Scenario 1: Rob ran a 15-second TrueView ad for 30 days with the goal of increasing website traffic. The campaign yielded 5 conversions, with a 45% view rate. Rob deemed the campaign a success.

Scenario 2: Rob ran a 30-second TrueView ad for 30 days with the goal of increasing brand consideration. The campaign yielded 5 conversions, with a 45% view rate. Rob deemed the campaign a failure.

The point of these scenarios is three-fold. One, the campaign objective MUST dictate the goals. Two, there are many creative factors that contribute to the success or failure of an ad. Three, accurately assessing performance does not always come by simply looking at conversion volume or view rate. This blog will focus on the different Google Ads video metrics and ad attributes that can be used as a guide to help measure the success of your TrueView ads.

If you are asking yourself, “what the heck are TrueView in-stream ads”, or need a refresher on how advertisers pay for these ads, here is Google’s description: “In-stream ads play before or during another video from a YouTube partner. Viewers see five seconds of your video and then have the choice to keep watching or skip it. You pay when a viewer watches for at least 30 seconds or to the end of the video (whichever is shorter) or clicks on a card or other elements of your in-stream creative.”

Three Factors to Keep in Mind

The following are the primary factors I use as a lens to analyze TrueView ads. This is not meant to be an exhaustive list, but rather a guide to what you might consider when combing through the results of your TrueView ads.

Campaign objective: When creating a new YouTube campaign in Google Ads, you have the option to select a “goal”. Goals include leads, brand awareness & reach, website traffic, and product & brand consideration.

Do not read a case study that says, “TrueView ads increased ROAS by 150%”, and then be disappointed when you run a campaign with the objective to raise Brand consideration and see a decline in ROAS. Instead, base your KPIs on the objective set for your video campaign. For example, conversion volume and ROAS should be the best KPIs for an e-commerce company running a TrueView ad to increase sales. Whereas, a lead gen company running a TrueView ad to increase brand awareness should pay attention to view metrics. View metrics can help the advertiser gain greater insight into their target audience. If you are new to YouTube advertising, you will quickly find that running video ads can often reveal more about your target audience than any search campaign.

Creative Specifics: In my experience, creative specifics are what make analyzing video ads difficult. It’s much easier to test two versions of an Expanded Text Ad, but comparing two different video ads is much more complicated. Since I am not a video professional, the method I’ve used to understand video specifics is run as many [different] video ads as I have access to and track as many non-subjective creative aspects that make sense. This process helps when I compare how two ads performed in the same market. This exact process may not work for your ads, but here are the video specifics I make note of:

  • Video length – A 30-second video vs. 2-minute video will perform drastically different, even if they are essentially the same creative.
  • Overall message – new promotion, brand history, customer testimony, etc.
  • Any obvious target audience – parents, couples, athletes, millennials etc.
  • Where branding appears (best practice is within first 5 seconds)
  • Music tone/message
  • Voice over
  • Text overlays, CTAs
  • Creative tone – comedic, serious, appealing to a specific emotion
  • Actor type (if applicable) – gender, race, age, physical appearance, etc.

Targeting – Audience, Funnel Stage & Location: Apply search targeting principles when analyzing TrueView ads. Here a few targeting specifics to keep in mind:

  • Prospecting audiences: topics, in-market and custom affinity audiences
  • Remarketing audiences: whole site or one specific page, list length
  • Funnel stage: top, middle, bottom
  • Location targeting: Every industry is different so it’s important to take learnings from each creative and apply them to specific markets. For example, if you are targeting a global audience, the same ad may perform really well in the US, but perform terribly in the UK.

Taking the above factors into consideration, let’s analyze and compare two campaigns I ran last month for a travel company, each with one distinct TrueView ad:

Campaign objectives: Lift brand awareness and increase purchase consideration for both campaigns.

