The Complete Guide to YouTube Ads for Marketers 2021

Creating YouTube ads for your brand is an art and a science. Ask yourself: who’s going to see this? Where and how might they be watching it?

You’ve spent months perfecting the script, storyboarding, finding the right taazyent, shooting, and editing. The end result? A blockbuster brand or product video. With all that time invested, you can’t stop at just embedding the video on a homepage or sharing it on social media and hoping someone watches. Running a series of YouTube ads is one way to make sure more of your target audience finds the video content you’ve produced. And with new formats and tracking capabilities, you can also use this information to report on its ROI.

Brands advertise on YouTube because it’s the world’s second most popular website, drawing 2 billion logged-in visitors a month. If you’re deciding how to allocate your video ad budget, YouTube has the vast reach and powerful targeting capabilities that make it an undeniably valuable platform across the customer journey.

But let’s be upfront: YouTube ads aren’t the most intuitive part of your social media advertising strategy. Rest assured that taking a bit of extra time to learn the fundamentals now is going to pay off in your ROI later. In this article, we’ll take a look at your ad format options, run through how to set up a video ad campaign, list up-to-date ad specs, and leave you inspired with best practices from proven performers.

Benefits of  YouTube Ads (Advertising)

Why create YouTube ad campaigns in the first place? What makes them so critical for marketers and how can they benefit your business? Here’s a quick look at the top reasons why you should start advertising on YouTube:

1. Expand your reach

With YouTube having 2 billion unique users every month, it’s the perfect platform to reach a massive audience. Among these billions of users, there’s a good chance that some of them will show some interest in your offering after seeing your ad.

2. Use advanced targeting to reach the right people

YouTube allows you to create targeted ad campaigns based on category, keyword and topic. This significantly improves your chances of reaching people whose interests align with your industry, instead of just relying on demographic-based targeting.

3. Run cost-effective ads

Just because you’re displaying your ad to someone doesn’t mean you’re paying for that ad to appear if they instantly skip it as soon as they have the chance. Certain YouTube ad types such as TrueView ads have a cost advantage in that you only pay when someone engages with your ad or views it for a certain duration. More on TrueView ads later in this article.

4. Visually engage your target audience

Visuals allow you to instantly capture your audience’s attention, increasing your chances of engaging them. And running a video ad on YouTube gives you the opportunity to visually engage your target audience. In fact, videos are among the top-performing types of visual content along with infographics and presentations.

5. Get in-depth ad analytics

YouTube comes with advanced analytics that helps you understand how your ads are performing. Get insights into how long someone watches your ad, when they disengage and which ad formats see the best performance. These insights will help you perfect your YouTube ad campaigns for optimal performance.

What’s New With YouTube Advertising

Advertising on YouTube is very different from running a PPC or paid social media campaign. There are specific creative constraints and a ton of options for this platform, and you need basic knowledge before you even scope out your next video project to make the most of the paid possibilities.

In recent years, Google has rolled out a series of changes that makes YouTube advertising an extremely worthwhile investment. Let’s take a look.

1. Targeting Based on Users’ Search History

A few years ago, Google announced it would allow advertisers to reach more viewers on YouTube — especially across mobile devices, where 50% of YouTube views take place. Among the changes it rolled out, possibly the biggest announcement was that advertisers would be able to target viewers based on their Google search history, in addition to their viewing behaviors YouTube was already targeting.

Marketers can now target ads at people who recently searched for a certain product or service. If the content of a video ad is closely related to a search the viewer has been researching, they might be more likely to watch the entire ad or click through the ad to the website.

2. Audio Ads

Audio has grown lately — you needn’t look further than podcasts and the new social media app Clubhouse. To keep up with the changes, Google is now allowing YouTube advertisers to create audio-only ads. While we’d recommend starting with a video ad first, you can later consider using audio once you’ve perfected your brand voice and learned what your audience likes to engage with the most.

3. Upgraded Data Attribution Models

Google has also upgraded YouTube’s data attribution model so you can better measure how users engage with your ads. You can also determine cost-per-conversion and see your YouTube ads’ performance alongside your Search and Shopping ads’ attribution reports.

YouTube Advertising Cost

The cost of YouTube ads is based on views. Each view can cost between $0.10 and $0.30, depending on your industry and target keywords. You can spend as little or as much as you want. If you set a daily budget, Google will only charge you up until that amount, making YouTube ads a safe investment.

