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YouTube Ads Targeting: The Thorough Guide to YouTube Advertising Targeting Options

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YouTube Ads Targeting Guide
Table of Contents

This YouTube Ads targeting guide will teach you about all the targeting options available when advertising on YouTube. You will learn how to set targeting up inside Google ads, and see the pros and cons of each targeting option.

Here at Linx Digital, we have managed over one and a half million dollars on YouTube, generating far more than that in profits for our clients. Currently, a couple of hundred thousand dollars on YouTube itself can be managed when the agency knows what they are doing.

Let’s get into the YouTube targeting options. When it comes to advertising on YouTube, you will quickly see exactly what works, what doesn’t work and how to set everything up. We will go over each targeting option, then explain how it works inside Google ads.

We’re going to start off with three basics: geography, demographics, and devices.

Geo, Demographics and Devices

The most important thing to remember is the success of your campaign will depend on three aspects:

  • The demographic
  • The geography
  • The device


Demographics, including gender, age, parental status and household income, are all valid targeting options. All four of these demographics have been studied and have produced exceptional results.

The first demographic is age. In this particular campaign the age has not been changed. As age is a moving variable in this continuing research, it can be excluded.

Gender is another important demographic, as is parental status and household income. Typically, household income is the least accurate measure and should not be altered, but it is important to keep an eye on it. Make sure you are constantly checking all of these demographics to see how they are performing, and to ensure you know what is successful and what is not.


Geographic targeting options include a specific country, a city, region, or even GPS coordinates or zip codes. You can even do a radius.

Locations can be excluded or included and a geography report can be compiled on them. For example, when you put in a zip code, even a random one, you can add a radius around it, or around GPS coordinates. This helps to target customers that are in one location.

Make sure you are excluding locations that have proven unsuccessful, or locations that you don’t want a ton of traffic from, i.e India, because e-commerce stores do not want traffic from countries that don’t have qualified traffic rights.


Devices include, computers, mobile phones, tablets, and TV screens. It is recommended to exclude TV screens unless you’re running some sort of branding campaign.

Retarget Website Visitors and YouTube Engagers

Plenty of campaigns aim to target revisits; encouraging a higher engagement level on YouTube. This is by far one of the best ways to get a campaign started. This is because the current audience is the most valuable and where a campaign should start. These are the people that will convert to a new paid ad platform the fastest, and they will allow you to test the campaign and make a profit. This is worth it if you’ve already got a lot of website traffic or a YouTube channel.

Keep in mind that if you want to bid higher, start with 25 cents and increase if necessary.

It is important to test different time periods and see the success rate based on that, perhaps targeting people who have visited your website in the last few days versus the last thirty days. There is a significant difference; you might have different bids for those different audiences. Make sure to have that segmented. You want to segment your audiences and use exclusions to narrow down audiences even further. If you include 5-day viewers of your YouTube channel and exclude 2-day viewers, then you’re only going to get those people who watched the video between 2 days and 5 days ago, so that you can test 2 days versus 2 to 5 days and get a more precise answer.

Important – minimum audience size of 1000 is needed.

Keep in mind that Facebook allows you to target smaller audiences. If you don’t have a lot of website traffic, or if you don’t have a lot of YouTube viewers, you may not be able to run a huge amount of traffic on this and the smaller it is, the higher you want to bid. Often when retargeting campaigns are launched, the bid is jacked up ridiculously high because they want every single view and they don’t want other ads showing up in the middle of a launch.

The way to do this is to look at your audiences.

You can see if the campaign has a large audience and choose the ad group, and you can then see a group of different audiences. You can click on remarketing and find similar audiences which are the equivalent of Facebook’s Lookalikes. Click to exclude those that have made a purchase because these people may have signed up for a free trial but not a paid trial. You want to be playing around with this and learning as much as you can, using them and testing these different website visitors.

The audience is divided into YouTube users, such as 30 day views, 60 day views, 540 day views, 15 day views, and there are also viewers of particular videos, and viewers of any video as an ad. This is what is being done to view target video viewers but excludes viewed any videos and ads, so it’s better not to target ad viewers again, that way, things can be easily qualified as more videos are viewed. You can make a list of different videos as there are a lot of options with this particular element.

