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.