How To Use Lookalike Audience Features on Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn

by Haley Nininger | February 22, 2022

The old game of re-marketing to cookie’d users across the web is over. Google will completely deprecate third-party cookies in 2023. Facebook and LinkedIn have changed the way they handle personal data. But marketers are scrappy. We adapt. There is a new way to target users: lookalike audiences. This article will help marketers learn how to use lookalike audience features on Google, Facebook and LinkedIn. Let’s dive in.

What is a lookalike audience?

Lookalike audiences are groups of users who share similar traits as your customers. Machine learning builds a user group to serve ads based on contacts you upload to the platform. For example, a CSV file exported from your CRM could upload into an ad platform to create a lookalike audience.

How do lookalike audiences work?

The personal identifiable information (PII) needed to create these audiences is becoming harder for marketers to collect. Consumers today realize the value of their data. They have more control with ad blockers, ad-free subscriptions, device privacy settings, and more.

Lookalike audiences are most effective when companies have a first-party data strategy in place. First-party data is information volunteered by a user to give to a company. This could be an email in exchange for a limited-time offer, a webinar, or a PDF like the ebook below.

Advertising platforms match your uploaded contact list to theirs, taking data through a filtering process. Machine learning extrapolates patterns in your list to identify other users who may share common characteristics. In short, lookalike audiences have a better chance of becoming customers because they look like your existing customers. 

How many contacts are filtered out after uploading?

Marketers now need a high volume of contacts to use lookalike audience features. Google’s methodology is a great example of this: for every “Customer Match” list you upload with at least 1,000 emails that Google can match to users, Google will automatically generate a similar lookalike audience.

This does not mean you can simply upload 1,000 contacts. The initial “seed” list you start with must contain many more. Google filters out non-Google users and removes anyone flagged as a violation of personal advertising policies. Next, users who previously opted out of tracking or ad personalization are then removed. Finally, remaining contacts who are not daily active users are also removed.

After filtering, a seed list of 1,500 contacts might yield around 270 useable contacts, illustrated in the table below. A list of this size is hardly useful and would not be enough to fuel lookalike audience creation. In this example, the marketer would need a seed list of more than 5,000 contacts to yield the 1,000 contacts for the Customer Match list. Every business and the markets they each serve is unique. Your results may vary.

This methodology is similar across other popular platforms, like Facebook and LinkedIn. Below are step-by-step guides for marketers to use. Follow these steps to learn how to use lookalike audiences on each of these platforms.

How to use lookalike audience features on Google

1. Collect the data needed for the “seed” list.

2. Format the data based on Google’s Customer Match fields and requirements, found in this template.

3. Enter your Google Ads Account, and navigate to the “Audience Manager.”

4. Click on the blue “+” button in the upper left corner, and choose “Customer List.”

5. Name your audience, double-check that you have the necessary headers, and select “Choose File” to upload your seed list. Check the box for data privacy compliance. After that, populate optional fields such as “Duration” and “Description.” Finally, click “upload and create.”

6. Google will process this list, usually within 48 hours. They will automatically identify lookalike audiences based on factors like list size, recency, etc.

How to use lookalike audience features on Facebook

1. Collect the data needed for the “seed” list.

2. Format the data based on Facebook’s Custom Audiences fields and requirements, or download the template found here.

3. Log in to Facebook Ads Manager, and navigate to “Audiences.”

4. Select “Create Audience” and choose “Custom Audience.”

5. Choose “Customer List.”

6. After preparing your Customer List, choose whether or not you’d like to include customer value information. This is not a requirement for upload. Select “Next.”

7. Add and name your seed list, and provide a description if desired.

8. Review the auto-mapped field identifiers and correct any fields that need attention. Select “Import & Create.”

9. Upon upload, you will receive a confirmation and the option to “Create A Lookalike Audience.” Select this option.

10. Choose the “seed” list, geographic restrictions, and a range of 1%-10% of the total population in your chosen target country. Choose “Create Audience,” and the list will automatically begin populating in the account.

How to use lookalike audience features on LinkedIn

1. Collect the data needed for the “seed” list.

2. Format the data based on LinkedIn’s Matched Audiences fields and requirements, found here.

3. Log into your LinkedIn Ads account and navigate to Account Assets > Matched Audiences.

4. Navigate to “Create Audience” and select “Company/Contact.”

5. Name your seed list and upload it here:

6. LinkedIn will need to process your “seed” list. This usually takes about 48 hours. Afterwards, you will need to navigate to “Matched Audiences” and select “Create Audience” and choose “lookalike.”

7. Name the new Lookalike audience, choose the proper seed list, and press “Create”.

8. LinkedIn will now process your list, which can take up to 48 hours. The list will be ready to apply to campaigns and start serving automatically within 24 hours.

Work with paid media experts

If you don’t have time to learn how to use lookalike audiences on paid channels, you could be missing revenue. Working with Silverback Strategies gives you access to a digital marketing team tailored to your business model. Contact us to learn more today.

For 15 years, Silverback has set the standard for agency culture and is redefining how agencies work with clients. Performance starts with strong team health; being comfortable enough to challenge each-other and evolve together. A healthy team with  channel expertise is a recipe for top-performing digital marketing solutions.

AdAge, Inc Magazine and the Washington Post have acknowledged Silverback as a top place to work in the United States. Being a premier destination for top digital marketing talent means better results for our clients.

Haley Nininger

Haley is a curious, passionate digital marketing professional with an ever-evolving growth mindset. Her work as an analyst helps “connect the dots” for clients more efficiently, more creatively, and more tangibly. Haley is powered by homemade espresso and the burning desire to see that conversion rate rise!

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