YouTube ad creation is equal parts creativity and strategy. In addition to understanding who’s viewing your ads and how, it’s important to consider how the ad itself is received by your audience, and what kind of reflection that can have on your brand. 

Standing out from the crowd is already an uphill climb — more than 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every single day, and collectively, we watch 5 billion videos daily. That’s a lot of eyeballs on a lot of screens, and for marketers who want a piece of that attention, having an advertising strategy in place is crucial. 

Here’s how to make yours the best it can be. 

YouTube Advertising Tips: Strategy

Creativity wins awards, but strategy sells. To win at YouTube advertising, you need to start with strategy.

1. Get your ad format right

YouTube offers a complete buffet of advertising options, which can be overwhelming if you’re not familiar with them. 

Do you choose a display ad? What about bumper ads? 

If you’re just starting out, take the time to familiarize yourself with the different types of ads and try them out to compare performance. What works well for someone else may not specifically work for your business and your audience, so comparing performance between different formats can help you form a baseline from which to create a YouTube advertising roadmap. 

Ask yourself what the end goal of your YouTube advertising will be. For example, if you’re looking for brand awareness, in-stream or discovery ads will likely work well for you. 

Here’s a quick overview of the different types of ads YouTube offers, and when each type works best:

Skippable in-stream video ads

Also known as pre-roll or mid-roll ads, these ads play before or during a video and can be skipped after the first five seconds. The good news for you as an advertiser is that you only pay when users watch beyond those first five seconds. 

Generally speaking, these ads need to be at least 12 seconds long, though they tend to perform best if the advertising is kept to under 3 minutes. 

You the advertiser pay when the person has watched either the first 30 seconds, the entire ad itself, or if they click your ad, whichever happens first. 

Non-skippable in-stream video ads

Since over 75% of users report that they automatically skip ads, some advertisers choose to run ads that can’t be skipped. 

With these types of ads, you pay per impression (CPM or per 1,000 views). You’ll need to flex your creative muscles for this one, since your ad needs to hold the user’s attention for the full 15 seconds of its allotted time. 

Bumper ads

Bumper ads tend to be in a class all their own. On the surface, they seem like your typical non-skippable in-stream ad of up to six seconds. You also pay for impressions with them, and they work just like ads that appear pre-roll, mid-roll or post-roll. 

Bumper ads perform best if you’re trying to promote awareness in your brand and to reach the widest audience possible.

Discovery ads

While the ad formats we’ve talked about up to this point work like regular TV commercials, discovery ads are more like pay-per-click ads, where the results show up alongside organic search engine results. 

If your video happens to look more attractive than the organic results for the user’s search, people will be more inclined to watch it instead.

With discovery ads, you can include a thumbnail and up to three lines of text. Because people actively choose to view them, you pay for what YouTube has termed “TrueView.” These are ads that you only pay for when the user has watched 30 seconds (or more) of the ad. 

Display ads and in-video overlay ads

These ads are geared toward advertisers who want to advertise on YouTube but don’t yet have enough of a budget to run video. Display ads appear on the sidebar to the right of an image. They include an image and text along with a call-to-action and a website link. 

In-video overlay ads float over video content on monetized YouTube channels. Be aware, though, they only work for desktops. 

In a perfect world, these ads would be finely timed to appear alongside related content, but oftentimes, the targeting is so broad that there’s a slim chance a user would be interested in both the video and the advertising displayed alongside it. 

2. Develop your game plan

Now that you have a better understanding of the types of YouTube ads, it’s time to create a game plan, and the best game plans begin with proper organization. 

To manage your campaigns as your advertising grows, segment your video ads by the type of video, as well as the campaign. For example, in-stream ads are very different from discovery ads, just as in the pay-per-click world, display network ads are different from search-based ads. 

This will help you track the metrics and performance for each group individually and better understand which type of ads are converting the best along the customer journey. 

Taking this extra step now, before you create your first campaigns, will help you stay organized. It will also make it easier to see your overall results — collectively as well as independently. 

This will become more important the more you create different campaigns across both in-stream and discovery options. 

YouTube Advertising Tips: Targeting Your Audience with Greater Precision

Just as on Google and Facebook, YouTube gives you a host of options to help you fine-tune and refine your audience targeting. There may be millions upon millions of viewers out there, but you also don’t want to throw a bunch of money at your ads and hope some of it sticks. 

You don’t want people watching your ads who aren’t interested or aren’t inclined to buy. You only want potential buyers engaging with your ads.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to start pinpointing your exact audience and then gradually widen the net to target those who are interested in that topic. On YouTube, these are known as custom affinity options and in-market audiences. 

