A Beginner’s Guide to YouTube Ads: How to Plan Your YouTube Advertising Campaign

Moira West


So you know about the essential YouTube ad types, and are ready to put your freshly made TrueView, bumper ad, or remarketing ad to work. Now what?

Developing and tracking a successful YouTube advertising campaign may seem overwhelming, but even beginners can jump in with just a little know-how. And you’ll find a lot of that below, with our guide for first-time users of Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords). We’ll take you through the process of setting up for your first video campaign, targeting the right audience, and setting goals that’ll help you judge your video’s success. Let’s get started!

How to set up your Google Ads video campaign

You may be asking why does my YouTube campaign start in Google Ads? Well, YouTube and Google are part of the same company, so you can run both Google and YouTube ads from the same site. That means once you’ve created a video ad, you’ll head to Google Ads to start putting together your campaign. If you don’t have a Google Ads account, you’ll need to create one to run ads on YouTube.

If you haven’t created an ad yet, check out our post on YouTube ad best practices and then come back once you’re ready. But if you’ve got your videos and you’re ready to go, read on for step-by-step instructions for starting your campaign.

1. Start and name your campaign

Once your Google Ads account is set up, click on “Campaigns” on the toolbar and select the blue plus sign to add a new campaign. You’ll be given a few different campaign types. Choose “Video”, then give your campaign a name and select a format—either in-stream ads, like TrueView or remarketing ads, or a bumper ad. After this point, you’ll be prompted to choose a goal for your ad. Take a look at our Goals and Metrics section below for help in choosing which type of goal works best for your business.

Start and name your campaign

2. Set your budget

Decide how much you plan to spend, and whether or not you want to use that spend quickly or spread out over time. Google gives you a few options—you can choose a daily amount to spend or set a campaign total. Just be warned that whatever budget you set, Google can charge you up to 2 times that amount. So if you set your daily budget at $10, you can accumulate charges up to $20. However, if you go over that $20—say you end up with $23 in costs, the leftover $3 is returned to you as a credit.

You can also decide on a delivery method. This lets you decide whether you want standard delivery, with your budget being spent slowly throughout the day, or accelerated, where Google will promote your ad right away, pushing it until your budget is spent.

Set your budget

3. Choose your network

Let Google know you where you want your video shared, either just on YouTube or on YouTube and within the Google ad network.

Choose your ad network

4. Get ready to bid

Determine exactly how much you’re willing to pay per view. Many businesses start with lower bids—maybe 10 cents per view—then optimize based on actual results. Monitor your results for 2-3 days and then bid lower if you are spending your full budget easily. Bid higher if you are still in your target range, but not using up your budget.

Bidding in Google Ads

5. Determine your target audience

Select potential ad targets based on viewers’ demographics, such as gender, age, or parental status—or by content. Content lets you select keywords, topics, or placements—for example, a particular blog or site where you’d like to post an ad—to hit the exact audience you want to reach. Since YouTube’s affiliated with Google, you’ve got Google’s search history on your side to help you reach the right viewer for your product or service. If you want a more detailed description of the different ways you can target people and content through Google Ads, check out Google’s guide to targeting on video campaigns.

Determine your target audience

Setting the target audience for your YouTube ad

Select languages, locations, and time frame

Do you only want Spanish speakers seeing your ads? Or do you want to limit your video’s range to west Rhode Island at 2 p.m. on a Tuesday? YouTube has customization options so you can target every language in the world, or narrow your target down to a particular state, city, or even zip code and lets you select even a brief window of time.

Select languages, locations, and time frame

Target for the customer you want

Recent changes to Google Ads mean that you can now target people based on their Google search history. For instance, if you sell cat toys, you can piggyback onto videos about cat care to reach pet owners. To see how this works in practice, read up on how Stitchin’ Heaven used YouTube keywords to reach their audience. It’s also possible to target for age, gender, or even the type of device your customer is using to view your content.

Choose keywords wisely

One of the best reasons to use YouTube ads is that your audience wants to find you. So if you select the right keywords, you’ll increase your chances of helping that audience discover your content.

