YouTube is the most social of Google’s channels. `if you’re targeting niche markets, it can work well to drive targeted traffic to your site, for fairly low cost.

So much has changed on YouTube in recent months that it’s really worth another look for PPC.

It's also fairly straightforward: the hardest part is creating the video. Even that can be simpler than you think. You don’t always need a professional videographer, or a huge budget.

If you choose the right format and targeting method, simple things like customer testimonials, information and instruction videos can work really well.

The different formats you can use for your video ad


This works more or less in the same way as Google AdWords. You choose a keyword list, write your ad, choose your video, set your bidding strategy; and then pay when someone clicks on your video, which will appear highlighted as an ad at the top of the search results.

Relevance, as with traditional search ads, is critical.

The types of videos that work best with this format are ‘How to’ videos that address a niche. For example, if you’re selling cosmetics, a video showing how to apply make-up to achieve a certain look might work well.

In slate

These only show on ‘long-form videos’, which are videos of 30 minutes or more (essentially films, or TV programmes ).

In-slate advertising gives viewers a choice: choose and watch one video ad before the programme starts, or have a series of ad breaks through the programme where video ads are pushed to you (which may not be as relevant).

The fact that a viewer chooses your ad over others means they have at least some level of interest, so it’s a more active choice. You only pay if someone actively chooses your ad.

In display

These are promoted videos that appear alongside the video you’re watching (down the right hand-side); they’re recommended because they’re relevant to the content you’ve chosen to watch.

Of course, for in-display video ads to work they have to be very targeted and stand out from the crowd. They need to be compelling enough for a viewer to make an active choice: “I want to watch that video next”.

It’s worth noting that in-display ads don’t just appear on YouTube, they can appear anywhere on Google’s ad network that takes video.

In stream

These are videos that appear as a pre-roll to a popular videos. Note: they don’t appear on niche videos, and you can’t specify exactly which videos you want to appear on (but see ‘targeting’, below).

As with the other formats, in-stream videos work on a system called TrueView, which means you only pay if a user has watched your ad for 30 seconds (or the whole ad, whichever is shorter). If they ‘skip after 5 seconds’, you don’t pay.

In-stream videos are the closest format to TV media. This method can be very engaging if you have a creative video. It is, however, the hardest format to get right: you have to have great content so your viewer doesn’t skip the ad at the first opportunity, and keep it short (under 30 seconds, ideally).

Targeting YouTube ads

There are seven mechanisms for targeting on YouTube, ranging from the brilliant, to the absolutely woeful. 

Search keywords 

These work in the same way as Google, and are very targeted. You know your viewer is interested in a specific subject: they’ve told you so. This works well for niche advertisers, and the cost is incredibly low.

But…it can also be very low volume. Yes, there’s a lot of search on YouTube, but most of it’s for Lady GaGa.

Contextual targeting 

This works just like elsewhere on the Google Display Network. Google will match your keywords with titles, tags and descriptions of videos, and decides which videos are appropriate for you.

This works well with ‘in display’ advertising.


This is the easiest thing in the world to do, and if you have any reasonable videos on YouTube it’s a no-brainer. You are showing your video to people who’ve already been to your website, to encourage them to purchase.

Obviously this is targeting people who already know about you, so think about what’s appropriate to show them that will move them on in their purchase decision.


Essentially, you choose a video or channel and say ‘that’s where I want to show my ads’. This is the hardest targeting to do well, but is used by some of the best ads.

It’s hard because popular videos change all the time, lasting only a matter of days sometimes. So you have to keep choosing videos all the time.

If you get it right, and choose a channel or video that is popular, and directly relevant to your brand, it can be very rewarding, as the targeting is so specific. (As with other mechanisms, it assumes that the channel or video you want to target has agreed to accept advertising on it).

Interest category targeting 

This is exactly what the cookie law was about! But for now, it works pretty well. Google’s network tracks the content and pages that people visit regularly, and builds a portfolio of that users’ interests. You can choose an interest category for your ad and target people by interest.

These aren’t people who’ve just stumbled across a video, they’ve shown a sustained interest in something that’s directly relevant to you. If you sell skiing holidays for example, you can display only to people with a current and sustained interest in skiing.


You can choose from a master list of topics that people are searching on, and if you match it, you’re video will show up. This is the easiest to set up of all the targeting mechanisms. Its performance is OK.

