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How to Master YouTube Video Action Campaigns

May 23rd, 2024

It’s not just vlogs, video games, and visits to the zoo – YouTube is the second biggest search engine on the internet, with a bewildering variety of content that serves its 2.49 billion monthly users.

With such a gigantic user base, it’s no surprise that ads on the platform are becoming an increasingly important aspect of marketing strategy for all kinds of businesses. 

In recent years, YouTube Video Action campaigns have become a powerful tool for driving conversions on the world’s largest video platform. But constant updates and evolving audience behaviors can make it hard to stay ahead of the curve. 

Here, we’ll equip you with the strategies and know-how required to master YouTube Video Action campaigns, and discuss the impact of recent changes to the campaign type. You can expect: 

  • A rundown of what YouTube Video Action campaigns are 
  • A look into how they work
  • Why you’d use Video Action campaigns (+ key benefits over other ad formats)
  • Scenarios where you wouldn’t use them
  • Key changes that were recently made to the format
  • Requirements and setup steps
  • How to build a YouTube Video Action campaign that converts

A Quick Rundown of YouTube Video Action Campaigns

In Google’s own words, YouTube Video Action campaigns are a “simple and cost-effective way to drive more conversions on and off YouTube, all in a single automated campaign.

If you’re an old, wise veteran of the ad game (aka you’ve been here since at least 2021), you may remember TrueView for Action ads. These consisted of the classic ‘skip after 5 seconds’ in-stream video ads that appear before, during, or after videos on YouTube. 

In 2021, Google sunsetted the TrueView for Action campaign format, and all existing campaigns were automatically upgraded to Video Action campaigns shortly after. 

How YouTube Video Action Campaigns Work 

YouTube Video Action campaigns expand on the previous TrueView campaigns, combining skippable in-stream ads with in-feed video ad formats. In theory, this allows for a comprehensive campaign that hits multiple touch points across the platform. 

  • In-stream ads promote content before, during, or after videos on YouTube that channel creators have flagged for monetization. After 5 seconds, the user has the option to skip the ad – however non-skippable in-stream ads are now available. These are 30 second ads that make users watch the entire ad message without skipping.
  • In-feed video ads are used to promote video content in a discovery placement – typically at the top of a YouTube search results page. The user will see your video ad thumbnail, the title of the video, and a brief description of what the video is. In-feed video ads work similarly to standard paid search results on Google.

With Video Action campaigns, users can also add vertical video assets for their ads to appear in YouTube Shorts – YouTube’s TikTok-rivaling short-form content platform. This is particularly useful for improving campaign engagement with mobile viewers. 

Similar to a Performance Max campaign, YouTube Video action campaigns take your video creatives, and shows them to the viewers most likely to convert based on your targeting choices. You can choose to target various demographics, interests, and people who have interacted with your brand in the past. 

It’s not just YouTube where your ads will appear, however. Publisher sites that Google deem ‘high-quality’ will become Google Video Partners (GVPs) – meaning your ads also get served across all video partner sites. 

These can be sports, games, entertainment, or news sites to name a few examples. The benefit here is that your ads can be shown to hyper-relevant audiences – for example, ads promoting a sportswear brand are likely to be pushed on a sports news website. 

Google recently removed the ability to opt out of ads displaying on GVP sites, which – despite the potential benefits of ads being shown on GVPs – isn’t great for everyone. 

Traffic quality from Google Video Partner sites is often lower quality than YouTube traffic, and suffers from high amounts of invalid traffic (documented in our Wasted Ad Spend Report). Without any kind of invalid traffic protection, ads shown on GVP sites may be far less likely to generate conversions. 

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When to Use YouTube Video Action Campaigns: Key Benefits

  • Drive Conversions: Hyper-relevant ads that are shown on videos and publisher websites relating to your product are proven to maximize the chances of conversion. 
  • Greater Potential Audience Reach: By combining YouTube with other video partners, you tap into a larger pool of customers who have a greater chance of converting, giving campaigns a performance boost.
  • Easy Scaling: Video Action campaigns allow you to run ads across various devices (mobile, desktop, TV) within a single campaign – eliminating the need to manage separate bids and budgets for each platform.
  • Cost-Effective Video Advertising: According to Google, Video Action campaigns drive 20% more conversions per dollar than the previous TrueView campaigns. 

Scenarios where Video Action campaigns excel over other formats:

  • You’re focusing on lead generation: Want to capture leads directly through your ads? Video action campaigns allow you to include lead forms within the ad itself, simplifying the process for potential customers.
  • You want high-intent site visitors: Compared to image-based discovery ads, video ads have the potential to grab user attention and quickly convey information, leading to more qualified website visitors.
  • You’re promoting specific actions: Video is a powerful storytelling tool. If your goal is to get viewers to take a specific action (sign up for a service, download an app), video ads can quickly explain the benefits and nudge viewers towards that action.

YouTube video action campaigns are ideal when you want to go beyond brand awareness and drive concrete actions from viewers, while reaching a large audience on an optimized budget. 

