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AdWords Killing Custom Shape Targeting

On May 24th, the Google AdWords team announced on the Inside AdWords blog that they would be killing one of my favorite features, Custom Shape Targeting . Their post states:

Sunset of custom shapes (multi-point or polygon targets): You’ll no longer be able to add multi-point targets in AdWords. You’ll still be able to view and delete existing shapes in your current campaigns, and we’ll continue to use them until the end of 2011. After that, all polygon targets that are still present in your AdWords campaigns will be migrated to available locations such as a nearby city or a map point with a radius. We encourage you to replace your polygon targets with these alternatives or we’ll migrate them automatically at end of 2011.

If you aren’t familiar with the Custom Shape Targeting feature, it allows you to draw a shape around any geographic region of your choice and only show your ads inside that shape. It allows you total control, and it gives you the freedom to get creative with your targeting. You are not bound by state lines, country borders, what Google has set as the metropolitan area of a city, or by the radius around a specific location. In the future you will be able to mix-and-match these targeting options in order to create somewhat unique regions to target, but you will definitely not be able to target the region as specific as you can now, resulting in waste and unwanted impressions.

To give you a better understanding of this great feature that is being lost, here are a few examples of why the Custom Shape Targeting feature will be missed:

Combining Cities and Unique Regions within a state: In this example, I have drawn a custom shape around the cities Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Winston-Salem, and Charlotte. If you aren’t familiar with this area, these are the five largest cities in NC, and all of them happen to be connected by what is probably the most traveled stretch of highway in North Carolina (I-85 and I-40). Let’s say I’m an auto-mechanic with roadside services along this stretch. In this case, I am specifically targeting those people travelling on that stretch of road (this could have been a mobile campaign if we really wanted to get advanced), trying to target people who may be broken down or out of gas. In the subsequent images, you can see how using the city targeting limits your targeting area (here showing huge gaps between the regions), and how trying to combine city targeting and metro targeting has its limitations as well (here showing the excess region included when using the Charlotte Metro area).

Custom Shape Targeted Campaign for Raleigh to Charlotte Using I-40/I-85

City Targeted Campaign for Raleigh to Charlotte

Metro Area Targeted and City Targeted Campaign for Raleigh to Charlotte

Hyper-Local Targeting: Another great use of the Custom Shape Targeting feature is what I like to call “Hyper-Local Targeting.” In this case, I will use Crazy Mocha (@Crazy_Mocha…my favorite coffee shop in Pittsburgh). They have most of the market in Pittsburgh cornered, no pun intended, as you can see from the map. We can assume that with this many locations in a tight area 1.) this area is their target market and 2.) they get good foot traffic to all of their locations. Using targeting for a single radius is rather limiting for them. Even narrowing down the targeted geography to just 1 mile around the center of that target area covers a lot of area that is unlikely to pop into one of their locations for a cup of coffee during the work week. It also limits them to a campaign that drives people to their locations in general, instead of giving them the option to target specific blocks or areas and driving them to the closest location. For instance, Duquesne University students are much more likely to go to their location 1 block from campus as opposed to the one 10 blocks away. Saying ‘Come to one of our 6 locations less than 1 mile away’ is great, but imagine being able to say ‘Hey Duquesne University students. We offer 10% off to students, and we’re only a block away.’ You are providing a more targeted and relevant message. You could create similar campaigns for all of our locations, and drive people to the closest location, like the one below targeted to the Civic Arena and Steel Plaza subway stop area.

Crazy Mocha Locations in Pittsburgh

1 Mile Radius Targeting Around Crazy Mocha Locations

Custom Shape Targeted Campaign for Duquesne University

Custom Shape Targeted Campaign for Civic Arena & Steel Plaza

Hope to See You Again Soon…

In the end, we are talking about some pretty advanced campaign targeting that is not meant for the average business or do-it-yourself AdWords advertiser. By targeting to this extent you are going to limit your impressions, but on the upside, they are super-qualified impressions that should have a high click-through rate. With small businesses flocking to AdWords for targeted pay-per-click campaigns, the ability to get these super-qualified impressions with high click-through rates means getting more out of small budgets. Also as we see more and more people putting money into AdWords, and high percentages of that being used for mobile campaigns. Custom targeting is a feature that will be sorely missed. Personally, my fingers are crossed that we see it reintroduced down the road.

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