YouTube Promoted Videos 2.0 – A Look Into YouTube’s Promoted Video Ads Program

YouTube Promoted Videos 2.0 – A Look Into YouTube’s Promoted Video Ads Program

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Mark and I recently interviewed YouTube Promoted Videos Product Manager, Jay Akkad, about their announcement today of the expansion of the Promoted Video ads product.  We asked Jay some detailed questions about how the program works, and we talked with him about what these new enhancements mean in terms of targeting, reach, tracking, performance, and monetization for search marketers and advertisers at large.

YouTube Promoted Videos Grows and Expands

Online video advertising is central to a lot of businesses today, and projected by many research agencies for the largest accelerated growth over other ad models. Today, YouTube announced several huge advancements to their Promoted Videos program to help more advertisers easily set-up and manage campaigns with Promoted Videos.

  • The addition of Promoted Videos into their Video Targeting tool so you can expand your targeting approach to include specific video content against which you want to advertise in addition to advertising against search results and related content on YouTube.
  • YouTube’s new Promoted Video API in AdWords (in beta), where agencies can now use Promoted Videos at scale to manage complex campaigns with real-time bidding across multiple clients.
  • YouTube has expanded the ability to set-up video ad campaigns in all countries where YouTube is available.  (For anyone outside the US, the campaign will be tied to your Google AdWords account.)

So how are they doing? Well YouTube announced that they have served 1/2 billion views already within Promoted Videos. In the past year alone, Google says that they’ve seen more than a six-fold increase in the number of times viewers have clicked on to watch a Promoted Video. Many of those Promoted Video ads have reached over 1 million video views.

ReelSEO’s Interview with YouTube’s PM for Promoted Videos

The following is our exclusive interview with Jay Akkad, Product Manager of YouTube Promoted Videos. Jay shared that he has been with YouTube for 3 years, and started working on Promoted Videos a few months after it launched. It is a long and detailed interview – so if you want to skip ahead, here are the main topics we covered:

  1. Promoted views and how they’re treated
  2. Promoted Videos’ effect on search rankings
  3. Targeting and placement options
  4. Tracking and optimization
  5. Promoted Videos + Adsense Content Network
  6. YouTube Overlay ad performance
  7. What type of business benefits most
  8. Estimating CPC?
  9. Adwords API Integration
  10. Revenue Performance

How Are YouTube Promoted Videos Views Counted?

ReelSEO: How much of a Promoted Video must be watched by an actual audience member, or end user, for it to count as a “view?”

Jay Akkad, Google Product Manager
Jay Akkad, Product Manager for YouTube Sponsored videos

Jay: We use the same standards for what counts as a view, as we do with the rest of the YouTube site. There’s obviously a bunch of signals that go into how we measure a Promoted Video, and this one we refer to ask the view-count signal. Typically if you start watching the video, we’ll count it as a view. That’s also when we start to detect what we would refer to as, “spammy” behavior. For example, let’s say if you’re watching your own Promoted Video multiple times (where you click on the “Promoted Video” link that many times just to watch it). We’re certainly not going to count all those extra views.

There’s a bunch of other signals that are factored. Such as, if everybody stops watching the video after 2 seconds of play, we know something’s wrong and we’ll catch that .

The intent of the view is to really understand whether the user actually wanted to watch that video, and found enough information by watching it. We calculate views sort of after-the-fact.

We’ll look at our logs and attribute views for the majority of videos that cross something like 300 views, and really look to make sure what the view-count signal is. It’s a very important signal for us to make sure that the video doesn’t get spammed. But typically, we count a view at the start of the video being played and watched.

ReelSEO: Is there a way that advertisers who are running large promotional campaigns can contest their bills, if they suspect clickfraud? (Like you can do with Adwords.)

Jay: Absolutely. One thing to note is, Promoted Videos today is billed on the click. You can definitely follow the same processes as you do for AdWords if you suspect click fraud, and anything like that.

