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Sans titre 2022 04 04T150108.927

How I Used YouTube Ads to 2.1x my Online Course Revenue

Key factors for advertising on YouTube successfully

Given that I watched one YouTube campaign succeed and another fail, I’ve narrowed down a few key factors that likely made the difference: speaking to a specific customer avatar, offering proof of every claim, and targeting an audience that was already on YouTube. Once I was getting strong view-counts, I tested multiple videos and formats, then doubled down on the best performer.

Know thy audience

Here’s a screenshot of the view rate from my latest campaign:That means that 23.49% of people for whom my video popped up before they video they intended to watch (impressions) ended up watching at least 75% of it. ( My primary CTA, “click here to get your guide”, is at about 75% of the way through the video.) By the time I launched the ad campaign I’d already had the business for more than a year. I’d surveyed people who bought my course to see what their biggest challenges were. Here’s a screenshot of the survey table:Then, when it came time to script the videos, I tried to stay as close-as-possible to my audience’ own words.

Prove abundantly

When I first experimented with paid traffic in the marketing space, I noticed far-worse results than in music niche. While I’m sure greater competition and more-strained attention accounts for some of the difference, I suspect strongly that proof is the key. Great: that let them know I understood them. But how did they know if my course worked or not?Simple: they could watch me play the drums. That’s why video is a great – and, in my opinion, underutilized – medium for any niche in which you can demonstrate competence visually.

Know if YouTube is a “water cooler” for your audience

It’s entirely possible that you might do all-of-the-above right and still see lackluster results. YouTube might not be a “water cooler” for your audience. Do the most popular channels have more than half-a-million subscribers? If you suspect your fans congregate on YouTube, you don’t have to launch a kitchen-sink ad campaign to test your hypothesis. If engagement is strong, you have a good basis to proceed.

Test, then double down

When I launched my flagship YouTube campaign last spring, I started with 3 video ads, with 3 variations on the script (all of which were still in my audience’ own words).First, I ran the videos simultaneously for a week, and checked which had the most opt ins. ( I track opt-ins instead of views whenever possible, because you’re looking for people who will take the next action, and sometimes the best-performer for opt-ins won’t have the strongest view rate.)Next, I tested the winner in two formats:In-display, which means your video shows up in the suggested results on the right column, and in-stream, which means your video runs at the beginning of other videos whose owners have enabled monetization. In-stream was the clear winner, though this won’t be the case for every niche or business. Sometimes people willing to click on an in-display result may opt-in at better rates than those who were simply interrupted. I had good evidence from a previous video campaign that the ads would prove ROI positive. But I still needed a way to track the results.

How I made sure my ads were profitable

As I’ve written elsewhere, knowing whether a paid traffic source is profitable can be more art-than-science. As an example, I cancelled a campaign I thought was ROI negative this past year, only to see a dip in sales that only came back after I reinstated the campaign. I was under-counting the sales from that campaign. The squishy thing about attribution is that not everyone who buys clicks directly from your ad to your page. Some people will see an ad, check out some of your other videos, then come back another day and google you of their-own-accord.

Direct attribution

Customers who click directly from your ad to your landing page are relatively easy to track. Google lets you set up conversion tracking directly within your campaign dashboard. As long as you have an analytics account, you can embed a pixel on your “thank you” page after purchase, and Google will count your conversions. Because I’m superstitious, I like to be redundant, but I’m also decidedly low-tech about it. I use Infusionsoft, but even MailChimp allows this.

Indirect attribution

To count the buyers for whom the ad was their first exposure to me, but who didn’t click directly to the landing page, I use surveys. Just hook up your Zapier account to google sheets, and to your email provider. Then, when google adds a row to the sheet for a survey response, the API will apply a tag in your email provider. Not everyone who opts-in will answer the survey. So you’ll still be under-counting to a degree. If you end up with a profitable ad campaign, you’ve got the holy grail: a change machine that accepts dimes, and spits out quarters. Free traffic sources (See our Youtube Marketing Guide) are reliable over the long-term, but nothing allows you to “press the gas pedal” quite like paid traffic, and the usual sources (Google Adwords and Facebook Ads) are highly saturated in my opinion. If YouTube ads are a viable traffic source for your online course, you might be sitting on a cash machine.

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