Google Adwords Video Ads: The Ultimate Guide

Adwords Video Ads present a huge opportunity for entrepreneurs to reach new customers on YouTube, which has over 1 billion active users.

It consistently outperforms other social networking sites in terms of conversion rates, making it a great place to start with video advertising. The average conversion rate on YouTube is 14%, compared to 10% on Facebook.

Although the platform might seem daunting, you don’t need to be a talented movie producer to create great Adwords Video Ads that convert.

Video Ads are one of the best ways to engage your audience, making it popular among marketers. In 2015, the State of Digital Marketing Report found that 76% of B2B business users used video, making it the most popular format for B2B advertising.


Video can also be big for retailers!

A Google consumer survey also discovered that one in every five 18- to 24-year olds say they go to YouTube to figure out which products or items are “cool” to purchase.

Retailers can use Adwords video ads to display a CTA (‘call to action’, e.g. “Click To Shop” vs. “Shop Now”, etc.) as well as the products mentioned in the video to drive retail sales.

Now that you’re excited about what video ads can do for your business, let me tell you what we’re going to cover today.

In this guide I’m going to show you the 4 different YouTube Ad formats that you need to start running, 4 killer tips to help you get ahead of the competition, and finally, how to set up your own Google Video Ads campaign.

4 Different Adwords Video Ad Formats on YouTube

There are 4 different types of Adwords Video Ads format that appear in different locations on the YouTube platform.

They can appear on the YouTube homepage, on search results pages, within the ‘related videos’ sidebar alongside videos, and within videos (at the start, middle, and/or end; either skippable or non-skippable).

Search Results Page adverts 

This ad format appears within YouTube’s search results, as shown below.


Related Videos Sidebar adverts 

This ad format appears alongside the related videos in the right-hand sidebar.


Skippable In-Stream adverts 

In-stream adverts appear before, during, or after a YouTube video is played. These ads give you the option to skip the ad after 5 seconds. Here is an example of Grammarly using an in-stream advert.


Non-Skippable In-Stream adverts

Non-skippable ads can, like skippable in-stream ads, play before, after, or during another video on YouTube – the only difference is that for these, the viewer is not given the option to ‘Skip Ad’. Here is an example of a non-skippable video.


Non-skippable videos will also appear in the middle of monetised videos on YouTube that are more than 10 minutes in length.

4 Top Tips for getting the most out of Adwords Video Ads

Knowing how to set up Adwords Video Ads is one thing – and implementing a strong strategy so that you generate a strong return on investment is another.

This next section will walk you through 7 effective strategies for generating more profit from Adwords Video Ads.

1) Include a strong Call To Action

Like text or image ads, having a strong call to action (COA) is key to success with Adwords Video Ads, telling users what action to take next.

You can include your COA using in-video links at the end of your video, and use these to direct watchers to other videos, your landing page, product page, information page, career page… Whatever you like.

To get the best results, we would suggest you make it clear where to get more information using the in-video links, and also give a visual cue to click to maximise the number of people who click through to your landing page.

Here is an example of YouTuber Marieforleo using different calls to action at the end of her video to encourage watchers to subscribe, watch another video, or visit her website.

2) Use a custom thumbnail image

Using custom thumbnail images are a great way to entice more people to click on your Adwords Video Ads.

Make sure that your thumbnail will be clear on all devices. If you’re using text, make it big, clear, and concise so it can be read easily. Also remember to choose colours for your background and text that have high contrast and increase readability.

If you have a product you want to advertise, make sure you make the product clear, and ensure there are no distractions in the background.

Here are some great examples from the King of SEO, Brian Dean.

3) Test different video lengths

When it comes to Adwords Video Ads, how long is too long?

Research by Wistia shows that videos between 0-30 seconds are most likely to get viewed until the end, with over 80% of users watching the full video, versus videos of longer length.

If your Video Ads are longer than 30 seconds and your call to action is at the end of the video, expect to see around a 5% drop in people seeing your call to action.


Depending on the type of video, you might want to use different lengths:

    • Tutorials / Explainers (45 – 90 Secs) – This is long enough to gauge interest with your crowd, and for them to get a sense of how the product/service works.
      • Creative commercials (15 – 30 secs) – Keep them short and sweet so that the main message is retained!
    • Testimonial videos (60 – 120 secs) – You’ll want these want to be long enough to allow you to showcase several customers talking about your product, but not too long so that the viewers lose interest.

When it comes to TrueView Ads, if the ad is under 30 seconds in length, you only pay if a viewer watches until the end. If the ad is longer than 30 seconds, you pay if the viewer watches for at least 30 seconds. In both cases, you pay if the viewer interacts with your ad before it’s over.

