YouTube Advertising is a Mess

Have you run Youtube advertising for your business? They charge you on a CPV basis (cost per view) with clicks to your website being free (yay!). This sounds like a fantastic deal, especially when you get cheap, qualified site visitors (they did just watch your video, click a link, and come to your site).

You sign up, spend a few dollars a day and YouTube shows you how many clicks to your site happened. Woohoo, cheap, qualified traffic! Like with all Google advertising products, you set it up and it just runs until you stop it, deducting your credit card along the way.

Here were our YouTube advertising #’s:

  • 28,057 video views
  • $1,573.25 spent
  • 0 up votes, 0 down votes, 0 comments. Out of 28,057. Weird
  • Only 12% of views made it to the 1/4 mark, only 6% made it to the end
  • 2,044 (a nice 7.5%) of people clicked through to our website (a CPC of <$1.00 – pretty good)

OK, but how did these people behave when they got to our site? Let’s check Google Analytics. Hmm, nothing there. Let’s search Google help. Hmm, nothing there either. There’s nothing, anywhere that I could find describing how to track the behavior of YouTube advertising visitors to your site. Luckily, the nice guys at TD Media wrote a blog post weeks before I was doing my research about this very topic. My favorite line from their post is: “It’s almost like they (Google) don’t want you to find it. I think you’ll see why.” And, I saw why.

  • Google Adwords for Youtube claimed 2,044 people clicked through to our site. Google Analytics showed that only 1,344 people actually clicked through. 30% dropped before the site even loaded
  • The average visitor looked at 1.09 pages/visit – a 35% decrease vs. site average
  • The average visit duration was 00:00:04. 4 seconds. a 95% decrease vs. site average
  • 5 visitors clicked our “Sign Up” button, 0 submitted it. On average 2-4% of visitors sign up, 50% of those complete the sign up
  • In total, we paid $1,573 to have approximately 1,300 completed video views, and 0 conversions.

It’s certainly possible that the people who watched the video turned in to customers down the road, but I find this hard to believe. Since YouTube doesn’t provide you with additional analytics, it’s hard to know if they watched additional videos, etc.

There are certainly scenarios where YouTube advertising is going to make sense (brand awareness, specifically) – but it certainly did not work for us (driving app developers). If you want to give it a try, regardless, I highly recommend you pay close attention to your site metrics to understand if you are getting bang for your buck. The $1500 wasn’t a meaningful amount of money for us – but it certainly could’ve spent it on something else.

(updated May 2015: of course, I assume a lot of this has changed in 2+ years)


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