How to Build a Successful YouTube Ad Sequence
The power of storytelling is unrivaled in business marketing.
YouTube ad sequencing empowers marketers to deliver brand stories to consumers with ease. No longer do you need to dump all of your content into one video. Instead, you can highlight key selling points in bite-sized content that’s easy to digest.
But, what is YouTube ad sequencing and how does it work?
We’re going to show you how to create a successful video ad sequence that drives conversions below.
What Is a YouTube Ad Sequence?
A YouTube ad sequence is a marketing tool that allows you to play advertisement videos in a bespoke order.
With traditional video ads, you upload your content to YouTube. After you select your targeting, YouTube will play this ad to key demographics before, during, or after their regularly scheduled content. It will generally select one of the videos in your ad group at random to play.
When you create an ad sequence, you get to determine the exact order. This way, you can ensure that every new viewer sees ad A, followed by ad B, and finishes with ad C. Google will automatically display your ad sequence to one user, one time, every 7 days.
YouTube Ad Sequencing vs Standalone Videos
The power of video can’t be questioned.
Even a standalone video ad will drive significantly more conversions than images. A survey of Facebook marketers by Databox found that video accounted for 60% more ad clicks compared to pictures.
Google also declares that more than 33% of shoppers purchased a product thanks to a YouTube ad.
On the other hand, YouTube ad sequencing accounts for a staggering 74% ad recall lift when compared to the standalone video.
The reason for this is that ad sequencing works much like the traditional sales funnel. Rather than expecting a viewer to act on the first discovery, you get to reinforce your message with multiple interactions.
Furthermore, multiple videos provide more breathing room for your content. Rather than trying to sandwich all of the bullet points into one short video, you get to take your prospect on a journey. The gaps in between each video in the sequence then allow the viewer to reflect upon what you’ve previously shared. Instead of seeing your brand once and forgetting about it, they might see your second and third video and decide to convert at that time.
The trick to creating a great sequence is to ensure that your ads tell an excellent story. Google/YouTube knows this and offers all marketers pre-built storytelling templates to guide you to creating the perfect video ads.
What are these templates? How do you make sure your videos fit into the sequence? We’re going to guide you through that setup process next.
How to Set up a YouTube Ad Sequence?
To get started with YouTube ad sequencing, you’ll need to create a brand-new campaign within your Google Ads account.
If you’ve yet to get started with Google Ads, you can create an account for your business here.
Step 1 – Select an Objective
First, you’ll need to select a campaign objective. Google uses this to provide campaign options that work best for that goal.
YouTube ad sequencing is limited to the following objectives: Product and brand consideration or Brand awareness and reach. Select the former to promote a specific offering and the latter to boost your audience discovery efforts.
Step 2 – Campaign Creation & Bidding Options
Next, select Ad sequence as the subtype to get started. You’ll need to name your campaign and select your ideal bidding strategy. You can choose between the following options (per Google support):
- Target CPM (recommended) – Google Ads optimizes bids to show your entire sequence campaign to your audience, which can help you get a higher sequence completion rate.
- Maximum CPV – Set the most you’re willing to pay each time your video ad is viewed.
Google recommends the first option as it provides more flexibility to show the full ad sequence. That means that you can leverage all three video types to maximize viewing time while keeping your costs low.
You may be able to brute force your way to securing spots with max CPV, but you are strictly limited to skippable video ads.
To help you select the ideal bidding option, here’s an overview of YouTube’s available video ad types:
- Skippable in-stream ads – Your ad will interrupt the user’s current YouTube video. Users can skip the video after 5 seconds elapse.
- Non-skippable in-stream ads – Your ad will interrupt the user’s current YouTube video. The video may be no longer than 15 seconds and the user may not skip it.
- Bumper ads – Your ad will play at the beginning or the end of the current YouTube video. These are meant to be short and no longer than 6 seconds.
We concur with Google’s recommendation as being able to utilize each ad type or a combination allows greater creative freedom.
Step 3 – Deciding Who to Target
YouTube ad sequencing presents a caveat when it comes to a typical campaign targeting setup.
As per Google: “You can’t target keywords, topics, or placements but you can exclude keywords, topics, or placements at the campaign level.”
Unlike your typical ads, you may not target users based on keywords or phrases they utilize to discover new videos. Instead, you’re going to primarily focus on the most important audience demographics and the devices they utilize.