You may want to put messaging at a certain point so that uninterested viewers can skip the ad, or you might want to provide special offers towards the end of the video.

4) Split test your Adwords Video Ads

Just like you’d run split tests with two different text or image ads, you’ll want to do the same with video ads.

At any point of running your Adwords Video Ads campaign, make sure that you have at least 2 adverts within each ad group.

When split testing, don’t always focus on the number of views; instead look at business metrics such as the number of conversions generated, and at what cost, to maximise profitability.

How to set up Adwords Video Ads

There are three main steps to setting up a successful Adwords Video Ads campaign:

  1. Link your Adwords account to your YouTube channel
  2. Create a new video campaign within your Adwords account
  3. Select where your videos will be shown (Targeting settings)
  4. Upload your video ads

1) Link your Adwords account to your YouTube channel

The first stage of the process is to link your Adwords account and YouTube account together.

Your Adwords and YouTube accounts will still remain separate entities; in other words, you cannot directly create new Adwords adverts through your YouTube channel alone.

STEP 1. Log in to your YouTube channel.

STEP 2. Click on your channel icon on the top right-hand corner of the page, then select the “Creator Studio” option from the menu. [Note: This may be called “YouTube Studio (Beta)”. If this is the case, click this option, and you will be taken to the YouTube Studio page; click the “Creator Studio Classic” button at the bottom left of the page, then Skip/send feedback, to access the old view.]

STEP 3. On the left, click “Channel”, and then “Advanced”.

STEP 4. Under “Google Ads account linking”, click the “Link a Google Ads account” button, and follow the instructions to finish the process.

The owner of the Google Ads account will need to approve this request before the accounts are linked.

2) Creating a video campaign within your Adwords account

STEP 1. Click the red +Campaign button, and then from the drop-down menu, select “Video”.

STEP 2. Give your campaign a suitable name so that you can easily find it when you come to optimising your campaigns, and then select the Type of your campaign (the objective of the ad).

When it comes to choosing a Type, you have three options to choose from. You’ll need to choose the most suitable one for what you’re looking to advertise.

  • Standard: Video Ads to drive views, awareness and conversions (such as a lead or purchase)
  • Mobile App Installs: Video Ads that are designed to encourage people to install your mobile app
  • Shopping ads: Video Ads designed to encourage people to buy products listed in your Google Merchant Centre account. (To use this, you must have your Google Merchant Centre account linked to your Adwords account).

Step 3. Once you have selected an option, you will have to select the format of the Video Ads you are running. Here you have two options.

You can either run ads:

  • In-Stream: These are a type of true-view video ads. These either appear at the start, during, or after a video and can be skipped after 5 seconds. They also appear in the search results on YouTube, alongside related videos, and on the homepage.
  • Bumper ads: Bumper ads can also appear at the start, during or after a video. They must best 6 seconds long or less, and users do not have the option to skip this type of advert.

STEP 4. Next comes setting a bidding method and your budget. When it comes to your bidding method of choice, you have two options to choose from:

  • Manual: Maximum CPV – Here is where you set the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for a view.
  • Manual: Maximum CPM – Here is where you set the maximum amount that you’re willing to pay for your ads to be shown 1000 times.

STEP 5. Most advertisers will probably want to change their delivery method from ‘standard’ to ‘accelerated’ to show their ads as quickly as possible.

STEP 6. Now, select where you want your Google Video ads to run. You have three options:

  • YouTube Search: Your video ads will be displayed as a result within Google’s search results.
  • YouTube Videos: Your video ads will be displayed at the start, during, or after YouTube videos.
  • Video Partners on the Google Display Network: Your video ads will be shown on the GDN.

STEP 7. Finally, select the location that you want your video ads to be shown in.

3) Creating your Adwords Video Ads and setting your bid

Once you’ve created your first ad group, you’ll then need to select your Ad and Targeting Options. Here you’ll be prompted to create your first advert.

To create subsequent adverts, you’ll need to use the Ad tab, like you would to create any other format of Adwords ad.

STEP 1. Paste the URL of your YouTube video into the box provided, and then select the format of your ad – ‘In-stream ad’, or ‘Video discovery ad’ (i.e. displayed within search results).

Depending on whether you selected ‘In-stream ad’ or ‘Video discovery ad’ for the format, the next few steps will be slightly different.

In-Stream Ads

If you opted to create an In-Stream Video Ad, then your adverts will look like the one below. There are 3 subsequent steps that you need to take (continued from STEP 1 above).