Not great, but OK. And it’s really easy to do.


There are absolutely no benefits for demographic targeting on YouTube. Very few people actually tell YouTube their age or gender; the rest is guesswork based on your browsing activity. It's awful.

Targeting on YouTube works best when you combine different methods. For example, you could target someone by topic – let’s take skiing again.

That person might just be interested in watching a random guy break his leg on a mountain, but if you combine this with interest targeting, you know that this is someone who regularly looks at skiing sites, and is right now looking for a skiing video.

If you’re a ski holiday operator, that could be the perfect target. It reaches a smaller number of people, but the ability to target is so specific that it works really well, particularly if you include a clear call to action via the overlay or banner within your video.

YouTube is all about the targeting. Unless your video ‘goes viral’ – and very, very few do – this is the place to target small numbers of highly-qualified people with a specific message.

And of course, the better the content, the more +1s you get, and the better your performance on Google’s search rankings.

Alistair Dent

Published 2 January, 2013 by Alistair Dent

Alistair Dent is Head of PPC at Periscopix at Periscopix and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can connect with Alistair via LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter and Google+.

5 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (8)

Save or Cancel
Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Nice summary Alistair. YouTube gets huge audiences but as you say it's important to target the right people. It's a must try platform for advertisers to see what response they get.

over 5 years ago



This is a somewhat formulaic and narrow view of how to use YouTube as part of marketing, and I would like to add how effective the channel is when used as part of a content marketing strategy where the emphasis is not on advertising, but on sharing information via explainer videos which integrate into a larger joined up online content linking back and forth with other content formats in a strategy designed to build authority and trust in a brand or product. I do agree that YouTube works brilliant for niche and community marketing. Golden lesson we'd like to share: many viewers switch off after 1 minute so keep your message short, unique and compelling and build in a call to action.

over 5 years ago

Alistair Dent

Alistair Dent, Head of PPC at Periscopix

Hi Stephen,

Thanks for your comment.

You're right that this is quite narrow, we're just exploring the AdWords-focused PPC opportunities on YouTube. We think they're a detailed enough topic to deserve attention separate from the wider view of how to use YouTube for general marketing.


over 5 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

While there is definitely opportunities, I would've wary of Dean's classification of You Tube as a 'must try' channel. Much in the same way as the likes of Facebook and Twitter there is the assumption that since millions of users spend a lot of time there, there is the immediate opportunity for the world's advertisers to make an impact by investing.

With You Tube, I would agree with Alistair's observations that the key thing is understanding how your brand can provide some relevant content that users will want to engage with. In the case of entertaining brands (think Cadburys, Tango etc.) this is pretty easy however for the more mundane brands and products of the world it's about working out what you can provide where you, as a brand can share something useful (in terms of content or expertise) with the user, with how to videos being a prime example.

The secondary caveat I would make is that niche targeting is essential. The audience need to have an interest and the means (financially) to buy or persuade someone to buy your product...

over 5 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Yes its got to be relevant and interesting but this isn't restricted to entertaining or popular brands. If anything YouTube is a better place than Facebook or Twitter for more mundane products or services where they can make a real impact, not just boring how to stuff.

I'm thinking $1 shave club, BlendTec (Will it blend), Embrace life (seat belt safety campaign). These are successful videos and attract a wide audience, not just those that are interested in cheap blades, blenders or car safety.

over 5 years ago



YouTube's popularity and easy/free access to its audiences worldwide is really amazing. Really enjoy the insightful opinions about the topic. One of my curiosities remains: how to make a good advantage of YouTube's international and intercultural values in marketing strategy.

over 5 years ago


Matt Lovell, Head of Customer Data, Insight & Analytics at Eurostar International Ltd.

While I agree that some of those have been hugely successful campaigns Dean, one of the big questions for brands is whether they can just do something 'to entertain' or if that alone will actually drive enough interest in their products to drive their sales funnel.

Certainly at the moment I've seen plenty of brands do huge amounts of stuff across Social Media that does little on this front and while there is an element of brand building that needs to be done, unless the entertainment is relevant enough to the product, this is ultimately lost...

over 5 years ago

Dean Marsden

Dean Marsden, Digital Marketing Executive at Koozai Ltd

Definitely very important businesses see a return on their advertising and even more important is that they can see what channels or funnels are working well then can optimise.

over 5 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.