How to Advertise on YouTube: 6 Proven Steps

Many YouTube channel managers believe that after their channels are set up, their view counts are increasing, their subscriptions are growing, and engagement is up, they can then sit back and focus on making some content. 

Well, that’s not exactly the case. You have another powerful resource in your tool chest that can potentially take your channel to the next level: It’s advertising. 

Yes, this article is all about how to place ads on YouTube to promote yourself and grow your channel — not how to get advertisers to place ads on your channel. 

Types of YouTube ads

Take a look at the types of YouTube ads before jumping in headfirst. The most popular ad format on YouTube is video ads, despite the platform’s many options for making money.

This article focuses on a specific ad type you configure via Google Ads. It’s the YouTube TrueView ad which comes in two flavors: in-stream and video discovery. 

In-stream: In-stream ads work a bit like TV commercials: Before users can see the video they want to watch on YouTube, they have to watch your video ad first. (This is known also as a pre-roll ad.) YouTube lets users skip an in-stream ad after 5 seconds. Advertisers are charged if a user watches an in-stream ad to completion or to 30 seconds (whichever comes first) or interacts with the ad by clicking on the display URL, call-to-action overlay, or companion banner.

Video Discovery Ads: These ads appear on search results pages and on YouTube Watch pages and are marked with a gold AD icon. Advertisers are charged as soon as a user clicks on the video thumbnail of a video discovery ad.

TrueView in-stream and video discovery aren’t the only ad types available on YouTube, but they’re highly effective for many advertisers because Google charges for them only when a viewer decides to watch the whole ad or — for longer ads — at least the first 30 seconds. 

They’re also the ad types most recommended by Google to grow consideration and interest from a target audience, which makes them a perfect way to bolster your YouTube channel. 

You can investigate other types of YouTube ads, however, such as bumper and non skippable ads (short pre-roll ads that viewers cannot skip off of), a masthead (the big ad that shows up on the YouTube homepage), or an in-video overlay (an ad that appears in the lower center of a video and acts like an annotation). For more on these (and other) ad types, read our complete guide on different types of YouTube ads

The TrueView ad’s claim to fame is that it uses cost per view (CPV) pricing. Other ad types may have different pricing methods, including cost per thousand impressions, also known as CPM (“M” in this acronym represents the word “mille”, which is Latin for “thousands”). As you advertise more, it’s worth your time to explore all ad types available via Google for YouTube.

How To Set Up Your YouTube Advertising Campaign

Step 1. Create a Google Ads account

Creating a Google Ads account used to be pretty involved, but that was long ago. Fortunately, Google has greatly simplified the process of opening a new Google Ads account:

  1. Point your web browser to https://ads.google.com. Click the Sign In link at the top right and log in with your Google account. We recommend using the same Google account you’d use to manage your YouTube channel. If you already have a Google account for Gmail, YouTube, or another Google service, you can use it for your Google Ads account. 
  2. On the new screen that appears, click the New Google Ads Account link to create an account. Doing so brings up the New Campaign page.
  3. Click the Switch to Expert Mode link near the bottom of the New Campaign page. You want to do this so that you can bypass the initial questions that Google asks to get an understanding of your advertising goals. That setup process is designed for search advertising, not video ads, so you don’t need to do it.
  4. On the new screen that appears, click the Create an Account Without a Campaign link beneath the campaign goal selection boxes. This step allows you to get your account set up for success before jumping straight into campaign creation.
  5. On the new screen that appears, select your billing country, time zone, and currency from the dropdown lists and then click the Submit button. 

Google might change the sign-up process and its billing practices at any time, so take the preceding instructions with a grain of salt. 

Step 2. Link your Google Ads account and YouTube channel

For your YouTube advertising project, you should link your Google Ads account with your YouTube channel to access deeper ad analytics and to set up YouTube remarketing lists. A well-run YouTube ad campaign produces lots of views, subscriptions, engagements, and clicks. By linking your accounts, you have access to much deeper statistics.