STEP 2(a): Enter the ‘Display URL’ (the URL that you want to display to viewers, appearing at the bottom left-hand corner of your advert) and the ‘Final URL’ (the web page that users will be re-directed to once they click on your ad).

STEP 2(b): Now, create a ‘Companion banner’ advert (optional) to appear alongside your video advert in the top right-hand corner of the page (or under the video, if viewed on mobile).

Although Google offers you the option of an auto-generated image, we would suggest creating your own image (for some extra ‘edge’ to encourage viewers to click on it).

The banner should be 300 x 60 pixels in size.

STEP 2(c): Give your Ad a simple, clear name so you can find it easily.

Video Discovery Ads

If you have opted to create video discovery ads rather than in-stream ads, you’ll need to follow the steps below instead.

STEP 2(a): Select a thumbnail that will become the image alongside your advert.

STEP 2(b): Write your ad copy (‘Headline’, ‘Description 1’, ‘Description 2’), which will appear within YouTube’s search results. You’ll want to write something to encourage users to view your video, as seen in the example ad copy above.

STEP 2(c): Select the objective of your advert – is it to direct viewers to your YouTube channel page, or the page of a specific video hosted on YouTube (“The video’s watch page”)?

STEP 2(d): Give your advert a simple, clear name so you can find it easily.

In-Stream + Video Discovery Ads

STEP 3. Finally, select how much you’re willing to pay (per view, or per thousand impressions).

Generally, your Video Ad bids will be lower than those of regular Adwords search campaigns, with the average Video Ad bid at around £0.05 to £0.15.

If you wish, you can choose to select a ‘Popular videos bid adjustment’ that will increase your bids for ads displayed alongside the best-performing YouTube content.

4) Select where your Video Ads will be shown (targeting)

There’s a wide range of different options that are available to you on the Google Display Network. Here are the 6 types of targeting option that you can use:

  • Keyword targeting 
  • Topic targeting 
  • Demographic targeting 
  • Interest targeting 
  • Remarketing (also referred to as ‘retargeting’) 
  • Placement targeting 

It’s also possible to overlap different targeting methods to reach the most relevant audience.

For example, if you want to target people who are interested in bond investing between the age 30-65, you could use ‘Keyword targeting’ to target people who are visiting pages related to bond investing, and combine this with ‘Demographic targeting’ to target people who fit the demographic criteria (interested in bond investing, and between the ages of 30 and 65).

Display Keyword Targeting

Display Keywords allow you to place your Video Ad on websites that are contextually similar to your keywords. Unlike the search network, there are no match types.

For example, if you’re advertising bonds, you’ll want to include closely-related terms such as “bond investing”, “investment bonds”, etc.

Using their algorithm, Google will then determine which websites are related to your chosen keywords, and place your ads on these websites.

(Because you’re giving Google a lot of discretion to decide where your ads are placed, it’s important that you check your automatic placement reports regularly and exclude any irrelevant or poor-performing placements.)

You can add keywords to target by typing them into the box, on the left and then clicking the ‘Add keywords’ button.

To identify new keywords, select ‘Find relevant keywords’. More advanced users may also want to use the Google Display Network Planner.

Topic Targeting

Topic Targeting allows you to display adverts on websites that Google has already grouped into relevant buckets.

For example, for a bond advertising client, you’d want to target people in the category Finance > Investing > Stocks & Bonds > Bonds.

If you want to save time searching through them, you can find a list of topic codes here.

You have two different targeting options: 

  • Target and Bid. This allows you to show your ads on this placement irrespective of your other target methods.
  • Bid Only. This allows you to add the placement so that you can choose to set bids on them, but your ads will only be shown when your other targeting methods also match. Think ‘overlapping audiences’.

Demographic Targeting

Demographic targeting allows you to target people based on:

  • Gender
  • Age
  • Parental status

When using this feature, make sure you base your decisions on data as opposed to gut feeling.

This may sound obvious, but here’s an example of why it’s important to remember: a study by Think With Google showed that 40% of baby products are purchased by households that don’t contain parents.

If you were to exclude non-parents here, you’d be excluding 40% of your target audience.

The ‘Unknown’ demographic is where Google is unable to match users with their demographics data. You’ll want to include the ‘Unknown’ demographic in most cases, as we find that Google is often unable to match large proportions in some campaigns, and so by excluding this demographic you’re likely to lose a large amount of relevant traffic.

