If you’re looking to tap into video marketing, you need to know how to target the right audience at the right time in order to get the best results. 

For that, you have to understand the different YouTube audience targeting methods. It can seem overwhelming at first, with all of the different targeting options to choose from, but our guide is here to help demystify the process, so let’s jump in. 

How Video Campaigns on YouTube Work

Video campaigns on YouTube and Google video partners are run through Google Ads. It’s through audience targeting that you ensure your ad reaches and engages your target audience.

Every successful video campaign includes these five criteria:

  • The campaign aims to achieve one specific goal.
  • It has a well-managed budget.
  • It reaches the people who are most likely to respond to your video ad.
  • Its video ads are organized into ad groups.
  • Its ads are relevant to your target audience.

Notice the italicized bits. These two criteria can only be achieved if you’ve accurately targeted your audience. You need to know who you’re targeting, how to reach them, and the message that will be most relevant to them.

Related: YouTube Advertising Strategy: A Step-by-Step Guide

Understanding Audience Targeting Methods

Google (and therefore YouTube) defines an audience as a “group of people with specific interests, intents, and demographics.” For video campaigns, they suggest five audience targeting methods:

  • Demographic targeting
  • Custom segments
  • Affinity audiences
  • In-market audiences 
  • Data segments

All of these methods work well. However, some methods have better results than others, depending on your goals, budget, and target audience. Let’s take a closer look.

And to target your audience with pinpoint precision, you need to know them better than they know themselves. You need to create a well-researched customer persona.

Demographics Targeting

Demographics describe the general characteristics of your target audience. Things like age, gender, household income, and parental status. 

Demographic targeting allows you to place your ad in front of users with the broad traits that your target audience has in common. For example, they may be classified as homeowners, college students, or new parents, to name a few.

Be aware, you can combine demographics with affinity audiences and in-market audiences to laser target your video campaigns.

To manage your demographic targeting and reports:

  • Sign in to your Google Ads account.
  • Click the Audiences tab in the left page menu.
  • Click to “Edit Demographics” and select your ad group for targeting.
  • Select a demographic tab:  Age, Gender, Household Income, Parental Status.
  • Click Save Demographics.

You can also define more granular targeting to your audience, such as marital status, education, employment, home ownership status. For this:

  • Go to the Audience tab in the left page menu.
  • Click to “Change audience segments” and select your ad group for targeting. 
  • In the “Edit audiences” section, click Browse.
  • Select the “Detailed demographics” segment and add the required parameters.
  • Click “Save” to save your settings.

Custom Audiences

Your next targeting method is custom audiences, which you can create by entering keywords, URLs, and apps that are relevant to your offer. 

With this audience targeting method, you’re targeting potential customers who’ve shown interest in a topic based on their search and purchase intent. 

You’ll need to identify the keywords or phrases that reflect the interests or behaviors of your ideal customer. You may also enter URLs of websites they’re likely visiting and the names of apps they likely use.

Google won’t necessarily serve your audience on those sites. Instead, they interpret all of these signals to tune your targeting for reach, consideration, or performance. 

Ready to set up your custom audience?

  • Log into your Google Ads account.
  • Click on the campaign you’re adding custom audiences to.
  • Click on “Audiences” and the pencil icon.
  • In the “Edit audiences” section, click Browse.
  • Select “Your custom audiences.” If you’ve already created a custom audience, you’ll see it here. If not, click the plus button to create a new one.
  • Enter the name of your customer audience.
  • Select:
    • People with any of these interests or purchase intentions: Enter keywords that describe your target audience’s interests, active searches, or purchase intent.
    • People who searched for any of these terms on Google: Enter search terms your target audience is using on Google properties. 
  • Click “Save audience.”

Tip: Create a list of anywhere from 300-500 general keywords so that you can cast a wide net and focus on as many people in this group as possible.

Affinity Audiences

This audience targeting method focuses on the users’ lifestyles, passions, and habits. Affinity audiences are great if you’re just starting out and want to cultivate brand and product awareness.

Interestingly, when affinity audiences were created, they used the same criteria the networks used to measure television audiences. Television advertisers aimed to show a commercial that would convince viewers to take action offline. 

To attract this kind of advertiser online and do so vastly cheaper than television commercial targeting, Google fashioned a similar style of targeting. The objective: to help advertisers build brand awareness. 

Affinity Audiences let you target a wide range of pre-defined audiences based on broad criteria. Categories include everything from media and entertainment to banking, finance, transportation, and vehicles. And from there, you can drill down into smaller segments to target with even greater accuracy

In-Market Audiences

Here, you’ll reach your target audience who are in the market, researching products or actively considering a purchase. 

This type of targeting is designed to drive conversions. Your ads will be served to consumers who are actively researching your products and services across the entire Google Display and Search Network, including YouTube. 

In Google’s own words, “In-market audiences can drive incremental conversions, helping you to connect with consumers as the last step before they make a purchase decision.” 

Here again, targeting starts broad, like Apparel and Accessories, and then lets you get more specific with additional drop-down menus. This audience is configured in the same way as custom audiences.

Data Segments (formerly known as remarketing)

This method targets users who have interacted with your business, visiting your app or website or joining your email list, for example. Or they have similar interests to your visitors and/or customers.

Users who have visited your website or app already know who you are and what you do. By retargeting them with your ad campaigns, you can stay top of mind, show them relevant offers, and persuade them to take action.

There are three data segments that you can use in your ad campaigns:

First, previous visitors to your website or apps.

Second, customers who have given you information, such as email or address. This data can help you re-engage them across search, shopping, Gmail, YouTube, and display.

And finally, people who share similar interests or characteristics with your customers. Google Ads compares data on new users to your customer data and automatically finds relevant segments.

To add similar audience targeting to your YouTube ad campaign:

  • Log into your Google Ads account.
  • Select the campaign you’d like to add targeting to.
  • Click Audiences.
  • Click the pencil icon to open the “Edit audiences” section.
  • Select an ad group.
  • In the “All audiences” box, click “Remarketing and similar audiences” and then the type of your list. Browse and select the lists you’d like to target.

Which Audience Targeting Method Is Right for Your Campaign?

Targeting is key to getting your ads in front of your best prospects. But it doesn’t happen without a lot of testing. And you’ll need to experiment with a variety of audience targeting methods.

By using the targeting methods we’ve covered in this guide, you’ll not only save time and money getting in front of your audience, you’ll also create more brand awareness. 

And that’s going to make your video ad campaigns even more successful.

About the Author Kathryn Aragon

Kathryn is the founder of Kathryn Aragon Media and Solopreneur Life. She's a content strategist, consultant, coach, and author. Her mission: to help businesses use their words to grow authority and revenue.

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