Video tips
Aug 11, 2021

The Complete Guide to Getting Started with YouTube Ads

YouTube ads are one of the best ways to reach more people. In this simple guide, we'll teach you how to launch and optimize your first YouTube ad.

YouTube ads have the power to greatly expand your business.

With 2 billion YouTube users worldwide, it’s no surprise that more video content is being watched than ever before. To put it in numbers - people watch one billion hours of videos on YouTube every day, generating billions of views.

Yep, we said EVERY. DAY.

Do some quick maths, and you’ll find that if everyone on earth watched a video, it’s around 8.4 minutes per day per person. That’s quite an impressive number.

So, what does this mean for you?

Well, it means that you need to join the other 88% of marketers who are doing video marketing on YouTube.

It may seem overwhelming at first, but you don’t need to be a super-star animator or have a huge budget to make your own YouTube ads. And, it’s not really that complicated getting them set up on YouTube.

We’re going to tell you everything that you need to know about setting up a YouTube ad campaign. From going through the different types of YouTube ads to taking you through each step of setting up your own campaign. This, along with a few handy tips and tricks for getting the most value out of your ads.

Basically, we’re going to show you how to bring your brand story to life with impressive videos!

Let’s dive in.

Types of YouTube Ads

Before we get into how to set up your own YouTube ad campaign, you need to first understand what options you have.

YouTube has six types of ads:

  1. TrueView ads
  2. Non-skippable in-stream ads
  3. Bumper in-stream ads
  4. Sponsored card ads
  5. Overlay ads
  6. Display ads

Not all ad types are made the same. And not all ad types will be the best option for your business. Understanding the different ad types will help with tailoring your ad to the specific format that you plan on using.

Let’s start with the most used ad type.

YouTube TrueView ads

TrueView ads are the main ad format on YouTube. Not only are they popular with advertisers, but also with viewers. Likely because they give viewers the most control over the ads that they see.

TrueView gives marketers the flexibility that they need to engage with their audience by reaching their specific target market.

Plus, they’re low risk.

Here’s why:

You’re only charged when viewers opt to watch your entire ad, view it for at least 30 seconds, or interact with the ad in some way.

And since research shows that 65% of viewers automatically skip online video advertising, you can be sure that your video is only being watched by viewers who are interested in your video.

Meaning less risk of having to pay for viewers who aren’t interested in your brand.

Even Google has said that viewers who completed a TrueView ad were 23 times more likely to visit or subscribe to a brand channel, watch more from that brand, or share the video.

Making it a cost-effective solution while also reaching a more interested audience.

That’s budget well spent!

A bit more on this ad type...

YouTube requires that skippable TrueView ads be between 12 seconds and 6 minutes in length, and that non-skippable TrueView ads be 15-20 seconds in length.

There are two types of TrueView ads:

  • TrueView In-stream Ads: these ads play before a viewer’s chosen video and feature a small countdown timer and link to the advertised site on the screen. The calls-to-action and text overlays can be customized. Viewers sometimes have the option to skip the ad after watching it for five seconds.
  • TrueView Discovery Ads (previously called In-Display Ads): these ads appear within the YouTube search results as well as in the right-hand sidebar above the suggested videos list. It consists of a thumbnail image and up to three lines of text.

Below shows an example of a TrueView in-stream ad:

TrueView Discovery ads are displayed above the organic YouTube search results. Once a user clicks on the ad, the destination video page features a companion banner displayed on the top right-hand column.

The image below shows how TrueView Discovery ads are displayed in the search results:

TrueView ads also allow you to get creative with different ad formats, like product demos, how-to videos, or testimonials. They can include people, dialogue, and music (as long as the correct permissions are given).

This ad type is great for telling a story about your brand by creating something that your audience can relate to. Think of it as a source of entertainment that makes your brand memorable. Give your audience a reason to keep watching.

Next up?

Non-skippable in-stream ads

These ads are pretty much the same as TrueView ads, but as the name suggests, they are non-skippable. They’re not considered ‘TrueView’ because viewers don’t have any control over seeing these ads.

Which is why they’re not very popular with viewers...

Luckily for viewers, YouTube stopped all non-skippable 30-second ads in 2018. Now, all non-skippable ads must be between 15 and 20 seconds long.

These types of ads can be played before, during (also called mid-roll non-skippable YouTube ads), or after videos.

Another difference comes in with what advertisers pay with this ad type. Advertisers will need to pay on a CPM basis (cost-per-mille). Meaning that the advertiser pays per thousand views.

This makes it really important to target your ad to the right audience, so that you don’t waste your budget.

This ad type works if you’re looking to achieve massive exposure, rather than only focusing on generating leads. Big brands, like Apple, often use this ad type. See an example below.

Let’s move on to the next ad type...

