7 Secrets to Effective YouTube Advertising

To skip, or not to skip? That is the question.
Most small businesses can't afford to advertise on TV. YouTube advertising is easier to achieve. (Photo: M. Primakov/Shutterstock)

If you aren’t including YouTube in your advertising budget, you may want to. Think With Google calculated that viewers who watched TrueView ads for at least 30 seconds were 23X more likely to engage with a brand.

Here’s some tips from the pros on how to get the most benefit from your YouTube advertising dollars.

Take advantage of targeting options

According to David James, founder of Business Growth Digital Marketing, YouTube is great for narrowing in on a specific, targeted audience. When creating your YouTube ads, be sure to target the keywords, interests and even specific channels for your specific audience, he said.

For instance, if your restaurant is promoting a Mother’s Day brunch special, consider setting your advertising criteria to target channels that give parenting tips or household how-to tutorials.

Save money with a quick pitch

With skippable TrueView ads, YouTube really throws advertisers a bone. Consumers can choose to skip an ad after a five second preview and advertisers are only charged when their ad is watched for at least 30 seconds. Since consumers are more likely to skip ads that aren’t relevant to them or that they have already seen repeatedly, this format helps businesses minimize wasted spend, said James.

But TrueView offers another advantage: “free” impressions, said Mel Cagle, paid media strategist at Anvil Media. “With TrueView in-stream video ads, you are not charged if someone chooses to skip your ad after five seconds. If you can make your pitch quickly, you can increase your brand’s awareness without incurring a cost.”

Make it clear who your intended audience is


“One really powerful alternative is to ask people that aren’t your target audience to leave. This way you won’t pay for viewers you’re not interested in. And with negative psychology being what it is, a lot of people are going to watch your ad just because you told them not to.” -William Gadea (Photo: William Gadea)

In addition to your ad targeting, consider a specific shout out to your intended audience in the first five seconds of the ad, said William Gadea, creative director and founder of IdeaRocket, a maker of animated videos for business.

“It’s not a secret that most people are itching to press the skip button and see the video they came to YouTube to see,” he said. “One really powerful alternative is to ask people that aren’t your target audience to leave. It might be something like: ‘If you’re an entrepreneur, I want to talk to you. If you’re not, go ahead and skip this ad.’ This way you won’t pay for viewers you’re not interested in. And with negative psychology being what it is, a lot of people are going to watch your ad just because you told them not to.”

Capture viewers’ curiosity

According to Think With Google, curiosity is the top reason consumers choose to view an ad rather than skipping over it. If you want your target audience to watch a full ad, you must quickly capture their interest within the first five seconds.

“Present something so suspenseful in the first five seconds that leaving is not possible,” suggested Gadea. If your ad tells a story, for example, tap into the consumer’s emotions quickly and add a cliffhanger at the five second mark. That will make them want to continue to watch to find out what happens next.

Experiment with different video lengths


Test video ads of different lengths to see what resonates best with your audience. (Photo: By I000s_pixels/Shutterstock)

Cagle said that video ads should be kept to under one minute, because “people have very short attention spans.” But if the less time required to get your message across to the viewer, the better.

She suggested testing video ads of different lengths to see which works best for your audience. “Create multiple versions,” she said. “Using basic editing software you can take one long video and repurpose it into multiple short and easily digestible segments. Create one 60-second video then edit it down for a 30, 45 and six-second version.”

A fairly new ad format offered by YouTube, bumper ads can’t be skipped, but are only six seconds long. While short in length, bumper ads are great for driving brand awareness. In a study of over 300 bumper ad campaigns, Google found that 9 out of 10 drove significant lift in ad recall. If you’re able to share your brand message in under six seconds, these punchy, short-and-sweet ads are definitely a good option to try out.

Create a clickable call-to-action with paid overlays

“A common mistake companies using YouTube for marketing purposes make is not placing a paid overlay over their own videos,” said Gadea.

The overlay ad is a clickable image that appears on the lower third of a video as it plays. You can use this as a way to add a clickable call-to-action on top of your own brand’s YouTube videos. By pairing an overlay ad with one of your how-to videos, for example, you can direct viewers to a product page on your website where they can purchase the tools required for their project.

“If you don’t use overlay ads, at the very least make sure no one else is allowed to advertise over your video,” said Gadea. “You have control over this in your account settings.”

Sponsor a YouTuber

Another option that many small businesses fail to consider is sponsoring an online influencer.

“This could be a one-time placement on a YouTube channel, or perhaps an ongoing sponsorship. Just remember, fit between the content and product/service is crucial,” said Gadea. “Say you have an online handmade jewelry business. You could reach out to one of the many fashion-centric shows on YouTube, and offer a fixed payment for a segment.”

While YouTubers with a million-plus subscribers are probably out of your league, he said, there are tons of channels that can get you exposure to several thousand video watchers, “along with a valuable testimonial, for not that much money.”

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