YouTube Ads for E-Commerce

Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce
Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce

Video content stands to provide serious returns for e-commerce brands. 52% of marketing professionals report that video content offers more ROI than text-based ads in search or display networks.

Google claims that video is the “new window shopping,” the “new instruction manual,” and even the “new sales clerk.” YouTube also boasts the largest share of digital ad space, and super specific-targeting options.

Though YouTube ads are part of the Google Ads universe, there are some core differences that set it apart from the rest of Google’s advertising options.

With that in mind, here’s what you need to know about the platform, from driving conversions to setting up a campaign.

Free Download: How Real Brands Use YouTube Ads to Grow

Types of YouTube Ads and When to Use Them

YouTube offers a few different ad formats; each has its own set of benefits and aligns with a slightly different set of goals.

While most are centered around brand awareness and top-of-the-funnel messaging, there are some options designed to attract shoppers who are closer to making a purchase, or as a tool for collecting leads that can be used in later marketing campaigns.

Here’s a breakdown of each ad type and when you might use these to reach your campaign goals.

TrueView Ads

TrueView ads are the skippable ads you’ll see at the beginning of a YouTube video. These ads are relatively low-risk, as you’ll only be charged when someone watches 30 seconds or more of your ad—or if the user took action directly from the ad. Because users can skip the ad after five seconds, TrueView is something of a low-risk point of entry for new advertisers. As you can imagine, most people will opt out. 

That said, you need to make the most of those five seconds. Don’t plug your product and hope you’ll earn some clicks. Speak to viewers’ pain points and curiosity. Tell a story or share a case study. Whatever you do, make sure your ad is entertaining, memorable, and emotionally engaging. If it generates a sense of empathy from your audience, all the better.

Here’s an example from Nail Communications that earned some serious completion rates by claiming they’d save the puppy if you avoided the skip button:

Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


TrueView for Action Ads

TrueView for Action campaigns help e-commerce companies do more than generate brand awareness. They’re designed to capture leads and conversions by including CTAs and text overlays in your video ads. 

Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


TrueView Discovery Ads

Discovery Ads show up as related videos and in the YouTube search results. Businesses pay every time someone clicks on a Discovery ad, regardless of view time, though they benefit from the boost in visibility.

Keep in mind that this ad type requires a slightly different approach than, say, a TrueView Shopping or Action campaign. Discovery ads are akin to a boosted post on Facebook or Instagram. Like these posts, Discovery Ads should fit in with the organic content on YouTube–you’re just paying to get in front of more users.

Here’s an example from sunscreen brand Sun Bum, which uses paid ads to connect with like-minded viewers. It’s the perfect way to build brand awareness in an entertaining way. 

Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


Non-Skippable YouTube ads

Non-skippable ads may come with the risk of irritating audiences, but when done right, they’re an effective way to make sure that your entire message is delivered. Advertisers can choose between pre-roll ads, which play before a video starts, or mid-roll ads, which play in the middle of longer videos.

Make sure that your video showcases your product’s value to your target audience and that your message comes across both as a video and through audio alone.

This way, if your viewer walks away while they’re waiting for their video to load, they might still get the message.

Generally, non-skippable ads are effective for generating brand awareness in front of your target audience. Like other awareness-centric ads, Google charges advertising accounts based on the number of impressions they receive.

With that in mind, you’ll want to be strategic about which groups you target; otherwise, you may end up wasting money on the wrong viewers.

Bumper Ads

Like preroll ads, bumper ads also fall into the non-skippable category. Advertisers pay each time the ad is displayed. However, these ads have a six-second limit, so advertisers don’t have the luxury of holding audiences hostage for a whole 20 seconds. 

Bumper Ads are best suited for brand awareness campaigns due to their short length. We don’t recommend trying to cram a bunch of information into the ad; stay focused on one goal at a time. Instead of trying to cover your “full narrative,” focus on one feature or benefit at a time.

Here’s an example from Airbnb, which captures the best side of a family vacation:

Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


YouTube Targeting Options

As is the case with traditional Google Ads campaigns, YouTube ads come with a range of targeting options that you can use to reach the right people and get them to take action. As you can see from the set-up screen, there’s a bit more going on here than in the search network.

Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


  • Demographics: Demographic targeting includes age, income, gender, and location—the usual basics that serve as a starting point for defining your audience. While each individual category doesn’t tell you much about your audience, you can drill down to create audiences within audiences. So, for example, if you’re targeting adults in their 30s and 40s, you might segment ads based on whether they have children or if they own homes.
  • Affinity audiences: Affinity audiences target people based on broad areas of interest, such as those who like video games or avidly follow sports or fashion.
  • Custom affinity audiences: Custom affinity audiences get more specific than the default affinity groups. Instead of targeting users who like sports in general, you might target people who have searched for baseball stats.
  • Life events: Like demographics, life-event targeting aims to segment people based on some pretty broad identifiers. This time, however, you can use things like an upcoming marriage or homeownership to inform your ad strategy. 
  • In-market audiences: This kind of targeting is used to show your ads to people who have been searching for products like the ones you’re showcasing. According to Google, the search engine determines whether someone is “in-market” for a product or service based on several factors, including conversions, clicks, and search history.
  • Custom intent audiences: Custom intent audiences, according to Google, are for performance advertisers—and the aim of using these groups is to catch viewers right as they’re about to make a purchasing decision. This option provides more control than many of the other audience targeting options you can select when you set up your YouTube ad campaigns. 
Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


  • Placement targeting: Placement targeting is unique to Youtube ads and allows you to target specific channels, videos, websites, or placements within the Display Network. You can track ad performance in your Google Ads dashboard, scanning for low-performing videos so that you can exclude those placements to optimize performance. 
Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


  • Topics: Target your ads based on topics related to your brand to capture audiences likely to connect with your offerings.
  • Keyword targeting: Target audiences based on their search histories. For example, if you sell skincare products, you might target searchers turning to Google for advice on how to heal a sunburn.

Invest in Your Brand’s YouTube Channel

YouTube ads are great for increasing your reach, but for best results, you’ll want to go beyond using the platform for paid ads and really flesh out your channel. You need to have an active YouTube channel to run ads, so neglecting the platform will read as unprofessional to customers looking for more information.

Users might first hear about your brand from an ad, but longer content that focuses on everything from tutorials to entertaining “behind-the-scenes” videos can go a long way in building trust.

For best results, make sure your channel is set up so that visitors can quickly find useful information about your products, services, and brand. 

A great example of a brand doing YouTube right is BirchBox. While the brand does run ads, they’ve put together a nice mix of content that speaks to anyone interested in beauty products, whether or not they’re customers. 

Youtube ads, youtube ads e-commerce


Track the Right Metrics

Instead of measuring clicks and conversions against traditional PPC campaigns, you’ll want to think about your performance in terms of reach and intent.

Unlike people browsing on Google Shopping, users don't visit YouTube to watch ads. So, chances are, you won't see a whole lot of users clicking away from the page to buy something after your ad plays in the middle of a video. Click To Tweet

Checking your total views and your view rate will give you a sense of two key metrics: one, whether people see your ad, and two, how many people watch the whole ad voluntarily.

In your Google Ads account, you can review YouTube-specific metrics like views, partial views, channel subscriptions, click-through rates, views sourced from a user sharing the video, etc.

These actions paint a picture for advertisers so that they can get a better sense of how they can fine-tune their video marketing strategy to deliver the best possible results.

You’ll then want to take a look at earned actions, or what the viewer did after watching your ad.

 Earned actions include the following:

  • Subscribing to YouTube channel
  • Watching more videos
  • Sharing, liking, or commenting

From there, you’ll also want to check out your ad performance. Did your site see an influx in traffic? More sales? Did you get more signups?

YouTube Ad metrics and bidding strategies are a whole other topic, but Google Support goes through the basics here, if you’re looking for more info.

Wrapping Up

YouTube offers the potential to get your ads in front of millions of people who use the platform every day.

With that said, no matter the ad format, you’ll need to have a solid strategy standing behind it. That means creating engaging, valuable organic content that nurtures your relationship with your audience.

If you need a hand with your PPC efforts, reach out. At Key PPC, we work exclusively with e-commerce stores, using proven techniques to help our clients scale—whether that’s through paid video, Shopping, Search, or all of the above is up to you.

Free Download: How Real Brands Use YouTube Ads to Grow