Bumper in-stream ads

Another form of non-skippable ads, but these always play before a video and can’t be more than 6 seconds long.

Bumper ads are also paid for on a CPM basis.

Because they aren’t ideal for all ad formats, bumper ads are often used along with other ad formats in a larger YouTube advertising campaign.

The example below shows a 6-second bumper ad:

Now onto the less ‘in-your-face’ ad types.

Sponsored card ads

YouTube sponsored cards appear within videos as small call-to-action (CTA) popups.

This ad type is very low-key. Simply popping up with a small ‘i’ symbol on the top right-hand corner of the video. And when the viewer clicks on it, a small card comes out.

See below an example of what it looks like when hovering over the ‘i’ symbol:

The below image shows what the sponsored cards look like after clicking on the icon:

This ad type is a great way to highlight other YouTube videos or to advertise products through Google Shopping.

If you’re interested in promoting your products this way, Google has a helpful guide on how to create a Shopping campaign in Google Ads.

Overlay ads

Overlay ads are perhaps the simplest form of YouTube advertising. They’re the banner ads that pop up along the bottom of videos.

See an example below:

They can also be text-based, like in the example below:

Google has also put together a helpful guide giving more information on how overlay ads work.

And now onto the last ad type.

Display ads

Display ads have been around for a while and are another simple YouTube ad format.

These types of ads appear in the right-hand sidebar above the suggested videos list. They can also be displayed in different sizes.

You can see an example below:

Still confused about what type of ad type to go with? Let’s take a step back and think about your goals and see how they can match up.

Choosing an ad format according to your goals & subtype

When setting up your YouTube ad, you’re going to need to define your goals for your campaign. Depending on the goal selected for your campaign, specific video ad formats and bidding strategies are available.

So, it helps to first know your goal before setting out to create your ad.

You’re probably wondering:

What are YouTube ad goals?

Basically, they’re what you want to achieve with your ad. When setting up your campaign, you can select from these goals:

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

You can still create a campaign without a goal if you can’t think of one, but it does help you set up a more successful video campaign.

Your campaign goals will also help you define your campaign subtypes.

Let’s break it down into what campaign subtypes and ad formats work within each of the goals:

Goal: Leads & Website traffic

The subtype that you’re looking for here will be ‘Drive conversions’ as this helps to send clicks to your website. The best ad format here is the ‘Skippable in-stream’ ad type.

Goal: Brand awareness and reach

This goal means that you want to reach a high volume of viewers, drumming up more interest on your brand by sharing your product or brand story.

There’s a few subtypes that will work with this goal, each focusing on a different aspect of gaining brand awareness and reach. These include ‘Skippable in-stream’, ‘Non-skippable in-stream’, ‘Bumper’, ‘Outstream’, and ‘Ad sequence’.

The recommended formats for this goal go by the same name as the subtypes mentioned above. Except for ‘Ad sequence’ - with this subtype you have the option of going with ‘Skippable in-stream’, ‘Outstream’, or ‘Bumper’ ad types.

Goal: Product and brand consideration

Having this goal means that you want to encourage some form of engagement with your ad. Whether it’s getting viewers to interact with your brand or to encourage viewers to visit your online shop.

There’s also a few subtypes that will work with this goal, each focusing on a different aspect improving product and brand consideration. These include ‘Influence consideration’, ‘Shopping’, and ‘Ad sequence’.

The best ad formats to use here are ‘Skippable in-stream’, ‘Video discovery’, ‘Non-skippable in-stream’, or the ‘Bumper’ ad type.

For more context, the chart below breaks it down into video campaign goals, subtypes, networks and ad formats.

Okay, that’s all you need to know about YouTube ad types and formats! It’s nearly time to get into setting up your ad campaign.

But first, let’s consider designing your ad.

Don’t be shy to use templates

When you think about getting your YouTube ad created, you probably think that you’re going to need a big budget? And that you need to start looking for a designer.

You don’t.

Not every brand has huge budgets, and that’s okay. You also don’t necessarily need to hire a professional to make your ad for you.

The solution:

If you know what message you want to share, then you can easily create your own ad using the templates offered by an ad maker. You can easily use the templates to create beautiful, impacting ads that tell your brands story.

Creating an ad for your business really doesn’t need to take a long time, or cost a fortune.

By now you should be pretty comfortable with the different YouTube ad formats, how to choose an ad format, and how to use a template to create an ad.

Let’s run through how to set up your first campaign.

How to set up & launch a YouTube video advertising campaign

Once you’re happy with the ad that you created, it’s time to start building your ad campaign.

Follow the below steps.

Step 1: Upload your video to YouTube

First step is uploading your video to YouTube. Do this by logging into your YouTube account and clicking the small camcorder icon on the top-right of YouTube. Then, simply click ‘Upload Video.’