Scenarios where you won’t want to use Video Action campaigns: 

YouTube video action campaigns are a powerful tool, but there are a few situations where they might not be the best fit for your goals. Here are a few cases where you might want to consider investing your ad spend into other ad formats: 

  • Brand awareness campaigns: Video action campaigns are primarily focused on conversions, like website visits or sales. If your primary goal is to build brand awareness, you might be better off with a different campaign type. 
  • Limited control over ad placement: By showing your ads across YouTube and Google video partners, you’re inherently reaching a wider audience. But it also means you’re relying on Google to decide where (and on what videos) your ads are shown. If you’re concerned about your brand appearing next to irrelevant or inappropriate content, consider a different ad format that allows for more precise control. 
  • Precise audience targeting: Video action campaigns use automated bidding to optimize for conversions. This can be great for driving a high volume of conversions, but it may not be the best option if you need to target a very specific audience.

YouTube Video Action Campaigns: Key Changes and What They Mean

In recent years, Google has made some significant developments for YouTube Video Action Campaigns. Here’s a breakdown of the most crucial updates:

  • Expanded inventory: Video Action campaigns now show ads on the YouTube home feed and watch pages, meaning ads can reach a wider audience across YouTube. 
  • Less control: Following a recent update, users can no longer opt out of showing ads on the Google Video Partners network. This means your video ads will also display on sites that aren’t YouTube – whether you want them to or not. Many marketers aren’t happy about this change – GVPs can lead to increased brand risk, and they unfortunately provide much higher rates of invalid traffic for video ads. 
  • Content targeting removal: With the rise (and for the most part, success) of automated ad campaign types such as PMax, automation is inevitable across other ad campaign formats. Google recently removed the option to target videos based on content, meaning you can’t choose which channels or videos your ads appear on. Instead, you’ll have to rely on Google’s machine learning algorithms to decide where your video ads appear. 
  • Rise of Responsive Video Ads: Responsive Video Ads (RVA) are the new standard. This format automatically adapts your video assets (images, headlines, calls to action) to different screen sizes and placements, maximizing reach and engagement. Video Action campaigns have embraced this, meaning in theory you won’t have to add as many video size options to your Video Actions campaigns. Despite this, we still recommend giving Google a variety of options to work with – including video creatives in landscape/portrait along with different video sizes and lengths. 

Unfortunately, most of these changes have ultimately resulted in less direct control over Video Action campaigns. This won’t affect anyone looking for a minimal-effort, high-effectiveness video marketing campaign setup, but it is detrimental for those who prefer a more hands-on approach. 

Still, there’s no denying the effectiveness of YouTube Video Action campaigns. Research shows that the average user remembers 95% of a message when watched, compared to just 10% when it’s read. With over 1 billion hours of video watched on YouTube each day, it’s no surprise that Video Action campaigns are a highly effective method of reaching your target audience and effectively getting a message across to them – automation or not.

How to Set Up YouTube Video Action Campaigns

Now we’ve explored the landscape of Video Action campaigns, let’s take a look at the steps needed to set one up: 

  1. Log into Google Ads. On the left menu, select ‘new campaign’.
  2. Select the objective and name of your campaign. 
  3. Define budget type in the “Budget and dates” section.
  4. Select languages and locations to choose where your ads are displayed. 
  5. Add site link extensions, specific device targeting, or product feed options (best practices on these later).
  6. Enter the ad group name and select the right demographics you want to target.
  7. Create the ad with the editor, and choose a companion banner. 
  8. Enter the ad name and click ‘create’

And just like that, you’ve got your very own Video Action campaign. If you’d prefer a video walkthrough, take a look at the official Google tutorial video below:  

Building a High-Converting YouTube Video Action Campaign

Setting up YouTube Video Action campaigns is the easy part. The real challenge lies with the enhancement, optimization, and targeting that follows. 

With that said, let’s delve into the beginning-to-end best practices when creating a high-performing Video Action campaign:

1. Define Your Campaign Goals:

As with any ad campaign, start by clarifying your objectives. Are you aiming for:

  • Website Conversions: Driving traffic and encouraging actions like purchases or sign-ups.
  • App Installs: Promoting app downloads.
  • Lead Generation: Capturing leads through form submissions.

A clear goal will guide your targeting, budget allocation, and video content.

2. Craft Engaging Video Ads

Your video creatives form the heart of your campaign. Here are some tips for creating impactful content that translates into conversions: 

  • Hook viewers in the first 5 seconds: Grab attention quickly with a strong opening. Be unique, interesting, and compel your audience to watch more in that all-important 5 second window. 
  • Focus on benefits, not features: Highlight how your product or service solves viewers’ problems or enhances their lives. 
  • Keep it concise: Aim for a video length that aligns with your goals (typically shorter for brand awareness, longer for detailed product explanations).
  • Optimize for sound-off viewing: Use strong visuals, text overlays, and captions to deliver your message effectively – even without sound.
  • Include a clear call to action (CTA): Tell viewers exactly what you want them to do next, whether it’s visiting your website, downloading your app, signing up for a free trial, etc.

