Are you using YouTube ads to market your products or services?
Then you should consider using Google’s Custom Intent Audiences to increase your targeting options.
In this article, I’ll explain YouTube custom intent audiences: what the are, how they’re used, and tips and best practices for using them effectively.
What We’ll Cover:
- What YouTube custom intent audiences are
- Who should be using YouTube custom intent audiences
- How to set up a YouTube custom intent audience
- Tips & best practices
- Example custom intent audiences
As technology continues to move towards digital marketing, it’s crucial to understand how marketing strategies change to incorporate this shift.
No longer is it enough to simply place an ad online for the world to see. Sure, you have to make sure that ad is well-placed so that the maximum number of people see it, but it won’t matter how many people you reach if they aren’t actually interested in what you’re offering.
Making sure your ad gets seen by just the right people is more vital than ever. This is why so many ad platforms, such as Google Ads (formerly AdWords), allow you to target your audience.
In theory, designing a target audience should allow you to reach the maximum number of users interested in your product or service.
Unfortunately, not all targeting options work very well, especially when it comes to video ads placed on YouTube. Either they are far too broad, making your video not relevant to its many viewers, or it’s far too limited and only a few people even have access to it.
What Are Custom Intent Audiences?
Google’s custom intent audiences allow digital marketers and advertisers to target a select group of people who may be considering making a purchase or investing in a specific service.
You might think this sounds similar to the idea of in-market audiences (which have existed for years), as they’re both used to specify an audience ready in the buying stage. However, there are some significant differences.
Firstly, unlike in-market audiences, custom intent audiences are primarily used to try and reach users as they are in the process of making a purchase decision, as opposed to those who are still in the research phase.
Basically, it’s all about the difference between the words: “intent” and “affinity.”
Intent, as its definition expresses is “showing earnest and eager attention.’ It means there is actual interest. So, an audience that is intent is one that is actively interested in your product or service and currently looking for it.
Compare this to “affinity,” which is defined as “a spontaneous or natural liking or sympathy for someone or something.” It implies that a person is likely to take interest in something based on past behavior, but the reality of that interest is largely unknown at this specific time. Sure, they may have looked for similar products before, but are they actually looking to buy and now?
And secondly, in-market audiences do not always allow you to get as specific or precise as you would like when it comes to targeting your audience.
To explain this, I’ll give you an example.
In the following image, you see some options for an in-market audience. While there are some excellent options available, far too often, these are not nearly as precise as you need them to be and therefore may make your intended audience much too broad.
Let’s say your YouTube ad features baseball equipment. Obviously, neither “golf equipment” nor “winter sports equipment & accessories” quite fit the criteria. However, the option of choosing “sporting goods” is simply too broad.
The solution is to instead use YouTube custom intent audiences.
This option is available on the same screen as the in-marketing audience, but, as I will explain later, offers much more in-depth options.
The idea of custom intent audiences was first announced in November of 2017, just before the holiday season and the coinciding shopping frenzy, to be used for Google Display campaigns.
They worked so well that by February of the following year, Google had announced custom intent audiences would soon be available for YouTube video campaigns as well.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus primarily on custom intent audiences for YouTube.
However, I’ll start by explaining a few key differences between the two.
Custom Intent Audiences for Display Ads (CIDA)
The main difference between these two audiences is where their data is sourced from.
Custom intent audiences for display ads get their information from how consumers use and participate with the web and various apps. Google tracks engagement of these users through browser sign-ins and cookies to gauge where a particular person is at any given point and how close they are to making a purchase.
Google uses machine learning to note certain behaviors that indicate where an individual is in the buying process. These users are then tagged accordingly.
When creating a CIDA, marketers only need to input around 5-15 keywords, apps, or URLs for the system to work. Because the number of inputs is so low, this enables you to create multiple audiences for one product or service.
Custom Intent Audiences for YouTube (CIYT)
Custom intent audiences for YouTube, on the other hand, receives its information by search criteria alone.
Unlike with CIDAs, these audiences ignore web and app interactions and focus solely on the specific keywords or phrases consumers have used in the past or are are currently using to target them.
Because of this, Google requires marketers to use a minimum of 50 up to 500 keywords to define your intended audience. It also recommends that you only create one audience per product or service that contains a list of the top-performing keywords, or ones most likely to convert.
Who Should Be Using YouTube Custom Intent Audiences?
Basically, anyone running YouTube ads or video campaigns should be using custom intent audiences.
So, if you’re in digital marketing, own a company, or just want to make sure your ads are being seen by the right people in all the right places, YouTube custom intent audiences are a must-try.
You’ll be surprised at just how accurate they can be at getting your brand out there, even to those who have already looked at your products before.
I am not saying these will make you forget about custom affinity audiences, but I can promise that they have a lot to offer you and your business, whether you are just starting out and only have one brick and mortar location or you own a massive amount of eCommerce inventory.
How to Set Up Custom Intent Audiences for YouTube
When you click on New Custom Intent Audience in Google Ads, you will be able to create a highly targeted audience using any higher intent keywords you think those consumers would use.
