broad audience, and another one where you’ve filtered down to that ideal demographic based on what Google is letting you focus on? 

Brooke: Sure. So I used to be completely against broad keywords. But because of the loosening of the match type, that’s no longer the case. I’ve seen broad work really well. I haven’t gone as far as creating two separate campaigns. One just purely keyword driven with no additional qualifiers on it, and then have another one more targeted to that.  

But what I have done in the past is, especially if maybe I’m going after a more niche category, I can still keep my keywords broad. But before I just narrow in on those audience characteristics – and I’ll get to this point in a second – but you have the ability to layer on these demographics as what they call ‘observation only’. So that means I want to know more about if these segments are going to work. I’m going to layer them onto my campaigns and just get data at this point. So it doesn’t mean I’m targeting them specifically, but I’m going to get data on how do they interact differently with my ads compared to somebody who’s not in that segment. 

So I typically will start it out more broad. And then as I’m gathering data, if I’m like, wow, they are converting at three times higher the rate, or my click through rate is this, then I’m going to actually switch that setting and say I only want to target these people. So that’s how I’ve gone about it in the past. 

Google’s gotten better about their experiments and how you set those up, but I’ve primarily used those for testing different bidding strategies or ad copy. But that’s where I would start. It’s like, just gather the data. Because I’ve actually made the mistake of just targeting too quickly, and I targeted too narrow. And then you’re playing a game of volume versus quality. 

And so I would just recommend start by gathering the data. Especially with those segments. If it’s not your own customer information, and those are other ways you can target. Google’s not always right, we know that. I’ve got plenty of examples where I’d be grouped into a wrong category. And so using that as a way to gather data is not going to be perfect, but it’s a good indicator of who you could be reaching with their segments.  

Rich: All right. I’m curious, I think originally we were going to talk more about artificial intelligence, and I’m curious to know how AI is fitting into your workflow now as a paid search expert? 

Brooke: Sure. With AI, it’s not an argument, but you could. But AI, or machine learning, has been around for paid search, paid media for years. Before the ChatGPT, the chat bots, the Google Bard, and there’s tons now. But we’ve been dealing with AI for years, and it’s definitely changed even more rapidly in the last couple years. And so I use it in a way probably completely different than SEO practitioners are using it or content writers. 

With AI, I’m using it in a couple different ways. So one, I’m looking at the AI within the platforms themselves. And that would be in the terms of what smart bidding strategies am I using, the automated recommendations that the platforms can do that you really need to monitor those. But in terms of my workflow, I am really trying to lean into having the platforms do their thing, but I need to be the human component that is monitoring that. Because there needs to be that human element of control. You know your customers better than a machine, at least right now.  

So I’m really checking in on, not on a day to day, there’s always going to be volatility and performance. But I’m working with the AI in the platforms that way to check, did these changes make sense, or do I need to turn off this setting because they did something or went rogue?  

But I’m also using the other, more well-known AI like ChatGPT or anything else to really be creative in some of my day to day. You can use it to help you write creatives, so headlines and ad copy. If I’m just having a really non-creative day, hey, write me 50 different headlines that relates to this. But then go a step further and write it like you’re talking to a mom of four kids at age ranges of XYZ. So I’m using the chatbots to help me from a creative side. 

It can also help you from a data side, too. I’ve had it build tables for me of data. I’ve had it go find data for me. And so I’m in 30 tabs a day and my ADHD brain like can’t handle it a lot of the times. I’m using both again, the platform AI, as well as a lot of these chatbots that most people are now hearing about they’re using for just different parts of the executionary pieces of my day-to-day workflow.  

Rich: Tell me a little bit more about these tables you’re creating. What exactly are they for, and how is that fitting into the rest of your workflow? I’m curious.  

Brooke: Sure. So it’s been a lot of trial and error. I will be completely honest, and I’ve even watched presentations on how should you speak to a chat bot. Because no matter what AI platform you’re using, the outputs are only going to be as good as the inputs you’re giving them. And so I’ve had to learn, again, I’m talking to somebody actually. So from these table examples, it would be more so like research-based, where I know I need to get a ton of maybe comparison information. Maybe it’s demographic or region information. Hey, give me a table of the top 10 states that – I’m blanking on like an actual example… 

Rich: Order meat through the mail.  

Brooke: Exactly! And what top 10 states are doing that. And then it’ll give you that information. And then you have to talk back to it, say, okay, now format it in this table format with this many rows, this many columns. And I am amazed. And that was something I just started learning probably like a month and a half ago. And you get a lot of good information from a lot of good people on the internet. And so it’s nice to understand how others are working with it, and that sparks some ideas of yourself, too. It can help from a reporting standpoint. But I typically, I usually, I don’t input my own data because there’s always going to be that privacy piece with AI. 

