Every YouTube ad that goes viral sets a new bar for creativity. But at the end of the day, it’s not the most creative ad campaign that wins. It’s the most strategic.

With the right YouTube advertising strategy, you can successfully compete with enterprise brands — even if you have a small budget and even if you’re just getting started with video advertising.

In this guide, we’ll give you a 6-step YouTube advertising strategy that will help you serve quality ads that work, no matter what your level of experience.

We’ll start by dissecting the two types of traffic

Two Types of Traffic You Can Drive Online

When driving traffic online, you’ll take one of two approaches: interruption or intent.

Interruption marketing is the process of interrupting people’s normal routines with your ad. The goal is to grab attention quickly and drive immediate action. 

This type of advertising strategy has been used for decades with TV commercials and print ads that pop up on websites. You may have even noticed an ad in your email inbox for a product you didn’t search for. But because the ad looks interesting, you click through to check out the product.

interruption marketing

Interruption marketing leverages emotions — from fear to curiosity or even annoyance. However, because it’s unsolicited, it can be perceived as spam.

Intent is the opposite of interruption marketing. With this advertising strategy, you target users who have shown interest in your message and product through their online behavior. They’ve searched for your keyword on search engines. They’ve visited product pages. They’ve explored guides or videos that share information related to your product.

user intent

These behaviors show intent — the user is looking for new information, which means they’re likely open to ads and marketing messages. 

Intent marketing is less intrusive than traditional interruptive methods. But it’s also slower. You must wait for the target to show interest in your topic and search for the right keywords or visit the right websites.

What are the differences?

  • Search is intent marketing.
  • Display advertising and Google Display Network (GDN) are interruption marketing. 
  • YouTube advertising has elements of both.

Why YouTube Advertising?

With YouTube advertising, you can reach a huge audience. With over 1 billion users, there is no shortage of people to watch your ads and share them with their friends.

YouTube also offers personalized ad targeting that allows advertisers to target specific audiences that are important to the business or advertiser. This helps ensure the right message reaches each viewer based on what they want in life — and how YOU want them to see your brand.

Another benefit of YouTube advertising is its impact on your budget. Most ads cost $0.10 to $0.30 per view. And there’s no minimum amount you must pay to play. You can get started with a daily budget of $10. 

For the last few years, the darling of online advertising has been Facebook. But since April of 2021, with Apple’s iOS 14 release, Facebook advertising is no longer a viable option for data-driven marketers. Today, we’re seeing a renaissance of Google advertising — and in particular, YouTube advertising.

A 6-Step YouTube Advertising Strategy

You don’t need to be a Madison Avenue adman to succeed at YouTube advertising — as long as you follow a smart advertising strategy that helps you dial in what works and what doesn’t.

Your strategy should have two phases: learning and scaling. Each phase should include three distinct steps:

Phase 1: Learning

  1. Research
  2. Planning
  3. Launch

Phase 2: Scaling

  1. Collecting data
  2. Optimizing
  3. Rinse and repeat

Let’s dig in.

Phase 1: Learning What Works

The first step of your YouTube advertising strategy is to learn what works. When you start running ads, it’s important to gather data on the types of ads and creative that work, as well as what doesn’t work.

YouTube offers robust reporting features and analytics that will give you a clear picture of where your marketing efforts are succeeding when it comes to targeted audience bases.

When watched with analytical insight, campaign results can show the effectiveness and conversion rates for different demographics. Adding one new demographic at a time ensures you’re learning from prior interactions while honing in on your best messaging, creative, and ad types — without wasting money on campaigns that give you low return rates.

The more feedback you can gather through performance metrics like impressions, clicks, and conversions by each demographic, the more you can refine your ad strategy, helping you become profitable quickly.

Step 1: Research

There are two types of research you’ll need to focus on: market research and competitive research.

Market Research

Market research focuses on who you’re targeting with your ads. In other words, who are your best customers? 

Good market research focuses on the whole person, their demographics and psychographics.

Demographics describe the tangible descriptors of your target audience, such as their age, gender, or income level.

Psychographics describe the intangibles of who someone is: how they think, for example, and what they like to do. Examples of psychographic data points might be their lifestyle, religious preferences, or values.

Market research should include:

  • Your target market
  • Who they are, what they do, and what they’re trying to achieve
  • Their dreams, aspirations, aches, and pains
  • Their interests outside of their problem/issue you’re addressing
  • Your product
  • The problem your product addresses
  • The secret sauce of your product, the unique mechanism that makes it work

This information is key to building out campaigns that will capture your audience’s attention — and driving action.

Much of this information can be found online. But you may also conduct polls, interview people in your target market, and run surveys.

Related: Creating a Customer Persona: A Step-by-Step Guide

Competitive Research

While market research focuses on your audience and how likely they are to buy your product, competitive research focuses on other messages and offers your audience is seeing online from other sources.

