How to get your YouTube ads on the right track

30th April 2014

What do your potential customers do after watching a YouTube ad?

We now know that 41% of them take an action, according to a new report about the channel’s users. This statistic prompted us to write a long-overdue blog about ways to optimise YouTube ads to help your brand benefit too.

As well as all the potential for organic traffic on YouTube, we’ve found that ads can be an effective way to engage a targeted audience for our clients’ video content.

Advertising on this channel is certainly popular with brands. In a recent survey, every company on AdAge’s 100 leading national advertisers list used YouTube ads, with the top 500 brands averaging 884,000 monthly views and 35,000 subscribers.

With all this competition, how do you cut-through? Here are some tips to help you maximise your advertising budget.

Get your content right 

Content comes first. Are you creating content that will interest your target audiences? Is your video telling a story or engaging emotionally rather than shouting out that it’s an ad?

We’re not necessarily talking about a ‘viral’ here – it’s all about matching your creative with your business objectives and reaching the right audience for your brand.

There are also several types of YouTube ad, which you can mix and match depending on your content:

  • in-stream ads
  • in-display ads
  • in-search ads

In-stream ads appear before YouTube videos (skippable after 5s). If your advert is working, viewers will be enticed to watch on. The good thing about in-stream ads is that you don’t pay unless viewers watch at least 30s and you pay the same whether they watch 30s or the full video. Therefore you can test out optimum video duration.

In-display ads appear beside YouTube videos targeting users who liked similar types of content. In-search ads appear in the YouTube search and work in a similar way to Google Adwords. YouTube search is less saturated than Google so you may be able to find a way to cut-through with in-search.

YouTube ads also appear across devices: it’s worth noting that 25% of YouTube views originate from a mobile device.

Targeting through YouTube ads

Online advertising is effective because you can reach the target audience for your video so precisely. You can create a more personal ad by targeting via demographics such as age or gender, location or language. It is also possible to place your video next to content that your target audience would potenially like. Interests can also help to improve targeting:

  • what kind of YouTube user they define themselves as
  • if they’ve uploaded a YouTube video
  • their viewing habits indicate they might be interested in your content
  • 3rd party data, again indicating they may be interested in your content.

YouTube advises to target broadly on either demographics or interests to get the best results (if you target on a particular demographic and interest, your ads will only be shown when these match which could restrict your video views). If you want more information on targeting check out this one-pager from YouTube.


As with any online ad campaign, it’s important to do your keyword research. We won’t go into details (it’s a blog in itself) but it’s important to group your keywords into themes and get inspiration from a range of sources from Google keyword planner, YouTube search trends, newsworthy events, tags, comments on videos which your audience might be watching, and negative terms.

Optimise your thumbnail

A YouTube thumbnail is an advert for your video. Don’t be tempted to opt for the default image, but ensure that you use a compelling picture which will entice your target audience to watch. This image should also sum up your video. Try a close-up on a face or bright high contrast. If you want to get a bit geekie, you can test which thumbnail obtains the highest click-through to improve your results.

Adding a call to action and landing page

What are your objectives for your video? Do you want people to take a particular CTA and click-through? If you are using TrueView YouTube ads, you can add a call to action overlay on your YouTube videos. A CTA could improve click-through, and is easy and free to add to your video.

In the study mentioned above, 16% of those who watched a YouTube ad, visited the advertiser’s website. Maximise the potential here. If your goal is to push visitors to a landing page, ensure that it matches the video content through imagery and copy.

Remarketing your YouTube ads

Remarketing is another way to improve the results of your YouTube ad campaign. By showing tailored ads to viewers based on their past interactions with your videos or YouTube channel, you can improve ROI. Generate remarketing lists based on a range of factors, including those who:

  • Interacted with or viewed your YouTube videos
  • Subscribed to, or unsubscribed from your channel
  • Viewed your TrueView in-stream ads
  • Visited your channel

You can also remarket based on whether viewers like, dislike, comment on and share your video. With TrueView video ads and AdWords for video, you only pay when the user chooses to watch the ad (cost per view).

Test, track, improve

With YouTube insights you can track your campaigns, edit and improve. It’s useful because you can calculate your ROI as you go along based on performance metrics, for instance raise bids on specific topics or channels that have been working well for your brand.

Chat video marketing with us

Do you have any questions or comments? Chat YouTube ads with us:

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