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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.

YouTube ads

How to Create a YouTube Advertising Strategy (with Examples)

YouTube ads

With iOS 14 having a large impact on Facebook’s audience targeting and tracking capabilities, many brands have been left wondering how to replace the impressions & traffic they used to rely on getting from Facebook. Luckily for brands and advertisers, other options exist, and YouTube Ads is coming into its ‘golden age,’ providing an excellent opportunity to advertise on the world’s second most visited website. 

Not only does YouTube have more traffic than Facebook, YouTube’s average visit duration is far higher than Facebook’s, with users averaging 21 minutes and 56 seconds on the site compared to Facebook’s 10 minutes and 13 seconds. While we won’t suggest ditching Facebook Ads in this blog, we will show you why, with the right full-funnel approach in mind, YouTube Ads is an excellent option to help scale your paid traffic along with a couple of examples of how we’ve helped Tuff partners grow with YouTube Ads.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

Before beginning your advertising journey on YouTube, it’s important to first ensure that you have the proper tracking configured on your website. For YouTube Ads, this means that the conversions you are hoping to track inside Google Ads should be configured with the Google Ads tag. In other words, importing goals from Google Analytics will not suffice. This is because a standard Google Analytics conversion does not also track view-thru conversions, but rather last click interactions. 

If, for example, you have been importing your ‘Transactions’ goal from Google Analytics into Google Ads to measure conversions, you will need to update your purchase conversion tracking with a new Google Ads purchase conversion tag.

I’ve spoken with many founders & marketers alike who have believed that their YouTube Ads were not successful during their previous attempts. Many times, when digging into the conversion tracking setup, I can see that they had been relying on imported Google Analytics goals and were missing view-thru conversions, leading to missing data and the inability to judge their campaign’s true impact. With YouTube Ads, it’s not uncommon to see low click-thru conversion volume, and this is where having access to view-thru conversions can help you measure your campaign’s true influence. 

There is a comparison that can be made here to a much older medium of advertising – the billboard. It’s impossible to know exactly how many impressions a billboard received, or how many sales converted because they saw a billboard and decided to make a purchase. Instead, its purpose is to drive brand awareness or help keep a brand top-of-mind. 

YouTube Ads can be viewed as a type of digital billboard – one which gives you the opportunity to drive brand awareness or stay in front of your prospects via thousands of impressions per day by putting your brand in front of where your prospects are. One very big difference, however, is that YouTube has more effective measurement via conversion and view-thru conversion tracking to prove whether it’s actually working to influence your bottom-line or not, as well as a slew of granular targeting options that makes it an option to test for nearly any brand. 

Introducing Your Brand With YouTube Ads

After your conversion tracking is set up correctly, it’s time to build out campaigns for success. Most importantly, think about your true campaign goal as you will use this to guide your campaign type and audience selection. This can also be thought of as stages in a funnel, and YouTube’s campaign and audience targeting options provide a way to get in front of targeted users with the right message no matter where they are in your funnel.

For top-of-funnel targeting, YouTube offers a variety of targeting options and campaign types that will help introduce your brand to targeted users at scale. When beginning a new campaign on YouTube, it’s best to test as many different targeting types as possible. Oftentimes when testing audience types for partners, we will find certain targeting types that work best for the particular offering or brand, and are able to push spend towards the campaigns that are driving the results. 

This is what we did for our partner, Sabio. Sabio offers online coding bootcamps and has some awesome testimonial videos on YouTube. We knew that with this solid creative and the right targeting approach, we could introduce the Sabio brand at scale and even drive conversions from a top-of-funnel branding approach. 

Example of a YouTube Ad

When launching our first batch of prospecting in-stream ads, we tested a variety of audience types and placement targeting options including affinity, in-market, custom intent, topics, and channels. After a few thousand dollars in spend, we quickly identified that campaigns with our chosen topics had the best CPA costs and conversion rates. Even better, because topics are made up of a wide selection of channels, inventory is plentiful, and we can comfortably scale our campaigns’ budgets. After hitting a successful CPA of $55.63 in our first full month of campaign testing in 2021, we’ve been consistently running YouTube Ads to drive sign-ups for Sabio since. 

While other targeting options did not perform as well for Sabio, that does not mean that they should be avoided altogether. 

When we set out to lower the overall Cost Per Sign Up for Tuff partner Bootcamp.com’s Anatomy Bootcamp product, we tested a variety of campaign types including Search and YouTube, and found surprising results.

When testing various options of audience targeting on YouTube, we found excellent results with non-branded Custom Intent audiences at the top of the funnel. So much so that we paused non-branded Search campaigns because while our non-branded Search campaigns had an acceptable average CPS of $11.25, our non-branded Custom Intent audience targeting on YouTube outperformed Search with a CPS of $3.55. 

Since we could safely assume that the users in the Custom Intent audience had recently searched Google for our targeted non-branded keywords, we are able to hit our target prospect, just at a different time and with different costs. 

Staying Top of Mind With Retargeting

You know that injury lawyer billboard you drive passed every time you get on the interstate? Yes, you do. Billboards work so well because of repetition. Online, we can achieve this with retargeting, and YouTube Ads do a great job of helping to keep your brand top-of-mind with effective retargeting options.

Still, creating retargeting audiences should require more thought and intention than simply setting up an All Users list and hitting play. This is an area in which YouTube Ads dominate the old faithful billboard any day of the week. Setting up various retargeting audiences based on the level of engagement the user has already taken will help you create winning audience targets and campaigns, and gives you the ability to tailor your message to your audience even further.

For Tuff partner and device insurance provider, AKKO, we knew that getting users to purchase device insurance from a relatively new name would require a fair bit of nurturing, and retargeting with YouTube Ads has 

Example of a YouTube Ad.

provided us the ability to retarget to users as they journey through the middle of the funnel to the bottom and finally to purchase by creating specific retargeting audiences at each stage. 

For the middle of the funnel, we began retargeting site visitors & ad viewers. For the bottom of the funnel, we retarget the most engaged site users based on on-site behavior metrics and actions, as well as those who have started the device insurance purchase process, but didn’t complete the journey. 

With this level of retargeting segmentation, we can provide CTAs and offers depending on the position of the user in the funnel, as well as test different creative or campaign types on different audiences. 

Since we know that our bottom of the funnel audience members are highly engaged and have shown the desired intent to purchase, we can nurture them a little further with a special offer, like getting their first month for $1, to help close the deal. 

Conclusion

YouTube Ads provides an effective & cost-efficient way to introduce your brand at scale, as well as successfully retarget to your users, staying top-of-mind throughout their purchase or conversion journey. If you’re ready to see how YouTube Ads can work for your business, reach out to our YouTube Ads agency.