The Complete YouTube Ad Guide for eCommerce

We know that video marketing is king right now. But are YouTube ads a good place to start upgrading videos ads in your overall eCommerce marketing strategy?

The answer is a resounding yes. 

More and more online store owners are jumping on the eCommerce YouTube ad bandwagon, and it is no surprise why. YouTube currently has a whopping 1.7 billion unique monthly visitors and gets a staggering 14.3 billion visits per month. 

youtube stats compared to other platforms

[Source: Hootsuite

And with the new addition of Performance Max (more widely known as Smart Shopping), YouTube is becoming a superior way for online retailers to not only reach new audiences but convert more shoppers within the video platform. 

In this eCommerce guide to YouTube ads, we will cover:


Why Add YouTube Advertising to Your Video Marketing Strategy?  


Let’s quickly recap why YouTube ads are an absolute must when building a high-performing marketing strategy. 

Video marketing is a key part of an effective eCommerce strategy, with as many as 80% of consumers finding demonstration videos helpful when making buying decisions. Add that to the fact that: 

There is no denying that YouTube ads are the perfect place to take advantage of the power of video.  

YouTube Advertising Benefits 

Here are three key benefits of using YouTube ads for your online store brand: 

  1. Broader audience reach. YouTube ads offer a wider, more unique audience reach than other top PPC channels. 
  2. Better customer engagement. YouTube ads offer a more engaging way to connect directly with customers on interest levels.  
  3. Easy to create and optimize. YouTube Ads are easy to set up and run, especially when you combine them with Google campaign automation

Combined, this all leads to more targeted traffic that boosts sales. 


Top YouTube Ad Types for eCommerce


best youtube ads for online stores

[Source: Google]

YouTube offers a variety of ad types that online stores should be testing. These include pre-roll ads such as bumper, non-skippable (preroll), skippable (TrueView), and sponsored card ads, just to name a few.  

By using the right campaign at the right time, you can feed shoppers along the journey and reach them at any stage, whether it’s awareness or remarketing cart abandoners

Here is a breakdown of all YouTube ad types for eCommerce, where they appear, when to use them, and the specs you need to follow when choosing this campaign type.

1. Bumper YouTube Ads

bumper youtube ads shopify

[Source: Google]

Best for: Awareness and reach

Length: Max. 6 seconds

YouTube ad cost: These video ad campaigns are charged by cost-per-thousand-impressions (CPM)

Google campaign goal to select: Brand awareness and reach; campaign created without a goal

Bumper ads are short, unskippable ads that last a maximum of six seconds, and are played before, during, or after the viewer’s selected video. 

These ads appear on YouTube videos or Google’s partner sites and apps, and are designed to reach a broad range of viewers with a short, memorable message. In one study, YouTube found that 90% of brands using bumper ads saw a significant rise in ad recall.

More often than not, brands use bumpers in conjunction with TrueView and other Google campaigns to boost awareness and increase reach. Depending on eligibility, some bumper ads may also appear on YouTube TV.

2. Non-Skippable In-Stream YouTube Ads

nonskippable youtube ads

[Source: Google]

Best for: Driving brand or product awareness 

Length: 6–15 seconds  

YouTube ad cost: As these YouTube ads use Target CPM bidding, marketers are charged based on impressions 

Google campaign goal to select: Brand awareness and reach 

Non-skippable in-stream ads are videos that play with video content, either before, during, or immediately after the video content a viewer is watching. This can be streamed on YouTube itself, on partner sites and apps, or on YouTube TV if eligible. 

At a maximum of 15 seconds, non-skippable in-stream ads are longer than bumpers, but still short enough to make a significant mobile impact, using less data and less time. 

The drawback is that these ads can seem intrusive and annoying, which is why YouTube put an end to longer, 20-second unskippable ads back in 2018. However, if done correctly and integrated well with the video content, non-skippable videos can leave the viewer feeling good while yielding huge results. 

A brand that has seen excellent results using 15-second ads in their overall YouTube marketing strategy is Hershey. Combining influencer reach, bumper ads, and 15-second videos could leverage both organic and paid reach to maximize impact. 

The results?

