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How To Build a YouTube Ad Strategy From Scratch

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Advertising on YouTube can be an incredibly effective and efficient way to reach your brand’s target audience. As the world’s 2nd most popular website, YouTube combines endless inventory opportunities with advanced targeting capabilities that enable you to reach your target audience at any stage of the funnel. 

In this blog, we’ll look at how our team at Tuff, a YouTube Ads Agency, builds a successful YouTube ad strategy from scratch, from audience identification to campaign subtype selection, even if you’ve never done it before.

‘Start With Why’

A successful YouTube ad strategy begins with identifying the goals of your campaign. What are you hoping to achieve with your YouTube ad campaigns?

Put simply, a YouTube strategy can be broken down into two primary objectives:

  1. Introduce the brand to targeted top of funnel audiences and optimize for low cost per views and high watch rates.
  2. Retarget to a variety of audiences based on length of time since last site visit and/or site interactions, as well as YouTube video viewers while optimizing for traffic to the site & conversions. 

Maybe you want to do a bit of both – prospecting and retargeting – and this would be encouraged as YouTube ads provide the capability to efficiently target top of funnel, middle of funnel, and bottom of funnel audiences. With YouTube ads, a truly successful strategy requires a lot of testing, across various audience types and campaign subtypes. 

Identify Your Audience Segments

Once you’ve decided on your primary campaign objectives, begin identifying the audiences you want to reach.

To keep track of all of the audience segments you are testing, and to help visualize the full funnel of your audience targeting approach, a simple spreadsheet like the one below can help.

Here, we’ve mapped out the audience types that we want to target at each stage of the funnel, the source of the audiences, the demographics, location, campaign objective, and ad type. More than anything, putting your structure ‘on paper’ helps to keep track of all of the audiences tested and their objectives.

YouTube audience testing plan

As mentioned earlier, YouTube provides many targeting options, which makes it so effective and efficient to use. We won’t go into every single available audience or targeting option in this blog (we’ll let Google handle that), but ultimately, what works best for you and your brand will only be discovered through efficient testing.

A few ideal targeting options for testing at the brand awareness level include affinity, in-market, and custom intent audiences. In short, affinity audiences are Google-created interest-based audiences similar to interest targeting on social ad platforms, while in-market audiences are audiences identified by Google as having purchase intent, or being “in-market,” for a specific product or service. 

custom intent audiences on YouTube

Custom intent audiences offer the chance to target users based on search terms that they have recently searched on Google. This audience type can be used for campaigns running on Google properties, and since YouTube is a Google property, this means that we can use custom intent audiences for our YouTube ad campaigns.

This is an excellent opportunity to put a brand-focused video in front of an audience that you know has actively been searching for your targeted keywords on Google. In our extensive testing of YouTube ads, we have consistently found custom intent audiences to be an effective audience type. 

If you’re looking to re-engage an existing audience of site visitors, YouTube ads provide an attractive opportunity to expand beyond the Google Display Network and social media by staying in front of your retargeting audiences with video ads.

Generally, we think of building retargeting segments of site visitor audiences in Google Analytics and importing them into Google Ads as the recommended way of creating segmented retargeting audiences due to the advanced audience creation filters available in Google Analytics that are not available in Google Ads. However, using Google Ad’s audience creation tool gives us the ability to target recent YouTube video viewers as a retargeting audience, building further on a YouTube advertising strategy and funnel that begins with brand awareness ads at the top.

In the sheet above, you can see that we have chosen segmented audiences to test both types of retargeting audiences – site visitors and ad viewers. Further segmentation of these audiences by the length of time since visit can also help you identify how often and for how long you should be retargeting to audiences.

Beyond simplistic ‘site visitor’ audiences lies the opportunity to get more creative with retargeting. For example, consider retargeting to product viewers and/or abandoned cart users if you are advertising for an eCommerce brand. These audiences are now a lot ‘warmer’ than someone who visited the site and bounced after a page or two. 

Choosing The Right Campaign Types & Measuring For Success: 

After establishing your goals and identifying the audiences you want to target, the real fun of campaign creation begins. 

In line with your campaign goals and audiences, you want to choose the right YouTube campaign subtype to give yourself the best chance of success and YouTube’s explanations of each provide a good reference point for which is best to select when:

If you are looking to drive awareness and introduce your brand at a low cost per view, consider pairing some of those top of funnel audiences we discussed earlier with non-skippable in-stream ads, outstream ads, or a custom video campaign with skippable in-stream ads and bumper ads. These campaign subtypes give you the best opportunity to introduce your brand at affordable costs, while also building your retargeting lists for future campaigns.

After you’ve warmed up your audience with brand introductions at the top of the funnel, consider beginning to optimize for conversions as your audiences move further down the funnel. With the Drive conversions campaign subtype, you can create a TrueView for Action campaign (soon-to-be ‘Video Action’ campaign) optimized to drive traffic to your site and increase conversions by encouraging more click-thrus with prominent CTA buttons, sitelink extensions, headline text overlays & more. 

Regardless of the campaign subtype you’ve selected, it’s important to identify and stick with a handful of KPIs for each level of the funnel. 

For campaigns that are awareness focused, it is best to measure your performance based on awareness metrics, such as cost per view, cost per thousand impressions, average watch times, video play-thru metrics, and cost per clicks. Remember, as we are introducing the brand, it is critical to measure success based on the interactions we would expect from someone who has never heard of your brand before. 

As you look to target further down the funnel with warmer retargeting audiences, your measurement KPIs should change and you should begin to monitor your conversion rates, view-thru conversions, and cost per conversions from your conversion-optimized TrueView For Action campaigns more closely.

Conclusion

Although we didn’t touch on creative in this blog post – an obvious key component to YouTube ad success – you can dive deeper into this blog post regarding channel specific ad creative best practices from Tuff’s genius Creative Strategist, Elle Ossello, to get insight on how to develop successful, high-performance ad creative.