Make sure to fill in all the necessary detail, like the title, description, and any relevant tags.

Step 2: Create a campaign in Google Ads

This step requires you to jump onto your Google Ads account to set up your campaign.

If you haven’t already got a Google Ads account, check out this guide on how to sign up for an account.

Once logged in, follow the below steps:

Click ‘All campaigns’ in the left-hand sidebar and then the large ‘+ New Campaign’ button.

Next up, you’ll need to select your campaign goals (like we discussed above). You can add or remove a goal at any time. And remember, if you don’t have any goals, then you select the last option ‘Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance’, as below:

After this window, you’ll need to select a campaign type. Currently, the options are:

  1. Search
  2. Display
  3. Shopping
  4. Video
  5. Discovery

Once you click ‘video’, you’ll see the goal pop up below. In the below example, the goal is to ‘Drive conversions’.

Step 3: Configure your campaign

Now it’s time to get into the detail of your campaign!

Choose a name

This is just for internal use - but make sure to choose a name that clearly says what the campaign is about for your future reference. It’s especially helpful once you start running multiple campaigns in Google Ads.

A good example is ‘Christmas 2020 YouTube Ads’.

Set your bidding strategy

Your bid strategy is how you optimize bids to meet your advertising goals.

Bidding strategy options available include:

  1. Maximum CPV (cost-per-view): Costs are based on the number of views and interactions a video received.
  2. Maximum CPM (cost-per-mille): You’ll be charged for every thousand impressions your ad receives.
  3. Viewable CPM (cost-per-mille): You’ll only be charged per thousand impressions when your ad has definitely been seen. For example, if a user lands on the page and immediately bounces off, you won’t be charged.
  4. Target CPA (cost-per-acquisition): Costs are based on actions taken by viewers, such as clicking on your ad.

Your bid strategy lets Google know, for example, if your goal is to get views (CPV), get impressions (CPM), get as many conversions at the target cost-per-action you set (CPA), or get the most conversions within your budget.

You can click on each bidding strategy to get more information, or read up more on bidding strategies here.

Set your budget

Start off with selecting the average amount you want to spend each day.

We suggest starting off small and testing your ad out. Once you’ve tested it for a while, then you can refine your campaign to make sure that you’re getting the highest return on investment.

You can also choose the start and end date of your campaign.

Select your networks

This is where you get to select where your ad is going to appear.

For video ads, you have three options:

  • YouTube search results: Ads can appear next to YouTube search results (for TrueView discovery ads only).
  • YouTube videos: Ads will appear on YouTube videos, channel pages, and the YouTube homepage.
  • Video partners on the display network: Your ads will also appear across Google’s video partners.

Select a language and location

Here you need to select the location or multiple locations that you want to target with your ad, as well as the language that your target market speaks.

Choose an inventory type

Here is where things start to get a lot more specific.

You can select to only show your ads on content that’s in line with your brand.

For example, if you’re advertising a product aimed at children, you won’t want your ads displayed alongside content that is violent or sexual. For more detail about what each inventory excludes, click ‘Compare Inventory Types’ at the bottom, as shown below:

We recommended going through the different exclusions, just to make sure that your ad doesn’t appear on the wrong type of content. Because if it does, you could end up with a PR nightmare!

Exclude types and labels

You can go even deeper by excluding your ad from appearing on certain content types and labels on content.

For example, you can exclude your ad from all live streamed videos or from content labels like ‘Teen and older audiences’.

The labels option is particularly useful if your ad is targeted towards a specific age bracket.

Step 4: Select your target audience

Next up is defining who you want to see your ad.

Make sure to give your ad group a descriptive name, so that you can use the same audience selection for future campaigns.


First up in defining your audience is listing their demographics.

This includes things like gender, age, parental status, and household income (note that household income is only available in select countries).

Target audience details

In this section, you get a few options to help find your ideal target market.

We recommend playing around here for a while to make sure that you are as specific as possible.

You can either search for specific audience traits, use the ideas suggested by Google or browse the suggestions.

When going the browse option, you can get really specific. For example, when defining ‘Who they are’, you can choose between choose between parental status, marital status, education or home ownership status.

Some options allow you to go even further. For example, if you are targeting parents, you can even select parents of kids from specific age groups like ‘toddlers’ or ‘teens’.

Try and get as specific as possible, without leaving out an important section of your potential audience.

Step 5: Select where your ads need to be shown

This step allows you to choose the specific type of content that you want your ads to appear on.

Input your target keywords

Enter your target keywords into the box using one word or phrase per line.

Let’s work with an example of an ad for a plant-based skincare brand. Some keyword examples could be ‘plant based’, ‘plant based skincare’, ‘vegan skincare’, etc.

If you need some help with keyword ideas, you can either enter your website (or a related website) or enter your product or service in the ‘Get keyword ideas’ section.

