Topic Targeting Teamwork

There is power in teamwork, but it also takes the right combination to make a great team. In the Google Display Network, combining strategies can help you increase traffic while refining your audience. The wrong mixture of strategies can mean too much or too little traffic, or you could end up with a too-broad audience or one that is too small to justify their own campaign or AdGroup.

Topic targeting used all by itself can also be very powerful, especially for branding, new product launches or to get on a wide variety of sites relevant to your topic. With topic targeting, if you were releasing a new book on computer programming, you could easily target the topic for “programming” or, if your book is about scripting languages, you could tell Google to only show your ads on sites and pages that had content about scripting languages.

Keywords Vs. Targeting

In Google’s Display Network, with keyword targeted AdGroups, Google goes out onto the ad network and uses your keywords (along with your text ad copy and landing page) to reach the audience you are trying to target.

If you use the keyword [tennis] or a set of keywords that targets tennis, Google will show your ad on sites that have content relevant to tennis. What many people don’t realize is that through topic targeting, you can also set up AdGroups that target Tennis.

How It Works

There are multiple ways to add Topic Targeting to your AdGroups or to create a new Topic Targeted AdGroup.

To create an AdGroup for Topic Targeting: Topic Targeting In A New AdGroup

To add Topic Targeting to an existing AdGroup:

Topic Targeting In An Existing AdGroup

You can also use AdWords Editor to add topics. The AdWords Help section has a great walk through and lists all the available categories here. In AdWords Editor, just go to placements, add placements and then add the topics directly using this format: category::Sports>Individual Sports>Racquet Sports>Tennis

To monitor how your Topics are performing, login to AdWords where there is a tab for Display Network and then a sub-tab for Topic Targeting.

Monitoring Topic Targeting Performance


And now let me tell you about how Topics can work as part of a team. Topics are very efficient and effective when you combine them with other AdWords strategies like keywords and placements.

Keyword Example: If I were to go after banking (category::Finance>Banking), I might have one AdGroup with a keyword or set of keywords targeting ATM locations with an ad for free ATM withdrawals. I might set up another AdGroup with the same topic for banking but use a keyword or set of keywords targeting online bill paying with ads for free online bill paying when I set up a checking or savings account.

Placement Example: and are both content-rich sites that cover a variety of topics. If I were a company that sold children’s over-the-counter cold medicine, I could use and as placements and combine them with a topic such as Pediatrics (category::Health>Pediatrics) to get in front of a large audience of mostly mothers with small children.

Combining your remarketing audience with topic targeting can eliminate some of the more random traffic associated with standard remarketing strategies. If you want to refine your remarketing strategy to only show your ads when your potential customer is in the right mindset, using topics is a great way to accomplish that goal.

Tips, Tricks & Challenges

Topic targeting works better if you limit your topics to one per AdGroup. If you really need to combine topics, keep the list small and try to group them together so that they are all similar (like all news related).

Too many combinations can kill your AdGroups. If you try to use topics with keywords with placements and then throw some audiences in the mix, you may find that you are not getting many impressions or clicks at all. It takes a little bit of experimentation to find the right combinations with topic targeting, so keep tweaking.


Topics work great as exclusions. If you had a website aimed at recipes using dates, topic exclusions could keep your ads from showing for dating and relationship websites.

Regardless of how you integrate topics into your AdGroups, you are adding power and refinement to your AdWords strategies that very few people are using.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Display Advertising | Display Advertising | Display Advertising Column | Google: Display Advertising | Retargeting & Remarketing


About The Author: is the VP of Media at Advice Interactive Group where she develops plans that strive to achieve the most effective spend plans possible to meet client's digital marketing and targeting goals.

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  • Adam Gausepohl

    Well written article, Shelley. When we set up our first ad campaign I’ll be sure to use topics!

  • Shelley Ellis

    I just completely overhauled the targeting for an account I took over using topics combined with keywords as well as topics for exclusions (some landing pages can have multiple categorizations – for example News + Sports). In less than 24 hours we started seeing conversions and MUCH more relevant targeting by Google. Good luck with your first campaign!


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