Google: Demographics Not As Good As Intent (Search) For Mobile Targeting

Facebook’s rich demographic and interest-based data have made it a powerful marketing platform and the major challenger to Google. But without mentioning Facebook by name, Google argues in a new “Think with Google” post that “consumer intent is more powerful than demographics” as a targeting methodology, especially in mobile.

Citing survey data from Millward Brown and other third party research, Google argues, “marketers who rely only on demographics to reach consumers risk missing more than 70 percent of potential mobile shoppers.” This is because demographics and audience targeting typically operate as a proxy for intent, according to Google, and don’t provide actual insight into what consumers are interested in right now: intent filled “micro moments.”

Acknowledging that “demographics will always have a role to play in the marketing playbook,” Google uses consumer purchase data and its own data to assert that marketers’ assumptions about audiences and their preferences may be biased or incorrect.

For example, Google says that “56 percent of sporting goods searchers on mobile are female.” The company also points out that “40 percent of of baby product purchasers live in households without children … These people could be grandparents and cousins, friends, and co-workers. And search is their #1 way of finding out about these products.”

Google is thus arguing that search is a much better indicator of consumer buying intent than demographic information, which may miss these “non-traditional” buyers of products and services.

The answer to the question search vs. demographic targeting is of course: both. However on mobile devices, using location history and consumer purchase behavior data, marketers can now combine audience targeting with buying intent in new ways that weren’t possible on the PC.

About The Author

Greg Sterling
Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes a personal blog, Screenwerk, about connecting the dots between digital media and real-world consumer behavior. He is also VP of Strategy and Insights for the Local Search Association. Follow him on Twitter or find him at Google+.