How Medical Marketers Can Capitalize on Google's New Custom Intent Audiences Feature


Interested in buying Google ads? Here’s what you need to know about their new audience definition feature.

Digital media has given medical organizations more option than ever before to find and convert potential patients online. In fact, healthcare and pharma ad spending in 2016 totaled $2 billion, a nearly 20% increase from the previous year. By 2020, that number will grow to a whopping $3.47 billion.

Given the immense amount of capital that medical marketers are pouring into digital ads, it’s important that they know those ad dollars are being spent as effectively as possible. Google’s newest AdWords update includes one feature that does exactly that: custom intent audiences. With new options for customization and machine learning-driven automation, these audiences will help medical marketers find potential patients faster and more efficiently.

What is a Custom Intent Audience?

In short, custom intent audiences help Google Display Network (GDN) users find people who want to buy their specific products or services, based on data from previous campaigns, their website, and their YouTube channel. This is a dramatic change from the status quo — apart from retargeting, marketers had limited options for choosing audiences in GDN. Now, medical marketers can create their own custom audiences or allow Google’s machine learning algotrithms to generate them instead.

The release of this feature marks a necessary step forward for AdWords audience options. Until now, Facebook had been the ad platform of choice for custom audiences, since the company’s targeting tools allow advertisers to define audiences with incredible granularity. But with custom intent audiences, Google has a chance to achieve a new level of audience specificity — and take back some of the customers who moved the bulk of their ad spend to Facebook.

Finding Potential Patients with Intent

Custom intent audiences will allow medical marketers to reach niche patient segments who have already demonstrated interest in a medical therapy or treatment. Instead of retargeting audiences who click on an ad, you’ll be able to identify potential patients — with demonstrated interest in your practice — from the get-go. These users will also be actively researching products and services, making them more likely to convert.

If you’re newer to PPC campaigns, we recommend using the automated audience feature. When you’re in the “Edit audiences” section of a Google Display campaign, you’ll see an option to define audiences by intent. Once you enter the interface and choose “auto-create,” Google will display several narrowly-targeted audiences. Hover over each phrase to discover how Google’s machine learning capabilities created the audience, relevant keywords associated with your account, and common keywords and URLS related to the product or service you offer.

If you have more experience and want to create the audiences yourself, you can enter your own keywords and URLs that relate to the theme you’d like to use. Once you’ve chosen your desired parameters, you’ll be able to view the reach of that custom audience. Remember that a higher number of impressions isn’t always ideal — custom intent audiences work best when they’re highly targeted to a small set of potential patients.

Google hasn’t quite caught up with Facebook yet in terms of audience definition, but medical marketers should be able to use custom intent audiences to reach more interested patients without spending more money. We’re looking forward to seeing Google offer additional options for precise targeting over time.

Medical Marketing Guide: Google Advertising