How to create a YouTube Ads campaign

I'm an official Google Partner and a Google media pro. As someone who worked at Google for 6 years, I have plenty of tips to help you grow your business with Google Ads. YouTube is actually owned by Google, so you run YouTube campaigns from within Google Ads, the same way you’d create a Search or Display campaign.

Here's what you're going to do to create your first video campaign in Google Ads, in just five steps:

  1. Pick your target audience. You can use the Find My Audience tool from Think With Google if you need help. Your audience is going to be specific: “women” is not an audience, but “small business owners who are in-market for accounting software” is a good, specific audience.
  2. Pick an ad format to achieve your goals. In most cases, you're going to want a 15- to 30-second skippable video, but you could also try a 6-second Bumper ad or, if you really want to blow the bank, a YouTube Masthead.
  3. Create a great ad. I have no design skills, so I use Canva Pro. Make sure you follow the ABCDs, which is YouTube's own framework for effective videos.
  4. Decide on your budget and goals. Most businesses will want to Maximize Conversions, but you can also pay for clicks, views, impressions, etc.
  5. Put it all together, set your campaign live and start getting new customers!


Step 1: Pick Your Target Audience

No matter what kind of digital marketing campaign you run, you need to have a clearly defined target audience. The more specific your audience, the more likely your campaign is to succeed.

YouTube ad campaigns give you lots of really cool audience options, like people who are business travelers, or people who are in-market for running shoes. You can use your own remarketing, and then similar audiences. Plus, you can advertise to people based on what they're searching for on Google - that means you can actually repurpose your search keywords as YouTube audiences! Cool, right? You can also target based on what kind of apps or websites people use, and then you can create combinations of all those different options.

Remember, always start with your business. Who is your target audience? Once you have that clearly defined, then figure out how to target that audience using all of YouTube and Google's different options. Once you've defined your target audience, you'll be ready for step two.

Want a Google AdWords Expert to teach you how to run YouTube Ads? I offer 1:1 coaching!

Step 2: Picking the Right Format for YouTube

YouTube offers a lot of different types of ads you can run, and these different types are called formats. It can get really confusing as they change frequently, so as of 2021, here’s what you need to know:

  • your ad should be between 15 and 30 seconds long
  • most formats allow people to skip your ad after 5 seconds. This is called a “skippable in-stream ad”
  • if the user skips your ad, you don't pay! This means those first 5 seconds are the most important

Bumper ads are a special 6-second ad that aren’t skippable, so you pay per impression, not per click. They're usually pretty cheap, so if you want to just get really wide reach with a quick, snappy message, bumper ads might be the way to go.

For most businesses, I do not recommend Outstream or Discovery or other non-skippable formats: it's just too expensive.

Once you're actually setting up your campaign, you can do things like add a call to action button or show a shoppable product feed with your video. But first, you need to actually create your ad.


Step 3: Creating a Great YouTube Ad 

YouTube’s own framework for creating great ads is called ABCD: Attract, Brand, Connect, Direct. 

  • Attract is about hooking your audience in from the start; tight framing, fast pace, human faces, and surprise and delight
  • Brand is about the importance of putting, well, your brand front and center. Introduce it in the first five seconds, make sure you mention it with audio as well as visuals, reinforce with logo placement, and use colors and imagery that really evoke your brand 
  • Connect is about storytelling and making your audience feel something. Integrate function and emotion together, and keep the focus on people who are relatable to your target audience 
  • Direct. Hold your audience's hand along the journey, prompt them with offers and calls to action, and inspire them to act with urgency or scarcity 

Create your ad with the ABCDs and you're ready for step four.

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Step 4: Goals and Budgets for YouTube campaigns

How much should you spend on your YouTube campaign? Ten to fifty dollars a day is a good starting point. Remember, the daily budgets are actually just an average, so the system might spend up to two times your daily budget one day, but don't worry, it'll make up for it by underspending later.

Then, there's a lot of different ways you can bid in a YouTube campaign. If your goal is conversions, use Maximize Conversions, and if your goal is website traffic, use Maximize Clicks. 

Now that you have your audience, format, ad, bids and budgets, we're ready to set up your campaign!


Step 5: How to Set Up a YouTube Campaign in Google Ads

Create a new campaign, always “without guidance,” and choose “Video.”

You either want custom video, drive conversions or shopping.

Pick your bid strategy.

Uncheck the box for video partners.

If you have concerns about profanity or other things, you can pick different kinds of inventory and any kinds of exclusions you want. 

You can add site link extensions, the same ones you use in search.

Connect a Merchant Center Feed to make your video shoppable, if that’s applicable to your business.

When you start optimizing you may change the frequency capping, but you can leave that on the default to start. 

You can choose a standard or a responsive ad, this is the one place where I usually pick standard.

And then enter all your audiences! You can also choose to show on certain keywords or topics, but audiences are more effective signals to find the right people for your ad. 

Connect your ad, create your campaign, and… you’re live on YouTube!

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