Google Ads will allow you to check off any number of demos you wish to target including age ranges, employment status, or household income levels. You can also choose which devices you want Google to prioritize for this campaign. Having pre-existing audience data on your Google Ads account will prove helpful for getting the most out of this ad sequence.
After you select your ideal audience, you’ll need to select your content exclusions.
Whenever a YouTube account uploads a video, they’re required to identify the video as having any of the following attributes:
- Sexual content
- Violence & injury
- Drug use
As an advertiser, you can exclude any content that contains these characteristics. Users often make a direct association with a brand and the content they view. If your brand is family-friendly, you’ll want to exclude any strong examples of the above when possible.
You can choose three inventory types that dictate how often Google excludes content for ad placement:
- Expanded Inventory – This gives you the greatest selection of videos to use for your ad campaign. However, content may include sensitive materials that feature all of the above attributes. It will exclude excessive profanity, graphic sexual content, and graphic violence.
- Standard Inventory – This is the level deemed appropriate for most everyday brands. Google Ads makes the effort to exclude repeated profanity, strong sexual content, and violence either real or dramatized.
- Limited Inventory – This is for advertisers that must go the extra mile to ensure everything stays brand-safe. Google will exclude even moderate profanity and sexual content. However, this greatly limits your available real estate.
Choose the appropriate option that makes the most sense for your brand. As Google states, the standard option should work for most companies. Not only will choosing the right content better speak to your company values, but you’re also more likely to connect with the correct audience demographics.
Step 4 – Choosing a Template & Adding Your Videos
Google Ads will prompt you to upload your videos at this time. You must upload a minimum of two unique videos.
However, we’re going to help you out by skipping ahead to the next step – choosing a sequence template. Having an idea of how you’re going to sequence your storytelling will help you in selecting the most effective videos for this campaign.
A. Choosing a Sequence Template
The four base options Google includes are as follows:
- Introduce & reinforce – This is a simple two-video sequence that features a long video to introduce your brand. You then follow up your initial content with a short video to reinforce the message.
- Prompt & inspire – This is an inverse of the first option. Instead of asking for more viewing time up front, you make the viewer aware of your brand or offer a quick video. After they’re aware of you, you then inspire them to act with a longer video.
- Attract & direct – This is the first three-video sequence template. It’s essentially a continuation of Prompt & inspires, but with a short video that features a direct CTA.
- Engage & differentiate – This is a four-video sequence template. The idea is to continuously reinforce one message through different angles and approaches to the same idea.
Note that you are not restricted to any of these templates. You can elect to make a Custom sequence and formulate any story you desire.
Google explores these sequence ideas more here with additional templates. They support the different use cases for these YouTube ad sequences with demonstrable increases in brand awareness, ad recall, and purchase intent.
1. Tease, Amplify, Echo – Develop curiosity with an initial short video. Follow up with a longer video that provides the opportunity to deepen engagement. Finish with a short video that compels them to action.
This is most comparable to Attract & direct. Tests of this sequence showed a 115% average increase in brand awareness, an 86% increase in ad recall, and a 134% increase in purchase intent.
2. The Mini-Series – This format leverages the 3-act story. Three videos share the rising action, the climax, and the resolution.
This sequence obtained high marks across the board with over a 100% increase in all three areas. It speaks directly to how impactful a genuine story is for marketers.
3. The Direct Shot – We can compare this to the Engage & differentiate template. Rather than focusing on different ideas, you want to revisit one idea multiple times for alternative perspectives. The message never changes significantly, but deviations from the first video cause the user to recognize each subsequent video as unique content.
This format, once again, scores high across all metrics. However, the focus on one idea shows a significant boost to purchase intent.
4. The Follow-Up – This sequence banks a lot into a long-form opening act. You can then follow up a longer video with as many shorter videos as necessary to drive it home.
This format boasts high marks, particularly in brand awareness and purchase intent. However, it appears to be less effective than the previously mentioned formats.
5. The Lead-In – This is the direct reverse of the follow-up. You utilize a short video to peak interest before establishing your message in a longer format.
This YouTube ad sequence showed the weakest performance out of all tested formats.
Using these metrics as a guideline, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the first three sequences. For example, Tease, Amplify, and Echo may be best for purchase intent, but the Mini-Series and Direct Shot are going to leave you with comparable results.
As you become more familiar with ad sequencing, you can set up custom sequences to experiment with other options.
B. Adding Your Videos
With the template you want to use in mind, you can proceed with adding videos to your campaign.
