A Complete Guide to YouTube Advertising

With well over six billion worldwide users a month and nearly 800 million unique users, YouTube has quickly become the third largest web property since its launch in 2005. Over the last nine years, YouTube has become a place for learning, entertaining and marketing. With one of the most engaging audiences, it’s no surprise YouTube is a great place for businesses and agencies to advertise on.

YouTube Ad Formats

As you’ve probably seen, ads on YouTube seem to appear everywhere you look. Whether it’s before a video, across the bottom of a video, within the search results, next to a video, or covering the YouTube home page, ads really are all over YouTube. Here we’ll dive into the different types of advertising available on YouTube.


TrueView, which is available through AdWords for video, is one of the formats available for building a YouTube video campaign. TrueView videos only cost when a user chooses to watch the video, or on a Cost-Per-View basis. There are two ad formats to choose from within TrueView.

TrueView In-Stream

YouTube TrueView In-Stream Advertisement

YouTube TrueView In-Stream Advertisement

In-Stream videos are ads played before a video from a YouTube partner. After five seconds, a viewer can decide to skip the ad and continue on to their chosen video, or they can continue watching the ad. The video will incur a cost once a viewer has watched more than 30 seconds of it, or in the case of shorter videos, once the ad is over.

TrueView In-Display & Formerly In-Search

YouTube TrueView In-Display Advertisement

YouTube TrueView In-Display Advertisement

In-Display videos are ads appearing next to YouTube videos or on sites with an audience matching your target on the Google Display Network. As of May 21st, In-Display TrueView video ads can also show up within the YouTube search results page, appearing next to or above the search results.

YouTube TrueView In-Display Search Advertisement

YouTube TrueView In-Display Search Advertisement

TrueView videos showing within the search results page were once referred to as In-Search, but have now been placed under the display format. These videos only incur costs when a viewer chooses to watch your video by clicking on the video itself or on an associated thumbnail leading to the video.

Reservation Buys

Under special circumstances, marketers can buy placements on YouTube using cost-per-thousand-impressions or cost-per-day bidding. I’ll go into more detail on these bidding strategies later, but just know that these placements are bought specifically through YouTube representatives and are for high impact and high traffic campaigns. There are four different “placements” that can be bought on a reservation status.

YouTube Home Page

On a Cost-Per-Day basis, the YouTube Home Page can be bought for a day.

Partner Watch Pages

Videos will be shown on premium partner content pages where YouTube has a direct relationship with the Display Network partner.

Search Pages

When placing on Search Pages through a reserved buy, videos can be targeted against demographics, video interest categories or search related keywords.

YouTube Run-of-Site

Ad placements can appear all over the site for a massive reach across a variety of interests and targeting criteria.

Special Notes on Reserved Media Placements

  • There is a minimum spend requirement on a reservation media plan.
  • Not all ad placements are available on a global level.
  • All creative assets are due nine days before the campaign launch date.


Like with any advertising campaign, being able to target to a specific audience is going to get you the most bang for your buck. Targeting the right people can help increase ROI (return on investment), engagement and overall brand traffic. Using AdWords for video, you’ll be able to target your audience to your liking with seven different targeting strategies which you can turn into Targeting Groups.


With video remarketing, you’re able to show your videos to viewers that have previously engaged with your brand on YouTube. Whether it was by interacting with or viewing your videos, subscribing or unsubscribing from your channel, viewing your In-Stream or In-Display ads, or even just visiting your channel, you’re able to remarket to them. Creating remarketing lists within AdWords for video is simple, and once you do, you’ll be sure those that know about you on YouTube will be reminded of you.


Target to specific age and geder.


Target to specific categories or sub-categories across the YouTube and Google Display networks.


Target to users with specific interests, whether they are on related videos or not.


Target to specific channels, videos or sites.


Target to specific keywords across the Google Display Network.


Target to specific keywords on the YouTube site.

Keep in Mind

Keep in mind, if you add multiple targeting groups to a campaign, that campaign will only run for people that meet the criteria for all of those groups. A campaign with an “18-24 demographic” group and an “interest in cats” group will run for those 18-24 and those with an interest in cats, not either/or.

YouTube Bidding

When advertising on YouTube through AdWords, there are three different bidding strategies.

CPC Bidding

Cost-Per-Click bidding is when a cost is only incurred when a viewer actually clicks on an ad. This bidding strategy is chosen when the advertiser has ROI goals, wants to use the AdWords conversion tracking or wants to increase web traffic.

CPM Bidding

Cost-Per-Thousand bidding is when a cost is incurred each time a video or ad is displayed to a viewer. This bidding strategy is chosen when an advertiser wants to increase reach and visibility.

CPV Bidding

Cost-Per-View bidding is when a cost is only incurred when a viewer chooses to watch an ad. This is the only bidding strategy available for TrueView video formats.

Setting up Your AdWords for Video Account

So now you have some background info on what advertising on YouTube looks like, and you’d like to start doing it yourself. Well in this section, we’ll go through the simple setup process where you will realize the initial set up and advertising on YouTube can be pretty quick and painless.

What Accounts do I Need?