3. Leverage Responsive Video Ads (RVA)

Take advantage of RVAs to maximize your ad’s reach and performance across various devices and placements. Here’s how:

  • Provide multiple video assets: Upload different video lengths, aspect ratios, and headlines to create a flexible ad format. Providing video creatives in both landscape and portrait formats allows you to serve ads across both traditional videos and YouTube shorts. 
  • Test and refine your assets: Google Ads allows A/B testing of different combinations within your RVA. Use this feature to identify the elements that resonate best with your target audience.

4. Targeting Strategies in a Limited Setting

Whilst Google has reduced user control over targeting options, effective audience selection remains crucial. Here’s what you can still do:

  • Leverage Google’s Audience Insights: Use Google Ads’ built-in audience insights tool to understand your target audience’s demographics, interests, and online behavior.
  • Make use of Customer Match Audiences: Upload email lists of your current customers to target audiences with similar traits and characteristics 
  • In-Market and Affinity Audiences: Consider Google’s pre-built audience segments based on purchase intent and brand affinity.

5. Conversion Tracking: The Cornerstone of Success

Conversion tracking is just as essential for Video Action campaigns as it is for any other type of ad campaign. Set up conversion tracking in Google Ads to measure specific actions users take after viewing your ad – such as website visits, purchases, or app downloads.

6. Bidding Strategies and Budget Allocation

With limited control over placements, bidding strategies become all the more important. Carefully consider each option and decide what fits with your campaign goals: 

  • Maximize Conversions: This strategy automatically sets bids to acquire the most conversions within your budget.
  • Target CPA: Set a target cost per acquisition (CPA) that aligns with your campaign goals, margins, and budget.

For budget allocation, consider starting with a smaller budget and gradually increasing it as you gather data and further optimize your campaign.

7. Network and Device Controls (Where Applicable)

Whilst some control over placements were removed, you may still have the option to exclude specific YouTube channels or Display Network partners. Use this if there are placements that don’t align with your brand or target audience, and think about potential content that you might not want to put your ads in front of. 

Similarly, you may adjust targeting for different devices (desktop, mobile, tablet) based on your audience’s browsing behavior. Use every ounce of first-party data at your disposal to optimize, optimize, optimize. 

8. Use Sitelink Extensions

Sitelink extensions allow you to add additional links to your video ad, directing users to specific landing pages relevant to your campaign goals. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Create clear, concise headlines: Use headlines that accurately reflect the content of each link.
  • Highlight key benefits: Emphasize the value proposition of each linked page within the character limit.
  • Align video & page content: Ensure the sitelink extensions complement the message conveyed in your video ad to enhance brand identity and avoid confusing user journeys. 

9. Analyze and Optimize for Continuous Improvement

Campaign optimization is an ongoing process – anyone with a ‘set and forget’ mentality will see performance drops over time. Stay ahead of the curve in order to maximize performance and out-perform competitors: 

  • Monitor Key Performance Indicators (KPIs): Track metrics like impressions, clicks, conversions, and cost-per-acquisition (CPA) to measure overall campaign performance.
  • Make Use of Google Ads’ Reporting Features: Google Ads offers comprehensive reporting tools to analyze campaign performance across the metrics most important to your goals.
  • Make Data-Driven Decisions: Use campaign data to identify areas for improvement. Test different video ad variations, targeting options, and bidding strategies to enhance the performance of your Video Action campaigns.
  • Test Different Creatives: A/B testing allows you to compare different video ad versions and identify the ones that resonate best with your audience.

10. Content Suitability Settings: Maintaining Brand Alignment

While YouTube offers a vast audience, it’s important to ensure your video ads are displayed alongside content that aligns with your brand. Use Google Ads’ content suitability settings to exclude placements that might not be appropriate or relevant for your message.

Conclusion: Mastering YouTube Video Action Campaigns

Remember, creating engaging video content, targeting the right audience, and optimizing your campaign based on data are key ingredients for success.

Google, and thus YouTube, may be moving towards machine learning and AI at an increasing rate – but that doesn’t mean you should rely on it to fully understand your first party data, targeting information, and content proposition. 

In order to get the most out of Video Action campaigns, input every ounce of information you have in order to help the algorithms serve your content to the most relevant users. 

Bonus Tip: Stay Updated with Industry Trends

YouTube Video Action campaigns are constantly being updated with new features and changes. That’s why it’s important to stay ahead of the curve in order to keep your campaigns optimal. 

We recommend keeping an eye on Google Ads’ official Video Action campaign resource page to stay informed about new features and functionalities. 

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YouTube Video Action campaigns give you more opportunities to reach your target audience.

But like other ad types, video ads are affected by invalid traffic (IVT) from bots, scripts, and a multitude of other sources that will never lead to a conversion. 

In fact, Video Action campaigns on Google Video Partner sites are particularly susceptible to IVT (find out more here). In total, $1.32 billion in ad spend was wasted on YouTube last year thanks to IVT.

Lunio removes invalid traffic to ensure only genuine users click your video ads. This can boost conversions, reduce wasted ad spend, and decrease spam leads. 

For a free traffic audit and two-week trial, book a no-obligation demo to see how much of your ad spend is being wasted. 

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