Want to build brand awareness with a compelling video ad campaign, but lack the financial resources to land a traditional TV spot? YouTube advertising offers a compelling platform to reach a spirited online audience.
*Editor’s note – This post is by ShivarWeb staff. I’ve also written posts on using YouTube Analytics, optimizing your YouTube channel, using YouTube data to inform your marketing, and even how to scrape YouTube tags for research. I’ve also done a podcast episode on YouTube SEO.
Run through Google AdWords, YouTube video advertising campaigns, called TrueView, can be tailored to control costs while precisely targeting your ideal audience. During this overview, we’ll take a look at the essential elements of launching a TrueView campaign, while also offer tips to improve your campaign’s effectiveness.
We’ll also touch on using text-based ads rather than (or in addition to) videos to promote your products or services.
Why You Should Advertise on YouTube
The advantage of advertising on YouTube stems from the fact that it boasts over 1 billion users worldwide. By YouTube’s self-reported statistics, YouTube videos are viewed billions of times daily, with hundreds of millions of hours watched.
In the United States, they claim to reach more people in the key 18-34-year-old demographic than any television network, and that’s not hard to believe.
Anybody can create a YouTube channel and post content for free. Videos can range from a few seconds to hours in length, thanks to a max file size of 128GB. You can do the same, creating your very own channel and loading your video ads. YouTube won’t charge you just because your video is advertising your brand.
The problem lies in the promotion of your video ad, and that’s where TrueView comes in.
You can promote your video ads on your own, using Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks to distribute them and try and generate buzz. However, even if you invest substantial time on that task, chances are all that work will just barely tap into your ideal target demographic.
TrueView takes advantage of Google and YouTube user data to extend your reach to precisely the people you want to reach, without you having to put in the legwork yourself. After creating and uploading your video to YouTube, you can create a TrueView campaign through AdWords that defines your audience based on age, gender, interests, and other factors.
Recently, in January 2017, Google also announced that it would allow advertisers to target viewers based on their Google search history. That lets you create ads that target people who recently searched for a particular service or product.
Know Your Target Demographic
Chances are if you’re looking to advertise, you already have an idea of who your target audience is.
Even still, before you launch a YouTube advertising campaign through AdWords, it’s worthwhile to spend time research the buying patterns, content consumption habits, and general interest of that audience.
Doing so will help you take full advantage of AdWords’ targeting capabilities. That, in turn, will help you get maximum value out of your advertising budget. As we’ll discuss, TrueView campaigns are charged based on cost per view. Wasting views on people unlikely to care about what you’re selling is apt to sink your venture pretty quickly if you’re operating on a limited budget.
Such research is work you should put in before you even create your advertising content. Knowing your audience’s likes/dislikes will help you to produce more compelling ads.
YouTube Video Ad Campaigns
Most people looking to advertise with video on YouTube elect to do so through TrueView campaigns. There is an alternative to TrueView, known as reserved media buys ads. Reserved media buys guarantee ad views, while TrueView campaigns, as we’ll discuss in a moment, are auction based.
However, reserved-media costs are much higher. As such, they’re typically purchased by larger corporations through advertising agencies. For this article, which assumes you’re running a smaller business or new to advertising, we’ll focus on TrueView.
Created through Google AdWords, TrueView campaigns can appear both on YouTube and websites that are part of the Google Display Network. The latter includes YouTube videos embedded in non-YouTube webpages.
Due to its popularity, advertising space on YouTube is understandably limited. To make this space open to anyone, and in doing so improve Google’s profits, whether your TrueView ad plays for YouTube viewers depends on whether its “Ad Rank” is higher than that of competing ads.
Think of the Ad Rank system as a cross between an auction and merit-based system. It’s derived from your Max CPV bid and your ad’s Quality Score.
Max CPV stands for “maximum cost-per-view,” and refers to how much you’re willing to spend for a customer view. Don’t confuse viewing with impressions.
You only get charged in a CPV system if the viewer:
- watches at least 30 seconds of your ad
- watch the entire ad if under 30 seconds
- clicks through to your YouTube channel or website
When a view takes place, the cost deducts from a daily budget you set in AdWords. You won’t necessarily pay the maximum amount you’ve set for your CPV, since that number is the upper limit of what you’re willing to spend to outbid other advertisers.
