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The Best Thing About the Update to Google Customer Match

By Dave GrendzynskiMar 15 /2018

Everyone loves a perfect match.  From your spouse to an outfit, when it matches, it’s magical. The same goes for marketing. When you’re able to match your product with the people who need it most—it’s a beautiful thing. That’s why the most recent update to Google Customer Match is taking the tool to a whole new level.

When Google Customer Match launched nearly three years ago, it was great. It let people like you and me upload lists of prospective customers into Google AdWords and gave us the power to target (or exclude) search and display ads to those users. Problem is, Google Customer Match only supported email addresses. But the most recent update allows you to create custom audiences using phone numbers and addresses, too.

So, let’s take a closer look at the update, what it does and what it means to digital marketers.

Google Customer Match Helps You Target Your Audience

To understand the importance of Google Customer Match to a marketing campaign, you must first understand how search ads and display ads work. Search ads are those advertisements that only appear on search results pages. Display ads are shown to your audience when they are on other sites, but are not looking for your products or services.

Until now, Google Customer Match only allowed you to use email lists to target people. But now, phone numbers and home addresses are in play. It’s important because mastering your targeting strategy gets you in front of  specific and often motivated segments of your audience. Advertisers can use Google Customer Match for targeting those matched customers across all Google properties, including search text, Google shopping, YouTube and Gmail.

How Google Customer Match Works

Google Customer Match works by using hashed email addresses. What does “hashed” mean, you ask? The experts at TowerData explain it like this: Hashing is a way of encrypting a piece of data, like an email address, into a hexadecimal string. Each email has its own unique hexadecimal string that remains consistent no matter where the email is used to log in on the web. Since an email is essentially like a passport to the internet, the hashed email can trace every logged-in action a customer takes.

Phone Matching is Now an Option

If your plan is to use phone numbers in Google Customer Match to target your audience, here’s how it works. Google stores the phone numbers for Google accounts and the corresponding hashed strings for those phone numbers. Once you upload your list, AdWords compares each hashed string on your list with the hashed string or phone number of Google accounts. If there's a match, Google will add the corresponding Google account to your Customer Match audience. Numbers that don’t match will not be used in your custom audiences.

When you’re formatting hashed data for phone numbers, Google recommends using the E.164 format and including the country code. For example:

  • 1 (456) 789-1011
  • 81-21-6789-1234
  • 03 5678 9123

Another tip from Google: The names in the column headers of your data file must be in English.

Using Mailing Addresses to Target

Uploading mailing addresses to target with Google Customer Match works a little differently.

Google combines hashed name and address data for Google accounts to construct a matching key.

After uploading your list with hashed customer names and addresses, Google will look for matches based on your data. It will compare your list with the list of Google accounts. If there's a match, Google will add the account to your customer list. Then you can start using your Customer Match audience right away in your AdWords and Google Shopping campaigns.

And if your Customer Match audience meets the eligibility requirements, you can also start targeting similar audiences on YouTube and Gmail. Here’s how Google maps it out:

In the name of safety, data files are marked for deletion as soon as the matching process is over.

One important tip: Don’t hash zip and country data. When you target a place using its zip code, your ads will be visible only in this specific place.

Retaining Relationships with Google Customer Match

It’s no secret: Google Customer Match is a great way to reach a targeted list of prospects with your AdWords ads. It’s also helpful when you’re targeting customers you’ve already developed a relationship with and do other things like:

  • Promoting repeat purchases from previous customers
  • Increasing brand loyalty with previous customers
  • Cross-selling based on past purchases and buying habits

There is no telling when or where a consumer might encounter a new idea or a message they consider impactful, topical or meaningful. Getting timely, relevant messages in front of your existing and potential customers is critical. That’s why it’s important to execute all of the plays in your playbook—including Google Customer Match.

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The Author

Dave Grendzynski

With a background in broadcast news and corporate communications, Dave blends his experience to create content for many platforms. As a news manager and producer, Dave learned what it takes to tell a good story and hit his target audience. He also helped to develop a brand and build it from the ground up. Working in Corporate Communications taught him how to share a company's story without losing sight of it's narrative. You can connect with Dave via LinkedIn.
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