YouTube Ads: Unlocking high impact at minimal cost

Advertisers were shown how to improve their YouTube marketing strategies with cost-efficient, high-impact, tried and tested methodologies at SMX Advanced.

The secret to creating high-reach, low-cost environments and making campaigns more effective lies within four specific variables, according to digital advertising expert Corey Henke.

Unlocking high-impact, low-cost campaigns

The four variables marketers need to look into as a top priority are:

  • Ad type / bid type: Henke advised that these fields are the most important variables and specifically encouraged marketers to take advantage of new ad types, noting that he personally has seen tremendous success with YouTube’s recently-launched in-feed video ads. He also stressed the importance of choosing the right bid type for your campaign for optimal conversions.
  • Creative variation: There are many creative variables, so advertisers must test wisely. Length of videos is always a great way to start, but creative variables must also be considered. Henke advised looking at factors such as male versus female, different actors, different intros, different music, product demonstration versus funny, and so on.
  • Target with intent: Research and strategize with custom audiences, target with intent and grow your YouTube audiences with optimized detailed demographics. Henke said this approach should help marketers achieve significant performance improvement.
  • Data analysis (attribution): To measure the success of your campaign, review multiple areas of importance and make sure that they are the right areas.

Henke added:

  • “I think this approach is the best opportunity for high-reach, low-cost campaigns.”

Ad types – how to get the best bang for your buck

Researchers have studied the effectiveness of various ad types. The most scalable solutions:

  • Skippable video ads: Play before, during or after videos. Viewers can skip the video after five seconds.
  • Non-skippable video ads: These ads are 15 seconds or shorter, and play before, after or during the video. Viewers can’t skip this content.
  • Bumper video ads: Six seconds or shorter and play before, during or after another video. Viewers can’t skip this ad type.

YouTube has recently prioritized these ad formats, while longer forced content has been deprioritized. They also have the most inventory, according to Henke, meaning:

  • “Marketers can get the best bang for their buck on YouTube.”

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Bid types – getting TV-level results from YouTube

Choosing the right bid type can help marketers achieve TV-level volume success within YouTube. However, the bid type that is best for your campaign will depend on your brand’s goals and objectives. The two bid types Henke put forward for comparison were:

  • Direct response bid types: Primarily desktop
  • Branding bid types: Minimal desktop

The big difference between the two options lie within the CPM (cost per mile), view rate and conversion rate – but not the CPC (cost per click). Henked added:

  • “If you want somebody to fill out a form or buy a product, you will definitely use a conversion campaign.
  • “There are a variety of ways to reach users at scale for minimal cost inside of CPM and cost per view campaigns. So you have your bumpers, your non-skippables, your in-stream which will be your skippables – and how those compare.
  • “Non-skippables don’t come with any views and that’s because nobody’s making it past 30 seconds. It’s either 15 seconds or below. So they really only have the advantage of impressions at a lower CPM. Whereas if you’re doing in stream, which is skippable, you are going to get the app the upside of views and also the amount of people which make it past 30 seconds.
  • “I think YouTube has a good understanding of who is going to convert.”

Creative variation for optimal impact

Marketers have multiple ad types to choose from and users consume these various formats in different ways. Henke discussed the advantages of feed ads, skippables, non-skippables, stories, reels and live TV. He noted that skippable and non-skippable ads are great options because of the attention they attain – but skippable is his favorite go-to because of the unlimited link feature.

  • “With unlimited link, you have a huge opportunity to engage a user over a long period of time. What we’re seeing is more users want to spend more time within their platforms as opposed to brands’ websites. That’s where we have the biggest advantage with unlimited link and being able to optimize creative for view rate,” Henke said.

To determine whether this is the right option for your campaign, Henke encouraged advertisers to test the different video ad options. Henke noted that 2 minutes 24 ads have more people completing the ads than other options.