Based on the baseball equipment example from earlier, our YouTube custom intent audience might look like this:
As I mentioned before, Google recommends using at least 50 keywords here. If you are struggling to come up with that many on your own, make sure to use the Google Ads Keyword Planner tool.
This product allows you to type in a few keywords you know will be relevant to your video ads, such as baseball equipment or baseball accessories, and will generate a list of related keywords consumers are likely to input when they are searching for that specific type of product.
You can then choose to add all these words or just a few to your ad group plan without leaving the keyword planner tool. Simply export your plan and copy and paste it into your new YouTube custom intent audience.
Tips & Best Practices for Using Custom Intent Audiences for YouTube
Before you jump in and create YouTube custom intent audiences for any product or campaign, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
One of the best tips I can give you for setting up YouTube custom intent audiences is to really make sure you understand the mindset of your intended audience. You need to think about precisely what they are looking for, what they are using to search for that, but also understand clearly what your ad’s primary goal is.
Here are some questions to ask yourself that might help you better define and understand your audience:
- What keywords have had the most conversion success in your search campaigns?
- What keywords indicate that a person is considering a particular product or service to buy later?
- What keywords generate clicks from users who return later or convert by other means in your search campaigns?
Just as important as understanding what your audience wants is also acknowledging what they don’t want.
To do this, make sure you think about keywords that might express your audience isn’t ready to make a purchase or needs some more information first.
Consider phrases to exclude that would draw in people who aren’t really looking to buy or would not be interested in your product or service:
- What keywords indicate that a person is still in the research phase and not ready to buy?
- What keywords indicate that a user is searching for a job related to your product or service if your service or product is not specifically job related?
- What keywords may be used for purposes unrelated to your product or service, such as homophones or homographs?
Things to keep in mind when using YouTube custom intent audiences:
- Sensitive words only serve contextually and may not get served at all
- All keywords are treated as broad match. Even your exact match lists will give you a much wider reach than you might think.
- Google Ads suggests using at least 50 keywords to define your audience if you want the most accuracy possible.
Also, be sure to think about how you might want to group some of these keywords together in your audience. Think about how they relate to your video and the goal of your ad. This will make any grouping decisions more natural and more suited to what you need.
Must-Try Custom Intent Audiences
When deciding how to organize your ad group, keep in mind that each campaign and goal of should be somewhat different from the last.
Here is an example of what your ad group breakouts may look like for the baseball theme we’ve stuck with:
You’ll notice all of these ad groups fall within the same campaign, since I am assuming you have just one video you’re dealing with at the moment. However, you can create a different ad group for each YouTube custom intent audience.
Converting Terms or Keywords
In this case, the first audience created was one using the most popular converting terms or keywords, as they are pretty much a sure thing.
After all, if you know certain keywords have worked in the past, why not use them again?
Converting Search Queries
You should also try creating an audience using converting search queries.
While it sounds similar to what I just mentioned, there is a difference. Mainly, the keywords you input are not likely to be the exact same thing users typed in when searching Google.
Next, we can take general terms like “sporting goods” and break it down to encompass a more specific idea such as “baseball equipment”.
We do this because while “baseball bats on sale” might sound more precise, people who search for an “online sports store” may also be interested.
Don’t forget to include a YouTube custom intent audience based on local terminology.
This would be especially relevant if you have a brick and mortar store, whether it’s just one or many.
By targeting local terms, you can more effectively separate consumers who wish to visit an actual physical location to be separated from those who prefer to buy online.
Also, be sure to include the popular “near me” terms as well as names of cities or areas that get more searches than say a small town where the actual address it but no one has heard of.
Top Selling Products (Ecommerce)
For those of you in the ecommerce business, another obvious choice for custom intent audiences is one that focuses on your top-selling products.
Clearly, these are the products that clients love, and therefore get the most attention. It only makes sense to use these products to bring more brand awareness and reach to you.
Rather than using your Google Ads account for this, I suggest using Google Analytics.
Unlike Google Ads, Analytics will show you your best-selling products across all channels, giving you a more complete picture of which ones are actually doing the best.
Internal Site Search Queries
Google Analytics can be used for another YouTube custom intent audience idea, as well.
This one is based on where people go when they arrive at your site, and which pages and products they are actually looking at.
By looking at the Site Search Report in Google Analytics, you can see a list of specific products or services that people are looking for on your site. However, depending on your website and the items/services being sold, you may not see a list that specifically names these.
Still, this can give you a good idea of what consumers are drawn to within your site and what they seemed most interested in.
Pro Tip: YouTube custom intent audiences can also be used to gauge what keywords, products, or queries are being used by your competitors as well.
Wrapping Up YouTube Custom Intent Audiences
Alright, so you’ve had a lot of information thrown at you here, and not all of it may be easy to follow for those inexperienced with Google Ads.
However, there is no doubt that YouTube custom intent audiences can secure you just the right kind of attention and amount of people seeing your business ads at just the right time.
Remember, custom intent audiences are designed to attract people who are actively in search of you and your brand. Your job is to make sure that they see and take notice.
Now get out there and try out a few of these custom intent audience ideas for yourself!
Have you experimented with custom intent audiences? Let us know in the comments!