3 YouTube Targeting Options You Need to Try in 2021

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I decided to update this article and show you the top 3 list of audiences I test first for my YouTube Ad campaigns in Google Ads in 2021. Let’s dive in. 

Custom Intent Audiences

Move over remarketing. Move over customer match. My Custom Intent Audiences consistently outperform remarketing and customer match when looking at view metrics, earned actions, and even conversions.

Custom Intent Audiences are basically in-market audiences that we can create on our own using keywords and URLs. These are people actively researching for certain products or services (depending on what you use to make up your audience).

Yes, Custom Intent Audiences are available for Display campaigns, but they work differently for YouTube.

For YouTube Ads, custom intent audiences are made from broad-match related search terms people actually looked for on Google.com; they do not have to have any previous interaction with your brand. These are high-intent audiences from users who have recently searched the terms you used to build your audience. How can you not try this first for video campaigns?

custom intent audiences for youtube

There are a few go-to Custom Intent Audiences I love to test out for my YouTube campaigns, and I will share them with you right now. 

  • Converting Search Queries – We like conversions, right? We want more of them, right? So why not run some video ads to viewers who have searched for similar terms as our converting queries? Export your list of converting queries from your Search campaigns and make this your first Custom Intent Audience. 
  • Converting Keywords – Yes, this is different than your search queries. We have seen keyword match types get downgraded a few times already. So, the keywords we are targeting are most likely not going to always match the search terms users are typing. Create a separate audience for these and test it out. 
  • Competitor Terms – If users are actively searching for competitors, why not put a video in front of those viewers showcasing why you are the better option? Video views are going to be a lot cheaper than paying for competitor search terms on the Search Network. Test this out for your video campaigns. 
  • Best Selling Products – If you are an ecommerce site, look at your product reports in Google Analytics or your internal reports. Find out what your best selling products are. Depending on the account, you may want to create an audience from the products making you the most money, or you may want to create an audience from the products pushing the most volume of sales. It is going to be different for each account, but if you want to build awareness from people searching for your valuable products, a Custom Intent Audience for YouTube is an obvious decision.

We have known for over a year that Custom Intent Audiences will eventually be merged with Custom Affinity Audiences at some point to just be called Custom Audiences.

Some users have mentioned on social media they have already seen the feature added to their accounts. Whether you have Custom Audiences in your account or if you are still using Custom Intent Audiences, my approach is still the same. Test these out first for YouTube Ads. 

Life Events

As an advertiser, I try my best to make as much of a personal connection as I can to potential customers. Telling people what you do is okay, but I have seen that triggering an emotion can have a better chance of getting someone to pay attention, and maybe take action right away.

This is where Life Events can be a helpful targeting option for your YouTube Ads. Life Events (also available for Gmail and Display campaigns) allow advertisers to get in front of viewers going through important moments or milestones in their lives. This is a perfect opportunity to make an emotional connection with an audience.

Google Ads life events options

I will be the first to admit that Life Events will not be applicable to every account out there. There are only a handful of options to select, but here they all are:

  • Business Creation
    • Recently Started a Business
    • Starting a Business Soon
  • College Graduation
    • Graduation Soon
    • Recently Graduated
  • Job Change
    • Recently Started New Job
    • Starting New Job Soon
  • Marriage
    • Getting Married Soon
    • Recently Married
  • Moving
    • Moving Soon
    • Recently Moved
  • Purchasing a Home
    • Purchasing a Home Soon
    • Recently Purchased a Home
  • Retirement
    • Recently Retired
    • Retiring Soon

As you can see, the options are limited. But if your industry offers products or services sought out by users in these moments, Life Events could be perfect for you. Just make sure you have the video content to back up the targeting.

Don’t just explain what you do to these viewers. Have video creative that will show how your business will make their lives easier or more enjoyable while they are going through these milestones. Use YouTube Ads to show how your company can be an asset during these moments. 

Keywords — Yes I’m Serious

Now I know what you are already thinking. “Keywords?! For YouTube Ads?! Do you know how broad of a targeting option that is, and how bad your campaigns may perform?!”

Yes, upset reader, I do know, but most likely you are thinking of YouTube’s TrueView in-stream ads. These are the video ads that can appear before, during, or after the video a user intended on watching and are most likely the first type of YouTube ads that pop up in our minds.

But there are more ad options on YouTube besides the in-stream ads, and keywords are perfect for YouTube’s TrueView discovery ads. 

trueview discovery ad example on Youtube

We shouldn’t forget YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google.com, and people can search for specific videos they want to see. Advertisers running TrueView discovery ad campaigns in Google Ads can take over the top spot of YouTube’s search results, as we can see in the image above.

And the beauty of TrueView discovery campaigns is they are the only video campaign in Google Ads that lets you target just the search results page. 

youtube search results targeting

This is where I am going to embrace keyword targeting. If users are looking for specific content, and you have the content to satisfy these searches, run TrueView discovery campaigns to satisfy what these viewers want to see.

I also love to pair up keyword targeting with longer video creative for these campaigns. Remember, people go to YouTube purely to watch videos. Using keyword targeting with your TrueView discovery campaigns is just the perfect combination to place your video content and capitalize on very high intent. 

Check out the 2021 Keyword Research Guide.

Final Point

There have been many steps forward in terms of targeting options for YouTube Ads since I originally wrote this post. Google Ads advertisers running video campaigns can now capitalize on a deeper intent than they could three years ago. I hope you see tons of success testing these targeting options on your video campaigns with the goal of building brand awareness to a valuable audience looking for what you are trying to sell.

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