How To Create Audiences?

To create an audience, go to Audience Manager and you can see website visitors and YouTube user’s customer list, which will be explained later. You can do website visitors here and you can make URL rules. You can even import audiences from Google Analytics, which is useful, but this is really key, you want to be inside here by default.

Google Ads automatically create audiences of 30 days when you generate the remarketing tag and set it up. There are a couple of interesting things you need to know when it comes to YouTube users.

You can click and view any video from a channel, read certain videos, view any videos as an ad from a channel, view certain videos as ads subscribed, visit the channel page, like the video, add a video, comment on a video, and share the video. It is possible these things are combined to target a separate audience with this, but again this is extremely powerful, and you can play around with this as much as you like and create all kinds of audiences based on how they’ve been engaging with your YouTube channel.

Read our Complete YouTube Remarketing Ads Guide to learn more about YouTube remarketing strategies and best practices.

Retarget Email List

The next thing you need to understand is retargeting the email list. With all of these audiences, you can create similar audiences, so pay attention to this part!

important – To upload customer data and then use it, you need to have at least $50,000 in ad spending on your Google Ads account. However, if you have had issues with payment in the past, they may not let you have any.

This is why it is important to have a Google rep with your account when you start spending more as they can help you navigate things like this. It is extremely powerful, and a lot of profit can be made because your email list is essentially people who have given their permission to be marketed by you. These people are hot leads, they bid higher since the list is likely to be smaller.

How to do it?

The way you go and do this is you go into your campaigns, choose audiences and select ad group etc. Create a subject campaign and then, if you’re going to browse remarketing, click more audiences and customer lists.

Keyword Targeting

The next option is Keyword Targeting, and this is based on the video title and metadata. It’s compelling, it has a very high intended audience and you can spend a lot depending on the niche. Thousands and thousands of dollars a day can be spent on keywords and certain issues. This is extremely scalable, scalable enough for most people to not exhaust Keyword Targeting. If you know what you’re doing, you can spend a lot.

The reason why Keyword Targeting is so powerful is because the audience are watching videos related to them.

If your keyword is “How to get an A in Math in College,” there are so many videos about that, you’re selling a course on how to excel at college level Math, then you can target keywords such as ‘how to get an A in college’ or ‘study tips for college’ and that’s incredibly powerful. Just imagine how powerful that is, you’re watching a video about a topic that you’re interested in or that you have an issue you’re trying to solve, and an ad shows up that promises to solve that.

That’s one of the reasons people love YouTube, and you have these incredibly powerful targeting options at your disposal.

Placement Targeting

Placement Targeting is awesome too! People have noticed that their media buying placements work extremely well and they’re really great to start with, but they do take up a lot of time, and you definitely don’t always use them because this allows you a higher level of precision.

(Keywords are preferable over placements because placements require a lot more work to build, while Keyword Targeting is a lot faster.)

Placement Targeting works by targeting individual videos and channels. For example, you use a tool such as TubeSift, which scrapes together videos related to a particular search term, and then your ad shows up in front of those videos.

With placements, you can also choose if you want to show up in front of a particular channel.

Pro Tip

It often does not work to only put in the channel name when targeting a channel.

+ What you have to do is take all the videos from that particular channel and upload them into Google Ads. If you want to target a particular channel then what you want to do is use TubeSift, and get all the videos from that channel and copy and paste the whole list.

What you don’t want to do it is to target a particular channel individually. You want to take all the videos from a channel; all 884 videos, assuming they’re monetized, which YouTube allows you to see, and then take that list of videos and paste those videos into YouTube videos or enter multiple placements.

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If you’ve got a great offer and want to start scaling to tens of thousands a day, topics can be a great way to scale!

Topics are what Google considers to be things related to a certain topic and they’re based on video metadata.

However, they’re not as good as keywords and it’s these predefined topics that YouTube has. Keep in mind that the topics are not as fine-tuned as keywords because keywords are very specific while topics are a bit broader.

