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YouTube Pre-Roll Ad Targeting: A Video Marketing Guide

Note: This article, YouTube Pre-roll Ad Targeting, is part 2 of a 3-part series on YouTube Pre-roll Ads.

YouTube pre-roll ads are an easy, cost-effective way to reach your ideal customers. To get started advertising on YouTube, you just set your daily budget in Adsense, upload your video, and boom—you’re in the advertising business, right? If only it were that simple.

YouTube ads vary from the expensive niche ads known as “Google Preferred” to Trueview ads (aka “in-stream” aka “pre-roll”). Each ad type features a number of specific, and important targeting options that directly affect who will see your ad and how far your advertising budget will stretch.

[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]“51% of executives under 40 have made a business-related purchase after viewing a video.”[/tweet_box]

Buying an ad from the world’s second largest search engine (only itself Google has more monthly users), LINK is a big deal. Don’t dive into the world of online advertising blind. Get familiar with a few common YouTube ad targeting options and create an ad campaign that can achieve your objective without crushing your budget.

A Guide to Google Ads: YouTube Pre-Roll Ads vs. Display Network Ads

First things first—YouTube pre-roll video ads aren’t the only type of video ads Google offers. You can purchase pre-roll ad space on YouTube or the “Google Display Network,” and it’s worth mentioning the difference between the two.

Google advertising basically breakdown into three large categories:

  • Search Network Ads — Keyword targeted ads that show up in keyword search results (basically, SEO)
  • Display Network Ads — Ads that appear on affiliate websites and pages (keyword and topic targeted)
  • YouTube ads — Video ads for YouTube content

Why even mention the Google Display Network if it’s different from YouTube ads? I mention Display Ads because the YouTube and Display Ads ad platforms share a lot of crossover—especially when it comes to targeting.

The Display Network is enormous, and according to Google, reaches roughly “90% of the entire internet through 2 million partner sites and apps.” Display ads are targeted to these millions of sites and topics with the same keywords and topics you create in Adsense for YouTube pre-roll ads, so pay close attention to the keywords and topics you target for YouTube pre-roll ads. If you do the hard work of creating your target audience you can scale that market research into future ad buys without any extra sunken cost.

Successful video marketing all about squeezing every ounce of ROI out of your video assets, and that includes audience targeting and keyword selection. That’s why I mention the two distinct ad platforms. Display ads are yet another place to feature your pre-roll length video ad on relevant content.

YouTube Pre-Roll Ads: Immediate ROI

YouTube pre-roll ads might be annoying, disruptive, and kind of a pain, but they have one consistent benefit—immediacy. Brian Carter, at Convince and Convert reminds marketers of this marketing superpower. “People forget that what makes AdWords so quick at delivering ROI is that you focus on getting people who are ready now.”

YouTube viewers have searched out the content they’re viewing, which makes advertising on YouTube vastly different than traditional media buying. A Forbes study titled, Video in the C-Suite found that “51% of executives under 40 have made a business-related purchase after viewing a video.” And that was all the way back in 2011. Video is even more important now, and more B2B and B2C buyers routinely use video to find solutions to problems.

So how do you find these highly motivated buyers? You have to know what they watch.

YouTube Pre-Roll Targeting Options

Before creating any YouTube ad campaign, first ask yourself this one simple question:

“What do my customers watch?”

You have to answer that question, before you start picking keywords and creating your target audiences. Once you answer that one question, it’s time to dive into all the YouTube pre-roll ad targeting options. The first three targeting options are pretty straightforward and easy to set:

  • Geography — You can set regional limits on viewers for international, national or local video marketing campaigns
  • Language — Set the preferred language of videos
  • Demographics — Select the age, gender, parental status, or household income of the audience you want to reach

The final three targeting options is where it gets interesting:

  • Keywords
  • Topics
  • Interests

YouTube Pre-Roll Ad Targeting: Keywords

Keyword targeting is based on a set of competitive keywords you think viewers of your ad will likely search for. It’s a lot like Search Network Ads (which is why I mentioned them at the top of this article). One great example of a successful keyword driven, search friendly pre-roll ad campaign is Burger King’s highly targeted, tongue in cheek campaign in Australia.

Burger King: King of Targeting

Instead of making one pre-roll ad “to rule them all,” Burger King created 64 unique 15-second pre-roll ads each targeted to a hyper specific keyword search term:

Burger King again leans into the trope that “ads are bad” with the two characters groaning alongside you as you wait for the ad to finish. This acknoledgement of the advertising elephant in the room, along with the surprisingly specific, yet relatable content of the ad (and the video it’s placed in front of), creates an incentive to watch the ad and remember the deal. It’s hard not to smirk as the guys in the ad mutter, “Stupid, incredible deal,” as he tries to wave off the pop-up ad banner.

Watching each of these specific video titles pop up is such an interesting peek behind the marketing curtain, and it’s why the campaign is so successful. They lay out a detailed picture of their ideal customer with each clip—goat videos, Jimmy Fallon clips, comedy trailers, rugby matches, and more. Burger King painstakingly researched the YouTube videos their ideal customer watches, and not only placed their pre-roll ads there, they mocked the format on the way in.