For that reason, it may be worth finding a less common set of keywords that cost less but can stretch your budget further. But keep in mind, the broader your keywords are, the bigger your audience. And the more specific the keyword, the smaller and more defined your audience will be. If keywords are too specific, ads may not show so they should test this as well or at least keep an eye on it. Luckily, keywords are much cheaper on YouTube than they are on Google, with keywords costing pennies to the dollar by comparison.

Defining goals and metrics

Before you start your video campaign, it pays to have distinct goals in mind, so you can track and measure your ad’s success. Take a look at a few of the most common goals, and the YouTube metrics that relate to each one. You can then create custom columns in Google Ads tracking those elements in your video ad campaign.

Defining goals and metrics in Google Ads

Brand awareness and reach

YouTube recommends this type of ad for raising awareness without breaking the bank. If you’re looking to spread the word about your business, try this goal set. Then set up metrics related to your video’s reach, unique viewers, or average view frequency. These stats will help you determine if you’re expanding your reach and hitting your viewership goals.

TIP: TrueView ads work well for this type of goal. To create your own, try our TrueView ad storyboard.


If you’re looking to develop a list of potential customers or stay top of mind with your possible customers, a goal related to leads is a good choice. Follow up with metrics that include shares, subscribers, and view-throughs to test your results. This’ll help you know if you’re developing an audience base that’ll come back for more content later.

Product and brand consideration

If you want to target viewers that have already engaged with your product or who are looking for a product or service like yours, try a goal related to product and brand consideration. When you’re designing your campaign, consider metrics like watch time, sign-ups, view-through rate, and earned views to see if you’re connecting with high-intent audiences.

TIP: This type of goal may be the right type to combine with a remarketing ad. Try this remarketing storyboard created from a real SmartStop Self Storage ad campaign if you’d like to create your own ad to match this goal.

Website traffic

Another way to raise brand awareness or promote your site’s content is by setting a goal related to website traffic. Metrics like website traffic are good indicators of whether or not your ad is driving your audience to your site.


If your ultimate goal is to drive sales, conversion may be the right YouTube goal for you. Metrics like conversions and cost-per-conversion, can help you track how effectively you’re reaching your audience and convincing them to buy.

Tips and tricks for optimizing your video

It pays to consider the best ways to adjust your video and ad campaign to maximize results. So here are some general strategies for connecting with your target audience before and during your ad run.

Remember mobile

More than half of YouTube views happen on mobile devices. So optimize for mobile by choosing visually interesting thumbnails that’ll look good even when shrunk down on a smartphone. YouTube will give you a few options for your thumbnail, but if they choose images that don’t stand out, you can always upload your own. Create an image yourself, or just take a screenshot of your video to use.

Another way to grab attention is with a short, mobile-friendly title and description. Don’t try to be too clever—your title and description are what’ll help your audience take next steps if they like your ad.

Start strong

Don’t forget that most users decide whether or not to keep watching your video in the first 3 seconds or so. That means if you have an interesting statement or a stunning video clip or image, start with it. It’ll help hook your viewers and keep them watching. Remember, if you have a strong beginning, viewers more likely to get the information you want them to have and remember what they saw, even if they don’t finish your video.

Close caption your video

Though YouTube can close caption your video, try to review and correct their captioning to make sure your message is accessible to all of your audience. Check out YouTube’s page on closed captioning to learn how you can add and edit your own captions.

Find out where ads are underperforming

Google Ads will let you check where your ads are running in its Placements section. If certain sites aren’t giving you the performance you want, you can exclude them from your ad campaign to increase your clicks per view (CPV).

A/B test your ads

Spend a little less in the beginning of your ad run and test a couple different versions of your advertisement. That way you can make adjustments or rework ads completely based on how they perform. If you haven’t tried an A/B test before, check out our blog series on how to get started.

Need more support?

If you follow our guide, you’ll be ready to start connecting with your audience on YouTube, with the skills you need to shepherd your target audience from casual viewers to buyers. But if you’re still feeling a little unsure, check out our complete guide to YouTube marketing, or head to our Facebook group, the Animoto Social Video Marketing Community, to find support from the Animoto team and inspiration from other businesses marketing with video.