Following in the footsteps of Facebook, which currently has one of the most powerful custom audience-targeting features to date, Google is introducing a new way to target ads and its very own product in order to stay dominant in the online ad space.

For many advertisers who have had experience with Facebook Ads, its targeting feature has very powerful capabilities. Currently, Facebook advertisers have the opportunity to provide a list of email addresses of their customers on Facebook. Facebook has the power to use that email list and other customer information such as phone numbers, names, and usernames to match with that information and target ads to those specific users on the social network. Advertisers also have the option to target users on Facebook’s mobile apps and use what’s called a tracking pixel to track visitors who end up on their website. This, as well as the social data Facebook collects on each user, has allowed it to be really successful with discovering customer intent. Facebook’s reported ad revenue in 2014 grew 65% to $11.5 billion while Google’s advertising revenue grew 17% to $59.1 billion. In order to keep up, Google is looking follow in Facebook’s footsteps with a similar feature.

How Does Facebook’s Custom Targeting Work?

Here’s an example. If a shoe retailer wants to target runners, they may upload an email list onto Facebook of runners who purchased running shoes from them 18 months ago because they may be in need of another pair by then. Facebook also allows advertisers to compile a list of “lookalikes” on the social site, or those that Facebook believes has similar attributes to the customers the advertiser is targeting based on age, gender, or interests. Google is looking to do something similar to the “lookalike” Facebook feature.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Google is in discussion with its advertisers on the possibility of a new product that will likely provide the same benefits Facebook’s current custom targeting feature provides. It could launch as early as this year. Google, which has access to many email addresses and secondary addresses thanks to its Gmail product, won’t have a problem unrolling this feature. While Google won’t have the same social data that Facebook has, it can figure out customer intent based on, you guessed it, searches.

Google already allows advertisers to target customers who have visited the advertiser’s website. This new new way to target ads could add an extra layer to Google’s advertising offers that could keep them highly competitive in the digital ad space.

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