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You may have shied away from advertising on YouTube because it (usually) involves video. And it’s not uncommon for video to be discounted as a means of promoting your business: either it’s too expensive, or too time consuming, or too complex to set up. Or perhaps you just don’t want to be seen on camera.
But the truth is that YouTube advertising can bring hefty rewards for your business. It’s one of the top-used social media platforms in the world and, according to a survey by Hootsuite, YouTube’s advertising reach to adults aged 18+ was over 2 billion in 2022. That’s nearly 40% of the world’s population. In the UK, that figure jumps to 92% of the population.
Types of YouTube Ad
Before you start advertising on YouTube, you’ll need to decide on the type of YouTube ad (or ads) you want to run. There are several options and some of them don’t even involve creating a video!
In-feed video ads
In-feed video ads show up in a similar way to paid ads on Google search, appearing at the top of the YouTube search results with a small “Ad” badge next to the title. They can also be seen on the home discovery page and beside active videos that a user is watching.
Use these kinds of ads to promote awareness of your business. Think about the kind of videos your audience would be watching and make sure your ad resonates. The placement for these video ads is highly targeted, so you have the opportunity to really connect with potential customers.
Skippable in-stream ads
In-stream ads play at the start, during, or at the end of other videos. In-stream ads are the most common type of YouTube ad and the most noticeable. Users have the option to skip after 5 seconds but, as an advertiser, you only pay if they watch 30 seconds or more (or the full video if it’s less than 30 seconds long), or if they take an action (such as clicking on a call to action).
Skippable in-stream ads can be anywhere from 12 seconds to 6 minutes long.
Use skippable ads when you have a message that you can effective get across in a short period of time. Make sure there’s a strong call to action and create an ad that’s incredibly engaging. These kinds of ads can also be cost-effective considering you won’t be charged if they’re skipped before 30 seconds.
Non-skippable in-stream ads
As you might guess, non-skippable in-stream ads are (almost) the same as skippable in-stream ads, but users have to watch the entire thing. Non-skippable ads can be a maximum of 15 seconds long.
Non-skippable ads are great for brand awareness and when you want (slightly) more time to get your message across. Because they can’t be skipped, users have to watch the full length, so you can get across your full message without interruption. Like skippable ads, it’s incredibly important to be engaging and include a strong call to action.
Another in-stream video ad, Bumper ads are just 6 seconds long and appear at the start of other videos. Because they are so short, they are best used as part of a more extensive video campaign, rather than on their own. Alone, they’re usually not long enough to to put across enough information. Though if you’re very creative, it’s certainly not impossible.
Another YouTube ad that doesn’t necessarily require video, audio ads target users who are likely listening to YouTube videos, rather than watching them. For example, they could be listening to a music playlist or podcast recording. With Audio ads, the focus is the audio, not the video.
Audio ads are a great option if you have a low budget and can’t afford to create a video, and if your target audience includes those that are more likely to consume audio content in favour of video.
Getting started with YouTube advertising
Set up your accounts
YouTube is owned by Google, so if you already have an ads account on Google, then you’re already part-way there. If not, you can sign up for Google Ads – don’t worry, you won’t be charged until you actually start advertising.
You will also need to create a YouTube account (also free) if you don’t already have one. Remember to create an account for your business and not use your own personal account.
As YouTube is owned by Google, you’ll only need one set of login details for both Ads and YouTube.
Create your video ads
There are several ways you can go about creating a video ad. Arguable the best – but also the most expensive – is to hire a professional. Despite the initial price, if you’re working with a decent budget, this can be an extremely cost-effective way of creating video ads. Not only will you get a highly professional look, you’ll have the added benefit of professional advice and guidance to help you create the best possible ad for your audience and goals.
If your budget doesn’t stretch that far, you can often create good videos with nothing more than a phone camera and a few bits of reasonably-priced equipment such as lights and microphones. You will need some editing software (free options include Openshot and Clipchamp) and someone who understands how to use it.
Remember that free and DIY options will have limitations and you may find that spending money upfront for a professional ad will be more cost-effective in the long-run.
Upload your video ad to YouTube
Log into your YouTube account and select the “create” button. This is a plus in a circle at the bottom of mobile screens, or a small camera symbol with a plus in the top right of a desktop screen. Select the video file that you want to use, and start uploading.