The view counts, on the other hand, are not tied to the same sources; and so, we’re looking at more the users’ usage logs. We’ll analyze those things, and we’ll attribute view counts slightly different. We are open to suggestions and always look forward to hearing from our advertisers, if there are any discrepancies.

ReelSEO: Do the views from Promoted Videos get incorporated into the total “View Count” of a video?

Jay: To answer your first question, views definitely get incorporated into the total view count. We definitely see this as a way of helping our users find the content that they’re looking for, and help advertisers get their content discovered.

ReelSEO: But we can say that if a video does happen to perform well with clicks in Google’s or YouTube’s organic results, and it happens to also run as a Promoted Video, then a click on that video in the organic search results won’t be counted as a paid click, correct?

Jay: Absolutely correct. The beauty of these Promoted Videos is that these are ads that also get a lot of organic views that advertisers aren’t paying for, because of their ability to show up in Google’s organic results, and/or YouTube’s organic results.

Better Search Rankings With YouTube’s Promoted Videos?

ReelSEO: So if the views from Promoted Videos are counted in your total view count, could that be a benefit to one’s organic search rankings? Or is it something that gets weeded out?

Jay: Does it help with search ranking? It does in terms that we think it’s going to be a positive experience for the user. But again, we want to make sure that we’re not enabling any spamming.

The important thing to note is that YouTube has 2 billion views a day. EVery view that we count, is really a user clicking on something that says that they want to watch that video. So that’s 2 billion discovery decisions being made every day.

Those discovery decisions get made all across the site. They get made on the search pages you mentioned. But primarily and more importantly, they also get discovered on the “Watch Page,” where users are watching a video, and then finding the next video to go to; and we find more discovery decisions are being made there. The primary signal that we measure there is what we call, “co-visitation,” along with hundreds of other signals. We look at things like: What other videos did the users watch, when they watched that Promoted Video? Having your own video promoted, and being co-visited with a series of other videos, is definitely helpful (to search rankings).

ReelSEO: Are you saying that the majority of the clicks on the ads – i.e., the views that come from the ads – originate from whatever’s being listed under “Related Videos”, as opposed to natural search?

Jay: Sorry, no. Let’s differentiate between the discovery decisions being made via ads, and the discovery decisions that are being made just generically across the site. So if people come and watch videos, and click on videos, that aren’t ads; then I was speaking more holistically about the 2 billion video views a day.

Targeting and Placement with YouTube’s Promoted Videos

ReelSEO: With the Promoted Videos, there’s a lot of places where they show up when someone does a keyword search, and they show up as a “related video.” Are the related videos based off any tags, because they’re not based on an actual keyword search at that point?

Jay: Right, they’re being contextually targeted. We’re looking at the metadata in the videos. You make an interesting point. We’ve announced the ability to use our Video Targeting Tool, and we have a large team here that’s working to make it a great experience all around. What we’ve rolled out is the ability to target Promoted Videos So you’ll be able to fully use contextual targeting, but you’ll also be able to hand-select a few videos, a few channels, a few categories – depending on how broad or narrow you want to go – and say “I want my video to run ‘here’,” and bid on those specific channels, categories, or videos.

ReelSEO: It seems that the only channels you can target are those of partners of YouTube. Maybe that’s because those are the only ones that are being monetized?

Jay: Correct. At YouTube, we monetize a fraction of the total views. We make sure that the “uploader” of videos has the ability to make a decision on whether the ads serve on their pages; and has the ability to either be a part of video targeting or not.

ReelSEO: Can you insert multiple promoted videos to show up under the same keywords, or is it the usual – one, maximum?

Jay: The standard Google rules still apply. On one particular page, we can only show one particular ad from a particular advertiser. That’s not to say you shouldn’t have multiple creatives, or multiple videos, that are bidding on the same keyword; and we will take the best one for you, similar to how AdWords selects your ad for a particular keyword.

ReelSEO: And the creatives can be rotated out with Promoted Videos as well, yes?