Rich: All right. A lot of what we’ve talked about so far has been search ads. But I’m curious, do you use AI at all in these areas for shopping, display, and video ads as well, or have you seen anybody using AI for those different types of ads?  

Brooke: Personally from a creative standpoint, I’ve pretty much stuck to headlines, descriptions, any sort of content or copywriting. I have not gone along the lines of, hey, can you create this 15 second clip? I’ve seen people have them do art paintings or things like that. I have personally not done that. Moreso because I work in a regulated industry with a lot of brand clients. I could say, “Hey, I made this video for you. Can I go get this legally approved? What do you think of it?” And I just haven’t done that. 

You know, you gave me an idea. Maybe I should look into that. But I have heard people who are starting to do that but with paid media, and especially Google ads as a platform itself, they have those tools built in. So for example, if I’m setting up a display ad and I’m giving them 20 images, I don’t even know if it’s in beta right now or if it’s available to everybody. You could check a box and say, “create an interactive video from all of my static images.” So we’ve played around with that before, but not necessarily using some of these chat bots to create those things for me.  

Rich: All right. Besides ChatGPT, what are the AI tools that you’re using these days?  

Brooke: Again, a lot of the platform stuff that’s built in I wouldn’t necessarily say they’re AI tools, but I feel like a lot of third-party tools that I use are incorporating AI to some point. So whether it’s gathering competitive… I do a lot of competitive research so there’s SEMrush. Their optimizer work with some of those where they can actually manage your campaigns. And I used to work at an agency where we use that, but they have a lot of good features as well. 

I’ve used Adalysis in the past, Screaming Frog back in the day. But really, the core one that I’m using right now would be SEMrush. And then there was another one actually for app stores that I am blanking on the name right now. But again, research with a combination of how they’re using AI. And then the chatbots for more research mode. 

Rich: Brooke, I’m going to ask you to look into your crystal ball on this one. But both for the baked in AI and machine learning tools, as well as the ones that you might be more hands on with, where do you think AI is going in the next few years with paid search and other pay per click? 

Brooke: Well, it’s already happening. I have a lot of theories that I wouldn’t even call them conspiracy at this point. But just from what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced with Google ads over the past 10 years, I do truly believe that keywords are not going to be a thing and if they are, you’re not going to have match types. 

They’re already testing set up a campaign with a click of a button and you can put all broad keywords. That’s telling me they’re relying a lot less on keywords and are they just going to be, are keywords just going to be signals of intent at this point? So that’s where I see AI going where It’s probably not going to be keyword based, and that’s why I focus so much on who you’re talking to. 

Because language as how you talk about something is fluid. It can change, with all of the TikTok trends, how you talk about something. So I do think that keywords will be either going away, or the nature of how they describe keywords are going to change where again, it might just be a signal of intent. 

I do think that they are going to try to, they, as in Google, and I’m sure the other ones will follow suit, I do think that they are going to try to own as much of the day-to-day campaign management as they possibly can. I see good things with that, I see bad things with that. And as a marketer, it’s more so stop fighting it.  

But there are things to fight for, learn to work with it and truly understand. What does this mean for your account? Because it could mean one thing for a certain industry. It could mean a completely other thing for another but staying ahead on, you know understanding how does this change my day to day? It gives me the opportunity to be less in the weeds but take a step back and be more strategic. That’s always a positive. But as AI gets more advanced, you’re still going to have a lot of checks and balances that you’re still going to need in your day-to-day. 

Rich: All right. We’ll have to have you come back at some point and we’ll see how many of these predictions came true.  

Brooke, this has been awesome. And if people want to learn more about you or learn more about Smith Micro Software, where can we send them?  

Brooke: Sure. I try to be as active as I can either on Twitter or LinkedIn. My Twitter handle is just @BrookeOsmondson. If you don’t know how to spell that, I’m sorry, but it’s easier than it looks. 

My LinkedIn profile is Brooke Osmondson as well. And then, so I work for Smith Micro Software. We’re a software and tech company that we work with different B2B brands across the world, so check us out there on our website. But if you wanted to interact with me individually, Twitter or LinkedIn would be the best bet. 

Rich: Excellent. We’ll have those links in the show notes. Brooke, thank you so much for coming by today.  

Brooke: Thank you so much for having me. 

Show Notes:  

Brooke Osmundson is the go-to expert for all things digital marketing at Smith Micro Software. With over a decade of experience under her belt, she is a master of paid search, social media, and programmatic marketing. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter. 

As President of flyte new media and founder of the Agents of Change, Rich Brooks brings over 25 years of expertise to the table. A web design and digital marketing agency based in Portland, Maine, flyte helps small businesses grow online. His passion for helping these small businesses led him to write The Lead Machine: The Small Business Guide to Digital Marketing, a comprehensive guide on digital marketing strategies.