Why it’s time to re-visit YouTube advertising

How to format your video advert and the key targeting methods

Targeting a niche market? Then give pay-per-click (PPC) YouTube another look. In recent months it’s had something of an overhaul, and can be a really cost-effective way of driving targeted traffic to your site.

Budgeting your campaign

Costs per view on YouTube can be as low as 1/50th of the related costs per click on Google search, because the competition is lower. The cost of each click through to your website is generally about the same. You can create a successful YouTube campaign for as little as £500 per month, or even lower, if you target your audiences well (if you don’t, you could end up spending as much as your search budget, because of the volumes of traffic on YouTube, so targeting is really important).

The only limiting factor to YouTube PPC is the cost of creating your video. The better your video, the better response you’ll have. But spending £5000 on a video then £500 on views isn’t necessarily sensible. A good video doesn’t have to be expensive to create. Simple stuff like instruction videos and customer testimonials go down really well if you get the format and targeting method right; and you don’t need a huge production budget, just relevant content.

When you decide your budget, take into account the cost of creating the video, and then spread that over the total views you think you’re going to get, to get a true budget for the campaign.

Choosing the right format for your video ad 

In-search – This is very much in the vein of Google AdWords: you draw up your key words, draft your ad, pick your video and set your bidding strategy. When someone runs a search, your video is highlighted as an ad at the top the results. You pay if they watch your video. Obviously, relevance is everything with this format.

‘How to’ videos work particularly well. For example, a cosmetics retailer might show how to match the right foundation to the right skin tone.

In slate – These appear only on videos longer than 30 minutes (TV shows and films, for example). Viewers choose either to watch one video ad before the programme begins, or videos are pushed to them during ad breaks. There’s a level of active interest with this format – a viewer chooses an ad over the others. You only pay if they pick yours.

In display – These are the promoted videos that appear down the right-hand side, and are relevant to the video you’re watching. Their success depends on their ability to grab people’s attention – the viewer has to choose to watch your video next.

A bonus with these ads is they appear anywhere on Google’s ad network that takes video, not just YouTube.

In stream – These are videos that appear as a pre-roll to popular videos. They work on the TrueView system – you only pay if a user watches your ad for 30 seconds (or the whole ad, whichever is shorter). There’s no charge if they ‘skip in five seconds’.

In-stream videos are great if you have really creative content. That said, it’s the hardest format to nail – the video has to be very engaging otherwise the viewer will hit ‘skip’ the first chance they get. Short and sweet works best.

The seven YouTube targeting methods

  1. Search keywords – this works just like Google: it’s very targeted, very cheap and great for niche advertisers. The downside is it can be very low volume. YouTube may host a lot of searching, but most of it’s for Lady GaGa. This works well for niche markets or people looking for instructional videos, but can be very low volume.
  2. Contextual targeting – Google matches your keywords with titles, tags and descriptions of videos, then picks videos relevant to you. This works well in tandem with ‘in display’ advertising. It might work well if, for example, you make winter sportswear, and you’re placed next to videos about skiing holidays.
  3. Remarketing – if you already have content on YouTube, this is a no-brainer. You’re showing your video to people who’ve already been to your website. These people already know about you, so the trick is to create a video that spurs them to actually buy from you.  This is good for companies whose customers take a long time to decide to buy (for example, retailers).
  4. Placements – here you pick a specific video or channel on which to show your ads. This one’s hard from a targeting perspective, though. People are fickle: popular videos change all the time, so you have to be on the ball with the videos you choose. But pick a hot video or channel – one that’s in synch with your brand of course – and the pay-off can be huge, as the targeting is so specific. When I talked recently about this at a Google event, I looked at the YouTube channel for video camera brand, Go-Pro. Almost every ad within that channel was for Sony cameras. Sony was using in-display ads to target people actively looking for the best video cameras on the market.
  5. Interest category targeting – Google tracks which pages someone visits and builds a profile of their interests. You then pick an ‘interest category’ and your ad is shown to people who’ve shown a sustained interest in something directly relevant to you. If you sell safari holidays for example, you can show your ad only to those people with an interest in going on safari, and who’ve looked at pages about safaris before. 
  6. Topics – choose from a master list of search topics, and if your video matches a topic it shows up. Its effectiveness is no more than OK, but on the plus side it’s the easiest targeting mechanism to set up.
  7. Demographics – a waste of time, frankly. Hardly anyone reveals their age or gender when they sign up to YouTube. It’s all guesswork based on browsing activity. Avoid.

Mix and match for best results

YouTube advertising works best when you combine different targeting methods. Let’s assume again you’re a safari operator. If you went for topic targeting alone, you might find people who just want to see someone mauled by an animal (there are plenty of these kind of people of YouTube). But throw in interest targeting as well, and you know you’re reaching people who’ve been looking on safari holiday websites, and so you know they’re the right target.

You may cast a narrower net with this two-pronged approach. But the people you catch are far more likely to be interested in what you’re selling. And to make sure you bag the sale, remember to include a clear call to action via the overlay or banner within your video.

And don’t forget, if you create high-quality content you’ll rack up plenty of +1s – no bad thing when it comes to Google search rankings. 

Alistair Dent is head of PPC for PPC-specialist agency, Periscopix .


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