Digital Marketing

How to Advertise on YouTube: The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide

YouTube isn’t just the most popular video-sharing platform. It’s the second most popular website in the world, with over 2 billion monthly logged-in users.

This powerful platform can be an effective way to increase your reach and get a good mix of new and returning customers. YouTube reaches more viewers in the 18-49 age range than any other network.

The best part?

If you already use Google Ads, you can get set up with YouTube advertising right from your existing dashboard.

In this post, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to advertise on YouTube, including available ad formats, setting up your ad campaign, and best practices for advertising on the platform.

Let’s get started.

What is YouTube Advertising?

YouTube advertising, available from your Google Ads dashboard, allows you to reach viewers with video ads. You can run a variety of different types of ads, which we’ll cover in the section below.

With YouTube advertising, you can target an audience based on their behaviors on YouTube, but more importantly, based on their Google search history. These ads take all the effectiveness of Google Ads and mash it with the ability to reach viewers through engaging video content.

YouTube ads may not be the most intuitive choice for your ad campaigns, especially if you’re not in the habit of creating lots of video content.

You’ll spend more time on ads than you would with standard social and search ads that only involve copy, but this may be a more cost-effective way to advertise than many other platforms.

Types of YouTube Ads

In this section, we’ll go over the different types of ads you can run on YouTube. Then, we’ll cover exactly how these fit in with your business goals so you can understand how best to choose an ad format for the campaign you want to run.

1. TrueView Ads

TrueView Ads offer a low-risk form of advertising, letting viewers choose if they want to view your ad.

While most people tend to skip these types of ads, the upside is that when someone does interact with your ad, it’s because they’re interested—not because they’re being forced to watch it.

You only pay if someone watches 30 seconds of your ad (or the full ad if it’s less than 30 seconds) or if they click on a card or other elements of your ad.

Unlike with more traditional ad formats that run a set duration, you’re not limited to the 6-15 seconds of shorter, non-skippable ads. Play around with different formats—you could do an entire demo or tutorial since you’re not limited by time.

TrueView is available in two different ad formats: skippable in-stream ads and video discovery ads.

2. Skippable In-Stream Ads

Skippable in-stream ads are video ads that you can promote before, during, or after a video. These allow viewers to skip the ad after 5 seconds. You’re only charged for this type of ad if the viewer watches 30 seconds, or the full ad if it’s less than 30 seconds.

3. Non-Skippable In-Stream Ads

These ads also run before, during, or after other videos on YouTube, but users can’t skip your video. These are the closest thing to typical TV ads, which don’t give you much screen time. Ads must be 15 seconds or shorter.

4. Bumper In-Stream Ads

Bumper in-stream ads are a great way to deliver a short, memorable message to a broader audience. These ads must be six seconds or shorter and can run before, during, or after videos.

5. Sponsored Cards

Sponsored cards are relatively unobtrusive ads that show up for a few seconds. You can find an icon for these in the top right corner of the video, which allows viewers to browse through all the cards for a video.

6. Overlay Ads

Overlay ads are semi-transparent text ads that appear at the bottom of a video. You can include an image, text, and a CTA. 

7. Display Ads

Display ads appear to the right of the video, above the video suggestions list. If viewers are using a larger player, display ads appear below the player instead.

8. Video Discovery Ads

Video discovery ads look similar to organic results and show up alongside search results, in the related videos section, and on the homepage of the YouTube mobile app. You only pay when viewers watch the ad by clicking on your ad’s thumbnail.

Choosing the Best Type of YouTube Advertising for Your Business

Most video ads are designed to increase brand awareness rather than drive a specific action. However, you can still make the most of targeted traffic with skippable ads, overlay ads, and sponsored cards.

Here are a few ad types designed to fit some of your potential goals:

Brand Awareness

Much like how TV ads are designed to make people aware of your brand with short, memorable messages through a short advertisement, formats like non-skippable video ads and bumper ads are great for building brand awareness.

Product and Brand Consideration

A variety of ad types can be useful for introducing viewers to your products and services.

If you’re on a budget, longer, skippable ads are almost always going to be the best choice. These drive more efficient consideration and make sure that the ad is mostly being shown to people who are interested in your content.

