Google AdWords Adds Targeting by Phone Number, Mailing Address

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Credit: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg

Google has expanded the consumer-targeting capabilities of its AdWords platform to let marketers use phone numbers and mailing addresses to reach their right people.

Previously, AdWords campaigns only allowed advertisers to upload anonymized email addresses as well as set broader targets around demographics and interests.

Google's new targeting tools will likely be more effective than email addresses, as phone numbers and mailing addresses often prove to be more reliable, says Kevin Lee, co-founder of Didit, a full-service digital agency that specializes in search.

"This new feature allows for a higher audience match rate, particularly for marketers who either do not have email addresses for their entire customer file, or the email address that the marketer has is different than the addresses that Google has for the individual," says Lee. "Postal mail eliminates that ambiguity and gets higher overall match rates, particularly when used in combination."

"A higher match rate by including postal means more flexibility in scaling the campaign," adds Lee. "This is a great way to get marketers to confidently expand their budgets on Google by creating larger customer match audiences."

The move itself seems long overdue from Google, as targeting users using their phone number or address is commonplace in the marketing world. However, in Google's case, the delay was likely due to high levels of scrutiny by regulators, Lee says.

There could be downsides. Google's terms and conditions say marketers can only use their own data to create an audience to target, not use third-party data they bought elsewhere. But letting phone numbers and mailing addresses come into play could increase the temptation for direct-response marketers, for example, to go get the information they need to take advantage, Lee says.

But it's also a pretty standard capability, according to Praneet Sharma, chief technology officer at Method Media, an audit and media consulting company. "Marketers use addresses that are captured through sweepstakes or on websites that ask the user to input phone numbers, email addresses," Sharma says. "Many of them might share that information with a data management platform. For Google, and the amount of data they have, you could say they are exposing more user information, but again, what they're doing is common in the industry."

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