Digital Marketing

New YouTube Features Unlock Powerful Performance Opportunities

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, with over 30 million daily users and over 1.5 billion monthly logged-in users across 88 countries.  Counting only mobile visitors, YouTube reaches more 18-49 year olds than any cable company in the US.  YouTube—it’s kind of a big deal.

Based on these numbers alone, YouTube should be a critically important part of every brand’s marketing strategy.  However, all too often I see advertisers hesitating to take full advantage of the ad types and targeting tools available.  There are several reasons for this discrepancy—search marketers who are obsessed with focusing targeting around the declared intent of keywords, video marketers who don’t know how to leverage the granularity of Google’s audience targeting options, and performance marketers who are only interested in conversion KPIs are just a few examples. 

Google is ready to challenge assumptions about YouTube ads.  Last week, Google announced two new YouTube advertising features that provide marketers with more control over the targeting and optimization of their YouTube spend:

When utilized together, these two features unlock a plethora of opportunities for advertisers to expand the focus of YouTube buys from the traditional KPIs of impressions, awareness, and brand lift to lower-funnel performance metrics—to evolve video ads beyond just branding and into performance.

Connecting search history to media consumption

While YouTube is a fantastic discovery platform, the search box is still a foundational component.  But while the search boxes on YouTube and Google look similar, user behavior for each is quite different.  Searchers on Google are declaring their intent in a very clear way, asking a question and requesting an answer.  Searches on YouTube are more challenging to parse—while there is often some indication of intent, that granular level of insight is often masked by the fact that the search is focused around consuming video content.

That’s where custom intent audiences come in.  By leveraging this feature, advertisers can target YouTube video ads based on a user’s previous search behavior on Google, where their declaration of intent is more robust.  Marketers can create lists of up to 5,000 keywords, which are then connected to YouTube video campaigns to serve ads when someone who searched for those keywords previously on Google is watching video on YouTube.

While it’s simple to just load top performance keywords into a list and stop there, savvy advertisers will take the time to formulate multiple lists based on different targeting strategies and then test to see which delivers the best results.  Brands could split lists by several types of declared intent in the previously searched keywords:

  • Gender (“Men’s shoes” keywords vs “Women’s shoes” keywords)
  • Product category (“Work boots” keywords vs “Running shoes” keywords)
  • Proximity to conversion (“Vacation ideas” keywords vs location-specific keywords like “Miami hotels”)
  • Affinity to the brand (trademark keywords vs nonbrand keywords vs competitor keywords)

Those are just a few segmentation ideas.  Once advertisers create different lists, they can then align them with ads that are relevant to the previously declared intent, choose the most appropriate KPI, and set bidding rules based around the anticipated performance.

The primary limitation that marketers should keep in mind is that these keywords are all treated as the Broad Match match type.  This helps ensure the lists have sufficient volume, but as a trade-off limits some of the most granular segmentation possibilities.

Driving conversions on YouTube

The TrueView for action ad format is built around delivering conversions directly from YouTube. It has been in testing for several months, and is now rolling out globally.

Due to their fantastic reach, YouTube ads have always been great at delivering branding KPIs.  Search, however, is a channel founded on driving direct-response performance.  By creating a YouTube ad unit build from the ground up as a performance play, Google is hoping to leverage their long history in driving tangible business outcomes and expand that strength into the video ad space.

This ad format pairs video creative with a call to action that lingers after the ad ends (or even if it is skipped), inviting viewers to engage via a logo, a title, and a button with a customizable call to action. By adding this banner, Google has provided an easy way for brands to focus on delivering direct-response KPIs without having to remake or edit video assets—although savvy advertisers will analyze the performance of these ads and use the insights to optimize their creative assets and fuel future YouTube video ad content.

Targeting + Optimization = Performance

As a performance marketing agency, our teams at iProspect are all-in on these updates, and these new features combined with Google’s proactive commitment to dramatically improving brand safety make YouTube more important for advertisers than ever before.  In the coming weeks we’ll be launching dozens of test for clients across multiple verticals around the globe, and using the results to define best practices for these features individually and in combination with other YouTube targeting options and ad formats.  Look for a future update sharing these learnings and results!