The Quality Score component of TrueView’s Ad Rank system will let you jump ahead of other advertisers, even if they’ve outbid you. Because Quality Score is vital to your advertising success on YouTube, knowing what composes that score is crucial.
Two key components of your Quality Score are viewer device and viewer intention.
For viewer device, ads optimized for mobile are more likely to show up for viewers using mobile devices. Optimizing your ad to view on mobile devices should be a priority since over half of all YouTube views are on iPhones, Android smartphones, and tablets.
Viewer intention is a bit trickier to grasp. Your ads will have a better chance of showing up in tandem with a YouTube video if that video is somehow pertinent to your ad, or the keywords the viewer used in a search to get to the video.
In that regard, the viewer intention component is quite useful for improving the effectiveness of your YouTube advertising campaigns. After all, you’re more likely to garner views and clicks if your ad relates to the interests of the person watching.
There are two types of TrueView ad you can use: in-steam ads and video-discovery ads. Let’s take a deeper look at both.
TrueView In-Stream Ads
In-stream ads usually play before (pre-roll) a featured YouTube video. The idea is that a viewer must watch your ad before they see the video they came there to see.
Longer YouTube videos may also have ads play during inserted “ad breaks,” if the content creator has allowed for that. These are termed “mid-roll” ads. Sometimes ads will also roll after a video completes.
When you create a TrueView in-stream ad, you can elect to make it skippable or non-skippable.
Skippable ads let viewers jump over the ad to watch their YouTube video after five seconds. As mentioned, for billing purposes, skips won’t deduct from your daily budget unless the viewer passes the 30-second mark.
Skippable ads can be up to 60 seconds in length. Longer videos don’t cost more than shorter videos and aren’t more or less likely to play.
Non-skippable ads force viewers to watch through to the end before they get to watch their YouTube content. Preventing non-skippable ads from interfering with the YouTube experience is a 15-second limit placed on their length.
Whether skippable or not, TrueView in-stream ads feature various customizations to enhance your advertisement. These don’t cost extra, and you should take advantage of them to improve the effectiveness of your campaign.
Customizations include a channel engagement panel, call-to-action (CTA) overlay, and companion banner.
Here’s a look at where each element will show up on YouTube:
The channel engagement panel sits at the top of the ad. It will display in full when the ad starts to play, then minimize, so it doesn’t interfere with the ad.
The CTA overlay is crucial to driving viewers to your YouTube channel or website. It gets displayed near the bottom of the video. You can have it show your site URL, but more efficient campaigns will invite the viewer to perform some form of specific engagement activity. Successful examples of CTAs are “book now,” “get a quote,” and “purchase now.”
The companion banner displays to the right of the video on the YouTube page. They can be JPG, PNG, or static GIF files. The banner will remain on the page after the video completes, or if it’s skipped. Such banners do not play in embedded players, mobile devices, game consoles, or SmartTVs.
They’re essentially just like display text ads, which we’ll cover later.
TrueView Discovery Ads (formerly In-Display Ads)
Discovery ads receive prominent placement on the front page of YouTube, in the suggested videos list to the right of a YouTube video, and in YouTube search results. They’re always marked with the words, “AD,” so viewers know what they are beforehand.
That said, purchasing a discovery ad is an excellent way to boost the visibility of your brand. Also, those who tend to click on such ads are usually more interested in your product than those who watch your ad in-stream.
As with in-stream ads, discovery ads include a companion banner on the right side of the YouTube page. This banner shows up once a somebody clicks on your ad and visits your video’s page.
They also feature channel engagement panels and CTA overlays. The latter is of particular importance because clicking on discovery ads takes the clicker to your YouTube channel rather than your website.
Create Your TrueView Ad Video
Before launching your TrueView campaign, you’ll need to create an engaging video. You can either do this yourself, employ a freelancer, or go with an agency. Before getting the ball rolling, though, it helps to know the requirements of placing a TrueView ad and have a solid grasp of a few general techniques that will maximize the value of your campaign.