But YouTube advertising doesn’t end when your ad is finished. You can continue to retarget potential customers through YouTube. 

This advertising method works especially well for those who have visited your website. Since you’ve already piqued their interest, showing your ads on YouTube (and other social networks) reminds the users of your product or service and helps keep your brand front-of-mind with people who are already more likely to buy. 

3. Get your creative right

No matter what industry you’re in or who you’re targeting with your ads, the important thing to keep in mind as you create your actual video ad is to make it feel as little like an ad as possible. 

Most people look at YouTube ads as an annoyance, an intrusion that’s testing their patience as they wait to watch a video related to their search. The more you can do to smooth over that bristling irritation, the better. 

Some of the best performing ads across all industries are those that evoke emotion and introduce an element of surprise. They turn an ordinary story on its head. 

That may seem like a tall order to fill when you have 30 seconds or less, but remember that some of the greatest stories have been told in very few words! 

When you can truly hammer home the problem and break the user free from their monotonous mindset of “I have to watch this ad before I can watch this video,” you’re doing it right. 

Show, don’t tell, how your business can solve that problem. Bonus points if you can make your viewer feel good about supporting a cause they care about by buying from you.

Recently, even corporations have been trying to segment and rebrand themselves, as evidenced by the sudden explosion of wholesome, small-business and familiar-sounding names. 

Many such companies have also emerged as champions behind a non-divisive cause, such as anti-bullying or farm-to-table initiatives. When people view your ad knowing that buying your product helps them make a difference, they’ll be much more likely to do so. 

4. Sprinkle in a dash of interactivity

Finally, when creating your YouTube advertising game plan, it’s a good idea to add in interactive elements. Think of these as the icing on the cake that truly makes your ad stand out. 

Your goal is to remove the friction and disconnect that often occur when the user goes from wanting to view a YouTube video to suddenly viewing an ad, then suddenly finding themselves on a website. The smoother and more seamless you can make that connection, the better. 

YouTube has no shortage of interactive elements, including calls to action, ending screens, and much more. You can even link your e-commerce shopping cart to a TrueView ad so that if a user chooses to watch your ad and sees the product, they can add it right to their cart from your website — providing a seamless transition from video to ad to cart to checkout. 

YouTube Advertising Tips: Creating Your First Campaign

Now that you have a better idea of how to develop your YouTube advertising strategy, it’s time to create your campaign. To do this, you’ll need to sign in to your Google Ads account and choose New Campaign.

5. Select your goals

YouTube will walk you through the process of setting up your campaign, starting with your goal. Think about your strategy and the different marketing objectives you may have, such as brand awareness and reach, product and brand consideration, leads, traffic, sales, and so on. 

Your campaign type will usually tie in with your brand strategy, so you’ll need to decide if you want conversions, clicks or impressions. From there, simply add in your daily budget or define the maximum you want to spend on the campaign. Then choose the dates you want your ads to run. 

6. Choose where you want your ads to show

Next, you’ll need to decide where you want your ads to show up. You can choose between All of YouTube, which includes the search results, channel pages, the YouTube homepage and so on, or on YouTube Display Network which includes non-YouTube affiliate websites. 

You’ll also need to choose your audience’s geographic location and language. You may be surprised to learn that only 15% of the total traffic to YouTube comes from the USA, so in many cases, broader audience targeting with global reach may be a better option. It just depends on what you have to sell! 

Note: If you do decide to advertise to audiences in different countries, it’s best to create separate campaigns. 

7. Select brand sensitivity guidelines

Finally, you’ll need to decide how sensitive your brand safety guidelines should be. Depending on what you have to say or share, you may not want your brand’s ads running alongside videos that are full of profanity, violence, or sexually suggestive content. 

If you choose this option, you may pay more for your ads, and they may run on fewer videos. But it’s still an important consideration to keep in mind.

8. Set your frequency cap

Frequency capping is about limiting the number of times a user sees the ads in your campaign over a given time.

This feature works differently on display campaigns and video campaigns.

For display campaigns, you cap the number of impressions a user may have. You can set the limit per day, week, or month. And you can manage the impressions on the entire campaign, ad group, or individual ads.

Third-party cookies are used by default, but if those are not available then first-party cookies are used to approximate impressions.

For video campaigns, you cap the number of impressions and/or views that a user can have on videos. You can set a frequency cap per day, week, month, or any combination. But for video campaigns, you can only cap your frequency on a campaign level — and impressions and/or views for any video that’s used in other campaigns will count for the frequency cap of the campaign you’re setting up.

Google will stop showing the campaign to a user who reaches the frequency cap. (This only applies to in-stream and bumper ads in the auction.)