The highest-performing sequences share a commonality in establishing the message quickly. It’s estimated that 9 in 10 users will skip your ad when given the option. This is true even if your targeting is generally on-point.
Remember that users have the option to skip longer ads after five seconds. For skippable in-stream ads, you have exactly that long to make an impact.
You may be thinking: “But, non-skippable ads give me fifteen seconds to work with.” The problem is that the human attention span is on average nine seconds. Even if we run a longer ad, we get distracted by other browser tabs, our phones, our smartwatches, and so on. Just because the video is running doesn’t mean that people will watch.
Consider that the number one reason people visit YouTube is for entertainment. People already don’t enjoy ads, and delaying their chosen content to promote yourself already puts you at a disadvantage. You owe it to yourself and the viewer to make every second count. That means that your emphasis must be on quality versus quantity.
While longer ads are accepted, shorter is almost always better. You may want to think of the shorter videos in a sequence of 5-10 seconds, while your longer videos should be no longer than 15-30 seconds. There are exceptional cases where you may want to go longer, but this will highly depend upon your offer and the audience’s historical reaction.
Give the most pertinent details upfront. Additionally, look to take full advantage of the disruption by acting outside of the norm. For an everyday watcher, ads are an expected part of life and they’re going to tune out without even realizing it. By doing something unexpected, or maybe even shocking, you have a far better chance of demanding attention in the first few seconds.
Finally, avoid any lingering one-shots. Many content creators utilize snappy editing styles, using video editor for YouTube, even when the subject of the video remains the same. Cutting to different angles can trick the brain into feeling like the video is more dynamic than it is. You can also use this to maximize every second and eliminate unnecessary dead air and fluff from the ad.
Step 5 – Assigning Your Sequence Steps
After selecting your template and adding the videos, it’s time to assemble all the moving parts.
Google will lay out your selected template as a reminder of which videos you’ll want to place in each step. You’ll just need to add the YouTube URL.
You can and should select one of the optional call-to-actions to add to each video. There are several options, so you should have no trouble finding the one that best speaks to your campaign objective.
You can change up your CTAs in each step. If you want to treat it like a sales funnel, you might use your first step to “Learn More.” At the last step, you could set your video to display “Buy now” to drive purchase intent.
Be aware that you can also customize your bidding options for each step if you desire. This allows for greater flexibility regarding which videos are most vital for promotion. If you need a reminder, head back up to our coverage on bidding options.
You’ll also need to select the ad format for each video. Remember, your options are skippable, non-skippable, or bumper. If your video length extends beyond the allowed limits, that format will not be selectable.
Finally, you need to select the conditions that will trigger the next step in the sequence. For example, you may only want to show the next video to users that click on the first ad. Alternatively, you can pursue users that don’t click by setting the trigger to impression. This means that anyone who sees the first video will be eligible for the next step in the sequence.
After you complete this process for every step, click Create Campaign to finalize the process. You can preview each as it will display on YouTube to make your last-minute checks.
Step 6 – Test & Observe Your YouTube Ad Sequence
From here on out, the process will be markedly similar to a traditional Google Ads campaign.
You’ll be able to monitor results from your dashboard 24/7. You can obtain more in-depth metrics from each step by establishing custom UTM parameters at the time of campaign creation.
We strongly recommend doing this as it will provide greater insight as to which types of video work best with your audience on YouTube.
For your campaign at large, you’re going to be looking for trends in not only ad views, but also minutes watched. The former tells you that you’re winning the bid for the display time, while the latter indicates whether users are watching or skipping.
Other indicators of campaign success can be seen in the form of likes, channel subscriptions, and video shares. After taking a few weeks to gather actionable data, you can begin making improvements that will further drive conversions.
This may involve swapping out videos at a step. It may also see you testing different sequence templates to better present your best content to your audience. Just like with a standard Google Ad campaign, allow the results to guide your performance.
How to Set up a YouTube Ad Sequence – Conclusion
Building a YouTube ad sequence allows you to capitalize on a marketer’s greatest tool – storytelling.
By following proven narrative formulas, you get to control how your message gets delivered to your audience. Based on their impressions and engagement, you can filter out unqualified leads and further refine your content for better performance.
Finally, YouTube ad sequencing will help you stand out as a cut above compared to the competitor. Rather than randomly serving ads to target demos, you show the user that you’re mindful of what they’re experiencing. Leveraging the buyer journey and reinforcing your message will help build awareness and drive purchase intent like never before.