Google Gets Demographic Targeting, But Didn’t They Already Have That?

Today Google announced that you can demographically target ads showing up on its contextual network as part of a new beta test. But back in 2006, Google rolled out what seems to be exactly the same feature.

In 2006, Andrew Goodman noted that targeting was added. It allowed for these types of things:

  • Gender
    • Female
    • Male
  • Age
    • 18-24
    • 25-34
    • 35-44
    • 45-54
    • 55-64
    • 65+
  • Annual Household Income (USD)
    • 0-14,999
    • 15,000-24,999
    • 25,000-39,999
    • 40,000-59,999
    • 60,000-74,999
    • 75,000-99,999
    • 100,000+

They also offer advanced options for demographics, which includes:

  • Ethnicity
    • Any
    • White/Caucasian
    • Black/African American
    • Asian/Pacific Islander
    • Hispanic


    • Children in household
    • No children in household.

I even posted screen captures of the interface one used to increase or decrease their bids on AdWords based on demographic data. A help page for the service went up at that time, and it wasn’t positioned as a beta test. The demographic data, as the page describes (it’s still up) came from Google’s using comScore information. It may be that the program was quietly closed and is now being relaunched using data Google gets from publishers directly, as the blog post says:

Some publishers in our network, such as social networking sites, know the gender and age of their users because their users sign in with that information when they create a profile or fill out registration or subscription forms.

We’ve got a message out to Google for further clarification.

Postscript: I just got word from Google on what is going on here. This demographic bidding test is different from the one done in 2006, in that here they are not using comScore’s metrics. Instead, they are using data directly from a specific site to target, demographically, ads to that user. Google told me the that this is for “demographic bidding on social networking sites,” where they use aggregated and anonymous data that people give to the site and pass it to Google to target better ads. An example given to me was, “MySpace knows the age and gender info of their users and can aggregate and anonymize that data, send it to us and we can then allow advertisers to target specific demographics.”

Postscript 2: I asked Google for more information on how this works exactly. This is how I understand it…

A 22 year-old female surfs MySpace, and is displayed ads targeted to 22 year-old females from Google. The Google ads are currently targeted based on age and gender and does not currently take into account the contextual relevance of the page. For example, if the page is talking about flowers, the ads will not necessarily have promotions from flower companies but they will be targeted to a 22 year old female. Of course, Google does not know the name of that 22 year-old female, just that this user is a 22 year-old female.

Related Topics: Channel: SEM | Google: AdWords


About The Author: is Search Engine Land's News Editor and owns RustyBrick, a NY based web consulting firm. He also runs Search Engine Roundtable, a popular search blog on very advanced SEM topics. Barry's personal blog is named Cartoon Barry and he can be followed on Twitter here. For more background information on Barry, see his full bio over here.

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