Is Intent better than Demographics?

Google thinks so: Lisa Gelber, VP of Marketing, has written the Think with Google paper “Why Consumer Intent is More Powerful than Demographics”. She cites Millward Brown Digital’s recent US analysis of mobile search and video users, claiming that marketers who rely only on demographics to reach consumers risk missing more than 70% of potential mobile shoppers.


Rely on demographics alone, Gelber reiterates, and you’ll miss out on what can be a a significant portion of your target audience. For instance, Millward Brown found that only 31% of mobile searchers for video games are men ages 18 to 34. And the Google/Ipsos Mobile Purchasers & Influencers Report found that 40% of baby product purchasers live in households without children.

Why should you care?

Google can’t match Facebook for rich demographic data, but knows all about consumer intent. And that can be a significant difference, as third party research shows, particularly when mobile users’ search queries are immediate in nature (in what Google calls “micro moments”).

The message is that while demographic and audience targeting will always be useful, marketers also need to add in search in order to catch all potential mobile buyers. In Gelber’s examples, that includes the 69% of people interested in video games that aren’t men aged 18 to 34, and the 40% of people (grandparents and extended family, friends, and co-workers) who research baby products but do not have children.

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About the Author Jeremy Templer

Jeremy is a Partner and Senior Consultant at SureFire. Jeremy has been working in search since 1996, when he joined the Australian search engine, LookSmart. After relocating to San Francisco, he was instrumental in the development of the company’s paid search ad platform. At analytics company Coremetrics (now owned by IBM) he established an in-house search agency managing campaigns for Coremetrics clients such as Macy’s, Bass Pro and Lands End. At Acxiom he managed members of the pioneering SEO firm Marketleap and worked with clients such as Capital One, American General Finance and Kaiser Health. Joining SureFire in 2009, he is the head of Paid Search Advertising and oversees the delivery of AdWords and other PPC campaigns. He also helps clients make sense of their website data.