Not long ago, it would have been impossible to imagine PPC campaigns without extensive utilization of keywords. In fact, keyword research was the main tool marketers used to discover new opportunities to reach their prospective customers.

Well, a lot has changed in the last few years – savvy marketers have been taking advantage of the extensive demographics data that is available today and building PPC campaigns with precision and accuracy that was impossible to imagine until recently.

But can audience targeting bring better results than keyword research?

The question is still up for debate, but it’s hard to ignore the numerous benefits that the advanced data available in audience sorting can bring.

In the article, we’ll compare keyword-based marketing with audience marketing to see which one has more to offer.

Keyword Marketing 

The great thing about keywords has always been the option to get in front of people who are ready to buy this instant.

When someone types “buy golf clubs” into Google, they are most likely looking to buy that very instance. Even better if they type in “buy Mizuno JPX 900” – that means that they are not only ready to buy but are familiar with the product.

In this scenario, your only job is to get in front of them with a good offer and you have a sale right there.

You can also use hot words like “compare”, “deals”, “discount” if you have a selection of products or are running a promotion – with keywords, it becomes easy to provide the exact solutions that people are looking for at that moment, and this skyrockets your chances to make a sale.

Audience Marketing

With audience marketing, the approach is completely different, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective.

Usually, it would be difficult to define an audience that’s ready to buy at that moment, since you’re not targeting people that are actively looking for solutions at that moment.

But that doesn’t mean they aren’t interested, or can’t be interested in the future.

In fact, when you use keywords to seek out active buyers, it can sometimes be difficult to make them buy from you and not from someone else – after all, you have no connection with the prospect, he doesn’t know you or your brand and thus he may not choose to trust you in the first encounter.

With audience marketing, you can seek out people who are likely to be interested in your products early in their buyer journey.

Continuing with our golf club example, you could target Facebook groups of amateur golf players, people who follow golf magazines on social media, or even people who have shown interest in specific golf-related brands or products.

Then you could further specify these audiences by age, income level and hobbies (like golfing), further increasing the chances of finding a relevant audience.

This way, you could get in front of prospective buyers early in their buying journey and guide them along the way towards the purchase. They would get familiar with your brand and your product, and once they are ready to buy, you would have a huge advantage over the competition.

You can also exclude groups of people from seeing your ads if you think that they have a worse chance of buying from you. These exclusions can be made on the basis of previous actions such as purchases, or simply by age or income level.

Keywords & Audience Are Both Important Tools

So, as you might have gathered from the sections above, there is no final answer to the question of which is better – keywords or audience marketing.

On one hand, the benefits of audience targeting are hard to ignore. Today, it’s no longer just about age or the gender of your audience – social media has allowed crafting hyper-targeted ads based on activity, interests, past purchases, and even income levels.

And the best news is that, at least for now, the PPC world is only starting to understand the full implications that advanced audience segmentation can bring to businesses. If you act quickly, you may find yourself well ahead of the curve and be able to reap the rewards of being in a marketplace that’s not yet overcrowded.

Still, even with all the benefits of audience targeting, keywords are by no means obsolete either – you simply can’t beat the benefits of well-targeted action-driven keywords that can help you pinpoint your audience at the exact point when they are ready to buy and are looking for places where to do it.

So there is no clear answer which one is better – the fact is that both should have their place in a PPC marketing pro’s arsenal in order to bring the best results with each campaign.

Both of these approaches have their strengths, so to reap the most benefits, a savvy marketer will always use both Audience and Keywords to reach their PPC goals.

That way, you can reach the “ready to buy” prospects through the action-driven keywords, but also gain access to the people that are likely to be interested in your products in the future through Audience targeting.


Author Bio:

Josh Williams is an experienced SEM Manager at One Egg. He combines in-depth expertise in PPC and content marketing helping businesses of all sizes.

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