While it may seem easy to slap together a 15-second pre-roll ad, remember all the work that goes into creating an ideal customer profile ICP LINK so that those ads actually reach your target market. If you can take the creative direction a step further and actually make the ad about your customers, that’s keyword customer targeting on a silver platter.

YouTube Pre-Roll Ad Targeting: Topics

Like Keyword targeting, Topic targeting is top of funnel marketing, or as YouTube puts it, “Topic targeting lets you reach a broad range of videos, channels, and websites related to the topics you select.” The cool thing about topic targeting is how specific it is. Seriously, it gets granular.

YouTube pre-roll ad targeting

Targeting by topic determines where Google places your pre-roll ad on both YouTube and Display Network, so it’s a great place to narrow your audience creation after establishing relevant keywords.

What Does Topic Targeting Cost?

Targeting is great, but what does it cost. Pre-roll ads are billed on the Cost-per-view (CPV) bidding system. You set the amount you’re willing to pay for each view and pay every time someone clicks on, or watches either your entire pre-roll ad or at least 30 seconds.

If you set your CPV $2 per view, and you’re the top bidder, your ad will display in the selected topic. If the next highest bidder for that same topic and targeting options is only $0.35, you’ll be billed at $0.36 per view.

The fluctuations in the CPV marketplace make analyzing the actual cost of any one topic practically impossible, but you can tinker with your max CPV bid and see what kind of ROI you’re getting to better establish your video marketing budget going forward.

Targeting Budget Tips: Exclusions

A great way to lower the cost of topic targeting is by adding exclusions. Certain demographics or regions might not be relevant to your CTA, so make sure that they don’t gobble up your ad budget with views that don’t lead to conversion. To further target your ideal customer add topic exclusions to your pre-roll ad with these seven steps:

  1. Sign in to your AdWords account
  2. Click “Campaigns” then select the video campaign you want to edit
  3. Select the ad in “Ad groups”
  4. Click “Video targeting”
  5. Select the “Topics” sub-tab.
  6. Follow the steps on that sub-tab, and then click Save.
  7. Click the green dot next to the topic or demographic you want to exclude in the table on each sub-tab. A red dot will appear next to topics you’ve excluded.

Targeting exclusions definitely narrow your potential audience, but quality clicks trump quantity every time, especially when you’re paying top dollar for every click.

YouTube Pre-Roll Ad Targeting: Interests

After Keywords, Topics and Interest targeting are the main types of YouTube pre-roll ad targeting. While both use the same categories to find viewers, “Topics” are the category of videos that people are watching right now. “Interests” targets people who usually watch videos of a certain topic even if they’re watching something else right now.

YouTube pre-roll ad targeting

The difference is subtle, but real. Basically, you choose from hundreds of “available audience categories to reach people interested in certain topics.” The key difference between topics and interests is that targeting by interest can reach viewers “even when they may be visiting pages about other topics,” according to Google.

Still confused? Understanding Interest targeting has to do with how YouTube defines “audiences.”

YouTube Pre-Roll Ad Targeting: Audiences

Audience targeting is a subset of Interest targeting, and allows you to get as granular as you like with your pre-roll targeting. It’s broken down into three categories:

  • Affinity Audiences
  • Custom Affinity Audiences
  • In-Market Targeting

Affinity Audiences are the most broad, and are generally used to raise brand awareness by “reaching people who already have a strong interest in the relevant topics.” Custom Affinity Audiences are exactly that—customized to your specific brand needs. Instead of reaching “Dancers,” you connect with “Salsa dancers.”

Finally, you have In-market Audiences. This is a hyper specific subset of people “actively considering buying a product or service.” It’s a more expensive option by far, but worth the added ROI.

YouTube Pre-Roll Ad Targeting: Remarketing and Placement

Two final pre-roll targeting options worth mentioning are Video Remarketing and Placement Targeting. Remarketing is aimed at showing your ads to viewers that have already engaged with your videos in the past. This list is automatically generated by Google (if you link up your YouTube account to your AdWords account). You can decide later if retargeting is for you, but it’s worth having the option from the start.

Placement targeting is much more like a traditional ad buy. You place your ads on specific channels, videos, apps, websites. Think of this as targeting your audience based on the traits associated with a tv channel, not a topic. Placement targeting can be expensive, and less specific than other targeting types, but if you know that a lot of your ideal customers watch a certain channel, it might be worth putting more fish in that barrel.

A Final Note About Ad Targeting: It’s tempting to slice your target demographic to the bone with laser-focused targeting, but it’s worth remembering that according to Google, “Every targeting method added at the ad group level narrows, not widens, your targeting.”

YouTube Pre-roll Ad Targeting Works

YouTube pre-roll ads might be annoying, intrusive, and kind of a pain, but they work. In 2014-2015 YouTube looked at over 800 brand video ad campaigns and noticed a “65% increase in brand awareness.” That kind of awareness spike is worth waiting a few more seconds for that epic cat video. Probably.

Contact us today to create the perfect, highly targeted animated pre-roll ad for your business.

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