  • “This is a huge opportunity. It’s close to one minute of time with a user and your ad on average – some spend more, some spend less. But then also being able to have a competitive CPC along with a great view rate really shows that the long form is going to be the best value,” Henke added.
Screenshot 2023 06 23 At 07.31.55 800x433

Targeting and retargeting are ‘huge opportunities’

Thorough research to identify user intent will give marketers an important advantage when it comes to understanding consumers who are relevant to your product or service. Retargeting is another necessary and big opportunity for brands wanting to expand their reach.

Reflecting on his own approach to targeting and retargeting, Henke revealed his favorite targeting tool is the detailed demographic combination report, which focuses on age, gender, parental status and household income.

Looking at demographics, in combination with the creative, will help drive maximum success, he said:

  • “These variables when combined together give you a unique look at which specific audience might be converting the best and being able to segment this audience. When you can segment immediately you should see results faster. So that’s why this is so important, the targeting, the creative, the bid type and the ad type to create this high reach, low-cost environment,” Henke said.

Success with in-feeds

In-feeds are a new ad product launched by Google Ads and one of the biggest changes to the system since bumpers rolled out five years ago.

In-feed ads appear on YouTube’s personalized feed and allow users to click the ad thumbnail, while the video is simultaneously autoplaying. Some key benefits to in-feed ads as opposed to shorts include:

  • More impressions
  • Increased views
  • Higher spend
  • Longer ad length
  • Unique call to action
  • Authority of face to camera
  • Auto-play in the feed
  • Premium placement at top of feed
  • “I think the value really is that you’re getting more earned views. That’s a clear indicator that that is a quality audience that we have here,” Henke said.
Corey Henke, founder of Variable Media

YouTube attribution tips

It’s important to be able to identify the causes of wins and losses in your campaign in order to make informed decisions and necessary adjustments.

Think about the Halo Effect. Henke offered some implementation strategies here:

  • Precision targeting: “When I talk about precision targeting, that means really looking at that detailed demographic and dialing in almost immediately because if you’re hitting your target audience, they’re going to make those Halo effect type of user behaviors, meaning they’re going to go and search,” he explained. “They’re going to go to another platform and find your brand on Instagram or LinkedIn. They’re going to make these other things that don’t necessarily involve a direct click. And that’s important. You want your quality audience to be there. Another thing is checking your placement report to make sure your ads aren’t running on kids’ channels and that they’re mostly running in the places that you want them to run.”
  • Trend analysis: This will be different for every advertiser. The big question here is what is this experience with creative competitive to a website’s first visit? And secondly, how does your video compare to somebody coming to your website for the first time? Henke added:
    • “I believe that your video should be competitive and it should possibly give a better experience because it’s in platform and it’s long form.”

Getting started

Ready to get started with Henke’s high-reach low-cost approach to YouTube Ads? Here’s what he suggested:

  • Targeting: “Dialing into those combination audiences out the gate,” he said.
  • Device: For high reach, it’s advised to exclude computers and tablets – but keep these options in if you’re trying to convert a user immediately. “Ultimately, this is a high reach low-cost strategy and we’re going to probably be paying a premium for those devices,” he said.
  • Bid type: This should be either CPV or CPM.
  • Ad length and variation: As a general rule, the longer the ad length, the better it is for your campaign. However, Henke emphasized that you should do your own research and find out what works best for your brand. “It could potentially unlock some really good cost,” he said.
  • Ad type: Keep your ad types to in-feed, skippable, non-skippable or shorts.

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About the author

Nicola Agius

Nicola Agius is Paid Media Editor of Search Engine Land after joining in 2023. She covers paid search, paid social, retail media and more. Prior to this, she was SEO Director at Jungle Creations (2020-2023), overseeing the company’s editorial strategy for multiple websites. She has over 15 years of experience in journalism and has previously worked at OK! Magazine (2010-2014), Mail Online (2014-2015), Mirror (2015-2017), Digital Spy (2017-2018) and The Sun (2018-2020). She also previously teamed up with SEO agency Blue Array to co-author Amazon bestselling book ‘Mastering In-House SEO’.

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