Interests Targeting and Remarketing

Interest Targeting and Remarketing comprise of several different types of targeting:

  • i. Remarketing (we won’t be covering this here, as we already have a detailed guide on Adwords remarketing)
  • ii. Affinity Audiences 
  • iii. Custom Affinity Audience 
  • iv. In-Market Audience 
  • v. Customer Match 
  • vi. Similar to Remarketing Audience (designed for expanding the reach of your remarketing lists)
  • vii. Similar to Custom Email List (designed for expanding the reach of your custom email lists)

Before drilling down into each of these different targeting options, it’s important to consider how these might fit into your wider strategy.

Here are the different stages of the buying cycle that are relevant to “Affinity Audiences”, “Custom Affinity Audiences” and “In-Market Audiences”.

  • Affinity Audiences – These are allow you to target top-of-funnel users who were previously unaware of your brand.
  • Custom Affinity Audiences – This is for targeting people who are in the ‘consideration’ phase – the people who are already aware of your brand, and are considering if they want to use.
  • In-Market Audiences – This is for targeting users who are displaying behaviours of purchasing.

i. Remarketing

Have you ever been on a website, only to find that the product you were just looking at is now mysteriously following you around the internet?

This can be achieved by adding a piece of code to your website that, using cookies, lets you track who’s visited your website and enables you to display ads to them at a later time.

You can create ‘audiences lists’ to target people who meet a number of different criteria; for example, those who have visited certain pages on your website, or stayed on your website for a certain amount of time.

I won’t go any further into it here, as we already have a very in-depth guide to remarketing that you can read here.

ii. Affinity Audiences

Affinity Audiences are very high-level audiences that are not particularly specific. For example, you can target people who like particular brands, persons, or TV shows.

I would recommend using this type of audience for brand campaigns as opposed to direct response advertising.

iii. Custom Affinity Audiences

Custom Affinity Audiences allow you to create custom audiences based on interests and websites that they like.

For example, following on from our ‘bonds’ example used previously, below I’ve created a Custom Affinity Audience that includes people who like the Financial Times website, and are interested in bonds or bond investing.

iv. In-Market Audiences

In-Market Audiences allow you to target people who are displaying behaviour of being ‘close to conversion’ (see the funnel above).

There are several wide audience buckets which you can choose from. To use this feature effectively, it’s a good idea to layer it with other targeting methods.

For example, for a bond investing client, we would target people who are interested in bonds specifically (by using Keyword Targeting or Topic Targeting), and then layer this with In-Market Audiences to target people who are both interested in investing in bonds and are ready to invest soon.

v. Customer Match

Customer Match is a slightly different targeting method that allows you to target people with ads on the Google Display Network that are also on your email list. 

This feature can be accessed by uploading a customer email list to Adwords. Google then matches the list to its users across its different platforms (such as Google, Gmail and YouTube).

All these different targeting methods can be accessed within the ‘Interests & remarketing’ targeting options shown below.

vi., vii. ‘Similar To’ Audiences

‘Similar To’ Audiences (‘Similar to Remarketing Audience’; ‘Similar to Custom Audience’) work in a similar way to lookalike audiences on Facebook. Google uses their data to create an audience that is similar to your email or custom audience list.

Because you’re targeting people who are very similar to the audiences who have already visited your website (or even purchased from you), by using this option, you should be able to reach people who are highly likely to convert but have not yet heard of you.


There you have it, you’re a champ! You now have everything you need to start your own successful Adwords Video Ads campaign.

Why not start by testing out some of your existing videos and seeing how they perform?

Remember, like any other form of direct advertising, you need to make sure that you can link your Adwords Video Ads ad performance to your KPIs, such as number of leads and cost per lead.

Have any questions? Let me know below and I’ll get back to you!

wesley parker
About wesley parker

Wesley is Founder and CEO at Clicteq. He currently manages a £6 Mil Adwords portfolio across a range of different sectors. He regulally features in leading search publications such as Econsultancy, Campaign Magazine and Search Engine Land. You can follow him on Twitter or connect with him on Linkedin

3 thoughts on “Google Adwords Video Ads: The Ultimate Guide

  • There should be keywords match type. I don’t know why Google doesn’t allow match types on display and youtube networks.

  • hi Wesley! This is an incredibly well-written article about marketing and targeting your audience effectively. I’m interested in this section titled ‘interests targeting and remarketing’ since I’m involved in the dynamic video retargeting in dynamic video remarketing industry. We routinely benchmark against our competition, which is spearheaded by a company known as Treepodia. When you do remarketing, particularly of product videos, how do you suggest targeting customers individually? What are the differentiation criteria needed to the effect of? I see the funnel lists awareness, consideration, and purchase, but what of the steps in between when it comes to the video marketing?

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