Keywords are relatively less expensive to target on YouTube than in traditional Google Search, where the average cost per click is estimated to be between $1-2.

While great content is bound to be found, it’s important to be proactive about gaining the attention of prospects and educating those who are unfamiliar with your brand. YouTube ads allow you to do just that. It’s a cost-effective way to target your audience with a more engaging form of content — video or audio.

The Types of YouTube Video Ads

There are several key types of video ads in which you can invest on YouTube. Google outlines the basic formats here. Below, we go into more detail.

1. Video Discovery Ads


Video discovery YouTube ads show up on the YouTube homepage, search results pages, and as related videos on YouTube video watch pages.

This ad appeared after performing a YouTube search:

Once a user clicks on the ad, the destination video page features a spot on the right-hand column where a companion banner display ad will appear.

2. TrueView In-Stream Ads (Skippable Ads)

youtube trueview in stream adsTrueView ads are the standard video ad type on YouTube. Advertisers only pay for TrueView ads when viewers watch or interact with their ad (for example, by clicking on a call-to-action), and videos can be easily customized to share a variety of content.

Advertisers only pay when a user watches the ad for at least 30 seconds or until the end of the video or if the viewer takes an action, such as clicking on a call-to-action. YouTube requires that skippable TrueView ads be between 12 seconds and 6 minutes in length.

TrueView in-stream ads play before someone watches the video they’ve selected on YouTube. Viewers sometimes have the option to skip the ad after watching it for five seconds. You can also make them play anywhere in the Google Display Network (GDN) — or sites that purchased Google video ad space.

In-stream ads let marketers customize video ads with different CTAs and overlay text, as highlighted in the skippable in-stream ad example below from Grammarly.

Notice that there’s another CTA from Grammarly on top of the right-hand suggested video columns.

What TrueView Videos Can Include

TrueView video campaigns can include people, dialogue, and music that was retrieved with permission — or is considered royalty-free. However, it’s best not to run a standard promotional commercial. Because these videos can be skipped, you need to give your audience a reason to keep watching, and product plugs historically don’t get the views you might expect.

Instead, tell a story with the time you have in this video. People love seeing case studies of those who faced a struggle that they can empathize with. It’s a source of entertainment that makes your brand memorable and less tempting to skip.

With TrueView ads, advertisers can gain a ton of information about the performance of their ads for optimization and testing purposes.

Using their Google Ads account, YouTube account managers can collect data on an ad’s completed views, partial views, channel subscriptions, clickthrough rates on CTAs, views sourced from a user sharing the content, and views on the brand’s other content that can be attributed to a person initially viewing a video ad.

These actions help advertisers better understand the full value of their video ad spend and where to allocate budget to increase results.

3. Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads


Non-skippable ads can play before, mid-roll, or after the main video. They can be 15 to 20 seconds in duration. Here’s an example:

Non-skippable mid-roll video ads appear midway through a YouTube video that’s 10 minutes or longer. On the desktop, viewers will see a five-second countdown, and on the app, they’ll see yellow markers where the ads are placed.

What Non-Skippable Videos Can Include

Non-skippable ads give you just as much freedom as TrueView ads in their allotted content. You can include people, dialogue, audio, and more elements that you find best represent your brand in 15 to 20 seconds.

Because non-skippable ads can’t be skipped, these videos are best created with a call-to-action (CTA) so you can optimize the attention you do have from the viewer. In other words, encourage viewers to click on your ad and receive something in return. Perhaps you’ve released a new product or are promoting a major event this season — use non-skippable ads to get those clicks.

Keep in mind that YouTube sells non-skippable video space on a pay-per-click (PPC) basis. Make the click worth it.

4. Bumpers


Bumpers are the shortest type of YouTube video ad available to you. At just six seconds per bumper, these ad spots play before a viewer’s chosen video. It’s also non-skippable.

Bumper video ads obviously can’t tell a good-enough story in just six seconds, but they make terrific complements to larger video campaigns on a new product launch or event. Just be sure to use the six seconds wisely, and include only the components of your brand you want your audience to remember.

5. Overlay Ads


Overlay ads are a banner ad that hovers at the bottom of the video, as shown below. This type of ad is ideal to supplement your other in-stream video campaigns. A banner ad is a great way to avoid advertising your product in an intrusive way.