Google Gives Advertisers Demographic Site Targeting

MSN execs have been talking up adCenter’s unique demographic targeting features for a while, but that company’s no longer the only search player to let marketers reach prospects based on their characteristics.

Google just launched a demographic site selection tool for AdWords site-targeted campaigns. It lets advertisers choose desirable audiences from the sites in its contextual network. The feature allows marketers to slice and dice AdSense publisher audiences into buckets such as age group, gender or household income level. Additional advanced demographic categories include ethnicity and whether there are children in the home.

Currently available only to U.S.-based campaigns, the demographic offering differs from MSN’s in most respects. Google’s is only available for site-targeted campaigns, which are priced on a cost-per-thousand (CPM) basis, whereas all adCenter ads are cost-per-click (CPC). And Google’s tool only covers sites in its contextual network, whereas MSN lets marketers target people on its search results pages. (MSN doesn’t yet have a contextual ad network.) Additionally, available data don’t overlap. Google doesn’t offer geographic data, for instance, and MSN lacks the household income metric.

Why not offer demographic targeting for keyword-based campaigns? Google’s group product manager for Adsense, Gokul Rajaram, told ClickZ News he believes site selection provides better results and user experience for advertisers.

Search engine marketers, who by and large were happy with MSN’s introduction of demographic targeting, will likely embrace Google’s site selection as well. At least one agency executive couldn’t resist taking a little jab at Google.

“This is the first time Google has had to play the me-too role,” said iProspect president Rob Murray. “It has historically led innovation in our category for five years. I think it’s a huge win for MSN. “

Audience data come from comScore Media Metrix, which uses a panel and proprietary technology to append demographic information to a site’s readers. The feature doesn’t ensure a marketer will reach only people with the traits it desires, but rather it illustrates an audience’s predominant make-up.

Kevin Lee, CEO of SEM agency Did-It, said the data are inherently less reliable than what Microsoft is offering, but nevertheless hailed the product.

“[comScore’s] is a much broader level of targeting and it’s not as exact,” he said. “By looking at which of comScore’s panelists are visiting their sites, they’re making assumptions that data hold true across the larger population. It does allow for some level of increase in targeting, if not on the individual level than on the site level which is more than they had before. So I’m pleased to see them do that.”

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