However, if you have multiple creative assets and want to run a variety of ad formats for a wider reach, you can use ad types like bumper and non-skippable ads and deliver ads in a longer format once they’ve had a chance to warm up to your brand.

Leads or Website Traffic

If you’re looking to drive highly targeted traffic and encourage viewers to take a certain action, you’ll need to go with skippable in-stream ads.

As mentioned earlier, this makes sure that the people watching are genuinely interested in your offering. This is great for niche products and services, like specialized courses, software, and other offerings that wouldn’t be relevant to a general audience.

How to Advertise on YouTube: Setting Up Your Ads Campaign

Before you get started, you’ll want to have a few things ready:

  • A Google Ads account
  • Your ad, which you should upload to YouTube before creating your campaign

Both of these are quick and easy to create and having them in place before you create your campaign will help you quickly get started.

1. Create a new campaign from your Google Ads dashboard.

Go to your Google Ads dashboard. On the left, you should see a tab for “All campaigns.” Click this, then click “New Campaign” or the blue plus sign.

Select a goal for your campaign from one of the following:

  • Sales
  • Leads
  • Website traffic
  • Product and brand consideration
  • Brand awareness and reach

If you’re running unskippable in-stream ads, keep in mind you’ll need to choose product and brand consideration or brand awareness and reach. You can also choose to bypass these settings altogether by skipping this guidance.

Select a campaign type. Since we’re running YouTube ads, we’ll want to focus on Video and Discovery ads.

2. Configure your campaign settings.

In this section, we’ll cover basic settings for your first campaign. Once you’re a little more familiar with how to run a campaign you can experiment and even bypass some of the guidance and other options. But for now, we’ll want to take a look at Google’s recommendations.

Campaign Name

First, you’ll want to name your campaign. This will only ever show internally, so don’t worry too much about this part. Just make sure it has a label that’s useful to you and anyone else analyzing your campaigns.

Bidding Strategy

Next, set up your bidding strategy, budget, and run dates. Here, you can choose to use automatic bids. Sticking to the automatic bids is usually the best option starting out, but you can also choose to set a target cost-per-action (CPA).

With the target CPA option, bids will still fluctuate a bit, but Google will stick to your target as closely as possible. It won’t go over any other limitations you set, but CPAs may be slightly lower or higher than what you set here.

Budget and Dates

Then, set your budget and dates. Daily budget is the most commonly used option, but you can also set up a budget for the lifetime of your campaign.

The last thing you’ll want to set in this section is your start and end dates. Depending on what you’re advertising, this could be as little as a few days or as long as a few months.

For general advertisements, you’ll want plenty of time for testing—usually a minimum of a month. If you’re running ads for events, sales, or other limited-time offerings, these should run for a much shorter period.


The network settings allow you to choose where your ads appear. For the most part, you’ll be showing your ads on YouTube videos and via partners in Google’s Display Network.

Letting your ads air on Google’s Display Network is recommended, as it can greatly increase the reach and efficiency of your targeting. Rather than just being limited to YouTube, you can also display your video ads on lots of other publisher websites and apps that share video content.

You can also choose to show your ads in the search results, but you’ll only be able to use video discovery ads. In general, you’ll want to create separate campaigns for each ad format rather than running the same ad in a bunch of different formats.

Locations and Language

In general, you’ll want to limit your initial audience to just countries that your business operates in. Running in all countries and territories generally isn’t recommended.

For ecommerce businesses, you can choose each country that you ship to. Or, if you’re looking at potentially operating in other countries, you can run a campaign to gauge interest in those countries.

Service-based businesses can operate on an international level a little more easily, but you’ll still want to stick to familiar territory for your first few campaigns. For instance, if your clients are primarily in the US and Canada, stick to those and slowly branch out.

You’ll also want to set a language for your campaign. In general, you want to stick to one language per campaign for targeting purposes. Create separate campaigns for different locations and languages.

Inventory Type and Exclusions

Here, we’ll deal with what type of content fits your brand, as well as any exclusions you want to make.

