Want more people to see your YouTube content? Wondering how to get your content in front of the people who watch your competitors’ videos?
In this article, you’ll discover a step-by-step strategy to effectively and ethically target your competitors’ audiences.
#1: Research Your Competitors on YouTube
Whether you already have competitors in mind or you need a hand building a list, get started with the steps below. With competitive research, you can identify and vet other brands in your space so you know exactly where to focus your resources.
Search YouTube for Competitor Content
Do you already have a shortlist of competitors whose audiences you want to target? Use the YouTube search field to review their channels. Ideally, you want to target channels that have large audiences and actively publish content.
Look for channels with at least 1,000 subscribers that publish at least once a week. Go to any channel’s Home tab to check subscribers, and go to the Videos tab to see when they published their last dozen or so.
Find Channels Your Audience Watches
Targeting relatively small audiences can lead to minimal organic results and limited ad delivery. To maximize results from competitor audience targeting, expand your scope by adding more channels to your list.
Take a cue from your channel’s audience. Open YouTube Studio Analytics and go to the Audience tab. Look for the Channels Your Audience Watches and Content Your Audience Watches panels to get new ideas for competitors. Note that for privacy reasons, YouTube Studio may not show this data if your audience is too small.
Look for Suggested Videos
Another way to expand your targeting is to identify the videos that drive traffic to your channel. You can find many of these videos in YouTube Studio Analytics. Go to the Content tab and look for the How Viewers Find Your Videos (or Shorts) panel.
Then click on the Suggested Videos chip to see content that has driven traffic to your channel. If a lot of different videos suggest yours, click the See More link to view the full list. From there, you can click through to view the videos or analyze the channel.
Analyze Videos for Keywords
By now, you should have a list of potential channels and videos to target. You can build this list by identifying the keywords that competitors’ videos target. In many cases, you can guess primary keywords from the video title or description.
To get a more complete list of the keywords your competitors are targeting, open a video and right-click on the page. From the menu, select View Page Source.
Then search the source code for Keywords. The source code should reveal all of the keywords the channel tagged in the video.
Check YouTube Audience Searches
Your own audience data can help you expand on this list of keywords, as the search traffic that drives your channel’s views is likely to be similar to your competitors’. To access this data, open your YouTube Studio analytics and go to the Content tab. Scroll down to the How Viewers Find Your Videos (or Shorts) panel and select the YouTube Search chip.
Here, you can see as many as 500 of the search terms that have driven traffic to your channel. You can use these search terms as keywords to organically create content or your channel’s YouTube ads.
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Research YouTube Keywords
YouTube’s Research tool can point you toward even more keywords, which you can use for keyword targeting or as seeds for more competitive research. To access the tool, open YouTube Studio Analytics and go to the Research tab. Then search for any of the keywords on your list.
First, pay attention to the estimated search volume for each keyword. Naturally, keywords with high or medium search volume have more potential to attract viewers than keywords with low search volume.
Next, look at any related search terms YouTube Studio suggests. These recommendations help you expand your keyword list so you can target competitor audiences more effectively.
#2: How to Target YouTube Competitors’ Audiences Organically
Once you’ve researched your competitors’ channels, content, and related keywords, you should have plenty of source material to start targeting organic audiences. Use the ideas below to create organic content geared toward your rivals’ audiences.
Optimize Your Existing Content for Competitor Keywords
Does your YouTube channel already have a lot of high-quality long-form videos and shorts? If you haven’t already optimized your channel content for search, start here. By applying a few YouTube search engine optimization (SEO) best practices, you can get your content in front of rivals’ audiences when they enter relevant search terms.
First, use your keyword research to choose a relevant keyword for each video. Incorporate the keyword into the video title naturally. Make sure the video title includes more than just the keyword. Ideally, video titles should use the same principles as ad headings or blog titles—they should entice viewers to click by raising questions or sharing benefits.
Then work the keyword into the video description at least once and preferably two or more times. Because the YouTube video description field supports up to 5,000 characters, it gives you plenty of room to create content that’s optimized for search engines. Use the space to introduce the topic, add related keywords, and link to relevant pages.
In the description box, it’s also a good idea to add relevant hashtags to give YouTube added context and improve SEO. For long-form videos, create chapters manually and include keywords and relevant context in the chapter titles.
Develop New Content for Competitor Audiences
Next, use your keyword research to map a new content plan for your channel. Use factors like competitor rankings and search volume to prioritize topics. For example, consider prioritizing content about a high-volume search term that a competitor already ranks for.
As you create new content, use the YouTube SEO best practices above to optimize each video and increase the chances of it appearing in search. The SEO guidelines above apply to both short- and long-form videos.
As you publish SEO-driven content, organize the videos into playlists. YouTube playlists give your channel additional opportunities to rank in relevant searches, and they can also help viewers discover more of your content.
The more your rivals’ audiences watch and engage with your content, the more likely they’ll be to see your channel’s content on their home pages. Then you can continue to get your content in front of competitors’ audiences over time.
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#3: How to Target Competitors’ Audiences With YouTube Ads
You may be able to reach portions of your rivals’ audiences by publishing optimized organic content. Yet organic performance largely depends on search volume and YouTube recommendations.