TrueView Technical Requirements
We’ve already discussed video length: 60 seconds for a skippable ad, and 15 seconds for a non-skippable, in-stream ad.
The file format of your video advertisement can be AVI, ASF, QuickTime, Windows Media, MP4, or MPEG. The recommended resolution is 480 x 360 (4:3), but 640 x 360 (16:9) works, too.
The max file size is 1GB.
Any video used for advertising on YouTube must first be uploaded to your YouTube channel. To do that, you’ll need to create a YouTube account. See YouTube’s upload instructions if you require help.
In addition to technical requirements, there are certain AdWords content policies you’ll have to follow, or Google might elect to yank you ad.
- Unclear relevance: Information filled out in creative fields must be relevant to your business/product (unclear relevance policy)
- Unclear content: Ads must clearly identify what you’re advertising, and must include a name or logo (unclear content policy)
- Video quality: Your video needs to be of acceptable quality (video quality policy)
- Adult content: Adult-oriented content is prohibited in video ads (adult content policy)
- Shocking content: Content such as gruesome injuries, violence, gore, and obscene language is prohibited (shocking content policy)
- Copyrights: You must own any content or be authorized to use it (copyrights policy)
TrueView Creative Techniques
Deciding on the length of your video will depend both on whether you opt for a non-skippable or skippable ad, and your message. If you go with a non-skippable ad, there’s no reason not to take advantage of the full 15 seconds.
While producing a video that users must watch has its perks, there’s an advantage to creating engaging ads that are 30-60 seconds long. Namely, they’re more likely to be shared, especially if your ad expertly blends the boundaries of advertisement and content.
To that end, if you’re planning on launching multiple ads, considering linking them thematically. Ad series done right can help lock in your audience by getting them interested in what happens next. That, in turn, does wonder for your brand awareness.
For skippable ads, you’ve got up to 60 seconds to inspire brand consideration and, ideally, coax interaction. However, recall that you’re only charged for the view if the viewer watches more than 30 seconds of your ad — or they watch all of it if the ad is less than 30 seconds.
You can maximize your budget by taking advantage of these rules and viewer watching habits.
Rather than making a 25-second ad video, make it 31 seconds. Fill the last six seconds with a static image showing your contact details, or recapping your product’s cost and features. Most viewers will sense the ad is over and skip through to their video.
You’ll have delivered your message without being charged.
Most skippable ads are pre-roll, which presents some obvious problems for you. Viewers go to YouTube to watch videos, not ads. Given the opportunity to skip to the content they want to watch after just five seconds, most will take it.
The onus is on you, the advertiser, to find a way to keep them watching.
The most powerful marketing tool in your arsenal might just be “surprise.” Surprise the viewer, and you catch their attention. Catch their attention, and they’re more likely to keep watching your ad.
No matter what, don’t skimp on the production process. Our eyes and brains tend to keep up with the times. Using older video technologies will be noticed. At best, your ad will get ignored. At worst, it will get mocked. Not a good turn for your brand, either way.
YouTube demonstrates this truth within its own ecosystem. The most successful channel owners enhance their content with creative editing and high-end editing techniques before posting. Because YouTube viewers are getting more used to watching well-produced, compelling content, it’s critical that your ad matches pace.
Thankfully, editing software is cheaper than ever. You can incorporate impressive visual effects and motion graphics with relative ease, so long as you know your way around the software.
Success will also depend, of course, on your ability to match technique with creative vision. Comedic ads tend to fair better with creative editing, for example. Ads designed to infer superiority might work best with dramatic visual effects (think car ads).
Create Your TrueView Video Campaign
After you’ve created your video advertisement and ensured it meets TrueView’s technical and policy requirements, you can proceed to launch. Creating a TrueView campaign happens via Google AdWords’ video campaign site.
Step one is to point to the YouTube URL of your video advertisement. This step requires that you’ve created your YouTube channel and uploaded your video.
Next, you’ll have to come up with a title for your ad. Try and choose something catchy and to-the-point. Longer headlines aren’t (usually) memorable. The recommended length is 25 characters, too, since anything longer might be truncated depending on what device the viewer is using.