Jay: Correct

Tracking and Optimizing Promoted Videos

ReelSEO: Could you give us an overview of what you can track with a Promoted Video campaign?

Jay: YouTube Insight is a fantastic tool to understand how users are interacting with your video. The great thing is, it gives you information not just about views that come through Promoted Videos, but even views that are discovered organically.

Whether you’re promoting the videos on your own landing page, or things that get discovered because people are searching on it and click on the organic links, all of this data is available on YouTube Insight, for an uploader to view. It’s looking at who’s watching my videos, in terms of demographics, location – things like that. It’s giving you view counts per day, and sort of a time series of how your video is progressing. It’s giving you information about the specific video view in terms of “hotspots.” It’s telling you where people are most interested in the video. It’s telling you where the drop-off rates are, things like that.

This is really great for various search-oriented advertisers, because they can better optimize Promoted Videos. Hotspots is a fantastic way to help optimize your content, so that you can actually iterate on your videos and remove all the places where people drop off, and sort of place more attention on the areas of greater attention.

Beyond being able to track the data that’s available with Insight (which is available to all users), we obviously have a series of basic advertiser metrics as well. These range from: The call-to-action overlay, which is something that Promoted Videos’ advertisers get; the ability to monitor clicks and click-thru rates (CTRs); and, all of this sort of Google tracking that’s provided via conversion tracking. So you really can set up an efficient way to go from a Promoted Video view, to monitoring your conversions and looking at your cost per conversion, and things like that.

ReelSEO: Will Promoted Videos ever been something that can be viewed in Google’s search results like what you would see with Google Adwords, as a “sponsored ad” that runs alongside or above the organic listings?

Jay: I’m sure you’ve been aware of the video ad format experiments that have been going on with Google. We hope to have combined experiences for an advertiser to say: Hey, I have a video, and I want to put it everywhere I can, and target it in the following ways. But I think we’re still a ways from that. Regardless of where we want to put the ad, and I have no knowledge of what or where we would put anytime soon, we want to make sure that users can differentiate sponsored results from organic ones.

ReelSEO: So what’s clear is that there is not a program today where you can run a Promoted Video campaign in Google’s web search, as a PPC ad. You’re working on testing, and you’re trying out different methods for doing that, but today that’s not available.

Jay: Correct.

Promoted Videos And the AdSense Content Network

ReelSEO: How does a YouTube Promoted Video appear in Google AdSense’s Content Network?

Jay: The Google AdSense Network is a series of publisher pages, where the publisher decides the rending formats of what the ads look like and their sizes. The gist of the metadata (which is taken from the YouTube Promoted Video) remains constant. The page featuring the Promoted Video ad shows the following: It’s got the YouTube thumbnail on it, it’s got the title and description on there.

It’s important to note: Opting into the content setting in AdWords is also a requirement for you to start showing up in the related video spot. Related videos, because they’re contextually targeted, are a content network setting. Anything that is “non-search” is really a content network setting. That’s something that we hope to make more clear with our advertisers, like you’re helping us do at ReelSEO. If you don’t opt into the content network, you’re missing out on large chunks of inventories – both in YouTube’s related videos, and on the Google Content Network.

Overlay Ad Performance with Promoted Videos

ReelSEO: Do you happen to have any stats on the ratio of people who click to watch an ad on a Sponsored Video, and will then click on an overlay (ad)?

Jay: Obviously, as you can imagine, the CTRs with overlays are very high. I would say they’re 10x-50x higher than what you’d see on a content network ad. It really just depends on the advertiser and how broad or narrow they may be targeting.

For example, we have people doing a movie trailer who fall into the broad targeting category, where they’re reaching people regardless of their interest. Because it’s a common category and not what people are specifically looking for, you’re going to get lower CTRs than if your target is very niche, if you’ve narrowly targeted your campaign. But in either case, the CTRs are very, very high.

Who’s Benefiting Most from Promoted Videos?

ReelSEO: Have you seen any data on what businesses or industries may be more likely to benefit from Promoted Videos. I.e., getting the best responses for?

