New features and targeting options are added all the time to the Google Display Network (GDN). Often these new options have similar-sounding names or functions, and it can be difficult to tell them apart. Let’s focus on two recent developments that could use extra definition: Affinity Audiences and In-Market Audiences.

Affinity Audiences and In-Market Audiences both take into account a user’s search history, social activity, and content consumption patterns, among other signals. These distribution options may utilize similar data points, but the way they categorize individual users into wider audiences is very different.

In-Market Audiences

An In-Market Audience is composed of folks who are actively searching and comparing your product/service. Individuals in this audience have indicated that they are actively in-market for a specific category such as “Autos & Vehicles” or “Real Estate” or “Travel” or any of the other audiences currently available from Google.

Think about how you might purchase a car. You would probably read some professional reviews, some social reviews, look at other models and car makers, check out price calculators, look up dealers in your local area – and all of this activity tracked by Google (via your cookies) would indicate that you are a qualified candidate for the “Auto & Vehicle” In-Market audience.

You should view In-Market Audiences as individuals who are temporarily interested in a specific In-Market segment. I may not be a car enthusiast so I don’t read a lot of automotive publications, but for a short period of time I would fit into an automotive In-Market Audience if I were making this type of purchase.

Affinity Audiences

This new targeting option takes more of a long-view in terms of audience creation. Rather than looking at one particular purchase intent, like In-Market, Affinity targeting analyzes someone’s overall interests, passions, and lifestyle to get a better sense of their overall identity.

The definition for “affinity” is as follows: (1) a natural liking for or attraction to a person, thing, idea, etc., and (2) inherent likeness or agreement; close resemblance or connection. A specific user may not have searched for your product/service but they may have a natural liking or attraction to an Affinity category as exhibited by their online patterns, or they may have a close resemblance or connection to someone who would be interested in a product.

Think about your browsing behavior. What do you often read? What are your most common queries? Can you see themes and patterns in your behavior?

Maybe you subscribe to blogs on Scandinavian design, shop around at cool online shops looking for new pieces for your place, and check out websites for your favorite remodeling TV shows. This would probably drop you into the “Home Décor Enthusiasts” Affinity Audience available in Google AdWords.

You should view Affinity Audiences as individuals who have a general, long-standing interest for a specific Affinity Segment. I may not have searched for your specific home décor product but based on my browsing habits, I am very interested in this topic and I am likely to make a purchase if I see a relevant ad.


As you can see, these two tactics are relatively similar. They both utilize browser history and search query patterns to group individuals into general audiences. However, someone within an In-Market Audience may have many interests but for a short period of time they fit into a specific bucket. Someone may have short-term needs, but Affinity targeting is looking at their long-standing passions and interests.

Now, that you know the difference you can make better tactical decisions within your GDN campaigns!

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