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DFSA and the Not-So-Subtle Hint that PPC is Changing

Posted on 9.19.2016

:: By Ryan Larkin, Power Digital Marketing ::


Demographics for Search Ads (DFSA) has been a welcomed addition to many advertisers' arsenal of tricks.

In essence, we’re now able to layer demographics (age and gender) over our search campaigns in the same way we leverage RLSA (remarketing lists for search ads) as bid only. There are also many other features that you may or may not have noticed Google rolling out that are audience-centric.

So what does DFSA and these changes mean for AdWords users? In short, we’re able to spend our budget better and more accurately target our core demographics. For some industries, this is a no-brainer. Women’s shoe companies, for example, could benefit from this. Or AARP-type businesses can use this to zero in on their key audience. It opens up a lot of possibilities. Non-brand terms that may once have been budget busters could all of a sudden be a top source of return. Campaigns that hit their daily budget cap can now spend their allotted money more wisely and accrue more impression share. 

We see similarities to RLSA in its ability to isolate a group of users to serve ads more accurately using multiple targeting criteria. And this is precisely the direction Google AdWords is headed: audience-centric. 

This year thus far has been the year of audiences for AdWords. We look at RLSA for product listing ads (PLAs) - although an older function by now, still relevant to 2016 - and we’ve started to see and use similar audiences in the Google Display Network (Facebook who?). Google’s reps have been pushing RLSA harder than ever before, demographics for search ads has pushed the envelope, and signs point to being able to use similar audiences for Search Ads in the not-so-distant future (hey-oh!).

This is more movement we’ve had from Google since enhanced campaigns settings rolled out back in 2013. And it comes at a time where the landscape has really called for it. If you’ve been in the industry for the last few years, you’ve probably noticed (depending on the client and industry) increasingly higher cost per clicks (CPCs), increasingly lower conversion rates (CVRs) and overall, a more challenging environment to get positive results in.


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The competitive landscape is becoming more and more impacted with new companies and in-turn, the industry leaders increase their bids/budgets in an attempt to drown out the would-be threats. This is why RLSA has been so effective. Isolating a more qualified audience and bidding up to match the competition. We can afford to bid up here because the quality of click is theoretically higher. The problem with this is that we’re extremely limited by one factor: how many people have visited our site. Google’s RLSA experiment was an incredibly successful one. Marketers saw amazing results. However, as with the inherent problem of the above limitation, we can only get so many conversions utilizing this strategy.

Ergo Google’s new experiment: DFSA.

Unlike RLSA we don’t rely on a pre-set pool of site visitors as our audience. The new audience is a demographic based group of users who potentially have no idea who you are or what your brand is. However, their click is still more valuable because of the demographic qualifier. 

Powerful? Yes. We’ve rolled this out to a handful of clients and have seen some great results. And this is exactly what Google needed to do. Gone are the days where advertisers can casually generate non-branded clicks at less than $1.50 in a somewhat competitive e-commerce environment. Digital marketers needed help staying ROI positive, and DFSA among other upcoming AdWords Beta’s are Google’s answers to the plight.

So if you are currently running AdWords campaigns, heed these words: change is not coming, it is here. And it is good. 


Ryan Larkin is a paid media account manager at Power Digital Marketing who has five-plus years of industry experience. Ryan has spoken at various events including Media Leaders' Digital Growth Summit and San Diego State's Entrepreneur Societies Yearly  Conference in 2016 and currently focuses on shopping feed optimizations.

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