Late in 2022 Google announced the phasing out of YouTube content targeting options—keywords, topics, and placements.

Search Engine Land suggested it would be the ‘end to the hyper-targeting that made YouTube so appealing for ad dollars.’

There was a lot more coverage like that.

Reading those reports at the time, you’d have been forgiven for believing you could no longer do granular targeting on YouTube.

As the founder of Adzoola I regularly talk to advertisers. Even though those changes were announced in 2022, I still encounter advertisers with misconceptions about what actually happened.

Today I intend to bust a few myths and misconceptions around those changes.

Myth 1: Content Targeting Has Been Completely Removed

One of the major misconceptions is the belief that content targeting was eradicated from YouTube advertising.

While it’s true that Content Targeting is no longer a feature in campaigns using automated bidding strategies, it is still available in some video campaign subtypes with manual bidding (4 at the time of writing). The main two are Video Views campaigns (VVC) and Efficient Reach campaigns. With these you’ll use bidding methods like Maximum CPV (cost per view), Target CPV and Target CPM.

Content targeting options are still there in those campaigns:

Google’s rationale for removing those targeting options from campaigns using automated bidding strategies is clear and sensible:

Automated, algorithm driven campaigns often struggle to optimize against narrowly targeted audiences, leading to hit-or-miss results. By removing content targeting from these campaigns, Google’s algorithms can work unhindered to their full potential, giving you better performance.

Content targeting options still have a place in a YouTube advertising plan. By targeting specific placements, keywords or topics, you can reach a more defined audience, with more control and often achieve higher returns on your ad spend (ROAS) than using broader methods.

These targeting options sit in the first three levels of the Pyramid Targeting Technique, a framework I train media buyers on in my YouTube ads course to strategically plan, manage, and scale campaigns. It underscores the significance of granular targeting in the initial stages when launching new clients on YouTube.

Launching clients on YouTube this way minimizes your risk and increases your chances of short term success.

To access content targeting options for YouTube ads, select ‘create a campaign without a Goal’s guidance’ when you start your video campaign set up. Then select Video Views as the campaign subtype (the name of these can change frequently).

Ensure you uncheck ‘Video partners on the Google Display Network’, so your targeting actually keeps your ads on YouTube. If you’re targeting videos on YouTube, there is no reason to be shown on the Display network, but you will be unless you uncheck this.

You’re likely familiar with most options here so I won’t go into every one, but scroll down and you’ll see the Content targeting options – keywords, topics and placements.

Tip: Don’t mix these targeting options in one campaign, unless you’re testing that mixing the options gets better results after you’ve proven one method on its own works.

Myth 2: Manual YouTube Campaigns Are Dead

Another prevalent idea is the notion that the rise of automated campaigns has rendered manual campaigns obsolete. Contrary to this belief, manual campaigns, are not yet extinct.

They can actually be the toe in the water you and your clients will appreciate when you’re starting YouTube ads.

Manual campaigns can even act as a solid foundation that generates a high ROAS, perhaps even subsidizing some of the broader, lower return but more scalable targeting methods in your automated bidding campaigns.

Not only are manual campaigns and precise targeting still around, they occupy the top levels in my Pyramid Targeting Technique for YouTube ads (as long as you’re able to target your audience this way.)

A few reasons you might consider manual campaigns for YouTube Ads:

  • Narrow targeting: You have the ability to target specific YouTube videos and channels. Isn’t this as powerful as Google Search? Maybe more so because on YouTube you own the ad placement with no competitors.
  • More control: Manual campaigns give you back control you don’t have with campaigns that use automated bidding (they use Google’s AI). For example, in the case of placement targeting, you can specify exactly which videos or channels you want your ad to show on.
  • Low budget: More control means these campaigns tend to work well with smaller budgets.
  • Low risk: With more control and lower budgets, they become lower risk for you and your clients to test.

Remember this is a manual campaign so it won’t optimize the placements for you.

Myth 3: You Can’t Get Conversions on YouTube with Manual Campaigns

An additional misapprehension is the idea that manual campaigns can’t drive conversions. This myth doesn’t seem to be confined to just YouTube ads either, but across all campaign types.