You can also include two lines of descriptive text about your brand or product, each with a max length of 35 characters.
Plus, you’ll need to pick a video thumbnail. AdWords automatically generates four thumbnails for you. You can load a custom thumbnail, but you’ll need to contact Google support to do so.
As you complete these steps, you can preview what your ad will look like by scrolling back up the page, to where you indicated the ad URL. AdWords lets you preview what your ad will look like on YouTube, and what it will look like when people view embedded YouTube videos on other websites.
Here’s a look at how a YouTube preview appears:
Click continue, and you’ll be able to define the action that will occur when somebody clicks on your ad. You can either elect to send people to your YouTube channel or your website.
The next task is to set your daily spending limit. You can choose the recommended budget of $10 to start, or input a custom amount. You also set your maximum CPV here. Remember, it’s an auction-based system, so the higher this value, the more quickly you’ll generate views.
You’ll be able to change your budget and CPV later. It’s best to start small and gradually tweak both until you hit the desired performance objectives for your ad.
The final step in creating your TrueView campaign is to define your target audience. While optional, this step is crucial to rolling out an effective ad campaign, unless you plan on marketing to everyone.
There are three sections to complete here, each with sub-sections.
Under “Locations,” you can keep your viewership worldwide, or target viewers in particular countries, regions, and cities.
Under “People’s web activity,” you can elect to target people who are searching on YouTube, watching YouTube videos, or browsing elsewhere online.
The final section, “Attributes,” lets you define the sex, age, and interests of your target audience. This section is where thorough research of your ideal consumer will come in handy.
Google includes multiple audience interests, and you can select as many as you want. Remember, one of the advantages to advertising on YouTube is that these interests come from Google’s user data, too.
When you’ve got your ad ready to go, click “Save and Continue.”
The next page will let you sign into your Google account, or create a new one, and then you’ll be asked to supply billing information and review your order.
Once done, you’ll be able to define your ad as in-stream skippable, in-stream non-skippable, or discovery, by visiting the Campaigns tab of your newly created AdWords account, and clicking “Video.” This tab is where you’ll also go to make spending limit and CPV changes.
It’s also where you’ll monitor the success of your TrueView Campaign.
Monitor Your TrueView Campaign
Once your advertisement is live, you’ll want to monitor its performance closely. Doing so will help you stay on budget and gauge its effectiveness. Data and insights gathered from this process will also help you plan future campaigns.
Google AdWords provides tools to help you keep on top of your ad monitoring, which allows tracking of numerous key metrics.
Core performance of your video can be measured by:
- Views: number of times someone watched/engaged with your ad (views under 11 seconds don’t get tabulated)
- View Rate: number of views/engagement divided by number of impressions
- Average CPV: how much you pay per view on average
Clicks and Engagement metrics include:
- Clicks: number of times people click on your ad
- Click-through rate (CTR): number of clicks your ad receives divided by its total impressions
- Engagements: number of clicks on interactive elements in your ad
- Engagement rate: number of engagements divided by total impressions
Video viewership metrics help you analyze how much of your video gets played. This metric helps you determine where viewers might be falling off. Viewership stats are categorized by percentage:
- Video played to 25%
- Video played to 50%
- Video played to 75%
- Video played to 100%
Other metrics include reach, which is tracked based on viewer cookies, and earned actions, like viewers adding your video ad to a playlist or subscribing to your YouTube channel.
Metrics are sortable by column, restricted based on date ranges, and viewed by “ad group,” which is a user-defined group of video ads.
Set up YouTube Remarketing Lists
In addition to monitoring your performance, another way to improve your ad campaign’s effectiveness is to take advantage of AdWord’s remarketing capabilities.
YouTube video remarketing means reinforcing your message with those who have already demonstrated an interest in your brand. You can reach these people by altering the targeting settings for your ad campaign. Doing so makes them more likely to see your new or existing ads.
Remarketing lists are available for people who have:
- Viewed any video from a channel
- Viewed a particular video on your channel
- Visited your channel page
- Subscribed to your channel
- Linked video from your channel
- Shared video from your channel
- Commented on your video
By delivering content to people who are already considering your brand, you increase your chances of conversion.
