Want more control over who sees your video ads on YouTube? Wondering how to create more advanced audience segments for YouTube ads?
In this article, you’ll learn how to improve YouTube audience targeting by using a variety of first-party and native data in Google Ads Audience Manager.
What Is YouTube Audience Targeting?
YouTube audience targeting lets you deliver your video ads to your ideal customers—the people you want to reach and convert. Audience targeting for YouTube ads goes way beyond demographics. Below, we’ll cover how to target your YouTube ads using everything from your own first-party data to Google Ads-generated similar segments.
The Google Ads Audience Manager stores all the saved audiences and segments for your account. To access this tool, navigate to your Google Ads account and open the Tools and Settings& menu. Then select Audience Manager from the Shared Library menu. Here, you can manage your data sources, audiences, and segments.
Once you create segments or audiences, you can target them by adding them to ad groups. During the YouTube campaign creation process, you can browse or search for the audiences and segments you’ve built. For example, you have the option to combine demographics with first-party data, similar segments, and other targeting options.
When you set up a YouTube ad campaign, you also have the option to create new custom segments and add individual targeting signals. Adding individual signals is great for fine-tuning the targeting for specific ad groups. But when you want to reuse sets of targeting signals or create retargeting segments, it’s best to build them in Audience Manager.
Audience Targeting vs. Content Targeting
Although this article focuses on audience targeting, it’s important to know that you do have other options for reaching your ideal customers on YouTube. Your video ads can also target content using signals like:
- Topics that relate to your customers
- Placements like YouTube channels and videos
- Keywords related to YouTube videos
#1: How to Use Demographic Audience Targeting for YouTube Ads
Do your customers tend to share similar age ranges, family statuses, and other traits? Demographic targeting is a great place to start building an audience.
How to Target YouTube Audiences by Demographic Groups
To target people based on demographics, choose from these settings:
- Gender, including options for Female, Male, and Unknown
- Age, including set ranges from 18 to 65+
- Parental status, including Parent and Not a parent
- Household income, ranging from the top 10% to the lower 50%
As you add or remove segments, you can see the number of weekly impressions available for your audience. These insights can help you make sure you’re reaching enough people without targeting overly broadly.
How to Target YouTube Audiences by Detailed Demographics
The Google Ads platform also lets you target YouTube users by more detailed traits like marital status, education level, and employment details. Options for detailed demographics include:
- Parental status, allowing you to target parents of infants, toddlers, teens, and kids in various other age groups
- Marital status, letting you reach people who are single, married, or in a relationship
- Education, so you can reach current college students or people with anything from a high school diploma to a graduate degree
- Homeownership status, including homeowners and renters
- Employment details, so you can connect with people in various industries or those who work at companies of differing sizes
#2: How to Use Interest Audience Targeting for YouTube Ads
Demographic targeting is hardly your only option for YouTube ads. You can leverage Google’s data to reach (or exclude) users with a long list of interests or to connect people who are actively shopping in certain categories.
You can add these targeting signals at the ad group level or save them to audiences in Audience Manager. To find life event, affinity, and in-market segments, open the Interests & detailed demographics targeting dropdown. To create your own interest-based targeting, navigate to Custom segments.
How to Target Audiences by Life Events
Does your target audience include people who are undergoing major life changes? With Google Ads’ life event segments, you can show YouTube ads to people who are experiencing milestones like:
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- Getting married
- Changing jobs
- Starting a business
- Renovating a house
How to Target Audiences by Affinity Segments
If your target interest shares common interests, you can use Google Ads’ affinity segments to find people who are likely to be interested in your business. For broader targeting, choose more generic categories like Food & Dining or Beauty & Wellness. For narrower targeting, use the dropdown menus to choose more specific affinity segments like Cooking Enthusiasts.
Technically, you can add affinity segments to any YouTube ad campaign. But because these audiences convey interest rather than intent, they usually work best with awareness-focused campaigns.
How to Target Audiences by In-Market Segments
To target audiences with purchase intent, use Google Ads’ in-market segments. With these segments, you can reach people who are actively shopping for products and services in certain categories—making them ideal for consideration- or conversion-focused campaigns.
Similar to affinity segments, in-market segments allow for both broad and narrow targeting. For example, you can target more broadly with an in-market segment like Apparel & Accessories or Activewear. To reach users looking for something more specific, you can use in-market segments like Running Apparel.
How to Target Audiences by Custom Segments
Google Ads’ life event, affinity, and in-market segments give you a lot of options for reaching YouTube users who fit your customer profile. But if you want to target an even more specific group or if you want to leverage Google’s search data, custom segments are the answer.
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With custom segments, you can reach people with much more granular signals. For example, rather than using restaurant-related affinity segments, you can target people with purchase intent at the best outdoor patios near me or the recommended food places near me.
Custom segments also tap into Google’s search data. For example, you can target people who are actively searching for terms like fast food restaurants that deliver around me so you can serve your YouTube ads to people who are much more likely to click and convert.
In the recent past, Google Ads allowed advertisers to create custom affinity segments for YouTube ad campaigns. As of July 2022, custom affinity segments are no longer available. But because custom segments automatically identify and apply affinity signals based on campaign setup, any custom segment you use essentially has enhanced affinity targeting.
#3: How to Use Past Interactions to Target Your Audience With YouTube Ads
Do you want to target website visitors or YouTube subscribers? With Audience Manager, you can create segments that leverage past interactions—including options for targeting specific content and actions.
