How to Nurture Audiences with Sequential Retargeting on YouTube

How to Nurture Audiences with Sequential Retargeting on YouTube

Last updated on by Patrick Holmes in AdWords Advertising


Appealing to potential customers through rich media advertisements like YouTube video gives you an excellent opportunity to tell a rich story both aurally and visually. The medium offers tons of potential; research shows that promotional videos have a strong effect on consumer attitude and demonstration videos strongly influence purchase intention. Additional research shows that presentation videos influence a customer’s ease of imagining the product, which also influences attitude and purchase intention. And when you consider the added benefits of sequential retargeting, video advertising is more effective than ever.

Many advertisers find retargeting users very beneficial, a sentiment that is backed by research. An effective method of using retargeting is moving users through a multi-step journey that educates them on the benefit of your product and relates features to their problems.

Research from the London School of Business determined that beginning with generalized value propositions and moving to more specific, sequential messaging after users have a certain level of familiarity with your product works best. You can use these insights to set up a journey involving sequential serving of rich media that gradually moves viewers through these levels of familiarity to push them into a state where they are ready to buy.

Creating YouTube video ads at scale

YouTube in-stream video ads generally receive far more attention than typical banner ads. When a pre-roll runs, viewers place their entire focus on the ad unit since they anticipate the video content they chose to watch. Mobile viewing focuses attention even more since YouTube takes over the entire screen.

Google recognizes the effectiveness and opportunity of video promotion and recently released several products and services to help more businesses benefit from video. These include a “Director Mix” beta to create several video versions from your assets, as well as YouTube Director that allows creation of high-quality video ads with a mobile device.

Here is a competition YouTube held for small businesses that shows how easy YouTube Director makes video ad creation:

Once you have a viewer’s attention with your in-stream videos, keeping that attention and preventing skipping presents a significant problem. Long-form videos or videos that lack a strong hook and narrative will rarely keep a viewers’ attention very long. The solution to this is splitting the content up into shorter formats that may increase aggregate consumption of the information you want to share. AdWords provides the tools for you to ensure that audiences will consume the content you promote more completely and in the proper order. A bit of work in AdWords Audience manager is all it takes and you can serve your videos in sequence using retargeting:

sequential retargeting audience list

Setting up sequential retargeting YouTube videos

There are many sequential advertising examples available online to help guide you, but for this article we’ll demonstrate one of our own.

The first requirement is an AdWords account linked to your YouTube channel so you can actually retarget viewers. You also need multiple videos in order to serve them to viewers. In your AdWords audience manager you can create a new list with the “YouTube users” option. Name your audience something descriptive that will be easily memorable and recognizable. Open the list members field and select “Viewed certain videos as ads” as shown below. Then search for the specific video and select it:

sequential retargeting YouTube videos

The identifier at the end of the video’s url is helpful in the search. Once you have your audience you can go ahead and save it:

sequential retargeting YouTube videos choose

Repeat this process with the videos you want to include in your sequence until you have a good selection of different videos to serve:

sequential retargeting YouTube list

Once you have separate retargeting lists set up for each video, you can proceed to make the combination lists that progress viewers through the sequence:

  1. Choose the initial video that you want to serve first.
  2. Create another list by clicking on the “Custom Combination” option in the audience creation dialog.
  3. Change the inclusion parameter to “Any of these audiences (OR)”.
  4. Find your video and add it to targeting, then click the “DONE” button (not the create audience button at the bottom).
  5. Now add another set of audiences by clicking the “AND” button. Here you want to select “None of these audiences.”
  6. Find all of the remaining videos in your sequence and add them to the same “None of these audiences” targeting.
  7. Click “DONE”, enter a description and then create your audience. You now have your first retargeting step finished.

sequential retargeting combined audiences

Each of the next steps is nearly identical but you simply remove one video from the “None” list and place it in the “Any” list. So your next custom combination will have two videos in your “Any” list and one fewer video in your “None” list. Repeat this process until your final custom combination that will include only one video in the “None” list:

sequential retargeting combination list

sequential retargeting YouTube final combination

YouTube retargeting best practices

Now that you have your sequential lists set up, you can create your YouTube retargeting campaign. This article will not go into details about video campaign creation here, however make as many ad groups as you have videos. Remarketing lists are targeted at an ad group level at the most specific, so you will have a 1:1 ratio of video ads and ad groups. A best practice here is to place each video ad in an ad group named similarly to your video so that you can keep track easily when setting targeting.

Caution: The first ad group should not target one of these combination audience lists since it is the trigger view that leads into the sequence. You can target whatever you want with this ad group: keywords, custom intent lists, similar audiences, website visitors, etc.

In the image examples above, this first video view would be the “Short – Mark RS CAC” video. So an ad with that video is shown to keyword audiences, for example. Then the next ad group with an ad containing the “Short – John LS Matched” video would be targeted at the “Short Combo – 2nd” audience list of folks that have only seen the “Short – Mark RS CAC” video. Proceed with the same idea through each of your ad groups.

Next, you should adjust your impression frequency for how often you would like viewers to enter this sequence or how long the cookie for your initial targeting audience lasts. You can do this any way you like, but give it some consideration before setting it since changing your mind requires also changing a lot of complex targeting:

sequential retargeting YouTube best practices

The thought process behind it

Instapage has seven video ads in the sequence and we chose one impression per week which amounts to an average of an impression per day. Viewers could see all seven in one day, but they won’t see the first one again for a week. I set the audiences to keep users for three days since the impression capping will prevent too much frequency.

YouTube retargeting is not the final step

Once you have your lists, set them up in separate ad groups and configure frequency capping. At this point, you can set your campaign live and start pushing people through your rich media funnel. This type of sequential messaging, video retargeting strategy is effective so long as you take the time to carefully select which ads to show and their respective order.

This is not the final step, however, as you should always make sure to optimize the post-click experience by sending users to a high-quality landing page to convert all the viewers that are suddenly very interested in your product. More details on that can be found in this article.

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