Jay: The great news, and something we’re really excited about from a product success standpoint, is we’ve seen a lot of different verticals have success with Promoted Videos. There really is a platform for everyone. We’ve seen Autos do really, really well. We’ve seen Entertainment do really well. We even had an article on a publishing house use it to sell more books, and things like that. So it’s tech, B2B, B2C, as well as lots of verticals, that are seeing success. I don’t know if that’s a pat on the back to us, or just shows the power of video – the power of sight, sound and motion that helps you describe your product, your service, really well to the end user; and thus, drive a lot more conversions for you. I think, in a lot of cases, it’s a very effective ad format, because the ad format is video. So we’re seeing success with Promoted Videos everywhere.

Can You Estimate CPC for Promoted Videos?

ReelSEO: Is there any way to research the average CPC with Promoted Videos, as there is with AdWords?

Jay: I’m not sure if we’ve made anything public yet. It’s changed over time and it will over the next 12 months, as we bring in more advertisers, and increase the demand and inventory we have on the site. I don’t know if we’ve published any numbers on that yet.

ReelSEO: We haven’t seen any data on that, either. Would that be a concern for some advertisers, if they have no idea what the potential CPC range is (for the keywords they’re advertising their advertising their Promoted Videos under)?

Jay: Yeah, we’ve heard that feedback from our advertisers as well; and we hope to get our Promoted Videos on par with the AdWords level tool that provides that sort of information. I think it’s a matter of AdWords having a 10-year head start on us. (Laughs)

One of the changes we’re making with Promoted Videos is that it’s going to become acceptable to the Video Targeting Tool. I suspect that with that kind of change, we’ll get more sophisticated with our planning tools as well. It’s not yet available, but that seems to be the way things go when we introduce these new formats.

Promoted Video API – Large-Scale Solutions for Search marketers

Jay: Something that I’m really excited about with our Promoted Videos solution, is that the product matures. As we’ve gotten tremendous growth in clicks and advertisers and those sort of things, we’re really excited to go after the advertisers with lots and lots of video. So we’ve been building a bunch of tools similar to what AdWords offers. We’re ready to start the beta program where we have SEMs and large advertisers having access to manage and run their video campaigns via the AdWords API. It’s going to help bring in the really serious SEM guys, who will hopefully look at video in a new light, and think about how their advertisers can benefit from the increased volume of traffic.

Revenue Performance with Promoted Videos

ReelSEO: Now that’s it’s been two years since the program started, can you say how much revenue is being generated from the Promoted Videos program?

Jay: I started with YouTube 3 years ago, working on ads, when we were still just starting out and trying a lot of things, and just threw a lot on the walls to see what would stick. Promoted Videos is definitely one that stuck. It’s not the only one by any means. I don’t think we can give you a specific breakdown. But it’s definitely something that we’re doubling down on, and are having a lot of success. I think you’ll be seeing a lot of announcements along those lines, coming up in the months to come.

An Overview and History of YouTube Promoted Videos Ads

YouTube Promoted Videos is the first performance-based video ad format for YouTube, which originally came out a little more than two years ago. The online video advertising program was setup as a cost-affordable advertising solution that allows YouTube users, partners, and advertisers to promote their video content within the YouTube Website

The Promoted Videos program is built on Google’s own AdWords auction system. You can set the maximum price you’re willing to pay per click and, set your daily budget. Then you can create your promotions for your videos or channel, and choose which keywords you want to run them on the YouTube site. (And with the announcement today, you can run those videos off certain channels, categories, or other videos appearing in YouTube’s organic search results for your targeted keywords.) Your own Sponsored Videos will appear either above or next to YouTube search results.

(You can read more about the program on YouTube’s Help section on Promoted Videos.)

Want some tips on YouTube Promoted Videos?

Stayed tuned tomorrow here at ReelSEO, where we’ll be sharing our own review of Google’s YouTube Promoted Videos Program, along with special insights on how it will benefits SEO’s and search marketers!


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