YouTube Ads Targeting Exclusions

You can waste a lot of money with YouTube Ads just by putting your ad in front of the wrong people. With exclusions, we can help eliminate some of that waste to make sure our budget is going to higher-quality customers.

When you are running YouTube Ads, there are different ways to exclude people from seeing those ads. You can exclude the people (the audience that people are in), or you can exclude certain content by telling Google, “Do not show my ad on this type of content.”

Let’s take a look at all the different exclusion options so that you know what the possibilities are and can take a look at your campaigns to see if there is anything you should be excluding.


One thing you can do is exclude placements. This means you can exclude certain channels where your video ad would never show on that channel. Or, you could exclude specific video placements if there is a certain video that you don’t want your ad to appear on. This can come into play if you are running campaigns and you see that your ads are showing on a particular channel and you’re just not getting good results. Maybe you’d want to exclude that channel from ever showing your ads.

Or maybe you’re targeting a specific channel but there are a couple of videos that are just not doing very well even though the rest of the channel is doing well. In that case, you can exclude those specific videos while still targeting the rest of the channel.

Video and Channel Exclusions

You can also preemptively exclude videos or channels. For example, I have a list of thousands of children’s channels, and any time I set up a new campaign, I exclude all of the channels on that list. This helps my clients’ ads so they are never running on children’s channels, which of course, is going to be very low-quality traffic. 

Placement Exclusion Lists

One thing that I do and I recommend you do it too is to use placement exclusion lists. You can set these lists up at the account level and then apply the placement exclusion list to all of your campaigns so that it blocks out all of those placements from appearing in your campaign. Without a list, you’re going to have to set these up individually one campaign at a time. The list makes it a lot easier and you just have one list of placements to maintain.

Audience Exclusions

In addition to placement exclusions, you can also set up audience exclusions in your campaign. This will exclude people who are in a certain audience, regardless of the video they are watching. One common thing to exclude would be your customer list or people who have already opted in for your offer. If you’re running ads for a webinar, once someone opts in for that webinar, you don’t want to keep showing them ads for the webinar. To fix this, you can set up a retargeting list of people who have already opted in, and exclude that list from your campaign.

You can also exclude Google’s pre-built audiences from your campaigns. You can exclude affinity audiences or in-market audiences, but I want to caution you on this because of how imperfect these audiences are.

While they can help you reach your target customer, there are also going to be a lot of non-target customers on those lists. It happens the same way with exclusions, but only in reverse. If you’re excluding an audience, yes, you’re probably going to be excluding a lot of non-customers, but because of how imperfect those audiences are, you’re going to be excluding customers also. That’s obviously not something you want to do.

If anything, you would maybe start a campaign with an audience excluded if there is an audience that is just not a good fit at all for what you’re trying to sell. But once you’re getting some good results and you want to scale, be prepared to open those audiences up and remove them from the exclusion list. This will help you reach more customers previously who would have been excluded because they happen to be in that audience.

Demographic Exclusions

One type of exclusion that you should almost always be using is demographic exclusions.

You must have a target customer. Maybe they’re a specific gender, age, or household income. Whoever does not fall into those categories, exclude them. You don’t want to spend your money reaching people who are outside of your target demographic.

Don’t be afraid to get really specific here. You can always add in more demographics later, but try to get your campaign working with the demographics that you think are going to work best. Once things are working there, then you can think about expanding.

Topic Exclusions

Another thing you can exclude from your YouTube campaigns is topics. The first thing we talked about was placement exclusions, which blocks ads from showing on specific videos and channels. With topic exclusions, you can prevent your ad from showing on any video that has been classified under that topic. For example, you might want to exclude the video game playthroughs topic which is a topic watched by a younger audience that is not really in a buying mindset. That’s a pretty safe topic to exclude.

You should also look through the list of topics and think…if someone is watching these videos, does that exclude them from being a customer of mine? Would my customer ever watch videos about this topic? You need to be careful when making these generalizations, but if there is some topic and you think your customers would never be watching videos about that topic, go ahead and exclude it.

Negative Keywords

The last thing I want to talk about is negative keywords, but I’m not talking about them because I think you should use them. In fact, I DO NOT recommend using negative keywords when you are running YouTube Ads. I just want to be thorough because it is a way to exclude things on YouTube, so I want to cover it and give you my stance on it.

You should NOT be adding negative keywords because Google gets so broad! For example, if I add “music” as a negative keyword, Google is not only going to prevent my ad from showing on videos related to music, but because Google’s keyword targeting is so broad, my ad is going to be prevented from showing on so many videos (for example, any video that lists “music” credits in the video description). Negative keywords just aren’t necessary and they don’t work very well because they block too many things.