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TPE #48 - Similar Audiences are going away... Now what?!

Jun 26, 2023

Read time: 3 minutes

Today’s newsletter is very important.

Google is killing Similar Audiences on August 1st. We’ll share our take on what that means and how to prepare.

For context: in November 2022, Google announced that Similar Audiences will be ‘transitioned into more durable solutions’.

In other words: Similar Audiences will go away on August 1st, 2023 and you shall use Optimized Targeting and Audience Expansion instead!

Let’s dive into what to expect and what to do now, to prepare for the death of Similar Audiences.


Similar Audiences will go away on August 1st, 2023 — now what?!

Google is killing Similar Audiences due to privacy issues we won’t bore you with. Let’s take one step back and look at the complete timeline:


Phase 1 — November 1st, 2022:

  • Google announces Similar Audiences will go away.


Phase 2 — May 1st, 2023:

  • Similar Audiences won’t be generated anymore.
  • You can no longer add Similar Audiences to new campaigns.
  • Existing campaigns will use Similar Audiences until August 1st, 2023.

Phase 1 and 2 have been completed. The last phase starts soon, and you need to start preparing now.


Phase 3 — August 1st, 2023:

  • Similar Audiences will be removed from all campaigns.
  • You can still access historical data for Similar Audiences from existing campaigns.
  • Display, Discovery and YouTube (Video Action Campaigns) with Similar Audiences will be opted into optimized targeting.
  • Video campaigns with Awareness/Consideration goals will be opted into audience expansion.


How to prepare for phase 3 (death of Similar Audiences)

The most important thing to realize: if you use Similar Audiences for targeting on Upper Funnel campaigns, you will automatically be opted into optimized targeting or audience expansion. Here’s how that works:


Optimized targeting

Let Google use various data points to find conversions beyond your dedicated audience targeting. In theory, this should work very well. However, we’ve seen mixed results. You can add targeting signals to steer the algorithm in the right direction. However, similarly to audience signals in Performance Max, the algo can and will eventually look beyond your signals. They are mere recommendations and Google decides whether or not they will be followed.

In our experience, optimized targeting can still be hit or miss. We’ve seen it generate an extra 20% of conversions at the same CPA… And we’ve also seen it go overboard completely by spending 95% of the budget at a higher CPA…


Audience expansion

Video campaigns with Awareness/Consideration goals will be opted into audience expansion, which works differently than optimized targeting. With audience expansion, Google will look for additional conversions by expanding to audience segments that look like your manually selected audience segments.

To conclude this section: optimized targeting tends to have broader targeting than audience expansion.

Quick note, here’s how to see the data for optimized targeting/audience expansion vs. your other audience segments:

  1. Go to Audiences
  2. Under ‘audience segments’, click ‘show table’
  3. Below the table, look for ‘total: expansion and optimized targeting’



Important notes

Your first-party audience segments (customer lists) will be added as a signal to optimized targeting and as a targeting criteria for audience expansion. So this increases the importance of high-quality first-party audience data.

This works similarly to how audience signals work in Performance Max campaigns. If you don’t want to use optimized targeting or audience expansion, opt out in the settings page (under Audience Manager in Google Ads):



Beware: if you opt-out, campaigns and ad groups that are only targeting Similar Audiences will be paused automatically.


How to prepare for the death of Similar Audiences

Many people ask us how to prepare for when Similar Audiences go away. It’s simple:

  • Invest in high-quality first-party audience data.
  • Get familiar with optimized targeting and audience expansion.
  • If you haven’t already, start testing and analyze your data carefully.
  • Decide whether or not you should use optimized targeting based on your own data.

That’s it really.


Concluding thoughts: there is no 1/1 replacement for Similar Audiences

Hopefully this guide helps you navigate your way through the changes. Similar Audiences are going away on August 1st, 2023, and Google is giving us optimized targeting and audience expansions as its replacements.

Optimized targeting and audience expansion work differently than Similar Audiences and these are the downsides:

  • Less control.
  • Spend can go all over the place.
  • Targeting can become very broad.


On August 1st, 2023, Similar Audiences will be officially dead.

The best way to prepare is to get familiar with optimized targeting and audience expansion.

Unfortunately, it is what it is. Nothing we can do about it…

Except, once again, adapt and keep going.

We salute you for constantly reinventing yourself!

See you next week.


Bob & Miles


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