YouTube Text Advertising: Display Ads and Overlay Ads
If video ads aren’t your thing, you can still take advantage of YouTube as an advertising channel by creating text ads. Text ads are also a good way to compliment your video campaign by reinforcing your brand message.
As with video campaigns, these ads are created and billed through Google AdWords, which makes management easy.
Display ads appear to the right of the featured video playing in YouTube. They have a set size of either 300×250 or 300×60 pixels. These ads only show up through desktop browsers, meaning you won’t be reaching a mobile device audience.
Overlay ads are semi-transparent ads that appear at the bottom of YouTube videos. Sizes can be either 468×60 or 728×90 pixels. These will target mobile users, so are likely to have greater reach than display ads.
Either ad can be in the form of a GIF, JPG or PNG.
Note that GIFs used in overlay ads must be static. Display ads, meanwhile, can use animated GIFs. You’re limited to 30 seconds of animation, max – although that’s quite a bit.
Rather than initiating an AdWords video campaign, with text ads you’ll be using a campaign type called, “Display Network.” (Other AdWords campaign types are Search Network, Shopping, and Universal Apps).
As with creating video ads, costs derive from a daily spending limit you set, alongside an auction system. In this case, though, the auction uses cost-per-click (CPC) rather than cost-per-view (CPV) bidding.
One thing to be aware of is that Google may overdeliver on your daily budget by up to 20%. You get charged for over delivery, but Google promises not to bill you more than 30.4 times your 24-hour spending limit during a given month.
Anyway, it’s often best to consider your advertising budget as 30-day costs so that you don’t loose sight of the big picture.
As with TrueView bidding, Google factors quality in addition to your CPC bidding when deciding whether your ad gets shown over somebody else’s. Quality in the case of text ads pertains to both ad text and keywords you set for ads.
To improve the effectiveness of your ad, Google supplies a keyword planner that will give you keyword ideas. If you already have a list of keywords, you can also use it to generate forecasts for total clicks and costs.
Tips for a Successful Text Ad Campaign
Generating clicks with a text ad can be difficult. They simply don’t have the engaging storytelling power of video ads. Plus, many Internet users have trained their brains to overlook them. However, that doesn’t mean they can’t be effective.
There are many steps you can take in creating a text ad to help boost engagement from your target audience.
First, as an AdWords campaign, you have access to the same targeting tools you do with TrueView ads. You can limit who sees your ad to those most likely to embrace your brand by setting age, gender, and interest criteria.
Other steps to improve the effectiveness of your text ad require a bit more creativity.
While keywords for ads are defined when you create your campaign, it’s useful to include at least one in the ad itself. Doing so will help emphasize the relevance of your business to whoever sees it.
Additionally, include a call-to-action in your ad image. Effective CTAs encourage a viewer to take a particular action by clicking on your ad. Ads that highlight promotions, sale prices, and elements that make your product unique are also effective strategies to improve clicks.
Above all, experiment. Launch multiple ads with different looks and messages. By using AdWord’s reporting tools, which are available for text ads, too, you can then determine what elements most appeal to your target audience. Such understanding will help you refine your ad-creation process to produce more compelling ads.
Thanks to its enormous user base, launching an ad campaign on YouTube is one of the most effective advertising strategies today for building awareness of your brand. Engaging video ads that blur the lines between advertisement and content mesh perfectly with the dynamic platform that YouTube has created.
Running your ad campaign through AdWords TrueView will let you insert your video content into the viewing process, further immersing your brand into the YouTube ecosystem. Tools that let you limit your ad views to your ideal audience will help you improve the effectiveness of your campaign, while reporting tools will help you fine tune your approach.
Create an ancillary text ad campaign using display and overlay ads, and you’ll be well on the way to bringing your entrepreneurial dreams to fruition.
Here’s a few high-quality related posts to explore (all were vetted with the ShivarWeb newsletter).
- Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to make your own explainer video for your product
- Developing a Better YouTube Strategy
- 6 Easy Tips for More Profitable YouTube Advertising
- 5 Brilliant Competitive Advertising Strategies to Outsmart Your Competition