If you’ve opted to use Google’s in-built video, you can skip this step, as you’ll get the option to create a video when you build your ads campaign.
Link YouTube and Google Ads
From the top menu bar of Google Ads, select Tools & Settings > Setup > Linked accounts. Locate the YouTube option and select Details then Add channel. Follow the prompts to link your accounts.
Create an ads campaign
From Google Ads, select + New campaign and you will be asked to choose a goal. Select the one that best matches what you want to achieve from your ads. Depending on your choice, you may then be prompted to select conversion goals. If you don’t have any conversions set up, you can skip this step, though keep in mind that conversions are very helpful for optimising ads.
Next, select the Video campaign type. Again, depending on the original goal selected, you may be presented with further options. Select those that best suit your goals.
As you go through the setup process, you will be asked a number of questions about your ads, such as your budget, how long you want them to run, target keywords, and much more. Fill these in carefully, considering your end goal at all times. If you’ve opted to use the in-built video creator, this is also where you’ll have the opportunity to use that.
Once you’ve filled in as much information as possible, create your campaign.
For a more detailed look at setting up ads and the options available, take a look at my beginner’s guide to Google Ads.
Tips and strategies for advertising on YouTube
Create a strategy
Effective advertising is almost impossible without a clear strategy. What are your ultimate goals from this campaign? Who are your ads targeted to? What action do you want them to take? How do you best engage them?
All these questions (and more) need to be asked before you start. Video ads can be costly if not done right, so by ensuring you’re clear with your strategy you can save money and run a more effective campaign.
Choose the right kind of YouTube ad
Earlier in this article, I outlined the advantages (and disadvantages) of different types of YouTube ad. Once you have your initial strategy figured out, you can start delving further into what will work best. Some ad formats will work well on their own, whilst others are best combined with other formats.
Tell a story
YouTube is a creative platform, and this applies to ads too. Users are primarily on the platform to engage with content that entertains and informs them, so your ads will be most successful if you continue that theme. Hard sells are often unsuccessful on YouTube, so instead think about the storytelling element of your ad. Can you creatively share a case study that a user will relate to? Can you take them on a journey that they recognise as their own journey? Can you touch on their emotions?
On a platform like Google, ads work differently because users are looking for something specific. On YouTube, however (and other social platforms), users aren’t usually looking for a product or a service, so your video needs to be extra engaging to capture their attention.
YouTube ads can be excellent for improving brand recognition and building an audience of customers and potential customers. However, the benefits go beyond that.
Your YouTube ad will give you lots of information on user behaviour. How are people interacting with your ad. Do the majority skip at a certain point? Is that because they’re bored, or have seen something they don’t like? When do they engage? Is there something that particularly catches their attention? Why?
There are many, many questions you can answer with the data you collect. This can then inform future marketing strategies to help you improve your advertising going forward.
Review and adjust
As for any type of ad, YouTube ads should be regularly reviewed and adjusted. This can be more difficult when you’re utilising video, because shooting an entirely new video when something doesn’t work is a costly and time-consuming job.
However, adjusting your ad can be done in other ways too. Review your audience response and decide whether your targeting could be improved. Experiment with different cuts of your video to find out what works best. Play with the budget to find out what gives you the best cost per conversion. Analyse trends and respond to changing behaviours.
Regularly monitoring of your ads – and adjustments where necessary – is vital to ensure you don’t waste money on ads that are underperforming.
You’ve no doubt experienced remarketing as a consumer. You look at a product on a website and then head over to YouTube where that very same product (and similar products) is shown to you by way of an ad. This is called remarketing and can be an incredibly successful advertising strategy.
By reminding previous customers and warm leads (user who have shown an interest in your product) about your business, part of your work is already done. You’re not trying to convince someone who’s never heard of you to be interested in your product, but are instead encouraging those who are already interested to take that last step and make the purchase.
The initial costs of YouTube advertising – especially if you’re hiring a professional video maker – can be costly. But is can also be done on a budget. Either way, results can be extremely positive through increased sales and brand recognition.
Make sure sure you understand the different types of available YouTube ads and which ones work best for your advertising strategy. Set out clear goals and continue to monitor your ads, adjusting as necessary to improve results.