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Top 4 Ways to Target Your Competitors’ Audiences Without Search Ads

Top 4 Ways to Target Your Competitors’ Audiences Without Search Ads

Top 4 Ways to Target Your Competitors’ Audiences Without Search Ads

  1. Build a Custom Audience with Competitor Keywords

As you may or may not know, Custom Intent and Custom Affinity Audiences have been combined as a Custom Audience feature in Google Ads, which helps us reach audiences more closely with the target types of campaigns. It also helps us deliver competitive advertising.

How does this work

This strategy sets up your video and discovery campaigns to appear in front of users who have searched for your competitors’ terms.

How to do it

Go to Tools and Settings > Shared Library > Audience Manager to create your Custom Audience.

Select the option to target “people who have searched for these terms on Google.”

The “on Google” part of this is key because it means you’re essentially targeting people who search for anything in the term lists of Google properties like YouTube and You read that right. Here is the exact quote from Google.

“Enter the search terms your ideal customers use on Google. Your ad will reach people who search for these and similar terms in campaigns running only on Google products. Among other activities, these terms will be Use as interest or purchase intent.”

So now add your list of competitor terms to your new custom audience. For example, let’s say you sell laptops and Asus is one of your competitors. Terms you might add include: Asus Laptop Reviews, Asus Laptop Questions, Asus i5 Laptop, Best Asus Gaming Laptop, and more.

If people have searched for these terms on Google and YouTube before, that’s a lot deeper than knowing the audience’s intent.

While Custom Audiences may not be as specific as bidding on a competitor’s brand name in search, we can still use them to reach a very relevant audience and empower them to make decisions that benefit your brand.

A note on this policy

What I want to point out is the last sentence in the quote above.

“In other activities, these terms will be used as interest or purchase intent.”

This means that this setting will apply to YouTube and Discovery campaigns as they are Google properties. While you can use Tailored Audiences for display campaigns, placements are not a Google property.

Test them out for your video and discovery campaigns (discovery now includes Gmail placements) to get in front of your competitor’s audience in different ways.

  1. Create a Custom Audience with a competitor’s URL

In addition to keyword or search term targeting for Custom Audiences, you can also enter specific URLs. This is a tactic I like to use in the custom affinity days, but it can still be used in custom audiences.

How does this work

This strategy lists all competitor URLs and keeps the audience away from those domains.

How to do it

So what you have to do is create a new Custom Audience and select the “Include people with the following interests or behaviors” option. Then, below that box, you’ll see “Grow your audience by also including:” where you can click on “Browse Site Types of People.”

You can then select “People browsing similar sites” and you’ll get another area where you can add as many competitor pages as you want.

Continuing with my laptop seller example, some URLs I’ve added to this list include,,, etc.

While this isn’t as precise as historical search term targeting, it does focus on specific user behavior if your competitors have very similar sites. Use this strategy to take a more top-funnel approach to introductions to users who may be interested in your brand’s products.

A note on this policy

It’s important to note that this targeting works differently than adding search terms. We are not and cannot target users who visited the URL you entered.

You can’t remarket without your tags on these URLs, it’s not Display Network placement targeting.

Instead, this setting tells Google to target your ads to users who visit sites similar to the one you entered.

  1. Run YouTube Ads on Competitors’ Videos

The third strategy (one of my favorites) does involve placement targeting – YouTube’s placement targeting.

How does this work

This paid media strategy puts you in front of your competitor’s audience by advertising on their own YouTube videos.

One of the best feelings I’ve had in this industry is showing clients placement reports for specific ad groups and showing them the visibility, views, and conversions we’re getting from our competitors’ YouTube videos or YouTube channels.

How to do it

To do so, go to your YouTube ad placement options.

Continuing with my laptop example, I typed in Hewlett Packard.

Then, if your competitors show up, you can target specific YouTube videos or target entire channels.

A note on this policy

If you decide to run a managed placement ad group on YouTube, you should pay attention to the fine print. If you only target placements on YouTube or the Display Network, your ad can now run on both.

So, still, monitor where your ads appear in your placement reports to make sure your ads stay where you want your competitors to be.

Target Your Competitor’s Audience Without Breaking the Bank

Targeting your competitors’ keywords on the Google Ads search network can be effective, but in some cases, it can also be expensive.

These three low-cost options I present to you can be an effective way to build awareness and reach the right users who might be interested in what you’re selling. Test them out and pair them with creative landing pages that show why your brand is great.