To start advertising on YouTube through AdWords for video, you’ll need to link the two accounts. This can easily be done within the AdWords interface.

YouTube Advertising Setup Step 1

YouTube Advertising Setup Step 1

First, you’ll want to sign into your Google AdWords account and create a new video campaign.

YouTube Advertising Setup Step 2

YouTube Advertising Setup Step 2

Then click “Linked YouTube accounts” on the left side.

YouTube Advertising Setup Step 3

YouTube Advertising Setup Step 3

You’ll then click the button “Link YouTube channel.” From here you’ll be directed to YouTube where you’ll enter your account info and link the two accounts.

What about the Videos?

As you can imagine, you’ll need at least one video to start advertising on YouTube. Whether it’s a video with a high budget behind it, or a self-made video, you’ll need an interesting and creative video to get viewers engaged. One thing you’ll want to do is make sure your brand or main message is called out within the first five seconds of the video to keep viewers watching.   TrueView When it comes to a TrueView campaign, you’ll need to link to a YouTube video on your account to use for your placements.

Ad Gallery

If little to no creative budget is what you’re working with for a YouTube advertising campaign, the AdWords Ad Gallery is the place for you. Here you can create a custom video with access to free images, video templates and the ability to upload your own images and videos.

What is my Budget?

AdWords YouTube Advertising Budget

AdWords YouTube Advertising Budget

As with any advertising campaign, almost everything revolves around a budget. With YouTube advertising, this overarching budget may be a daily or monthly budget. Within AdWords, you’ll be able to set up a daily budget, making sure you’re not overspending your monthly campaign budget.

Who is My Audience?

After you’ve decided what creative will be used and what your budget is, it’s time to set up your targeting. Using the different targeting methods mentioned before, you’ll want to set up your targeting groups. Google provides great detailed instructions on how you can do this.

Optimizing Your Campaign

Once you’ve had your campaigns up and running on YouTube for a couple days to a couple weeks, and you have a feel for how everything works, it’s time to optimize. A couple things to look at when optimizing include:

  • Making sure your ads are working where and when you want them to
  • Paying what you feel you should pay
  • Not annoying your audience
  • Taking full advantage of the extras YouTube and AdWords for video have to offer

Adding and Excluding Placements

One way you’ll want to start optimizing your YouTube campaign is by managing placements. You’ll sometimes find certain places where your ads are running that maybe aren’t performing as well as others. When you do, consider excluding these places to stop showing your ads to a possibly irrelevant audience. Sometimes you may come across places where your ads aren’t running, and you suspect they would perform well if they were to run there. When this happens, consider adding these placements, and test whether or not it works.

Scheduling YouTube Ads

With custom scheduling in AdWords, you can select what time, down to the hour, your ads will be shown. This tool might be a good idea for a brick and mortar store only wanting to advertise during their business hours, or if you want to bid up during more competitive hours.


Optimizing your bidding may be one of the most important things you can do to keep your advertising campaign running smoothly and successfully. Too quickly and all too often, a campaign can spin out of control when the bids aren’t monitored and controlled regularly. How you optimize your bids and bidding strategies will depend on your end goals and budget, but it’s a definite must for anyone wanting a positive outcome from advertising on YouTube.

Call-to-Action Overlay

If you haven’t done so already, you’ll want to add a call-to-action overlay for your video campaign. Call-to-action overlays are the little banner ads appearing across the bottom of a YouTube video. They are a great way to get your message across to viewers after they’re already into their chosen video. Call-to-action overlays are created within AdWords, and they can be customized with a thumbnail, ad copy and an outside link.


Another optimization opportunity, if you haven’t taken advantage of it already, is frequency capping. This is how many times a unique user can see your ad over a certain amount of time. I’m sure you can think of at least one commercial or ad that you’ve seen countless times, and continue to get annoyed with each time you see it. With frequency capping, the chances of this happening to a viewer with your campaign are decreased—and don’t forget that response tends to drop-off when frequency gets too high.

YouTube Analytics

On top of all the data for your advertising campaign within AdWords, you also have access to video data within YouTube. YouTube offers YouTube Analytics, a place for you to see user engagement for your videos. With YouTube Analytics, you’re able to see earnings reports. These help you track the revenue driven by your campaign. You can also see the length to which a viewer watched your video, where they dropped off or “hit skip,” and even where they paused or rewound your video. Likes, dislikes, comments, favorites and shares can all be tracked within YouTube Analytics. YouTube Analytics also offers the Traffic Sources report, showing you where your traffic came from, whether it be YouTube Search, YouTube Thumbnails, or even specific social networks.


With multiple formats, targeting criteria and bidding techniques, AdWords for video helps you get your brand in front of the eyes of the right audience. Setting up an advertising campaign on YouTube is simple, and once you do it, you can optimize the campaign to your liking, bringing in the best results possible for your brand.


Think With Google
A great resource to find out all you can about various advertising products Google offers.
The AdWords Help Center
A great place to find information on everything video, paid search, and display advertising.
YouTube TrueView Video Ads PDF
Get Started with YouTube video ads PDF
How to Advertise Your Explainer Video on Youtube