Creative Specifics:

  • The top ad (A) promotes a general experience to a European destination in 26 seconds. Branding occurs at 9 seconds and 23 seconds with text overlays throughout, voice over at the end, happy/light music, and no obvious target audience.
  • Ad B promotes a specific experience to a Scandinavian destination in 20 seconds. Branding occurs at 6 seconds and 16 seconds with text overlays throughout, no voice over, serious instrumental music, and no obvious target audience.

Targeting – Funnel Stage, Audience & Location:

  • Stage: Both ads target the top of the funnel.
  • Both campaigns are retargeting the same audience (last 90-day website visitors)
  • Both campaigns target the same US cities.


  • First, I will address the cost discrepancy: The $2k cost difference is obviously going to give ad A more conversion opportunity. It’s clear that ad A had higher conversion volume than ad B, but since we have the cost difference, ROAS (conversion value/ cost) would be the best KPI to compare performance. For this client, anything over 100% ROAS is acceptable for a top of funnel marketing effort. Again, we ran both ads to increase purchase consideration, meaning that we would expect few conversions to come from the actual campaign, but more conversions via remarketing search campaigns. To conclude conversion takeaways, 581% ROAS is fantastic for a TrueView ad for this client.
  • It’s important to note that view rates and video played to metrics don’t necessarily correlate to high or low conversion volume. You can see the view rates are virtually the same. Since I was targeting the same audience, locations, and funnel stage, this tells me that even though the creatives were drastically different, they still had a similar view through appeal. The video played to metrics indicate that ad B had a very high view rate at the beginning, but let’s remember ad B was only 20 seconds long – viewers HAVE to watch the first 5 seconds before they can skip the ad. Despite ad A being the longer video, it still had slightly better view length, even though its metrics were technically lower than ad B. Overall, I’m looking at how many viewers watched 50% of the video. The rates are slightly higher than other TrueView ads I have run in this account so I am pleased with this performance.

View Metrics

“View rate,” “Average Watch Time/ Impr,” and “Video Played To” metrics help the advertiser understand how many users are watching past 5 seconds, as well as where viewers are dropping off.

  • View Rate: This is calculated by taking the number of views and dividing it by the number of impressions. One aspect I really like about YT advertising is that you learn a lot about your target audience. For example, the below screenshot shows different ad groups for a campaign with the goal of raising brand awareness and bringing in more top of funnel users for a travel company.

Side note: Anytime I’m running a campaign focused on top of funnel, I target as many relevant ad groups as possible. At first glance, you may think these audiences make sense to target for a travel brand, but until I dug deeper into Google’s audience offerings, I never would have thought to target “Foodies”. Over time, I learn more about which target audiences respond well to creative A’s advertising focus on experience, versus creative B’s focus on brand credibility.

  • Average Watch Time / Impression: This is another metric that can help you decipher how well audiences or locations performed.
  • Video Played To: This metric is incredibly helpful because it allows you to see where the drop off is in your video. If the goal is awareness, you will be okay with a view rate that drops off after 25%. If your goal is leads or brand consideration, you will want to monitor how high your view rates are for 50% and 75%.

YouTube Earned Actions

Earned metrics help paint the picture of how engaging your video ad is to the audience. Earned metrics include:

  1. Earned Likes
  2. Earned Playlist Additions
  3. Earned Shares
  4. Earned Subscribers
  5. Earned Views

A great way to retarget your audience is through earned actions. Google provides the following remarketing options:

Compare Campaigns in Your Account

Keeping the factors we discussed at the beginning in mind, video performance in your account is the best comparison. You can read all the industry reports in the world, but your brand is your brand. In my opinion, there are too many factors to benchmark yourself against YouTube’s industry averages or other marketing agencies averages.

The chief way to gather data and create realistic goals for TrueView ads is by testing out as many video ads as possible. The more data you have for a diverse range of videos will help you determine which videos to run, who is the best target audience, and how long it takes to get the results you need for different levels of the sales funnel.

Additional Resources

If you are new to YouTube advertising and would like more info on how to set up campaigns, check out my last post: Creating a Robust YouTube Ad Strategy.