  • A 12% lift in purchase intent and a 551% increase in searches

Here’s a list of available assets and guidelines for YouTube non-skippable in-stream ads: 

non-Skippable guidelines

Click Here to Automate Your YouTube Video Ads While Boosting ROAS

3. Skippable In-Stream YouTube Ads

skippable stream ads

[Source: Google]

Best for: Promoting product videos and content  

Length: No limit 

YouTube ad cost: These ads are charged in one of two ways: 

  • CPV (cost-per-view) when viewers watch the entire duration of the video or at least 30 seconds for longer content 
  • By impressions, if marketers are targeting with CMP (cost-per-thousand impressions),
  • CPA (target cost-per-action), or maximize conversion bidding

Google campaign goal to select: Sales, leads, traffic, brand awareness and reach, product and brand consideration, or when you select “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance” 

Skippable in-stream ads play before, during, or after other video content, and can be skipped by the viewer after 5 seconds. They appear on YouTube watch pages and Google video partner websites and apps. One of the advantages of these video ads is that marketers only pay when viewers have engaged with the video or for overall impressions. 

The benefits of adding this YouTube ad type to your eCommerce video marketing strategy is that it includes a host of interactive ad features that push engagement, such as: 

  • Sitelink extension
  • Product feeds 
  • Call-to-action buttons 
  • Auto end screens 
  • Related videos 

But more on these later. Here’s a list of available assets and guidelines for YouTube skippable in-stream ads:

Skippable in-stream ads available assets

Pro Tip: If you want to make skippable videos more engaging and avoid the dreaded skip, eCommerce marketers should: 

  • Make the first five seconds super engaging 
  • Include interactive ad features throughout 
  • Speak your audience’s language

You can head over to the 5 Quick Tips for Creating eCommerce YouTube Video Ads that Convert [+ Examples] post for more hacks. 

4. In-Feed YouTube Video Ads

infeed product videos ads

[Source: Google]

Best for: Promoting video content in YouTube search 

YouTube ad cost: Marketers are charged by views (CPV) only when viewers choose to watch your ad by clicking the thumbnail 

Google campaign goal to select: Product and brand consideration, or when marketers choose “Create a campaign without a goal’s guidance” 

In-feed ads were formally known as Discovery ads, and before that, as YouTube display ads. These ads consist of a thumbnail and text that encourage searchers to watch your video by clicking the thumbnail.

Discovery TrueView Ads placementDiscovery TrueView Ads placementDiscovery TrueView Ads placement

In-feed YouTube video ads are content listing ads that include a thumbnail and some text, and encourage users to click to watch video content. The exact size formatting of these ads will depend on where they are displayed. In-feed video ads appear on or alongside YouTube: 

  • Mobile homepages 
  • Search results pages 
  • Related YouTube videos 

google display ads youtube

Because these YouTube video ads are shown while viewers are browsing related videos, they are ideal for building brand consideration and improving chances of video, ad, and channel engagement. 

Here’s a list of available assets and guidelines for YouTube skippable in-stream ads: 

in-feed ad guidelines

5. Outstream YouTube Ads

Outstream ads youtube

[Source: Google]

Best for: Reach and awareness

Length: No limit 

YouTube ad cost: Marketers are charged when ads are viewed for two seconds or more and are based on viewable cost-per-thousand impressions (vCPM)

Google campaign goal to select: Brand awareness and reach or campaigns created without a goal

Outstream YouTube ads are mobile-only video ads shown in partner apps or websites and off YouTube. These video ads were designed to increase your video reach at an efficient cost and appear on Google video partner websites and apps.

 

outstream-example

Initially, these ads are played muted, with viewers clicking to un-mute. Views only count if more than 50% of screen space is shown for two seconds or longer. Outstream ads run across a variety of placements, including: 

  • Interstitials
  • Banner 
  • In-feed  
  • Both portrait and fullscreen modes 

ppc automation tool

7. Masthead YouTube Ads

Masthead youtube ads

[Source: Google]

Best for: Product launches and/or promotions

Length: various

YouTube ad cost: These ads are charged on a cost-per-thousand impressions (CPM) basis 

Google campaign goal to select: By reservation only 

Masthead ads are only available by reservation through a Google sales representative. However, they are designed to reach a massive audience in a short period of time. This means they are ideal for significant sales events and product launches.  