We suggest using this tool anyway, as it’ll also show the relevance of each keyword.

Choose topic

Next up is choosing the topic that your product or service is relevant to.

So, for the example above, we’d select ‘Beauty & Fitness’, and then can narrow it down further with ‘Face & Body Care’ and ‘Skin & Nail Care’.

When defining your audience, don’t worry if you can’t get extremely specific on certain things. Some ads will have super specific audiences, while others won’t.

If yours doesn’t, then don’t worry about going too deep in the Audience Manager.

Choose your ad placements

Now you can select specific places where you would like your ads to show, like on specific YouTube channels, videos or lineups.

If you leave this section blank, your ad will appear on any YouTube or Display Network placements that match your other targeting selections.

Step 6: Select your marketing video

Next up is using the search bar to look for your video that you uploaded all the way back in step 1.

If you haven’t uploaded it yet, then click the option to upload your video to YouTube.

Select your video once it appears.

Step 7: Configure your YouTube Ad

And finally, onto the last step.

You’ll be shown you which options are available based on the campaign selections you’ve made up until this step.

Make sure to add in your display URL, call-to-action and headline. You also have the option to choose the companion banner that comes with the ad. Either let YouTube generate it using your channel banner, or upload an image.

On the right, you’ll be able to see what your ad will look like on both mobile and desktop, as you can see below:

To finish up, simply click “Save and continue,” and then click “Continue to campaign.”

Yay! You’ve just finished setting up your YouTube ad campaign!

Well done!

We hope that this step-by-step guide was super useful and easy to follow.

We know that setting up your first YouTube ad campaign can be daunting, so we’ve pulled together a few more tips and tricks to help make you feel more confident.

Read more for more.

10 tips & tricks to optimize your YouTube ads

Before setting up your first YouTube ad campaign, there’s a few extra things that you need to know to make sure that you’re making the most of your budget.

In this section, we’re going to take a look at what steps you need to take to optimize your YouTube ad campaign.

1. Use a video maker to create your ad

It can be really intimidating to create a video YouTube ad, especially if you don’t know any video editing software. But, it’s actually really easy to create custom videos within minutes using Motionden’s video maker. This is a great option for those with a tight budget.

2. Define your goals

We mentioned it earlier, but defining your goals is a huge help with making sure that your YouTube ads end up on the right screens. Use your goals to help determine what metrics you should be aiming for. For example, some metrics are better for branding goals and others will drive leads and conversions.

3. Review & understand your stats

When analyzing the results, there are four main categories of metrics you can track for each video. This includes the views, audience, view rate and conversions. Understand what each of them mean, and what numbers matter for your goals.

4. Use a custom thumbnail image

Rather than using the automatically placed thumbnail image, design your own high-quality image from the video. That way, you know that the image displayed will entice the viewer to click on your video.

5. Use call-to-actions

When promoting a video on YouTube, use call-to-action overlays that link to a specific URL - be it a landing page, information page or product page.

6. Create a YouTube end screen

Drive subscribers to your channel by creating an end screen on your videos. If someone watched your video until the end, there’s a pretty high chance that they’ll be interested in more of your content. Use the end screen to promote your other videos or social networks.

7. Make a longer ad

When using TrueView ads, you only pay when a viewer watches at least 30 seconds of your ad or interacts with it before it’s over. Keep this in mind when deciding on where to put certain messaging in your ad. For example, putting a certain message in the beginning of the ad can encourage uninterested viewers to skip the ad - meaning you won’t have to pay for their view.

8. Caption your video

Use close captioning to cater to viewer's needs and wants, like different languages. Make sure to upload quality video transcriptions that you’ve generated and approved. Only user-uploaded transcriptions are indexed by Google, not YouTube’s automatic captioning.

9. Adjust your bidding accordingly

Your bidding strategy shouldn’t be a ‘set-it-and-forget-it’ situation. Making adjustments to your bidding strategy is a great way to optimize your campaign. For example, after finding that you aren’t getting results, you may want to raise your bids.

10. Take risks & experiment

Think of your YouTube ad campaigns as a constant experiment. In order to get to a point where your ad is consistently generating results, you must be willing to experiment with your video content. When first starting out, have two ads running so that you can compare the results.

Video isn’t going anywhere

Setting up a YouTube ad campaign isn’t the easiest form of advertising out there. But it’s definitely worth the effort!

Video content isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. And to ignore the potential that YouTube has for your business would be a huge oversight.

It’s a powerful tool that can allow your brand to reach audiences around the world! YouTube is also becoming more targeted than ever. So, if done right, you can be sure that your ad will reach the right audience. An audience that will convert into customers!

Simply put, video marketing and YouTube advertising are a must have for all marketing strategies.

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