9. Target your audience

This is where it pays off to invest time into the creation of buyer personas. The more you target your ads to your ideal customer, the better your conversion rate and ROI. 

There are different audience targeting methods:

Demographics: Things like gender, age, and household income, but also detailed information on different “Life Stages,” such as college graduates, new parents, retirees, and so on. 

Interests: Choose from audience categories to reach people who are interested in your topic, even when they’re visiting pages about other topics. These categories include affinity audiences, custom affinity audiences, life events, in-market audiences, and custom intent audiences.

Remarketing: This is targeting those users who have already visited your website, used your app, or seen and interacted with your other videos. 

From here, the next step is to set your campaign life. Just enter the link to where you want users to go when they click. Hit Create Campaign to be up and running. 

10. Test everything

There’s no way to know in advance what will work and what won’t. That’s why, when you launch your campaign, you need to test every idea that comes to mind.

At this stage, you won’t necessarily worry about quality. You want to focus on quantity. Only by producing a lot of video ads very quickly and gathering data on what works will you know where to focus your advertising budget as the campaign matures.

YouTube Advertising Tips: Optimizing for Results 

11. Track everything

Creating your first campaign is just the first step in what will hopefully become ongoing improvement and refinement. It’s important that you check your ad metrics and look for ways to keep nudging the needle on performance. 

Although YouTube’s algorithms and the engine that powers its advertising are smart and adaptable, it all comes down to how well your ad resonates with people. 

At the end of it all, your creative choices will be what defines how well your ad performs. That means the ad needs to:

  • Grab attention
  • Connect with people
  • Elicit emotion 
  • Show them how to take the next step

12. Make data-driven decisions

Tailoring your video to your audience’s needs means understanding who’s watching. Once you have that context, you can create videos that truly reflect what subscribers are looking for. 

Thankfully, YouTube offers a variety of tools to help you do this. YouTube Director Mix, for example, lets you take one video and create a variety of advertising variants at scale. 

As the name implies, you can remix audio, video segments, and more to create ad variants for completely different audiences within your niche. And YouTube’s demographic data will tell you exactly who they are. 

The data gives you a wealth of information about their online habits. 

  • How did they find you? 
  • Are certain social media outlets working better than others? 
  • Why might that be? 
  • How can you use the data you’ve gleaned to improve the overall user experience? 

Users will tell you exactly what they want from your brand — all you have to do is listen. Time and time again when surveyed, the vast majority of users say that they want more personalized content from brands. 

To be clear, by personalized content, we don’t mean brand ads that start out with a blanket “Hey, moms!” or “A special message for all seniors over 60.” 

Users want a personalized experience. They want to feel as if their brand understands them on a deeper level. They want to know that the things that are important to them are equally important to your company and that purchasing from you will help them not just solve their problem, but do so in a way that makes them feel good and confident about it.

The only way to know who your video is reaching and what kind of effect it’s having is through the data. 

It can be tempting to let emotion guide you on what you think users want, but having concrete data will help you move beyond personas and toward filling in the blanks on who you users are and how your brand fits into their hierarchy of needs. 

The data can seem like it creates more questions than it answers, but all of these questions are designed to help you further refine and pinpoint your audience’s pain points while helping to guide them from where they are to where they want to be. 

The more your channel can serve as that bridge, the more information you stand to gain about your subscribers. And that’s going to help you consistently create relevant, engaging videos that seem to speak to them — rather than ads that only speak at them. 

13. Once you know what works, scale for growth

To scale your YouTube ads, you’ll need to focus on several different elements: optimizing your individual ads and refining your campaigns.

Optimizing your ads

To optimize your ads, continue to ask yourself how you could improve results. Test new creative and new calls to action. Over time, increase the quality of your video production.

Refining your campaigns

Use the data you collect to improve your targeting, expand your reach, and improve your conversion rates. This will take a lot of testing, but you only need small bumps in your ads’ conversion rates to see big improvements on a campaign level.

Bottom Line

You’ll be glad to know that YouTube ad creation doesn’t have to be a flashy and expensive undertaking. In fact, creating a relevant, interesting, and engaging ad works better than any celebrity appearance or influencer endorsement. 

Some of the most poignant, interesting, and memorable YouTube ads were created on a small budget to tell a simple story. 

Now that you know how to better go about creating your first campaign, launching successful ads and measuring the results, the next step is to dive in and do it. 

YouTube itself offers a great deal of guidance and direction, but through it all, the data you collect on how well your ads are doing is what should ultimately be powering your decisions. 

The next step is yours. With these tips, you can make YouTube advertising a powerful part of your marketing arsenal. Want some help? We’re here for you. Schedule a coffee chat with one of our experts to discuss your project.

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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