YouTube Ads Strategy: 5 Ways to Improve Your Campaigns

YouTube Ads is one of the most effective ways to reach your target audience, serving on premium inventory in combination with pinpoint audience targeting. However, your budget can be quickly wasted if your strategy is not thought out beforehand, thus being more reactive than proactive.

In this piece are five important things to consider when formulating your YouTube Ads strategy. This is not an exhaustive list, but instead a more nuanced one, many of which aren’t discussed commonly among marketers.

1. Budget correctly

YouTube Ads needs a sufficient budget to be successful. To get to that number, you’ll need to know your expected video CPA. If you have no clue, assume it’ll be roughly 1-2 times your display network CPA or 2-3 times your search ads CPA.

Once you have your expected video CPA, you’ll choose your bid strategy & calculate the average daily budget. If this is the first time the account is running YouTube ads, or there’s no conversion history associated with old YouTube campaigns, it’s recommended to use the “maximize conversions” bid strategy. Under this strategy, a minimum daily budget of 10 times the expected video CPA is best practice. For campaigns utilizing the “Target CPA” bid strategy, Google recommends a daily budget that’s at minimum 15 times the expected video CPA.

In reality, these budget recommendations are unrealistic for many advertisers, especially those with higher CACs or those just looking to test the channel. That being said, it’s important to get as close as possible to the minimums because smart bidding needs ample room to test, learn & optimize. If the campaign is heavily restricted from the start, the likelihood of success is much lower.

2. Test creatives & landing pages more than targeting & bidding

You’ve heard it a million times before; 3rd party cookies are going away, audience targeting is becoming more limited, & 1st party data is going to become an advertiser’s most important resource.

While all the privacy changes won’t impact Google as much as programmatic & social platforms, YouTube marketers must still prepare for everything. We can probably assume the accuracy & efficacy of individual audience targeting will become more diluted over time.

If that’s truly the case, then creative & landing pages will be all-the-more important. If you’re forced into broader targeting with less transparency, you’ll need to look for other places to optimize. You’ll need to be more of a marketer and less of a media buyer, strategizing, formulating & testing content that resonates with your target audience, even if you can’t find them exclusively within an ad platform.

3. Consider frequency when strategizing your account structure

If there’s one universal truth in PPC, it’s that there’s no single account structure that breeds success. Profitable accounts can be hyper-consolidated or segmented. It’s imperative that rigorous testing is done to find the correct structure for each account.

With that in mind, one thing that’s often overlooked is frequency. While most YouTube ad campaigns will be optimizing for conversions, it’s important to realize the potential for cross-contamination between audiences & consequently ad fatigue. A user can be in multiple audiences at the same time, & if Google deems this person relevant, they can potentially be served ads from multiple campaigns. Since frequency caps can only be placed at the campaign level, you have no direct way to control for cross-campaign frequency.

This issue is easily addressable for consolidated campaign structures. If most targeting is included within one or a few campaigns, & frequency caps are applied so the aggregate potential frequency is within the realm of reason, then there’s very little risk. However, for hyper-segmented accounts, the math becomes much more tricky & potentially damaging for smart bidding if frequency caps are set too strict due to the large volume of campaigns delivering impressions.

Of course, these problems are eased if each campaign has different creative, & even more so if audience targeting is broad to begin with. Frequency also shouldn’t be the primary driver of campaign structure (for performance-based campaigns), but instead one of multiple considerations. However, don’t overlook it completely, as you may run into creative fatigue quickly if this isn’t at least partly factored into your strategy.

4. Measure incrementality using a conversion lift study

Measuring impact is difficult. Measuring incrementality is even more difficult. Simple solutions for measuring impact are to look at metrics before & after, compare markets with & without the additional advertising, or use Google’s (or 3rd party) attribution reports to see how the campaigns assisted other campaigns. On the other hand, measuring incrementality requires a much more scientific approach.

However, if you’re spending a considerable amount on YouTube Ads, & have ample amounts of click-through conversion data associated with those campaigns, then you might qualify for a Google-hosted conversion lift study, currently in closed beta at the time this article was written.

It works like this: Google will create two groups within your targeting parameters, a control & experiment group. Then, Google will serve ads to the experiment group of your target audience, & not serve ads to the control group. After the flight period, conversions will be compared across both groups. If there’s statistically significant results, then it can be determined that the ads had a direct, incremental impact on conversions. Conversely, the study could conclude there was no lift, & that those served ads would’ve converted anyway without the YouTube media.

5. Exclude all display inventory with a single placement

YouTube campaigns leveraging smart bidding are required to run not only on in-feed videos, but also the YouTube search results & display/video network partners. Unfortunately, there are times when the display/video partners hijack the campaign & bring down performance.

If poor performance can be directly associated with these non-YouTube placements (segment the campaign by network to check), there is a little known placement exclusion that removes all display/video partner inventory:

This one placement exclusion can potentially save an entire campaign, but there’s multiple caveats to note. One, it’s important to confirm that the display/video network is truly responsible for poor performance. Two, it’s even more important to closely monitor campaign delivery after adding the exclusion. In some cases, the YouTube campaign will stop serving once this exclusion has been applied, even if ample delivery occurred on actual YouTube placements beforehand.

With these five things, you can ensure your YouTube campaigns are set up for success. If you’d like to learn more about how Scale Marketing can run YouTube Ads at the highest level for your business, reach out to us here.

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