Masthead ads are usually widescreen or 16:9 ratio. However, the formatting and ad specs will differ depending on device placement. Placements include: 

  1. Desktop: On desktop, these YouTube ads autoplay without sound for up to 30 seconds on the YouTube Home feed. After this, the video defaults to the video thumbnail. 
  2. Mobile: On the mobile site or app Home feed, Masthead ads autoplay without sound for the entire video duration and feature customizable headlines, thumbnails, description texts, and external CTAs. 
  3. TV: Where supported, Masthead TV ads autoplay for the full duration of the video without sound and allow for TV remote view engagement.

youtube-masthead-widescreen

[Source: Instapage]

Pro Tip: Combining Masthead with traditional TV ads can be beneficial for larger online retailers, especially when targeting specific age groups or highly segmented demographics. 

Here are the available assets and guidelines for Masthead YouTube ads. If you want to preview what your video marketing content would look like as a Masthead ad, you can do that here. 

masthead ad guidelines

8. Google Video Action Campaigns (Formally TrueView for Shopping Campaigns)  

Best for: Driving product conversions on and off YouTube 

Length: Minimum of 10 seconds 

YouTube ad cost: PPC 

Google campaign goal to select: Sales, leads, or website traffic goals

Marketers will want to use Google video action campaigns if they want to use video to drive action to your product or store brand. To use them, though, you will need to use campaign conversion tracking

Formally known as TureView action and TrueView for Shopping, these ads combine inventory from the YouTube Home feed and watch pages and Google video partners to enable marketers to reach new customers. 

video action campaigns

This means they are easy to scale, as they don’t require budget or bid sets per inventory source. Video action campaigns use either skippable in-stream and in-feed video ads formats and include: 

  • CTAs 
  • Headlines (one long, one short) 
  • Description 
  • Product feed or extensions 

action campaigns features and specs

Here’s a video on how to get started with video action campaigns. 

Video actions are single automated Google campaigns, and when used creatively, YouTube ads with interactive features can boost traffic in a big way. William Painter, for example, saw a:

  • 1,500% increase in store traffic
  • 1,300% increase in conversions 
  • 13x year-on-year sales revenue increase 

after incorporating YouTube into their eCommerce marketing strategy. 

9. Bonus: Google Text Overlay Ad (Google Ads) 

Overlay ads are technically Google ads but are definitely worth a mention when discussing YouTube advertising opportunities for eCommerce. According to Google, overlay ads appear within a video player or the bottom 20% of a video stream’s play space.

Overlay ads are text ads shown on video content via Google’s Display Network and YouTube partner programs. They are populated automatically when marketers enable campaigns to appear across the networks without changing network settings. These ads are ideal for brand awareness and are a highly popular web content format. 

YouTube Advertising Formats and Specs 

Looking for video ad specs? Here’s a breakdown summary of YouTube ad formats for the above ad types: 

Youtube video Ad specs


The Best Way to Create YouTube Campaigns to Boost Performance


Step #1: Link Google Ads and YouTube Accounts

The first thing you want to do is link your YouTube and Google Ads accounts. This will enable you to access YouTube reports and video statistics from your eCommerce Google Ads and to create ads based on your YouTube interactions and engagement. 

Here is a breakdown of what you’ll be able to do with the data you will get from linking your accounts:

  • Create remarketing lists from YouTube viewers
  • View organic video and action metrics of accounts and videos ads
  • Create CTA overlays

Here’s Google’s guide to linking YouTube channels and Google Ads:

how to link YouTube with Google Ad s

Step #2: Choose the Right Campaign Type for Key Goals 

Once you have linked your accounts, you’re ready to create your first YouTube campaign.

how to Create youtube campaign

how to Create youtube campaign

Here’s a description of each:

1. Leads

These campaigns are designed to help you generate customer sign-ups and leads. In eCommerce terms, you could use this if you’re using video ads to grow email marketing lists or to get customers to sign up for a subscription service.

With these campaigns, you can use automated bidding and targeting to optimize ads to reach potential shoppers searching for what you’re selling, collect subscription or sign up data for marketing campaigns, and create video ad formats that encourage viewers to take action.

2. Website Traffic

Traffic YouTube campaign types are explicitly designed to drive traffic from YouTube content to your website. 

