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Using the U.S. Census Data to Power Your Social PPC Efforts

  |  April 19, 2014   |  Comments

Exploring the U.S. Census data can allow you to better target your ads right out of the gate, especially if you are trying to reach people outside of your immediate area.

This is a thing, it's awesome, it's online, and your tax dollars paid for it, so why wouldn't you use it? The U.S. Census website has compiled not only the information you'd expect around household income, education, and race, but also many cool tools like this interactive map around county businesses.


I didn't know Cook County, Illinois, was the county with the most bars! Or that Los Angeles has the most gas stations.

So, why do you care?

Well, if you're trying to build personas or audiences for your Facebook or other social audience targeting efforts, the U.S. Census is a great place to do a little digging. Using something like Google Analytics points you as to the direction of where in the country, but not the why. The U.S. Census can start to fill that gap.

For example, I am the owner of an ethnic restaurant. Let's say German! Facebook can't tell me where people of German descent are - but the U.S. Census can help me find those "pockets" and I can target my ads right out of the gate better, especially if I am trying to reach people outside my immediate area.


Even better is that the U.S. Census site allows you to download an XLS of a lot of the data that is available on the site, so you can slice and dice to your liking. The downside is that if you're not really sure what you're looking for, it might need to be cobbled together or might take some digging. That's why I recommend using this type of data in tandem with one of your more regular search tools, to help narrow it down. One thing that I've found over and over again is that simply clicking around the site has provided inspiration that guides my overall efforts and gives me ideas for the future.

Short on Time?

If you're short on time (the site is huge after all), check out the Easy Stats widget:


This little widget allows you choose a state, county, or city and a top topic, refine a level, and that will pull that info right quick into a single window that you can also download into Excel.


A quick list of stats on the U.S. Census that isn't common that you might like:

  • Mean commute time
  • Housing vacancies and homeownership
  • Number of issued building permits
  • Quick business facts, broken down by race of owner
  • Languages used in the home

The above stats can be accessed by state, county, or city and all free on the site. If you've never gone and played around with the site or any of the tools on it, I highly recommend it!

Homepage image via Shutterstock.


Elizabeth Marsten

Elizabeth Marsten is the director of PPC at CommerceHub in Seattle, Washington, where she oversees the PPC advertising practice with concentrations in Google AdWords & Shopping, Bing Ads, and Facebook. She is the is the co-author of All in One Web Marketing Reference for Dummies (Wiley Publishing), as well as PPC courses on Lynda.com.

See her SlideShare presentations from speaking at MozCon, SMX Advanced, East and West, PPC Hero Con, Searchfest, and State of Search or find her on Twitter.

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