Standard inventory is generally pretty safe, but if you’re worried about your brand being associated with topics that don’t necessarily align with your values, you’ll want to run with the limited inventory options.

This excludes even moderate profanity and sexually suggestive content, so this is a good option for brands that want to only be associated with generally “family-friendly” content.

Here, you can also opt out of showing ads on content that isn’t a great fit for your brand.

You can choose to exclude embedded and live streaming videos, as well as various content labels in the “Excluded types and labels” section.

3. Create your ad group and define your target audience.

In this section, you’ll set your ad group type, define your target audience, and narrow your reach with keyword, topic, and placement specifications.

Ad Group Type

If you’re running a more targeted campaign with a more cost-efficient reach, you’ll want to select the Standard ad group type. This allows you to create skippable in-stream ads and use keyword, topic, and placement content targeting and exclusions.

For more general campaigns intended for brand awareness and product/brand consideration, you’ll want to select the Responsive ad group type. This lets you create a single ad that can display in multiple formats, such as skippable in-stream ads and video discovery ads.

Demographics and Audiences

Here, you can define demographics such as gender, age, parental status, and household income.

In general, household income doesn’t say as much as parental status or age.

Income reports can be inaccurate compared to other basic demographics and aren’t always a great indicator of whether or not they would be interested in your product. Usually, it’s best to keep all of these selected.

You can also select your audience here. Select one of your existing audiences, or go with pre-defined audiences.

You can choose from in-market audiences that are interested in a particular product or industry, or target an audience based on life events like business creation, home renovation, moving, or retirement.

These are great if you want to explore new audiences or haven’t been able to collect data on your own audience yet.

4. Add your YouTube video and make sure everything is ready to go.

The last thing you need to do here before running your campaign is to link to your video you uploaded earlier and choose your format. If you went through the guided process, you’ll generally only have a few options here.

Include your end URL, display URL, call-to-action, and a headline. You can also choose a companion banner—either one that’s pulled from your channel or an image of your choice. Name your ad and you’re good to go!

Once you’ve created your campaign, you’ll want to make sure your account has up-to-date payment information. It should notify you if this is needed, but that doesn’t always show up quickly. So you’ll want to make sure your campaign is active and actually running before you leave.

YouTube Advertising Best Practices

Now that you know how to create a campaign via Google Ads, let’s take a look at some best practices for advertising on YouTube.

1. Take advantage of audience targeting options.

You can choose to target viewers by a few different methods. Here are a few you’ll want to focus on:

  • Demographic groups: Age, gender, parental status, or household income
  • Detailed demographics: Additional broad traits such as college students, homeowners, or new parents
  • Interests: Interest-based targeting methods, such as affinity audiences (viewers who already have a strong interest in relevant topics), life events, in-market audiences, and custom intent audiences

Interest-based options allow you to get incredibly specific with your ads, including reaching viewers that are in a specific stage of the buyer’s journey.

Alternatively, if you’re trying to market to a more general audience or are still trying to find the best audience for your offerings, broad demographic groups are a better option to start with. After a while of running ads, you’ll be able to narrow down which audience your ads resonate with the most.

2. Utilize remarketing to increase the efficiency of your campaign.

If you have a solid following on YouTube, you can make use of video remarketing. Remarketing is a great way to improve your ROI—these viewers have already expressed interest in your content, making them more likely to respond to your ads.

Keep in mind that remarketing only works for actual engagement with your content.

For example, you can use organic video views or interactions with your TrueView ads to build a remarketing list. Bumper ads and non-skippable ads that viewers can’t truly engage with can’t be used to create remarketing lists.

3. Start with a quick, compelling hook.

You have 5 seconds to hook your viewer and get them to watch the rest of your ad. Since most ads that aim to build brand awareness are relatively short (usually between 6 and 15 seconds) and viewers can skip some in-stream ads after 5 seconds, your hook needs to be quick and compelling.

You can grab viewers’ attention by speaking to their problems or concerns, entertaining them, or teaching them something new. Give them something they can take away from your ad. Even if they don’t respond today, they’ll be more likely to remember you if you share something of value.