To link your accounts, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to your Google Ads account.
  2. Copy your customer ID. Your Google Ads customer ID is a 3-part number that uniquely identifies your Google Ads account. You’ll find it in the top right of your Google Ads page, right above your email address and to the left of the account icon.
  3. Log in to your YouTube account.
  4. On the YouTube homepage, click your account icon in the top right, and then choose YouTube Studio from the menu that appears. Doing so brings up the YouTube Studio dashboard.
  5. In the navigation menu on the left, click the Settings link. A window labeled Settings opens in the middle of the screen.
  6. Select Channel from the navigation menu on the left side of the Settings window.
  7. Click the Advanced Settings link in the Channel section, located in the main part of the window.
  8. Next to the Google Ads account linking subheading, click the hyperlink labeled Link Account.
  9. In the Link Name field, enter a descriptive name for the Google Ads account you’re linking.
  10. In the Google Ads Customer ID field, paste the Google Ads customer ID that you copied in Step 2.
  11. Using the check boxes below the text fields, select the account permissions you want for your Google Ads account.
  12. In the same dialog box, click Done.
  13. Back in the Settings window, click Save.
  14. Log back into your Google Ads account, and then navigate to the main screen of your customer account.
  15. From the menu across the top of the page, click the Tools & Settings link and then choose Linked Accounts under the Settings heading.
  16. Find YouTube in the list of accounts and then click its associated Details link.
  17. Within the Link Requests table, find your YouTube channel and then click the View Request link under the Action heading.
  18. Click Approve to link your YouTube and Google Ads accounts. Your Google Ads account is now linked with your YouTube channel, and your settings are saved.

Step 3. Determine Your Ad Targets

Before starting your campaign, you have to determine where you want your ads placed. This is known as ad targeting. Google Ads provides extremely rich and powerful targeting options. Each set of options can be broken out into separate ad groups, and you can use multiple, simultaneous ad groups in the same campaign.

Running a YouTube ad campaign isn’t like placing an ad in a magazine or a commercial on television, where the ad is placed and you’re done. Effective digital marketing — marketing that relies on YouTube and on display and search advertising — allows advertisers to constantly optimize, or tune, ad performance by making adjustments throughout the campaign, which may include changing the targets.

You can set up multiple ad groups throughout a campaign, so don’t try to be exhaustive out of the chute. You can always update your targeting after your campaign launches, too.

To get started with YouTube TrueView advertising, you need to get a handle on the basics of ad targeting. The default Google Ads setup lets you target using the following criteria:

  • People: Who you want to reach
  • Content: Where you want your ads to show on YouTube

When it comes to targeting people, Google Ads gives you a few options to choose from:

  • Demographics: This option lets you select your audience characteristics by age, gender, parental status, and household income. Always choose the age and gender of your target audience, if you know it. (Household income isn’t available in all countries.)
  • Audiences: This option lets you identify specific viewer characteristics and interests that you want targeted. Audience targeting groups allow you to reach viewers who are interested in a certain content category even when they’re interacting with unrelated content. Google determines viewers’ interests by analyzing the type of videos they’re watching and by the types of websites they’re visiting.

For content targeting, Google Ads gives you a couple different options as well:

  • Keywords: This option lets you target videos that are relevant to the keywords you itemize. For example, if you have a video ad for your pottery product, pottery would then be a good keyword to add to your campaign.
  • Topics: You can target specific content on either YouTube or the Google Display Network (GDN) corresponding to a selected topic. When configuring topic-based targeting, you can go broadly, such as Home & Garden, or be more specific in the category, by selecting Rugs & Carpets under the Home Furnishings subcategory. (Note that you can select different topics in the same group.)
  • Placements: You can create a list of YouTube channels, specific videos, exact websites, or itemized pages in the GDN where you want your ad served. This is an excellent way to ensure that your content is appearing in the right places, next to videos about specific topics. (Placements apply only to YouTube videos and to the GDN, not to YouTube Search.)

Step 3. Set Up Your Ad Campaign

Unfortunately, no one has yet invented a robot that sets up YouTube video ads for you. The process might sound a bit complicated at first because Google Ads is quite powerful, but it’s fairly easy to start your first campaign. To set up a new YouTube ad, follow these steps:

  1. Log in to https://ads.google.com.
  2. After you’re within the regular interface of your Google Ads account, you should click the Campaigns tab from the Page menu.
  3. Click the big blue Plus Sign (+) button in the top left of the Table toolbar, and select + New Campaign from the menu that appears.
  4. On the next screen, choose the Product and Brand Consideration campaign goal you want.
  5. In the new box that appears, select Video as your campaign type.
  6. In the new box that appears beneath the previous step, select Influence Consideration as your campaign subtype and click Continue.
  7. On the new page that appears, enter a name for your campaign in the Campaign Name field.
  8. Then, select your budget type and enter a budget. Google Ads allows you to select one of two budget types: a campaign total budget or a daily budget. A campaign total budget specifies the total amount of money you want to spend for the duration of your campaign. This method is useful when you’re running a single YouTube campaign. Google optimizes your campaign spending for you and aims to spend your total budget by the campaign end date. 
  9. Pick your ad delivery method. You set the rate at which your ads are served over the course of a day. Choose the Standard option if you want them spread evenly over your ad day. Choose the Accelerated option to deliver your ads rapidly.
  10. Select your networks. As a YouTube advertiser, you have three choices for where your ads are shown. For example, you can run either in-stream video ads against YouTube videos or video discovery ads on the YouTube Watch page.
  11. Pick your locations. Don’t let the simple interface fool you. You have the option to pick worldwide, United States, or Canada, but when you click the Enter Another Location link and then select Advanced Search, you’re accessing a powerful interface that lets you do precision location targeting of your ads, down to the city or area level.
  12. Select your inventory type. YouTube has a lot of content, and some of it’s unsavory. In recent years, you may have heard news stories about famous brands running their ads on politically sensitive or controversial content by accident. The Inventory Type setting was developed to help advertisers opt out of categories of sensitive content on YouTube that don’t align with their brand.
  13. Using the Additional Settings drop-down menu in the new page that appears, select the devices on which the ad can appear.
  14. Schedule when your ad runs. You get to pick when your ad campaign starts and ends, along with the days and times you want it to run. You can leave this option empty and manually start and pause campaigns as needed.

Step 4: Create an ad group and set up targeting

After your general settings are in place, you need to determine who will see the ad. To ensure that your targeting isn’t too narrow, we recommend building out one specific ad group per targeting type. 

To specify the audience targeting for your first ad group, follow these steps:

  1. Enter a name for your ad group in the Ad Group Name field.
  2. Select your demographics targeting. You can select any combination of age, gender, parental status, or household income by selecting or deselecting the respective categories. Remember that household income isn’t yet available in all countries.
  3. Add in audience targeting. Search for specific terms, phrases, or website URLs to find relevant audience targets to add to your campaign. You can also click the Browse option from the Audience Targeting submenu to see a full list of all available audience types, if you prefer. After you have selected a few targets, you can explore the Ideas submenu tab to see even more relevant targeting ideas based on your settings.

Step 5: Create a YouTube Ad

With the campaign and ad group targeting settings completed, you must now associate one or more ads with your campaign. Here’s how to get that scintillating ad of yours in front of your viewers:

  1. Enter a maximum cost per view (CPV) bid for your campaign in the field labeled “Maximum CPV bid.” This is the maximum amount you’re willing to pay each time a viewer watches your video to completion or 30 seconds (whichever comes first), interacts with your ad’s clickable elements, or clicks on your video discovery ad. A good amount to start with is 5 cents. You can increase or decrease the amount later, after your campaign starts running.
  2. Enter a top content bid adjustment. Top content consists of the most popular content on YouTube and the GDN as determined by audience engagement. By entering a top content bid adjustment, you’re more likely to have your ad placed in the top content inventory. Bid adjustments can range from 0 percent to 500 percent of your initial bid, which means that you can end up paying a lot more to run in the top content.
  3. In the next section of the campaign creation workflow, paste the YouTube video URL of your ad into the Your YouTube Video field. The video you use has to be uploaded to your YouTube channel before you do this. Videos that are to be used as ads need to be either public or unlisted.
  4. Select the video ad format you want to use. Select either skippable in-stream or video discovery ad formats, depending on which one you want to use for this ad. If you want to use the same video in different formats, create separate video ads for each one.
  5. If you’ve chosen an in-stream ad, configure your ad by filling in the new fields that appear.
  6. Enter the name of your ad in the field provided. Use a descriptive name that makes it easy for you to identify the ad later.
  7. Click the Create Campaign button at the bottom of the screen. On the new page that appears, review the campaign summary and click the Continue to Campaign button.
  8. If you want to create another ad group to add targeting to your campaign, click the big blue Plus Sign (+) button to launch the ad group creation process.
  9. Verify the status of your ad. If your billing is set up correctly, you should see your new ad on the Ads & Extensions tab of the Page menu.

Be sure to check out how your ads are performing after your ads are approved by Google. Monitor your campaigns regularly to find the most effective videos, targeting groups, and ads, and make small optimizations to improve your performance.

You can always pause an ad campaign from the Campaigns tab by highlighting the check box next to the campaign name, clicking the Edit dropdown menu that appears, and then selecting Pause. We recommend that you never remove an ad, because you can’t get it back in case you change your mind.

