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Advanced Contextual Targeting Strategies: Going Beyond Keywords

The modern world is always online. There are 2.7 billion monthly visitors to YouTube worldwide, with over 122 million accessing it on a daily basis.

There’s no doubt: If you need to get your brand, products, or services in front of the right audience, contextual ads on YouTube are the way to go.

We’ll break down how contextual targeting strategies outperform keyword ads and how this helps you get the greatest ROI from your ad spend.

What Is Contextual Targeting?

Contextual advertising is a method of placing online ads based on the content consumed. When ads are served based on their relevance to content and format, consumers are more likely to be interested in buying items from that brand.

In fact, we conducted a survey on this. The result was a 17% lift in ROI (sales) across all verticals using contextual targeting on YouTube.

Channel Factory provides contextual targeting on YouTube to deliver maximum brand suitability, content alignment, and performance. Contextual targeting is most effective when content is not only served based on video categories but also according to specific channels and videos that align with the ideals and messages of your brand.

Keyword Targeting vs Contextual Targeting

Keyword targeting and contextual targeting are used for online ad campaigns, and both can be extremely effective—but that doesn’t make them equal. Let’s compare some of the pros and cons of keyword targeting and contextual targeting.

Pros and Cons of Keyword Targeting

Keyword-targeted ads allow you to create ad groups centered around specific keywords people are searching for. These ads can appear virtually anywhere.

Keyword Targeting Pros

Keyword Alignment

Ad groups can be designed based on user interests coming directly from specific keyword search results.


When a user clicks on a keyword-targeted ad, a cookie within their browser session can track them and continue to serve new ads based on their online activity.


Keyword ads can be good for brand awareness since they help users associate a brand with specific searches.


Keyword ads can be designed around a wide range of demographics, including:

  • Age
  • Profession
  • Location
  • Net worth

Keyword Targeting Cons


People worry over how much of their personal information is shared or sold online. Data breaches and cybersecurity concerns make people skeptical of companies that track users.


Keyword-based ads can have an extremely high volume, which is excellent for serving maximum impressions. But impressions don’t necessarily equate to a click-through rate (CTR).

High Cost

Getting your ads served with the most desirable keywords can be expensive, limiting how many people in your target audience you can afford to reach.

A/B Testing

To be effective, keyword ads must be tested with multiple ad groups, messaging, keywords, display ads, and demographics.

Pros and Cons of Contextual Targeting

Contextual advertising aligns with videos your audience is currently consuming to determine relevance when placing ads. The following are the pros and cons of contextual ads.

Contextual Targeting Pros

Content Alignment

Contextually targeted ads appear directly in the feed of videos in the same category.

Perfect Timing

Contextual ads aren’t only served to people interested in topics that align with your brand. They are served precisely when people are viewing relevant content, so you know you are advertising to an engaged audience with the perfect mindset to learn about your brand, product, or services.

Brand Awareness

Contextual ads are effective for building brand awareness. In 2020, Channel Factory partnered with the University of Southern California’s Applied Consumer Psychology Department to examine the impact of contextual advertising. We found that contextual ads drive a 93% increase in brand awareness.

Audience Attentiveness

Contextual ads engage viewers directly where they consume media. Contextually targeted solutions on YouTube outperformed industry benchmarks by 28% for retaining audience attention.

Strong Conversions

Getting impressions and clicks is great, but the most important metric is for your ads to eventually convert from interest to a sale. 73% of consumers are more likely to buy something from an ad relevant to the content they are watching.

No Negative Associations

Make sure your ads aren’t served with topics or channels that your audience would dislike. This is important because 64% of users develop a negative opinion of a brand that appears next to content they find unsuitable.

No Privacy Concerns

Contextual ads don’t track personally identifiable consumer data, so people are less apprehensive about clicking on your content.

Contextual Targeting Cons

User Distraction

Those who aren’t interested in clicking your ad may feel they were served an unwanted distraction from the content they’re watching.

Ad Blockers

People can use ad blocker browser extensions to avoid viewing ads.

Ad-Free Subscriptions

Subscribers of YouTube Premium can watch YouTube videos ad-free.

Improper Placement

If your ad campaign isn’t planned professionally, it is possible to associate your ad with a company, channel provider, or specific topic that your target audience dislikes or finds offensive.

Which Strategy Is Better?

While keyword-targeted ads have many benefits, the pros of contextual targeting outweigh concerns about online privacy and being tracked by retargeting ads that come with keyword placements. Contextual campaigns don’t have this problem.

Contextual ads are also more effective in aligning user intent and capturing people in the moment they are the most interested in your topic.

6 Tips When Doing Contextual Targeting

1. Use contextual targeting to avoid unwanted content. The Global Alliance for Responsible Media (GARM) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4As) establish standards to help advertisers avoid unsafe context categories. There are 13 categories, including:

  • Adult and explicit material
  • Arms and ammunition
  • Hate speech
  • Illegal drugs

You get the idea. Channel Factory ensures context remains intact so your ads are placed with the highest relevance, being equally careful to avoid GARM/4As categories that could hurt your brand.

2. Be consistent with your messaging. Ensure your ad content is specific, clear, and to the point.

3. Know your audience. Make sure you understand what your ideal audience personas are looking for and match that closely with ad placement.

4. Use strong calls-to-action (CTAs).

5. A/B test your ads. Try different CTAs and approaches to your marketing message and fine-tune your campaign based on the best-performing ads.

6. Let Channel Factory improve your YouTube ads with the power of our contextual targeting strategies.

Unlock the Power of Contextual Ads with Channel Factory

Ready to get started? Get in touch with one of our ad experts today!