According to mStoner research, 80 percent of higher ed institutions allocate a budget for digital marketing services that include paid advertising, SEO, social media, and email marketing. Knowing advertising options are high on higher ed marketers’ minds, last summer we explored choosing the right social media platform for your advertising efforts. We dove deep into the advantages and disadvantages of paying to play on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and LinkedIn. And we promised to deliver on two additional platforms that can make or break your marketing strategy: TikTok and YouTube.
A lot has changed since the summer of 2020 — thankfully! — but we’re keeping our promise to you. Here’s a look at how to get the most bang for your buck when advertising on YouTube. (Stay tuned for our take on TikTok ads in part three of this series!)
If you haven’t already, make 2021 the year you double down on video marketing. The world’s largest video platform, YouTube, is also the second-most popular website on the planet. (For what it’s worth, Google is number one and Facebook comes in at number seven.) People don’t just visit YouTube — they also spend a ton of time there. An average user spends more than eight minutes on the site, meaning people watch 1 billion hours of YouTube daily. That’s more viewership than Netflix and Facebook combined!
And they’re doing more than just watching cute cat videos. According to Hubspot, 72% of consumers prefer to watch a video about a product than read a product description. Google says half of internet users look for a video before visiting a store. And 90% of consumers told Forbes that video “helped them make purchasing decisions.” What’s more, Google told us in 2018 that 80% of prospective students who planned to attend an online university said watching an online video influenced their decision.
What does this mean for higher ed marketers? It means it’s worth your time and investment.
Odds are your institution already has a YouTube channel. Before launching a campaign, take the time to learn more about your YouTube audience and optimize your content. Track watch time, demographics, and unique views in your Analytics tab. Optimize your videos so that they stand the best chance of showing up in search results and getting more views.
Here are a few SEO pointers:
YouTube ad campaigns are created and managed in GoogleAds. A lot of people can be intimidated by the GoogleAds interface; it takes practice and patience to become efficient. But you should not overlook this powerful tool, which integrates your YouTube advertising efforts with a paid search strategy.
YouTube ads are available in three formats:
Choosing the right ad format for your campaign can be tricky. But if you’re like most higher ed marketers, you love a good opportunity for testing. Play around with ad formats and placements with a small budget. You’ll be surprised at what results you get and what they tell you about your return.
TrueView in-stream ads are skippable ads that play before or during another video from a YouTube creator. After viewers watch five seconds of your video ad, they have the option to either continue watching or skip the remainder of the ad. These ads can be tailored based on your goal, which can include sales, leads, website traffic, product and brand consideration, or brand awareness and reach. Setting this initial goal will determine your ad formats and bid strategy. Your goal will also determine if you should use one of the subtypes of in-stream ads available: TrueView for Action or TrueView for Reach.
TrueView for Action is focused on driving action in the form of website conversions and uses fully automated bidding — either Target CPA or Maximize Conversions. You should consider using TrueView for Action if your goal is to drive website traffic and conversions.
If your goal is to generate brand awareness, you should try TrueView for Reach. With this option, your ad must be between six and 30 seconds, and Google optimizes toward maximizing impressions to reach a wide audience quickly.
Non-skippable ads are great for demanding the viewer’s attention; they can appear pre‑, mid‑, or post-roll while watching videos. Google serves these 15- to 20-second ads when they believe viewers are most likely watching, and you pay on a cost-per-impression (CPM) basis. Because users have to watch the full ad to continue viewing content, these ads typically have higher CPMs than other ad formats on YouTube. For these reasons, we typically recommend non-skippable ads only to larger advertisers willing to spend more to generate brand awareness.
TrueView Discovery ads appear as “recommended” videos on the YouTube homepage, or as recommended or related videos on the YouTube search page. They have a 25-character-limit headline and the body copy can contain two lines, each with a 35-word maximum. Discovery ads are great for brand consideration. When a viewer clicks your ad, they are taken directly to your YouTube channel to watch the associated video. You pay on a cost-per-view basis, but with Discovery ads, a click to watch a video is considered a view. Discovery ads are best for getting students to watch your video and learn more about your institution, rather than immediately clicking to your .edu.
OK, that was a lot of information. Let’s take a step back. You’ve optimized your videos and YouTube channel, you’ve selected your ad formats and goals, and that’s it, right? Not quite. Here are some quick things you can do to improve your ads:
What’s our top recommendation for YouTube advertising? Optimize your website to meet your digital marketing efforts. It doesn’t matter how much you spend or how SEO-friendly your ads are — if you aren’t driving prospective students to a mobile-first, well-designed landing page with a clear call to action, your efforts won’t pay off.
If you enjoyed this post, check out our previous piece Higher Ed Advertising Part 1: Choosing the Right Social Media Platform. And stay tuned for Higher Ed Advertising Part 3!
Daniella Nordin Director of Marketing Daniella brings more than a decade of experience with digital engagement, social media marketing, online fundraising, and digital marketing to mStoner. Prior to joining us, she helped nonprofits like the Girl Scouts find their audience on the right platforms and the right times. She spent nearly seven years as part of the marketing and communications team at Skidmore College, where she built the social media strategy from the ground up and found creative ways to share student stories.