With these campaign types, you can target new traffic or remarket previous traffic, reach new shoppers actively looking for what you’re selling, and use CTA and other features to increase clicks and website traffic after a video finishes.

3. Product and Brand Consideration

By selecting a “product and brand consideration” campaign type, you will be taken through recommendations that help you create a campaign designed to reach more potential shoppers who are more likely to buy the types of products you sell. 

With these campaigns, you can engage with potential shoppers who’ve shown interest in your store and influence potential shoppers who are already actively searching for products in your niche.

create a product and brand consideration campaign

4. Brand Awareness and Reach

As the name suggests, these campaigns are designed to create awareness for either your eCommerce brand or a specific product you’re launching. With these YouTube campaign types, you can use a variety of ad formats to attract the attention of new audiences, offering a broader reach.

If you’re not sure what campaign type you need, use the “create a campaign without a goal” option, which allows you to create your campaign manually.

create a campaign without a goal

Pro Tip: If you want to base your choice on the type of YouTube ad you want to use, here’s a reminder of which campaign to select:

  1. Bumper ads: Brand awareness and reach; campaign created without a goal
  2. Non-skippable in-stream ads: Brand awareness and reach 
  3. Skippable in-stream ads: Sales, leads, traffic, brand awareness and reach, product and brand consideration 
  4. In-feed ads: Product and brand consideration
  5. Outstream ads: Brand awareness and reach; campaign created without a goal
  6. Video action campaigns: Sales, leads, or website traffic goal

Still not sure? Here is Google’s video campaign goals and subtypes guide. 

Next, you will create your YouTube video after filling in the details of your campaign type:

  • Campaign name
  • Budgets
  • Start and end dates
  • Networks
  • Languages
  • Locations
  • Bids
  • Content exclusions (types/content/labels)
  • Ad groups
  • Demographics & audiences
  • Targeting (keywords, topics, and placements)

These are relatively straightforward if you’ve used Google ads before. However, it’s worth looking at targeting a little closer when it comes to YouTube campaign setup. Specifically: 

  1. YouTube ad targeting 
  2. Bidding options 

Here’s a breakdown of the types of audiences and targeting you could add to your YouTube ad campaign:

YouTube Campaign Targeting Options 

1. Demographics: Here you input the gender, age, parental status, and household income of your audience.

YouTube demographic targeting

2. Audiences: YouTube audience targeting enables you to input the following: 

  • Detailed demographics such as age, location, income, etc. 
  • Affinity and custom affinity audiences: Targeting groups or companies people are interested in, or more specifically, their interests. For example, you could target customers who are interested in contouring makeup trends or who like to listen to the Beatles.   
  • In-market, life events, and customer intent.  
  • Remarketing or similar audiences, such as targeting potential shoppers who have viewed or engaged with previous videos, or based on previous channel content they have viewed.

YouTube audiences targeting

3. Keywords: Keyword targeting is where you input your targeting.

Keywords targeting

4. Topics: This is where you select from overall interests such as “Arts & Entertainment” or “Food & Drink,” as well as sub-categories.

Topic targeting YouTube ads

5. Placements: Your final targeting option is placement, including YouTube channels and videos, websites, apps, and app categories.

placement targeting YouTube ads

YouTube Campaign Bidding Options  

Depending on the campaign type you choose, you will pay for ads in the following ways: CPC, CPM, CPV (cost-per-view). In other words, your bidding options will depend on the campaign type you have chosen.

  1. Lead campaigns: CPA (cost-per-acquisition)
  2. Website campaigns: CPA (cost-per-acquisition)
  3. Product and brand consideration campaigns: CPV (cost-per-view)
  4. Brand awareness and reach: CPV (cost-per-view)

Step #4: Boost Video Ad Creation with Interactive Features 

Once the video has been loaded to your YouTube channel, you can select your designated video for your campaign and create your video creative. Depending on the type of campaign and video you’re choosing, your creative options will vary. 

For example, with in-feed ads, you will choose a thumbnail, headline, two one-line descriptions, video name, and landing pages. In contrast, in-stream videos will require display URL, ad name, and banners.

Tip: If you are looking for tips on creating your video content, head over to our YouTube Video Creation Hacks post. 