To use your website or your YouTube channel for targeting, open Audience Manager and select Your data sources. If you’ve already run video ads, your YouTube channel should already be linked here. You can also link your Google Analytics account to start drawing from website data.
How to Target Based on YouTube Content and Engagement
To build a YouTube-based audience, go to the Segments tab in Audience Manager. Click the plus sign and select YouTube users. Then give your segment a name and use the dropdown menu to choose the type of interaction you want to target.
For broader targeting, use signals like Visited a channel page or Viewed any video from a channel. To reach YouTube users who have shown more interest in your content, use signals like Subscribed to a channel or Liked any video from a channel.
You can also use YouTube-based audiences to create video ad funnels. For example, you can use signals like Viewed certain videos or Viewed certain videos as ads to convert users who already saw your top-of-funnel or middle-of-funnel content.
How to Target Based on Website Content and Engagement
Once you add Google Ads remarketing tags to your website, Audience Manager automatically generates segments for all visitors. To target certain groups of visitors, create a new segment and select Website visitors.
Then use the dropdown menu to select the type of segment you want to target. You can keep targeting relatively broad with signals like Visitors of a page.
But if you want to reach people who browsed your site at certain times or those who visited a certain series of pages, choose signals like Visitors of a page during specific dates or Visitors of a page who also visited another page. Likewise, you can retarget people who haven’t viewed certain pages—such as product category or service pages—but who haven’t visited the page that highlights your newest deal or offering.
#4: How to Use Customer Match to Target Your Audience With YouTube Ads
Using Google’s data is great for expanding your customer base and for connecting with people who have engaged with your YouTube channel or website. But what if you want to use your organization’s own first-party data to tailor your targeting?
If you already have a list of customers or people who signed up for your emails, you can create segments that allow for much more detailed targeting. Google Ads’ Customer Match gives advertisers options for reconnecting with potential and existing customers.
Although Customer Match can be powerful, it’s important to know that Google Ads limits how advertisers can use it. Is your Google Ads account more than 90 days old? Does it have a history of at least $50,000 in ad spend? You can use Customer Match to target specific customer groups, create lookalike segments, and exclude customer segments.
But if your account is newer than 90 days or if your organization hasn’t spent $50,000 with Google Ads yet, you’ll have some limits. You can only use Customer Match to exclude specific customer segments or when you use the Observationsetting. That means you can get insights about customer engagement and conversions—but you can’t target them directly.
How to Set Up Customer Match for YouTube Ads
Start by exporting relevant customer data from your marketing, ecommerce, or point of sale platform. In addition to customer names, it’s helpful to include as many types of contact details as possible—such as email addresses, phone numbers, and mailing addresses. Use the Google Ads Customer Match template to format your data.
Then open Audience Manager and select the Segments tab. Click the plus sign to create a new segment, and select Customer list. Give it a name, choose a data type, and upload your list. Note that Audience Manager can import data directly from several major marketing platforms, but you’ll need to set up a Zapier integration first.
Tips for Using Customer Match
Rather than creating one big customer list with everyone who’s ever purchased from your business or signed up for your emails, it’s often helpful to build more targeted lists. For example, you can create separate segments for:
- Top customers who have spent the most with your business
- Customers who typically buy a certain category of items
- Customers who are due to repurchase or resubscribe
- Email subscribers who indicated interest in a certain category
You can create as many customer lists as you like. But they have to meet minimum size requirements (1,000 active visitors in 30 days) before you can use them for YouTube ads. Check Audience Manager to confirm if your lists are eligible for YouTube—or if they’re too small to serve on the network.
Note that customer lists take up to 48 hours for processing. Plan to leave plenty of lead time rather than uploading at the last minute so you can avoid having to delay your campaign launch.
Also, keep in mind that customer lists don’t expire—but they may become outdated as your customer base naturally evolves. Make sure to update your customer lists regularly so you can reach the right people and avoid wasting ad spend on targeting former customers.
#5: How to Use Similar Segments to Target Your Audience with YouTube Ads
Google Ads’ similar segments work a bit differently from lookalike audiences on Facebook Ads and other platforms. Namely, YouTube advertisers can’t create similar segments from just any existing audience. Instead, Google Ads automatically generates similar segments from eligible audiences.
What makes an audience eligible for similar segments? The seed audience has to have at least 100 visitors before the Google Ads platform can create a similar segment. In addition, the seed audience can’t be a custom list. Instead, the seed audience has to be a Customer Match, YouTube users, website visitors, or select other segment types.
When the Google Ads platform generates a similar audience, you’ll see it listed in the Segments tab of your Audience Manager. Check the YouTube column to make sure it’s large enough for video ads.
Tips for Using Similar Segments
Similar segments can be incredibly helpful for reaching new audiences who share traits with your existing customers and website visitors. But because these segments target people who aren’t customers yet, the cost per acquisition (CPA) for similar segments tends to be higher.
Since you can set budgets at the campaign level only (i.e., not at the ad group level), it’s a good idea to use separate campaigns to target similar segments on YouTube. That way you can get more control over how much you spend to reach lookalike audiences. For even more control, consider a bidding strategy like target CPA or target return on ad spend (ROAS).
To run successful YouTube ad campaigns, you have to fine-tune your audience targeting. With the right data segments and targeting signals, you can reach the ideal audience for your YouTube ads and achieve your marketing goals much more efficiently.
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