With paid content, you can target audiences directly and reach the right people more efficiently. However, it’s important to note that as of early 2023, the content-based audience targeting options below (including detailed targeting by channel, video, topic, or keyword) only work with top- and middle-of-funnel objectives like awareness and consideration.
As of early 2023, video conversion campaigns are no longer compatible with content targeting. To create YouTube ad campaigns that drive bottom-of-funnel conversions and target competitor audiences, use custom segments (detailed below).
Target Competitors’ YouTube Channels
The most straightforward way to get top- or middle-of-funnel content in front of a rival’s audience is to place your YouTube ads directly on their channel content. When you do, their viewers may see your YouTube ads before, during, or after your competitors’ videos.
To target a competitor’s YouTube channel, start by creating a video campaign in Google Ads. Open the Content settings and expand the Placements options. Select YouTube Channels and enter each competitor. Google Ads automatically lists the number of subscribers and videos each channel has, which helps you gauge potential reach.
Note that when you use YouTube channel placements, Google Ads automatically prevents your ads from appearing on content from all other unlisted channels. If you’re only targeting one or two small channels, your campaign won’t deliver efficiently. Make sure that the competitor channels you’ve targeted are estimated to generate enough views so you can achieve your goals for impressions, views, and other metrics.
Place YouTube Ads on Specific Videos
If your competitors’ channels cover an overly broad range of topics, targeting specific videos (rather than entire channels) can help you get your YouTube ads in front of a more relevant target audience. To target a video, go back to the Placements panel and select YouTube Videos. Then search for a video or paste a URL or video ID into the search bar.
Again, Google Ads automatically displays the number of views each video has generated, which helps ensure that you choose enough high-traffic videos. Keep in mind that narrow targeting can help you reach a more specific audience but limiting placements to low-traffic videos can seriously compromise both ad delivery and campaign results.
Focus on Competitors’ Niches
To broaden your placement options while still getting your YouTube ads in front of rivals’ audiences, consider targeting video lineups. Google Ads provides preset lists of video lineups that allow you to deliver ad content that fits certain niche interests and categories. You can hover over each option to see a description of the categories and audience segments.
Note that you can combine multiple placement targeting options in a single YouTube ad set without compromising performance. In other words, you can target a mix of channels, videos, and video lineups with a single ad set.
However, Google Ads cautions advertisers against combining multiple different types of content targeting. In other words, you should avoid combining the placement options above with the keyword and topic options below, or you could dramatically limit reach.
Zero in on Competitors’ Keywords
With YouTube ads keyword targeting, you can leverage your keyword research and place ads on relevant YouTube channels and videos. For best results, pay close attention to the search intent behind each keyword and make sure it aligns with the objective of your ad.
For example, target keywords that have an informational intent when you run ads geared toward the top of the funnel. Then use transactional keywords when running ads geared toward the bottom of the funnel.
Note that not all keywords will be a good fit for this targeting option. Keywords with low search volume aren’t likely to generate many results and may compromise ad delivery. Check search volume in YouTube Studio and consider combining multiple low-volume keywords into a single ad group.
To add keywords to a video ad campaign, navigate to Google Ads’ Content settings and expand the Keywords panel. Then copy and paste your list of keywords. As you add keywords, keep an eye on Google Ads’ campaign estimates. If the estimate is too small to deliver the results you want, continue to expand your keyword list.
You can also use Google Ads’ keyword generator to get more ideas. Paste a competitor’s website and skim the list of keywords. Click the plus sign to add any keyword or click Add All Ideas to add them in bulk.
But keep in mind that a competitor’s website keywords may not align perfectly with their YouTube channel or content keywords. It’s always a good idea to cross-check these ideas against competitors’ channels to make sure you’re targeting effectively.
Wondering if it’s ethical to add competitors’ brand names to your list of keywords? You can absolutely target brand names. However, you should avoid using competitors’ brand names in ad copy or calls to action, especially if their company names are trademarked.
Aim for Competitors’ Topics
When you want to reach the audiences of a wider variety of competitors, Google Ads’ topic targeting is a good choice. This option is best when you want to place ads on competitor channels that aren’t yet on your radar. However, it’s less ideal when you want control over the channels or videos you target.
To select topics, open Google Ads’ Content settings and expand the Topics panel. Then browse the options or search for words and phrases that are relevant to your target audience. Keep an eye on the estimated impressions to ensure your ads will have enough opportunities to display.
Build Audience Segments With Intent
When you use Google Ads to create video awareness or consideration campaigns, you can use any of the targeting options above to fine-tune your potential audience. But when you use Google Ads to create video conversion campaigns, your targeting options are much more limited.
Custom audience segments can help you target users with an interest in your competitors. To build a custom segment, use your list of competitors, search terms, or both. You can create segments based on people who search for your competitors or their search terms or people who have an interest in or intent to purchase from any competitors or terms on your list.
When you create custom segments, you have an option to expand your audience to include browsing history. To target competitors’ audiences, opt to expand the segment by including people who browse websites similar to theirs.
Whether you plan to focus mainly on organic content or intend to invest in YouTube ads, targeting competitor audiences can pay off for your business. From placing ads directly on competitor channels and videos to incorporating relevant topics and keywords into your content plan, you can get your YouTube content in front of competitors’ audiences.
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