You will also want to consider which interactive ad features you use when creating your ads. In terms of eCommerce, product feeds will be the top choice, but by using the combination of these features you can improve your campaign performance. 

Let’s break them down. 

1. Google Ads Interactive Features

When you create video campaigns through Google ads, you have access to the following supported interactive features: 

  1. Related videos: Related videos is an interactive list of relevant content within a video. 
  2. Auto end screens: An auto end screen is an automatically generated screen that encourages viewers to take action at the end of a video ad. 
  3. Extensions: Similar to search extensions, YouTube video extensions add links to inform pages or enable viewers to fill out their information. 
  4. CTA buttons: Adding CTA buttons on your video ads encourages viewers to click to your store or product page. 
  5. Product feeds: This feature turns your videos into virtual storefronts by connecting YouTube video ads with your Merchant Center

product feed feature

[Source: Google

2. YouTube Studio Interactive Features

When you create video through YouTube studio, you have access to the following supported interactive features: 

  1. End screens: This enables video marketers to add end screens to YouTube videos to elicit further engagement.
  2. Cards: Cards are designed to highlight products, related content, or brand channels.

video card example

[Source: Backlinko]


YouTube Campaign Optimization Tips for eCommerce


Like you would with other Google ads or eCommerce Facebook campaigns, once you have loaded your campaign, you will need to monitor and optimize it. For YouTube campaigns specifically, you want to ensure you do the following key things: 

  1. Set the right Goals and Metrics
  2. Test and Monitor YouTube ad CTAs
  3. Optimize for View Rate
  4. Optimize for Cost-Per-View

1. Set the Right Goals and Metrics

If your overall goal is conversions, you need to look at all your metrics to get a good picture. If your views and clicks are low, test various creatives and headlines. The metrics you want to set goals for and monitor are: your conversions, video views, video clicks, audiences, and clicks on features such as cards or banners.  

This is particularly important for active shopping campaigns. Using optimization tools like Traffic Booster, you can ensure you optimize your YouTube campaigns in real-time without too much effort.

2. Test and Monitor Your CTAs

If your views are high but clicks are low, you want to look at your headlines, overlays, and CTAs. Like with any Google Ads campaign, it takes tweaking to ensure you get the results you want for your budget. Before throwing your entire budget in, test some CTA options to find the one most likely to convert.

3. Optimize for View Rate

YouTube rewards videos with a high view rate by increasing your chances of winning auctions and enjoying low CPVs. Therefore, optimizing to improve view rates can help improve your results overall while keeping your costs down. Some suggestions include:

  • Refine your targeting to ensure your videos aren’t reaching the wrong type of audience.
  • Change and test end screens and review or add CTAs to improve view rates.
  • Prevent video fatigue by alternating between two or three video campaigns to your desired audience.
  • Keep viewers engaged by keeping videos short. As a general rule, you want to average 30 seconds. However, you need to test video length stats for your specific audience to find the optimum ad length.

4.Optimize for Cost-Per-View

Another vital optimization metric is CPV (cost-per-view), as this will point to places where you are paying too much for your views. You want to keep your CPVs as low as possible to ensure you’re getting the most out of your YouTube advertising campaign budgets. 

There are three areas of your campaign that you can adjust to help improve your CPVs:

  1. Enhancing your video creatives to help push your view rates and therefore lower your CPVs
  2. Adjusting your campaign bids to ensure you aren’t paying beyond your maximum limit
  3. Expanding your targeting to help reduce the competition that comes with a narrow audience

Expert YouTube Ad Hacks and Tips


To win at YouTube, you want to make sure you have set your videos for success, whether these are videos you plan on using for your campaigns or interesting pieces of video content you’re adding to your channel. Here are some general YouTube tips to get you started.

