What are YouTube ads?
YouTube ads are video promotions that appear on the channel’s website and app, as well as on its partner sites known as the Google Display Network (GDN). Because YouTube is part of Google, its advertisers benefit from the depth of Google’s user data. This information—gathered from viewers’ Google search histories and their YouTube viewing habits—can be used to narrowly focus an ad campaign. Targetability is what makes YouTube advertising so compelling, since your company’s video promotions can be featured alongside relevant YouTube videos that millions of people choose to watch for fun or education.
Types of YouTube video advertising
YouTube’s 3 video ad formats provide different positioning and length options. Read about each one below so you can find the best match with your promotion goals.
TrueView ads are good for building awareness and gaining exposure. YouTube offers 2 types of TrueView ads:
- TrueView video discovery ads appear on YouTube where people discover video content. This might be in YouTube search results, on the YouTube homepage, or in the right sidebar next to a related video. They’re marked with a small, yellow square that identifies them as an ad. Unlike other YouTube ad formats, video discovery ads require people to click on them to begin viewing. This makes TrueView video discovery ads great at surfacing high-potential leads. After all, if someone chooses to click on your ad, it’s a strong signal that they’re interested in what you offer.
- TrueView in-stream ads play before, during, or after a video that someone watches on YouTube or across GDN. As an advertiser, you can overlay call-to-action (CTA) text on in-stream ads or, in some cases, opt to have a companion banner appear next to the ad even after it ends. Ads appear and start playing automatically when someone is ready to watch another YouTube video. They can be skipped after a few seconds. You don’t pay for skipped ads, but if your ads get nothing but skips, they may be flagged as low quality, which means you’ll need to pay more to get them in front of viewers. This is a great reason to make sure your video content is compelling.
Bumper ads are the shortest YouTube video ad option, running only as long as 6 seconds. They are non-skippable and can play before, during, or after another video on YouTube and across GDN. The brevity of bumper ads makes them a good fit for quick promotions as part of a larger video campaign. For example, some YouTube advertisers use this format to boost brand awareness by creating longer promotions to introduce their company to first-time viewers, and complementary bumper ads to reinforce their brand message.
Non-skippable ads, sometimes called pre-roll ads, can run before, during, or after someone views a video. Ads can be up to 15 seconds long in the US and other parts of the world, and up to 20 seconds long in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Mexico, India, Malaysia, and Singapore. They can appear on YouTube and across GDN. Non-skippable ads allow you to tell a more complete story than other ads and to a captive audience. While this is a great opportunity to deepen someone’s relationship with or understanding of your company, it’s still important to tell a good story. “Good” means educational, entertaining, and targeted. The stakes are high. If you miss on either count, viewers will click away. If you can pull it off, people may share your ads on social media.
How to launch a YouTube ad
The following steps can prepare you to start strong on YouTube. After you upload your ad to YouTube, make sure your campaign is set up properly by:
- Linking Google AdWords to your YouTube channel.
- Within your AdWords dashboard, clicking “+” and selecting “New Campaign.”
- Choosing a campaign goal from the preset options—for example, “brand awareness” or “new leads.” This will deliver a list of available campaign types. Choose “Video.”
- Choosing a YouTube ad format (TrueView, non-skippable, etc.).
- Naming your campaign and entering your budget. In most cases, you’ll set your budget based on cost-per-view (CPV). Choose a maximum amount you want to pay for each view, or target a daily average. You’ll also have an option to increase or decrease your bid for ads delivered on mobile devices.
- Entering the networks where you want your ad to appear. Options include YouTube videos and search results, as well as videos shown across GDN.
- Narrowing your target audience.
- Choose the geographic areas and languages you’d like to target.
- Filter by demographics such as age and income, as well as audience interests like sports and technology.
- Target people who’ve visited specific websites or shown through their search habits that they’re interested in an offering like yours.
- Refine your targeting on mobile devices by specifying operating systems, devices, and carriers.
- If you’d benefit from even-more-refined targeting, choose specific YouTube channels or videos where you’d like your ads to run.
- Assigning the ads you’d like to run to your campaign.
- Using advanced settings to set beginning and end dates for your campaign and maximum daily impressions.
Optimizing your YouTube video advertising
Once you’ve launched your campaign on YouTube, build and maintain momentum with these best practices.
Think beyond demographics
While it can work to target your ads to people by age, location, or gender, you may find higher-quality leads by focusing on behaviors and interests. Someone who visits sailing websites frequently, for instance, will be a better prospect than someone who just lives near water. As you gain experience about your highest potential YouTube viewers you can exclude topics associated with your ad that have performed poorly in the past. You can also match your ad to relevant pages on GDN or target ads to reach people who’ve connected with your company in the past.
Include specific calls to action (CTAs) in your YouTube ads to direct viewers to the step you want them to take. Typical CTAs include visiting your site, requesting more information or a sales call, signing up for an event, or placing an order. Avoid generic CTAs like “click here” since specific CTAs will outperform them every time. You can also boost responses by including a special offer, ideally for a limited time, to build a sense of urgency. For longer YouTube ads, include an end screen, a final visual in your video that drives home the action you want people to take.
Set up conversion tracking
Add a bit of tracking code, called a tag, behind the scenes on your website to see what happens after viewers click on your YouTube ads. This will tell you which ads are driving the most valuable activity and which are underperforming. You can use this information to focus spending on the ads that deliver the best results. For example, you might discover that a particular CTA drives more form submissions, or that ads targeted to a specific region drive more sales.
Understand the bidding process
What you will pay for YouTube ads is based on the type of ad and how successful it is. For skippable ads, YouTube charges you whenever a viewer clicks on your CTA, watches for at least 30 seconds, or views your ad all the way through (if it’s shorter than 30 seconds). Fees for non-skippable ads and bumper ads are charged per 1,000 impressions (CPM)—more on this in a moment. YouTube charges for TrueView video discovery ads when someone clicks to watch your video, regardless of how long they watch (CPV).
The amount you’ll ultimately pay for your ads will depend on how much you’ve bid per view or 1,000 impressions. Keep in mind that your bid per view isn’t always the price you’ll pay—it’s the maximum price you’re willing to pay. Your actual cost will be 1 penny above the second-lowest price someone else is willing to pay. An example might help. Let’s say you set your CPV at $0.30, but the next highest bid is $0.20, you’ll be charged only $0.21 per view. In general, the more narrowly you target your audience, the more you should be prepared to pay. It may take some testing to find the right amount to bid. Bids that are too low may keep your ads from running as often as you’d like, and you may find that higher bids help your ads appear in better positions.
Monitor your metrics
Familiarize yourself with the different metrics you can track to keep up with campaign performance. View rate and CPV are good places to start. A view is defined as someone watching for at least 30 seconds or to the end of your ad (whichever is shorter), or someone clicking on your ad. Your view rate is this figure divided by the number of times your ad appeared. In general, shorter ads tend to have higher view rates. A high view rate suggests that your video and audience targeting are in good shape.
As you start to track this information across different ads, you’ll learn what works best to achieve your goals. You’ll also get a sense of which YouTube ads are your best performers, so you can decide how to spend your budget. Tweaking your bid strategy, targeting, and video creative may help improve your results.
Get your YouTube on
The bottom line? YouTube advertising can be a cost-effective way to get your message in front of the exact people you want to reach. It’s highly customizable and connected to Google’s rich data resources.