One thing to keep in mind is it’s awesome for scale, but keep an eye on the cost per purchase, especially if you’re selling high ticket. After a month or so of running topic campaigns, make sure that those purchases are coming in, because sometimes you’ll get a really low cost per lead for topics, but those people don’t have a lot of buying intent, because it’s not as though they’re searching for that particular keyword, it’s more like a broader topic.

This best part of this is the massive scale you can reach once you start doing Keyword Targeting, Placement Targeting, and some of the other targeting options. You want to start scaling around $50k-$100k a day, one of the big controls will be topics.

Affinity Audiences

Google determines the topic of a video. Take, for example, a video on small businesses. Google will show an ad in front of videos that are about small businesses but it can have nothing to do with a small business because people can put in random tags.

Affinity Audiences are different because they’re based on what Google thinks YouTube viewers like. If there’s a certain viewer, let’s say John, and YouTube’s sees that John watched a video about fitness, something he is clearly interested in, John will be shown videos on fitness, regardless of what he’s watching at a particular time. John could be watching a music video, but a fitness ad will still show up.

You want to keep an eye on where your videos are showing up and make sure they’re not showing up in front of children’s videos.

How to do it?

Head to placements and then to see where the ad has been shown. This will allow you to see the channels in which these ads show. Keep an eye on of your ads are being shown in children’s videos or foreign language videos. Music videos are typically fine but if you see a particular channel has a ton of views and it’s not resulting in leads or sales, then exclude it.

In-Market Audiences, Life Events

In-market Audiences are similar to Affinity Audiences but they’re based on buying intent; people Google thinks are interested in making a purchase. There are a few things you need to keep in mind about Affinity Audiences, they are not the most accurate so it is important to keep an eye on these campaigns.

The other is the In-Market Audience, which is a different category, but are people who are interested in, for example, business services, and you can see that they’re interested in advertising marketing services and SEO and SEM.

Another thing to keep an eye on are Life Events. Life Events are pretty cool; you can target people based on the life events they have had or are having, such as purchasing a new home, a job change, a business creation, which is useful for those of you in the internet marketing niche.

Similar Audiences

Similar Audiences are Google’s version of Facebook’s Lookalike Audiences, but in my opinion, they’re not as good as Facebook Lookalikes. It has been discovered that Facebook Lookalike Audiences are more successful.

However, we do see success with Similar Audiences so it’s a mixed bag, sometimes it works super well, sometimes it doesn’t. With Facebook, Lookalikes are a huge part of the actual targeting. With YouTube, it’s a part of it, but it’s not as big of a part and is based on the existing remarketing lists as it is automatically generated.

Try it out!

One thing that you can try out is targeting similar audiences with an interest and a topic to narrow it down. This has produced good results, therefore narrowing down the audience can work well, and in that case what you would do is choose Similar Audiences. If you are showing similar large audiences in your account, take that Similar Audience and then narrow it down with an Affinity Audience.

That’s something that’s worth testing.

Custom Affinity

Then we move on to Custom Affinity, which are Affinity Audiences based on data you feed to Google. You create these audiences yourself and you can use URLs as keywords, even apps they use.

Custom Intent

The way Custom Intent works is based on the keywords that people are searching on Google. If people are doing a Google search on “How to generate income online”, then you can create a Custom Intent Audience that will target those people. On YouTube, you can see how to use a Custom Intent Audience. In the audience section, choose Custom Intent Audience, enter the name and then you add in your 300 to 500 keywords. They say at least 50, but in reality, 300-500 is what will get the best results. Then you can use those Custom Intent Audiences for your campaign.

For Custom intent, results are mixed but many people have had huge success with their campaigns. At other times, they fizzle out. What you need to be doing is keeping an eye on them. You’ll need 300 to 500 keywords for this, the same as typical keyword campaigns.

Setting Up Targeting inside Google Ads

Follow along with our YouTube Ads Targeting video tutorial below where we show you how to set up YouTube targeting options inside Google Ads.

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