Step 6: Measure Clicks and Results

Regularly tracking the performance of your campaign is essential for success. If you don’t pay attention, you may be spending ad dollars for ineffective views, or you might miss out on interesting opportunities to reach your audience. 

Fortunately, the YouTube ad management tool gives you all the important numbers you need in order to manage your campaign.

When you analyze your campaign results, it’s important to understand the following distinction:

  • Paid metrics: Represent the direct results of your ads, such as ad views and the average cost per view
  • Earned metrics: Can be thought of as the follow-on activities that occur as a result of your ads, including new subscribers and additional channel views

Both sets of metrics are important to advertisers and YouTube channel managers because they tell them whether their ad money is being spent effectively.

You’re charged for paid metrics, not for earned metrics. If your video ad results in a viewer visiting your channel and watching ten more videos, you paid for 1 view and received 10 for free. In other words, that’s 11 views for the price of 1.

Best Tips To Optimize Your YouTube Ad Campaign

If you look at your reporting on a regular basis, you can identify opportunities for optimization, or ways to improve the results of your campaign as it delivers.

If you’re not seeing the numbers you want, consider the variables you can tweak and the levers you can pull. For example, you may need to increase your budget or tweak your campaign bid settings, target a different audience, or change your ad creative. Re-evaluate every choice you make when setting up your campaign after you have some data telling you what is and is not working.

1. Tweaking your creative

When you launch your first campaign, you may be using only one video ad. As data comes in, look to see how it’s performing and consider

  • Testing different versions of your video ad by making some small edits
  • Trying different titles and thumbnails
  • Making sure that you have a really compelling call to action to encourage someone to click
  • If you’re using TrueView, seeing how many people are skipping the ad
  • Developing theories about what worked or didn’t work and using these theories to inform the next video ad you make

2. Experimenting with ad formats

You can experiment with quite a few different ad formats to see which one works best for you. If you’ve made a video ad for only one format, such as TrueView, consider making edits of your video so that you can use it in other ad formats.

For example:

  • Make a shorter version of your video ad so that it’s only 15 seconds long.
  • Make an even shorter version of your video so that it’s a 6-second bumper, an ad which works great on mobile devices.
  • Make a longer video if people are watching your video ad to completion, which suggests that people like it!
  • Run companion display ads when your video ad is playing to reaffirm your message and encourage clicks.

3. Targeting new audiences

Improving your video ad creative and maximizing your use of ad formats available are probably the two best levers to improve your campaign’s performance. However, the third lever is to ensure that you’re talking to the right people.

Tweak each of your audience targeting settings to see whether you can improve your results:

  • Use demographic targeting to target people based on gender, age, and other criteria, such as household income.
  • Specifically target people based on their interests and habits with affinity targeting.
  • Reach people based on whatever they’re currently looking to purchase using in-market audiences, life events, and custom intent.
  • Remarket to people who have previously interacted with you in some way, which can be a powerful targeting method.

4. Modifying campaign settings

You can play with a lot of variables and settings in Google Ads, which can have a big impact on results. How you set up your campaign can make a big difference. Consider

  • Targeting all the relevant locations and languages and devices. Opening up your campaign to reach a broad audience is a great way to find who responds. You can narrow down who you target later.
  • Letting Google automatically manage options where possible. Google always optimizes your campaign’s delivery based on your goals.
  • Not overly limiting your campaign initially with too many options. Keeping things broad can help you find the best settings as time goes on.

5. Altering bidding and budgets

The performance of your campaign can come down to the basic issue of budget. My last recommendation for optimization, after exhausting all others, is to increase your budget. If you make a great ad, choose smart targeting options, and set up your campaign but it’s not delivering, your bidding strategy and budgets may need to change. For example, if your ad is performing but isn’t reaching enough people, increasing your budget can help get your ad in front of more people. 

Here are a few changes you can make to your bidding and budgets:

  • See whether small incremental bid increases help more people see your ad. You don’t need to increase your budget by a lot immediately.
  • Look to see whether your daily budget is big enough. Perhaps your video ad is shown in the morning and exhausts your budget. Adding more daily budget can help your video ad show up more often.
  • If you’re reducing your audience to a more focused group, you may need to increase your bids to ensure that you win in the auction to reach those people. Often, the more targeted your audience, the more competitive your bid will need to be.
  • If you’re finding your bids aren’t winning in the auction, you may need to increase your budgets and bids. You may be targeting a competitive area. If so, either increase your budgets and bids or consider targeting different audiences that are lower competition.

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