YouTube Ads Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting helps you narrow in on your target customer when using YouTube Ads.

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You can basically target or exclude people based on whatever demographics they fall into. The main categories they fall into are age, gender, parental status, and household income. 

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Age and gender are pretty accurate because we actually give Google this information when we create a Google account. So, if we’re logged into any Google property (Gmail, Youtube, etc.), Google knows who we are, they know how old we are, and they know what our gender is. 

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This can get muddy if people are sharing a computer. For example, if my wife is on a computer that’s logged into my Google account, Google is going to think it’s me. They don’t look through the camera to see who is actually using the computer. (Or do they?) No, they don’t. But seriously, age and gender are pretty reliable forms of targeting with YouTube Ads. 

Parental status is when Google’s system starts to get into more guesswork. I’m not telling Google that I’m a parent, but, of course, Google is everywhere. They have code all across the internet, they know what I’m watching on YouTube, they know what I’m searching for on Google, and they know what websites I’m visiting. So they can usually infer pretty accurately whether someone is a parent or not. 

If you have a product that only would be targeting parents or only would be targeting non-parents, then you can consider using the parental status demographic option. 

The fourth main demographic category is household income. Now, when Google first came out with the household income option, it was actually inside the ‘Location Targeting’ section. It was generally believed that the household income data they used had to do with where you lived. Were you in a high-income or a low-income zip code? That has since moved out of the ‘Location Targeting’ section and it’s now in the ‘Demographics’ section and I believe it’s actually a lot more comprehensive than that. 

Google isn’t simply looking at where someone lives anymore. They’re actually taking cues from all over the internet. They’re looking at your behavior and figuring out which income bracket you would fall into. This definitely isn’t 100% and there are instances where I would expect to see a correlation based on income bracket and it’s not happening, but sometimes the income targeting segments can work well. Definitely pay attention to them, especially if you have a product or service that would appeal only to high-income or low-income people. You can consider targeting or excluding based on those income brackets.

In addition to Demographics, which has its own targeting section within Google ads, you can also target Detailed Demographics. The Detailed Demographics are actually found inside the ‘Audiences’ section because, of course, Google wanted to make this very easy for everyone to understand and use. In the ‘Detailed Demographics’ section, we have a few more options. Again, we have parental status, but here, instead of just parent or non-parent, it allows us to get a lot more specific. Are the people we are targeting parents of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, etc.? Another option is marital status. Are they single, married, or in a relationship?

You can also look at education. Are people current college students, high school graduates, college graduates, or people with advanced college degrees?

And the fourth and final option is homeownership status. Are they a homeowner or renter? 

Detailed Demographics is definitely an area where I can see Google continuing to expand and give us more options, so if you’re watching this video in the future, you might have more options available to you in this section.

Those are the demographic options, now let’s talk about how we use this information. In the main ‘Demographics’ section where we have age, gender, parental status, and household income, you’re basically just going to leave the demographic group on or you’re going to turn it off and exclude it. 

If you have a product or service and your only customers are men, you can exclude women. You can choose to exclude demographics at the campaign level or you could just exclude them from specific ad groups. There is a wildcard here which is the ‘unknown’ category. If Google’s system doesn’t really know if someone is a man or a woman (or whatever demographic we are looking at) those people will get thrown into the unknown category. 

Obviously, if we’re only targeting men, half of the people in the unknown category are going to be men, but the other half are going to be women. So it might be a good idea to exclude unknown at the beginning, and later on, once your campaign has built up some more activity, it would probably be worth adding unknown back in just to see how it performs. (By then, Google might have a pretty good idea of who your target customer is and can help show your ads to the right people, even if their gender is technically ‘unknown’ by Google’s system.)

In ‘Detailed Demographics’, which again, is in the ‘Audiences’ section, it works a little differently. You can actually target a specific detailed demographic. For example, if I only want to show my ad to parents of infants, I could set up that targeting in ‘Detailed Demographics’. I would add that audience to the campaign and then my ads would only be shown to parents of infants. 

You can also exclude ‘Detailed Demographic’ audiences. If I don’t want to show my ad to people who are single, then I can exclude that audience from the campaign. I’ve talked in other posts about how targeting stacks within YouTube Ads. For example, if I’m targeting parents of infants and I’m also targeting specific keywords, someone would have to meet both of those requirements (in the parents of infants audience AND a match for one of the keywords I’m targeting) in order to see my ad.

On the other hand, if I’m adding multiple audiences, such as parents of infants and people who are single, those would not stack. My ad could potentially be shown to either or – they wouldn’t have to meet both of those requirements.

If I want someone to meet both of those requirements (if I want to stack these audiences) then I would need to define a ‘custom combination’. I could then say I want to show my ad to parents of infants and also to people who are single. Then those audiences would stack. 

A piece of advice that I want to leave you with is when you’re first starting a campaign, start as focused as you can. Maybe your target demographic is people ages 25-54, but your main group is 25-34 year olds. In that case, I would only start targeting that more limited age group to try start with the best results possible. You can always open things up and add more targeting later.