Non-Branded Custom Intent Targeting on YouTube: Cut Your CPCs by 50%

Person reading a book about YouTube ads strategy.

It’s no secret that YouTube Ads are extremely effective if done right. The perfect combination of quality video creative with strong targeting can help a business achieve its online marketing goals, whether that is to increase brand awareness or increase on-site conversions. 

While placement targeting options such as channel, video, and topic targeting are all great options to reach your specific target on YouTube, YouTube audience targeting is also incredibly effective. But, going beyond Google, creating affinity and in-market audiences, and leveraging powerful Custom Audiences may help you achieve your best results – and, potentially save some money on expensive search terms. 

What are Custom Audiences?

Custom Audiences on Google can be created using recent keyword searches. However, only campaign types with placements entirely on Google-owned properties, such as YouTube campaigns, have the availability to create Custom Audiences that are created with people using keywords recently searched on Google. On non-Google owned properties, such as websites opted into the Google Display Network that your ad may show on, the Custom Audience is created with people with any of the search term interests or purchase intentions. 

When creating audiences using keywords, you have two options: create an audience using your branded keywords, or create an audience using non-branded keywords. 

When To Try Custom Audience Targeting on YouTube

With the ability to target the people who are searching for your targeted keywords in a potentially more cost-effective way, Custom Audience targeting is an exciting and effective audience type, particularly for industries with high search CPCs. This is often the case with non-branded keywords. 

Imagine, you are getting your best performance out of your non-branded search campaigns, but CPCs continue to rise. How else can you continue to get in front of people actively searching for your keywords if you don’t want to pay for ever-increasing search campaigns CPC prices? By creating a Custom Audience out of your non-branded keyword targets, and targeting this audience on YouTube, of course!

Additionally, if you already have video assets, this strategy is a no-brainer. To prove it, check out this example from a test we recently ran for our partner, Team Bootcamp. Team Bootcamp had already been highly successful at advertising their ‘Anatomy Bootcamp’ all-in-one online study tool with YouTube by targeting a list of highly matched YouTube channels. 

When looking to scale this success on YouTube and increase the volume of free trial sign ups, I knew that we would have to look for additional targeting options available. At the same time, we also had been testing a non-branded search campaign on Google that was yielding very promising conversion rates, but high CPCs, resulting in a cost per conversion that was higher than we were comfortable paying for. Enter our non-branded Custom Audience test!

To target those same keywords that we had proven to convert with search, we created a Custom Audience of non-branded keywords using the keywords that delivered the best results from our search campaign. 

Here is what the audience creation process looks like. As you can see, you simply plug in your keywords and Google will also provide audience insights on the right hand side.

youtube ad targeting

 

(Although Google recommends creating a Custom Audience using 50 or more search terms, I have actually seen better results when creating the audience using 5 terms or less.).

Before even spending $100, we saw excellent results, with a cost per conversion of less than a third of the cost from the search campaign. The combination of winning video creative with a highly targeted audience was producing great results. This signaled to us it was time to invest a greater percentage of our monthly ad budget in the YouTube campaign.

 

What If You Don’t Have Video Assets?

If you don’t have video assets but would like to try out a Custom Intent audience made up of actual search terms and not just “purchase interests,” you can still achieve this through using a campaign type with placements only on Google-owned properties, such as Gmail or Discovery. In fact, running a Google Discovery Ads campaign will also get you placements on YouTube mobile, without even needing a video ad.

This is a strategy we leveraged for Tuff partner, Dial + Bezel. When helping Dial + Bezel launch their brand new website and watch auction platform, we wanted to attract an engaged audience, but after testing a non-branded search campaign, we knew it wouldn’t be sustainable for this start-up to pay a premium on search CPC clicks. 

Instead, we again leveraged a non-branded Custom Audience and used it to target people searching for the keywords we tried paying for on search. Not only did we see CPCs of one-tenth of search, we saw on-site performance that was nearly identical, indicating that we were hitting the targeted audience that we wanted to hit, without having to pay for search CPCs.

Youtube campaign results.

Even if you don’t have video assets and therefore can’t advertise on YouTube, you can still find your audience, and good results, using Custom Audiences on Discovery.

Conclusion

As the competition continues to increase year-over-year for placements in the top 4 results of Google Search ads, costs continue to rise for clicks across multiple industries. Although search campaigns have the highest intent targeting available, they also often have the highest costs. Utilizing Google’s Custom Audiences on Google-owned properties such as YouTube can give you the ability to reach your desired audience without breaking the bank.