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YouTube Ads Custom Audiences

In this post, we’ll be looking at YouTube Ads custom audiences.

Custom audiences are great because they allow for virtually infinite numbers of audiences for you to target with your YouTube Ads, but you need to be careful.

Some types of custom audiences work great and my team uses them as part of the foundational structure when we’re setting up a new YouTube Ads account. Other types of custom audiences don’t work so great and some types of custom audiences don’t work at all unless maybe you implement them as part of a more advanced strategy, which we’ll look at in this post.

First, let’s look at the options.

People With Any of These Interests or Purchase Intentions

The first default option when setting up a custom audience is ‘People With Any of These Interests or Purchase Intentions’. You build this type of custom audience by entering keywords that describe your ideal customer’s interest or the products or services that they are actively researching to buy.

Google then creates a custom audience for you to put your ad in front of those types of people. They define it as people with any of these interests or purchase intentions because Google is trying to broadly match people’s interests with the keywords that you enter when constructing one of these audiences.

I found that they don’t work very well. They’re just not specific enough – this isn’t just my opinion though. If you look at the data you’ll see that these types of audiences just do not produce great results. This might be a different story if the audience was just based on people’s purchase intentions, but I feel that Google really muddied things up here when they made the audiences based on interests or purchase intentions. The fact that they threw interests in there just makes things too broad so you can’t target your customers enough to get great results.

People Who Searched for Any of These Terms on Google

The next type of custom audience typically has much better results – ‘People Who Searched for Any of These Terms on Google’. To construct these audiences, you’re going to enter search terms that you believe your target audience is searching for. Google will then create an audience for you based on people who have searched for those terms and similar terms.

This type of audience is based on intent because Google is creating your audience based on search behavior. Previously, this was called custom intent audience until Google changed the wording and interface last year.

It’s not going to be an audience that’s only made up of people who have searched for the keywords you enter. The audience will also include people who have searched for similar terms now.

Google can definitely stretch the meaning of the word a long way. Sometimes, if you’re creating an audience using keywords that get a relatively low number of searches, the custom audience will actually be very, very large because of what Google is considering a similar search.  

These types of audiences do generally work very well, and along with placements and keywords, this is a type of targeting that my team utilizes when we are getting started and launching a brand new account because it has one of the highest chances of success.

I say these audiences generally work well because it’s never 100%. You still need to build several campaigns with several types of custom audiences and then you let the data tell you which ones to turn off and which ones to scale. Ultimately, this is where a lot of your scaling is going to come from. It’s going to come from custom audiences, with the option of people who searched for these terms on Google.

There are three more types of custom audiences, you can create and I’ll just briefly go through them because they behave in much the same way. They rarely work very well.

People Who Browse Types of Websites

The next custom audience is ‘People Who Browse Types of Websites’. To create this audience, you’re actually entering a list of website URLs. Google is going to take those websites and create an audience of people who browse websites similar to the websites you entered. If it sounds a little convoluted, that’s because it is. Google is not creating an audience of people who have visited those websites. Instead, they’re looking at the characteristics of those websites and the people who visit them. They are then trying to match other people to those same characteristics and that’s how they come up with the audience.

Because it’s so convoluted, It actually turns out not to be a very good type of audience to create. if you don’t believe me, go ahead and test this out and see what the results tell you. Or, you can take my advice and understand that this type of audience isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, and don’t waste too much time or money.

People Who Use Types of Apps

Another custom audience is ‘People Who Use Types of Apps’. To build this audience, you’re going to be entering a list of mobile phone apps that people would be using. Google will then create a list of people who are similar to people who use those types of apps. Just like with the last type of custom audience, this gets really convoluted. You’re not targeting people who are using those apps, you’re targeting people who are similar to the types of people who use those apps.

People Who Visited Certain Places

And again, these aren’t going to work very well for you, the last custom audience option is ‘People Who Visited Certain Places’. I’ll just read Google’s definition of this audience because I think they sum it up pretty well – “Enter the types of places where your ideal customer might spend time.”

For example, you can enter places like the ballpark, nail salon, discount supermarket, or café.

Note – this doesn’t mean your ads will only show the people physically at those places. I’ll admit I haven’t run ads for a nail salon and used the nail salon option in this custom audience. Maybe in a scenario like that, these audiences would work.

We have done some testing trying to think about the types of businesses our ideal clients would be visiting and trying to build audiences based on those types of locations and we haven’t gotten these to work. I think Google’s doing a lot of stretching here and, once again, they’re putting people into these audiences even if they don’t actually spend a lot of time at these types of businesses. Use this option with caution!

As you’ve seen me talk about throughout this video, most of the options you have for custom audiences are simply too broad. You’re not able to reach a specific enough user for your ads to work, but there is something you can try to do with these audiences to make use of them as you scale.

Custom Audience Layering

Layering – If you layer one broad custom audience with another broad custom audience, the middle of your Venn diagram might just be specific enough to work. You can also layer your custom audiences with other types of targeting, like Google’s predefined audiences, topics, keywords, etc.

I wouldn’t layer audiences that are too similar. You’ll just end up creating a lot of overlap and it’ll still be too broad. The key to layering is to use targeting that won’t produce a lot of overlap.

You just want a little bit of overlap. For example, if I was targeting possible clients for my YouTube Ads agency, I might create a custom audience based on keywords related to Facebook Ads. I might create another custom audience based on keywords related to high-ticket selling or building sales teams.

If Google put someone into both of those audiences, meaning they are likely interested in Facebook Ads and they’re likely interested in building sales teams, then that’s probably a good person to put my ads in front of even though neither of those things has anything to do with YouTube Ads. Layering isn’t just something that you can do with broad audiences.

You can also use layering for some of your more specific audiences, but there is a tradeoff here. Any time you are layering audiences, you are reducing the number of people in those audiences and that is going to throw a wrench into your scaling. If I have an audience that’s good enough to scale by itself and it’s already producing good results, then layering something on top of that audience is only going to take away from those results.  

That’s my rundown on custom audiences! While these audiences have been around for a while, they used to be called custom intent audiences and custom affinity audiences. Custom audiences, as we now know them, have been around for less than a year.