Looking for a new PPC strategy? This blog, plus the momentum of the New Year, can help you launch your first YouTube video ad campaign. If you are already a YouTube marketing pro and clicked on this article to enhance your current strategy, I recommend reading through the Campaign Specifics and Audience Targeting sections. This post is not meant to be your typical “how-to guide”. Rather, my aim is to walk you through practical steps (some big, some small) that will get you closer to a complete and effective YouTube advertising strategy.

There are several different types of YouTube video ads marketers can create, this post is covering TrueView in-stream ads. If you are not familiar with TruView ads, here is Google’s Help Guide definition:

“TrueView in-stream ads run before, during, or after other videos on YouTube or across Display Network sites, games, or apps. These ads may also run on YouTube videos that are embedded on other sites. After 5 seconds, the viewer has an option to skip the ad.”

Select the Creative

The golden rule I stick to is a simple one: ONE creative per campaign. Why? Well, If you have multiple creatives within a campaign, it will make audience targeting, budgeting, and overall performance more difficult to manage. Here are a few additional directions:

  • If you have two versions of the same creative, say one 30 second video and one 15 second video, these are two different creatives. In my experience, performance is drastically different for different creative lengths. Best practice is to create a separate campaign for each creative.
  • If performance varies per geographic location, or you have separate budgets for different geos, demographics, or steps in the funnel, you will need to create separate campaigns. This should at least mirror what you have set up for Search campaigns.
  • Because the creative itself is a whole different topic, this article will not cover the aspects of what makes a good creative. However, I do have one critical point I want to mention: Branding must appear in the first 5 seconds. I have worked with companies who only brand their videos at the very end because they achieve higher view-through rates (VTR). The ad may have a great VTR, but most people aren’t going to watch a video ad in its entirety. Waiting to brand at the end is giving people free entertainment. You are throwing money away if you can’t at least get a lift in brand recognition or consideration.

Campaign Specifics

When creating a new campaign, I find the following 6 components to be of critical importance:

1.) Bid Strategy

  • Maximum CPV: (recommended for the type of strategy this blog is covering) Cost-per-view allows you to create in-stream or discovery ads. Use this strategy for prospecting audiences.
  • Maximum CPM: Use cost-per-thousand impressions if you’re using remarketing bumper ads.
  • Target CPM: Set the average amount you’re willing to pay for every thousand times your ad is shown.

2.) Inventory Type – note that all types exclude extremely sensitive content

  • Expanded Inventory: Use this inventory type if you want to maximize your reach by showing ads on some sensitive content.
  • Standard Inventory: Use this inventory type if you want to only show ads on content that’s appropriate for most brands.
  • Limited Inventory: Use this inventory type if you want to exclude most types of sensitive content. This will limit your available inventory, but it will ensure you won’t serve ads on content with moderate profanity or moderate sexually suggestive content.
  • When you select an Inventory Type, you can view a more comprehensive comparison. The below screenshot captures some of the differences:

3.) Frequency capping: I recommend capping impression and/or view frequency:

  • Impression and View caps can be set per day, per week, and per month. You can also set the cap at the campaign, ad group, or ad level.
  • Determine the cap based on how large your target audience is. Keep in mind any goals you have set for your campaign.
    • Prospecting campaigns: If you have a massive prospecting audience, this may not be necessary. However, I recommend setting a cap of 10 impressions per day per campaign and a view cap of 1 per day per campaign.
    • Remarketing campaigns: I highly recommend stricter caps for remarketing campaigns so that you don’t become the brand that drives consumers nuts (for me, this is every cell phone carrier ad I see). As a general rule, I set caps that are half of what I set for prospecting campaigns.
    • Adding negative audience lists is another safeguard. For example, you could exclude traffic for site visitors who have viewed a certain page on your site.

4.) YouTube Video

  • An obvious point, but your it’s important to know your ad must be on your YouTube channel.
  • If you haven’t linked the YouTube channel to your Google Ads account, navigate to “Tools” in Google Ads and select “Linked Accounts”. Follow the instructions to link accounts.
  • If you are creating the campaign in the Editor, you will enter the Video ID. The Video ID can be copied after “v=” in the YouTube Video URL.
  • Call-to-action: CTAs are only allowed for TrueView in-stream video ads in “Video – Drive Conversions” campaigns.

5.) Exclude Mobile Apps: Unless you know mobile app advertising will benefit your business, I recommend excluding mobile apps during campaign set up. The easiest way to do this is in the Editor:

  • Navigate to “Mobile app categories, Negative” under “Keywords and Targeting”
  • Select “All Apps” under “Add Negative Mobile App Category” (see screenshot)

6.) Kids Channel Exclusion List (Thank you Clix Marketing!): By adding this list, you will be saved from the manual process of combing through and excluding thousands of placements.

Audience Targeting

As with any marketing effort, your primary goal is to reach the right audience. When it came to deciding how I would set up audience targeting, I gleaned most of my ideas from specific topics and in-market audiences I was targeting on Google’s Display Network. If you are currently running Display campaigns, and have topic or in-market audiences set up, it might help to pull up your campaign(s) while you work through the following steps. Here are a few important tips to help you decide how you will target YouTube viewers:

  • I strongly recommend creating ad groups for EACH audience you intend to target. This will make your life so much easier when you optimize later on.
  • The number of ad groups will depend on your industry and goal (brand awareness, drive consideration, conversions, etc.) of your campaign.
  • It might be easier to set up one ad group for Affinity audiences, one ad group for In-Market audiences, one ad group for Life Events, and/or one ad group for Topics, but I recommend splitting this out – even if you have 20 different audiences you intend to target. Here is a sample audience list for a campaign:

  • Segmenting ad groups by audience allows greater control over budgets. For example, say you are targeting Foodies (Affinity Audience), Travel (Affinity Audience), and Sports & Fitness (Affinity Audience). After two weeks, performance results reveal that the Travel audience has a 15% lower view-through rate. When you pause the Travel ad group, you will then be able to devote more budget to audiences that are meeting or exceeding KPI goals.
  • It’s always better to start with more audiences and whittle down your target audience.
  • For remarketing campaigns, see remarketing section below.
  • If you would like more direction on audiences, check out Leveraging Custom Intent Audiences on YouTube by Mike Matta, Account Manager at Hanapin Marketing.

Remarketing Campaigns

Follow these steps if you are setting up remarketing campaigns:

  • Instead of In-Market or Affinity audiences, add your remarketing lists to your ad group audience(s).
  • If you have enough site visitors, segment your ad groups (create additional remarketing audiences if you need to) out by different list ranges. For example, you could use lists for 7 days, 30 days, and 90 days. This tactic is especially useful if you are showing specific creatives to different remarketing ranges.

If you want to get really fancy, test out Google’s new Video Ad Sequencing campaign. However, I wouldn’t recommend testing until you have a solid understanding of YouTube advertising, as well as a stellar creative team that pumps out EXACTLY the videos you will need to make it worth your while.


I hope this blog has given you the direction you need to either launch your first YouTube campaign or enhance your current strategy. If you don’t think you have great creative, don’t wait to test TrueView – use a small budget and test what creatives you have so you can begin to hone your strategy. I will use future blogs as an opportunity to expound on what I have covered here. Future topics may cover: what YouTube metrics matter, what makes a good creative, and how YouTube and Display campaigns can be used together.

Additional Resources

Google YouTube Help Guide