To conduct competitive research, ask:

  • What is the competition offering?
  • How are they positioning their products?
  • What preconceived ideas do people have about your product/offer?
  • What are their beliefs about their problem? What beliefs do you want them to have?
  • What will it take to get them into a buying frame of mind?

Note: research is not a once-and-done activity. You need to stay on top of your market and competition to ensure your YouTube advertising strategy is successful.

Step 2: Planning Your YouTube Advertising Campaign

Now that you have some foundational research done, you can begin to make decisions about your campaigns.

  • What are your objectives?
  • What targeting do you want to use?
  • What types of offers, messaging, and videos are likely to work?
  • What resources do you have for creating your videos?
  • What are your budget and forecasts?

At this point, your creative juices may be flowing. You’ll be tempted to start on your storyboard and script right away. But hold off. You need to plan your campaign first.

Here’s what you need to know before you start working on your first video.

Objective: For your YouTube ads to be effective, you need to clearly define your objective. Set a specific goal or outcome that will drive action. Use your research to decide what that action should be.

Target audience: Based on your research, who should you be targeting? Create a profile of your target market(s), including their demographics and psychographics. Based on your targeting audience profile choose the most relevant targeting options to start a campaign. 

Formats: What type of YouTube ad should you run? There’s no one format that will work for every brand and every objective. You may need to test different formats before finding the right fit.

Offer: Once you’ve decided on a format, what offer are you making to viewers? Do you want to offer a product, service, or something else?

Call to action: What do you want viewers of your YouTube ads to do when they see your ad? Do you want them to subscribe, purchase a product/service, visit your website, or call in for more information?

Length: How long should your YouTube ads be? This may be determined by the type of video you’re creating and the channels you’re focusing on.

Content: What content and creative do you want to use in your YouTube ads? What message will attract and convert your target audience? (Finally! Here’s where the creativity starts!)

Budget: What resources do you have to create your videos? What’s your YouTube advertising budget?

Forecast: How many videos do you want to produce in the course of a year? What are your goals for viewership and conversion rates? What’s your projected ROI over time? Knowing this will help you determine how much money you can spend per video.

Step 3: Launching Your Campaign

The goal when you launch your campaign isn’t to see immediate success — though no one’s going to be upset if that happens. The real goal is to collect data about what works and what doesn’t.

To do that, you need to create a lot of video ads inexpensively and quickly. You need to test every idea you’ve got.

At this stage, you don’t need to spend a lot of money on video production. Use voiceovers. Use stock clips to illustrate your points. Just get your videos out there, so you can gather as much data as possible.

In a campaign’s early days, you’ll test different ideas — all radically different. You’re looking for as many Ideas, angles, hooks, and CTAs as possible. 

A huge variable here is the quality of your creative. Remember, it doesn’t have to be expensive. 

People think they need a film crew, expensive actors, fancy mics, hired editors, and scriptwriters. Certainly, higher production costs give you great results.

Just look to Poo-pourri…

And Old Spice…

But you can get good results and the data you need without blowing up your budget.

Phase 2: Scaling

Once you have enough data to understand what works, it’s time to begin scaling your campaign. Phase 2 is about increasing the budget and the number of different videos to test. 

Step 4: Collecting Data

Until you know what works, you can’t know where to allocate your resources and budget. That’s why it’s vital that you track what you’re doing, the results you’re getting, and what works.

What data do you need? Here are a few of the metrics that will help you gauge your ad campaign’s success:

  • YouTube advertising cost per view
  • YouTube ad conversion rates – the percentage of YouTube ads that lead to a desired action
  • YouTube clickthrough rate (CTR) – the number of people who actually clicked on your YouTube ads
  • ROI over time for specific videos and channels. This will help you identify where your advertising budget will have the biggest impact.

Step 5: Optimizing Your Campaign

Optimization is a two-step process:

  1. Figure out what works
  2. Increase spending

This is an ongoing process. As long as your campaign is running, you need to be testing new ideas, tweaking your ads, and measuring results. Then boost spending where you’ll get the best return on investment.

Step 6: Rinse and Repeat

Continue this process, refining and optimizing, as you grow.

  • Brainstorm YouTube advertising strategies that fit your brand and target audience
  • Determine what YouTube ad format you’re most comfortable with (text, video, slideshow)
  • Research YouTube advertising options available to reach your desired demographic.

Ready to Kickstart Your YouTube Advertising Strategy?

A good YouTube advertising strategy moves through the six-step process we’ve outlined in this guide. But the focus can really be broken into two activities: learning what works and scaling your campaigns based on that knowledge.

Need help? Our YouTube ad experts can help you unlock the true potential of YouTube advertising — without having to figure it out on your own.

Schedule your virtual coffee today, to discuss your YouTube advertising strategy or upcoming campaign.

About the Author Kathryn Aragon

Kathryn is the founder of Kathryn Aragon Media and Solopreneur Life. She's a content strategist, consultant, coach, and author. Her mission: to help businesses use their words to grow authority and revenue.

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