4. Use emotion to make your ads memorable.

Whether you invoke feelings of excitement or worry, make viewers laugh, or introduce a sense of urgency to your ads, you need to do something to make it memorable.

Just throwing your product out there and talking about you or your business doesn’t cut it—that’s the fastest way to bore viewers to death and get them to click off your ad. Make it about them, not you.

Storytelling is a great way to engage your audience, build emotion, and most importantly, show you understand their problem or situation. If you can truly relate to them and show them you understand, they’ll be more likely to engage with your ad and view your brand favorably.

5. Be clear about what you want viewers to do and why it will benefit them.

Both online and offline, people are constantly bombarded with ads, and it can be difficult to stand out with all that noise.

Respect their time (and your own time!). Cut to the chase and be clear about exactly what they need to do and why taking action will benefit them. Nothing feels worse than taking time out to watch something, only to get pitched at the end with the typical “buy now.”

6. Make sure your landing pages deliver on any promises your ads make.

Ads have a pretty bad reputation of doing just about anything to get clicks.

Clickbait-y titles, false promises, and misleading copy are still present in many of today’s ads. These are never a good long-term strategy.

The companies running these types of ads often market themselves under many different names and are out just to make a quick buck.

If you’re concerned with building up your brand’s reputation, developing meaningful relationships, and making a good first impression, you need to make sure you can deliver on your ads’ promises.

Make sure your ad’s copy is clear. If you tell people you’re giving something away for free, give it away for free—no strings attached, no additional costs. Even if they have to cover shipping and handling costs, make it clear. (“Just pay S&H!” doesn’t take up a lot of space and most people will understand what you mean.)

7. Have an active YouTube channel to back up your ads.

One of the best benefits of YouTube ads is that your channel can also benefit from running these.

Getting your videos in front of viewers as a skippable in-stream ad increases your reach, which also counts towards your video’s views. You can get a lot of useful data from these interactions to use even in your regular video content.

In addition, having an active YouTube channel where viewers can see even more of your content is a must. If viewers check out your channel and it’s nothing but ads, that can be a bit of a turn-off.

Make sure you have some other videos for viewers to check out. This way they can learn more about your brand and offerings before leaving the platform.

What YouTube Advertising Means to Your Business

Video content is still on the rise—more and more consumers are turning to video content on various platforms and websites.

Advertising on YouTube is a great way to reach new customers and even build a following on the platform. And while you’ll eventually want to get them back to your own platform, building up a strong presence on one of the world’s largest websites is a great way to stretch your ad budget.

Establishing yourself through advertising can also help your organic traffic, too. By working on your content here, you present more opportunities to appear in listings and snippets in Google Search, since YouTube videos are also likely to appear in the results. This is a great SEO opportunity both on-platform and off.

YouTube Advertising Cost

Much like Google Ads, prices can vary significantly depending on a few factors:

  • How competitive your industry is
  • The quality of your content
  • The type of ad you’re running
  • Ad timing
  • Ad targeting

On average, YouTube cost-per-view can be anywhere from $0.03 to $0.30. Platforms that rely on engaging ads, in general, favor quality content that sees a lot of engagement. So producing quality content doesn’t just benefit you with better reach—it’ll drive your cost down as well.

Summary & Takeaways

In this article we covered:

  • An overview of YouTube advertising
  • Types of YouTube ads
  • Choosing the best type of ad for your business
  • How to set up a YouTube ad campaign in Google Ads
  • Youtube advertising best practices
  • How YouTube ads fit in with your business goals

Video is a powerful type of content that can really help you engage with your audience—both existing customers and potential new followers. You can use this type of content to let users get a look at your brand, what it stands for, and the people behind it.

By using video ads and formats that are a great fit for your offerings, you can take advantage of a platform with one of the largest followings in the world to meet many new customers.

With the right creatives and careful targeting, YouTube advertising can become an effective part of your overall ad strategy.

Want to reach viewers on the world’s most popular video platform? Learn how to advertise on YouTube and make it an effective part of your ad strategy.

By Lauren Connally

Lauren is a copywriter, blogger, and social media manager based in the Texas Hill Country. She works with bloggers and small businesses to help build their online presence.

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