We're hiring

We love digital - Call
03332 207 677Circle Info
and say hello - Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm

Call 03332 207 677Circle Info

Aaron Levy

How To Use YouTube For Direct Response Advertising

22nd May 2013 Social Media, Video Marketing 5 minutes to read

YouTube LogoAaron Levy looks at which advertising formats work best with YouTube, alongside the best metrics to track and an amazing new feature that hardly anyone knows about. 

I’m sure at this point just about everyone has heard YouTube’s claim to fame driven home by Google reps. No, not that it’s the world’s largest repository of cat videos. Rather if you haven’t heard, YouTube is actually the second largest search engine on the internet. Search engine! So why aren’t we search marketers taking advantage?

Traditionally, YouTube has been viewed much more of a branding medium. The vast majority of the sponsorship options were focused on driving as many views as possible. That, or any number of page takeover options that were wildly expensive. However, that’s not the case anymore, as YouTube has delivered a variety of options that can (and should) be used for direct response.

I’m going to focus on YouTube’s major ad formats below – the pay-per-view TrueView ads.


(listed from worst to best for direct response).

In Stream
In stream ads are likely what you’d think of when it comes to YouTube ads. These ads are pre-roll videos that users have to watch before they get to see your video. The ads come with a small companion banner (in the top right) which in the example below Zagg has cleverly used to sneak a call to action. Users have the option to skip the ads after a few seconds, in which case advertisers won’t be charged.


In my experience, In-stream ads are probably the worst option for direct response. Think about it like a television commercial; generally speaking it’s just getting in the way of what you really want to watch. Even if you do have a particularly compelling ad in this case, users will still watch the content they originally came for and may forget what they saw beforehand.

Note: In-slate ads are essentially the same, only a user can choose one of three ads before a long form video. The pitfalls are the same, and the ads are retiring shortly.

In Display
Advertisers can target their videos contextually, by category or by topic and have the videos show as suggestions when a user views their desired content.

Ricky Gervais

Think of these exactly as you would the Google Display Network for a regular search campaign. It can (and often is) a great way to expand volume, but aside from any major extenuating circumstances you’d never base your entire campaign just on the GDN. These can be a viable option for direct response, but shouldn’t be the baseline.

In Search
Ahhh, now these adverts are a beautiful thing! Keyword targeting, focused on searchers; exactly what we’re used to! The ads show at the top of the YouTube search results page (much as they would for AdWords), and direct users to watch your video of choice. The ads show on YouTube and (if you’d like) on Google Video search as well. Ads run on a cost per click (CPC) basis, so each time a user reaches your video you’ll be charged; this differs from the other videos that are based on cost per view (CPV).

In Search Adverts

Now, there are a few key tips to make sure your In-search ads perform well.

  • First, it’s important to remember that users search differently on YouTube. Use the YouTube Keyword tool to find suggested queries that might be popular with users.
  • They’re more than likely searching for a review, instruction or information centered around your product, so you have to write your ads accordingly.
  • Focus your ads on the pain points that might cause a user to search for video information.
  • Dole out simple tips and tricks in copy, and encourage users to watch your video.

The direct response aspect of it comes through in the video content.

Video Content

Think about infomercials. They address a problem (however ridiculous that problem may be), and provide an innovative solution with their product. Your video content should behave exactly the same way. It should not just be a re-purposed commercial, especially not for direct response. Rather, it should provide a quick bit of information to spark users’ interest, and should drive them to your site with audible and visual calls to action.

In my experience, videos around a minute long tend to perform the best from an advertising perspective. Too short and you can’t fit in enough information. Too long, and a user will grow bored and skip to watch their desired content. If you want a few tips on shooting professional videos, Google offers a (very) robust YouTube Playbook for developing video content.

The Metrics

YouTube offers a myriad of metrics, but in this case I’ve just focused on the most important one: conversions. Yes, YouTube does report on conversions. Conversions are reported on a per-view basis; these should not be discounted in the same way as a view through conversion for display however. YouTube only counts a conversion when it’s the last-touch channel. If a user watches your video and then searches and clicks on an ad, the search ad will get the credit instead of YouTube. Each YouTube conversion is incremental, and is de-duplicated from search.

Bonus – Re-marketing with YouTube

Did you know you can re-market based on user behavior on YouTube? It’s one of the easiest and surprisingly, most underutilized features I’ve seen. Simply connect your YouTube Channel to your AdWords account, and you’ll quickly see re-marketing audiences pre-populating to target your viewer base.


I hope this post helped you think a little differently about testing YouTube for direct response. Obviously, there’s a ton of different optimizations to be done after launch but hopefully this should give you a good start. If you have experience with the channel or have any further questions please leave them below:

The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team.

Share this post

Download Your Free Whitepaper

Video Marketing Guide


What do you think?

Callum Coard

BrightonSEO Roundup: Practical Insights into Winning Featured Snippets

Callum Coard
5th Oct 2018
Michael Lam

BrightonSEO Roundup: Take your Site Speed Optimisation to the Next Level

Michael Lam
4th Oct 2018

Digital Ideas Monthly

Sign up now and get our free monthly email. It’s filled with our favourite pieces of the news from the industry, SEO, PPC, Social Media and more. And, don’t forget - it’s free, so why haven’t you signed up already?
  • We’ve got some really cool stuff we want to share with you. So you don’t miss out, let us know which of the following you want us to email you about going forward:
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Circle Cross

Unlike 08 numbers, 03 numbers cost the same to call as geographic landline numbers (starting 01 and 02), even from a mobile phone. They are also normally included in your inclusive call minutes. Please note we may record some calls.