Last week Google released a new GDN targeting feature: Parental Status. It’s obviously very useful to businesses that exclusively want to target parents – baby goods, kids’ clothing, toys, early education. That doesn’t apply to a huge portion of advertisers, though. Here are 6 ways to use the parental status targeting if you don’t sell stuff for kids.

1. Use a Bid Modifier – This account’s product doesn’t have anything to do with parents. It’s a product for pets. Yet the early data shows parents’ CPA at 2.5x that of non-parents. This data isn’t statistically significant yet, but if the trend continues, I’ll add a negative bid modifier for parents.

bid modifier

2. Tune Your Value Proposition – Parents have a set of value propositions that are especially important to them: reliability, safety, and affordability, for instance. Imagine you’re advertising a new car model. Parents may respond to value propositions like, “Rated Highest For Safety,” while non-parents may be interested in other features like “0 to 60 in 6 seconds.” If these value propositions are very important to your business, that messaging can also carry over to the landing page that you send each demographic to.

3. Use the Right Imagery in Your Banners –People respond to pictures of people, especially people who remind them of themselves. Say you are advertising life insurance. For parents, your imagery may show a father happily playing with his kid. Non-parents would respond better to other, non-family imagery.


This doesn’t just apply to people. Say you are a real estate site, and you highlight properties in your banners. For parents, a single-family home with a big yard would resonate; non-parents, meanwhile, would respond better to a modern downtown loft.

4. Weed Out the Kids From the Decision-Makers – There are a host of products for teens and adolescents like SAT prep, undergrad degrees, college counseling, tutoring, camps, semesters abroad – even skateboards and band t-shirts. Typically the demographics for these sites will show two unique audiences: one that is kids (which in most reporting systems will show up as “unknown”) and one that is aged 35-55 (their parents). Though the kids certainly influence purchase decisions, they don’t hold the purse strings. So, if you are in an industry with a split audience like this, you can focus your demand generation or remarketing spend on the parents, who ultimately are the ones who will pull out the credit card.

5. Choose the Right Product to Promote – Say you are a business school offering an on-campus MBA and a weekend eMBA. For parents, it makes sense to promote the weekend eMBA with a value proposition that focuses on flexibility. For non-parents, promote the on-campus program with creative that focuses on the intensity, rigor, and camaraderie of the program.

6. Target People with More Disposable Income – Face it, parents have a lot of costs to incur. For many, luxury products like high-end adventure vacations, couture fashion, or designer furniture are out of reach even if the income is there, because kids mean less disposable income. For these kinds of luxury products, it makes sense to focus demand generation dollars on non-parents who are more likely to have the disposable income to indulge.

Like age, gender, and geography, parental status can be a strong demographic indicator. Just like we tune our messaging, creative, bidding, and landing pages to other demographic signals, we now have a powerful new signal to play with. It has uses that stretch way beyond toy and diaper sellers.

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Susan Waldes
Susan Waldes has worked in the search engine marketing industry since 1999; she is currently the SVP of Client Services at Fivemill Marketing. Susan has handled a multitude of lead generation, branding, and eCommerce clients in her previous roles at ROI Revolution and Rockett Interactive and as an independent SEM consultant. Susan has a BFA from Savannah College of Art and Design. Susan has contributed insights about SEM and client relationships to other highly regarded outlets, including