This falsehood may stem from advertisers treating manual campaigns like automated ones and neglecting to manually optimize targeting. Or it might just be coming from those people who weren’t around when manual campaigns were all we had.

In reality, with regular optimization, manual campaigns can indeed drive substantial conversions.

As a marketer I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “Right message, right audience, at the right time.”

That is what we aim for as performance marketers, particularly at the bottom of the funnel.

Rhat’s still achievable outside of Google Search.

Manual YouTube ad campaigns give you the control to do this, particularly with placement targeting (the ultimate level of control over where you ad will show).

Here’s how:

  1. You create your ad with a specific message and offer for a specific target audience. This is the ‘Right message‘.
  2. You place your ad with your specific message and offer in front of an audience who have intent (identified by the specific targets/placements you added to the campaign). This is the ‘Right audience
  3. Your ad is shown at the time your ideal audience is watching something on that topic. This is the ‘Right time‘.

This level of control can be particularly beneficial in the early stages of a campaign, where testing and iteration are crucial for identifying the most effective audience and message.

Common Misunderstanding: Automated Campaigns Are Always Better

A common misunderstanding is the overemphasis on the efficacy of automated campaigns. This leads to the belief that they are always the superior choice. This is not always the case.

Automated bidding can be less effective for narrow targeting, as it can limit the reach and performance of a campaign.

That’s actually what would often happen before these content targeting changes were made by Google.

Advertisers using placement targeting on YouTube ads with Maximize Conversions or a Target CPA bid strategy often say:

  • It won’t spend / spent a bit but stopped spending
  • My results (and spend) are inconsistent.

With a narrow audience, you’ll see lower volume. Lower volume means less data. Less data means fewer insights and insights, so the AI wouldn’t always understand who was best to show the ad to. AI gets better with more data (assuming the quality is sufficient). That is why Google removed these options from automated bidding campaigns.

So few YouTube advertisers are using manual campaigns now that it could almost be a competitive advantage to those who do. Maybe you’ll be one of them?

Common Misuse: Using the Same Campaign Type for Different Goals

A frequent mistake made by advertisers is the use of the same campaign type for different advertising goals – awareness, consideration, action, TOFU, MOFU, BOFU.

Manual campaigns could suit you better if you or your client are just starting with YouTube ads. Or if you’re operating with smaller budgets. Automated campaigns are more effective at reaching broader audiences with bigger budgets.

Running both campaign types concurrently for different purposes can be a smart strategic move. This approach is more flexible and encourages a diversified and adaptable campaign strategy.

Although manual campaigns suit small budgets, that doesn’t mean they can’t also scale.

For example, I’ve seen placement targeting being used in an account spending $2 million a month on YouTube ads. They used the placement campaigns as a test bed or sandbox for new ad variations and message testing.

Since the launch of the Video Views campaign subtype, Google has been pitching it as a way for brands to increase awareness and consideration by maximizing views across YouTube ad formats when using multi-format ads option:

VVCs, Google says, are “the solution for advertisers to get the most views across all of YouTube’s video formats” adding “we observed among similar campaigns that Video View Campaigns drove 40% higher consideration lift per dollar than in stream CPV campaigns on average.”

‘Multi-format ads’ is the default option in VVCs and with it you’ll use Target CPV. Google’s AI will be used to establish which ad formats perform best. You can opt out of the multi format ads option to use in-stream ads or in-feed video ads and bid with Maximum CPV. That’s a more manual approach which, when combined with narrow targeting like placements, suits smaller budgets.

Conclusion: Automated or Manual Targeting? Why not both?

If you’re just starting out with YouTube ads or if you’ve got a smaller budget, then it makes sense to use the most targeted method you can.

As you progress and see positive results, you can embrace broader targeting methods and benefiting from automated bidding using Google’s AI.

Remember, these two types of campaigns are not mutually exclusive. You can run both types of campaigns alongside each other in the same account. For example, you could have a targeted placements campaign, getting those incremental high ROI conversions, while also running a ‘Drive conversions’ campaign at a higher scale.

Changes to platforms are opportunities to adapt, innovate, and make the most out of your advertising strategies

See them as opportunities to adapt, innovate, and make the most out of your advertising strategies.

The post YouTube Content Targeting: Myths, Misunderstandings, and Misuse first appeared on PPC Hero.