1. Use YouTube Cards to Push Product Videos

Adding cards to your YouTube videos (for ads and channels) helps convert engaged viewers into potential shoppers. Cards are a small ‘i’ that YouTube viewers can click.

using youtube cards to sell products

You can choose to either showcase other YouTube content or direct viewers to specific product videos.

using youtube cards to sell products

2. Put Effort into Your Titles

Your video title not only makes the first impression, but should be relevant to the content. You want to make sure that titles are concise and relevant, without spammy clickbait terms. This doesn’t just help with your YouTube ads, but will also help with your channel/video organic search within YouTube and other non-video SERPs. According to Search Engine Land, here are the top five tips for creating effective YouTube video titles, which in turn will improve chances of better CTRs:

  • Keep titles short and within character limits
  • Conduct keyword research for your titles
  • Keep titles descriptive and concise
  • Review popular video titles in your niche
  • Put the word “video” in your titles

3. Understand that Your Channel Does Matter

If you plan on running a variety of video ads, don’t forget to put effort into your channel. If someone sees your ad and clicks through to your store’s channel to see other content and there is nothing there, it could have a negative impact on your brand. Instead, you want to post content (ads and day-to-day posts) on a regular basis to ensure your channel looks active. 

And remember, you want to keep your content relevant and interesting and answer your potential customers’ questions/needs. These videos don’t have to look like blockbusters; you only have to search “unboxing” videos or YouTube celebs to see that quality isn’t as important as value.

Another way you can put more effort into your channel is by engaging your audiences with playlists. This means arranging your videos in an order that makes sense, and grouping sub-niche or topic categories into playlists for easy viewing, like eCommerce YouTube stars ThinkGeek.

ecommerce youtube channels

4. Customize Your Video Thumbnails

For ads and other YouTube video content, you want to make sure that you either use a really good-quality thumbnail, or design something specific to grab your viewers’ attention. 

Here are some thumbnail tips and ad specs to get you started:

  • Use the correct resolution (1280 x 720)
  • Make sure they are 640 pixels wide minimum
  • Use your video title to name your thumbnail
  • Be honest, relevant, and accurate when designing your thumbnails
  • Keep your branding (design and font) consistent, like the team at Vat19

VAT ecommerce youtube channels

5. Add Closed Captioning to All Videos

Adding closed captioning to all YouTube videos ensures your videos are accessible to a broader range of audiences. Captions in different languages can help attract viewers’ attention when muted (like with out-stream ads, or in the case of the hearing impaired) or help with SEO as Google indexes closed captions on videos. 

Regarding the latter, captions also improve engagement, which improves SEO rankings. You can either use Google’s automatic captioning or upload your own. 

Here is Google’s step-by-step guide to adding your own subtitles and closed captions:

how add close captions to videos

6. Take Advantage of End Screens

Lastly, adding end screens to your YouTube content and campaign videos is best to turn viewers into subscribers or send them to special product links. Here are some examples:

Youtube end screen examples

youtube end screen examples

Here’s Google’s guide to creating end screens:

how to create youtube end screens

Final Thoughts: Add YouTube Ads to Your eCommerce Marketing Strategy 

We don’t have to tell you that video marketing is vital if you want to compete in your niche. The trick is creating a robust video marketing strategy that works seamlessly with your overall marketing plan. 

Here’s the thing: it’s not enough to put all your video marketing eggs in the YouTube basket. With the launch of YouTube Premium, which offers users YouTube videos without ads, there are some roadblocks in terms of in-stream ads specifically. 

By combining YouTube ads into your full marketing strategy, you will ensure every stage of the shopping journey is covered across your PPC channels and social media. Additionally, you will want to test various YouTube ads, to find the best campaigns in terms of ROAS. And definitely invest in marketing automation to be able to optimize in real-time. 

Pro Tip: Looking for more video marketing hacks for your online store – beyond YouTube? Check out these popular marketing guides: 

  1. TikTok Ads for eCommerce and TikTok Best Practices
  2. Facebook Ads for eCommerce
  3. Microsoft Ads for eCommerce
  4. Google Ads for eCommerce
  5. Pinterest Ads for eCommerce

Still have YouTube advertising campaign or video marketing questions? Post them in the comments section below. Also, be sure to sign up for our newsletter to ensure you don’t miss out on upcoming YouTube guides on creating TrueView shopping and action campaigns!

Nicole Blanckenberg

Nicole is a content writer at StoreYa with over sixteen years experience and flair for storytelling. She runs on a healthy dose of caffeine and enthusiasm. When she's not researching the next content trend or creating informative small business content, she's an avid beachgoer, coffee shop junkie and hangs out on LinkedIn.

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