Marketing / Digital Marketing

The Small Business Guide To YouTube Marketing

Mark Marcelletti

Updated: May 29, 2020 · 23 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

video marketing

YouTube is one of the most significant marketing platforms your business can access, with more than 1.3 billion people using the service so far in 2017. Even if your market is just a fraction of a percent of those users, that’s still a massive opportunity.

While 30 million unique users are on the site each day, watching around 5 billion videos each day, you’re competing against 400 hours of new video content uploaded each minute (432,000 hours worth of video content each day).

That makes YouTube a big playground available to advertise your business. This guide looks at your ad and video options with one important distinction: With the way YouTube operates, every video is essentially an ad.

Treat each element you create—whether labeled an ad or a video—as a chance to make your case to visitors and customers.

Make lead generation your focus to ensure YouTube ROI

The good news is that there are dozens of simple things your business can do on YouTube to make the most of the channel and stand out from your competition. From product demos and behind-the-scenes introductions to creating a monthly series on best practices, it’s a powerful way to reach people with the content they want.

We believe that success is really about pressing the right buttons on the platform and nailing down your target market to create a surefire path to business success. Videos have the power to send hundreds or thousands of leads to your email list from YouTube when you make a meaningful connection.

Instead of focusing on the biggest flash and the hottest stars, the best return often comes from being a little creative and finding a low-budget way to talk to your customers about the problems they have and the solutions they need.

It’s time to maximize this fresh marketing avenue for your business by employing the same tactic that’s gotten you your success so far: working hard and smart.

Keyword research

Most businesses embarking on YouTube advertising have already put in the sweat equity to determine what keywords work for their website, social media, LinkedIn posts, and more. So, you’ve already started your journey of a thousand miles, but we need to circle back and look at those first steps.

Performing keyword research is honestly a bit more than the first step, it’s the solid foundation of success. Skip it, and you risk building on shifting sands.

There are a variety of keyword planning and verification tools available, but since we’re using YouTube, it’s hard to go wrong with another Google option: the AdWords Keyword Planner. It’ll help you easily generate a sizable number of popular keywords.

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Start with the “Find new keywords and get search volume data” section to search for new keywords and phrases, as well as broad categories or keywords for specific sites. Fill out the form and look for phrases that your prospects are likely to use.

Your list that includes phrases may look something like this:

  • Juicing recipes
  • How to juice tough fruit
  • What is a juice cleanse?
  • Is it healthy to juice?
  • What vegetables can I juice?

Remove extraneous words around your keywords to drill down to the keywords that will play well among most of your searches and markets. Your new keyword list may look closer to this:

  • Juicing recipes
  • Juice tough fruit
  • Juice fruit
  • Juice cleanse
  • Healthy juice
  • Vegetables I can Juice

The keyword planner’s results page will give you access to more terms for each of these keywords and show you the competition, as well as search volumes around them. It’s an effective way to improve what you target.

If you’re struggling or aren’t sure what exactly is best, you can also head over to Google itself. Start typing out the main keywords you’re after and see what its autocomplete provides.

juicing recipes google.png

YouTube provides similar autocomplete support. This can highlight opportunities, as well as areas of major competition.

juicing recipes.png

Now that you’ve got some keywords, it’s time to start up your video strategy.

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One side note here is that the phrases you’ve come up with—like “What vegetables can I juice?”—can give you great ideas for the titles of your videos. Titles should feel like a real sentence, and you get the best SEO boost from titles that are similar in content and structure to what people are actually searching for on Google and YouTube.

Video combat: Learning the rules of engagement

Every video you make is a battle, and you win battles by focusing solely on the one thing that’s most important.

That means you should only focus on one topic, product, need, or capability.

Even if your product allows me to build a house, paint a car, and levitate my cat at all the same time, stick to one use per video. Simplicity accomplishes three top things:

  1. It makes it easy for your visitors to find your content and follow what you’re saying
  2. It tends to keep things short enough that engagement remains high throughout
  3. You do exactly what Google wants and rewards with its ranking priority

YouTube’s algorithm for placement and recommendations ranks videos on quality and engagement, with a focus on overall watch time—so you want people to watch the whole thing.

Specificity enforces simplicity, and that keeps people on their sites and on your video. Shorter videos (that provide a complete thought) also perform better than longer ones.

Rounding out engagement is authenticity. So, record your video however you want, from your screen with a service like Camtasia or Screenflow, or just on your smartphone. You only need minimal editing if there’s a problem with the video.

It’s OK to pause, say a few “ums,” and then power through. That makes you and your company/product feel more human.

Consistency equals results

Not placing an emphasis on perfection but instead on what’s enjoyable to watch also helps you keep up a consistent posting schedule. Consistency is the best path forward to scoring free leads on YouTube because it builds a following and increases the chance that your videos will show up higher in search results.

Set your schedule and stick to it. Whatever is realistic is what to aim for right away.

It’s often OK to scale up and go from once a week to twice a week, but it’s generally seen as a bad sign if you scale back and suddenly go from four posts a month to just two.

We like to share good news, so there’s one thing to remember here: not everything has to be about your brand, product, or company growth. Just keep it positive and focused on your core values.

Know of a great local event coming up or a time when you’ll be volunteering? Share it. Find a really cool service from someone else that could help your customers? Share it.

Tired of Washington and want to rant about the current state of things? Probably don’t share it, unless your brand identity trades on a political leaning.

Apply SEO to your videos

Keywords make it easier for people to find your videos, so let’s use just a couple of them for your videos.

You’re going to optimize the videos like you do a new website or landing page, with a laser focus instead of adding everything to the mix.

Video metadata is a description of what the video is all about. It helps YouTube and Google understand your video’s subject, from knowing the title to a simple description.

title description tags.png

Here’s a look at some best practices:

  • There are a lot of YouTube-specific keyword suggestion tools, use them to find phrases and keywords that have high search levels
  • Make titles address the need your customers have
  • Keep title and descriptions limiting to using one or two keywords
  • If you had three seconds to explain it (and just three), that short sentence is your description
  • In the tags section, you’re going to focus on peppering in keywords and broader descriptions
  • Aim for upwards of 10 to 20 tags based on relevant keywords
  • Review everything to see if it asks and touches on what your customers will ask

We put together a simple video on four types of YouTube ads based on boosting revenue, and optimization with minimal support has helped us pick up more than 8,000 views by following these practices.

Try a playlist

YouTube offers a compelling playlist tool that lets you put together your videos based on topics you choose. You get to set the play order and topic name, making it easy for people to find.

You also have options to link to videos within a playlist so that auto-play options move through your playlist instead of grabbing related content. This is a great link to use for all social sharing and when embedding content on your website.

People are more likely to watch related content, so a playlist can help boost traffic and the amount of time a viewer is spending with your brand.

Playlist descriptions can support up to 5,000 words, but that’s way too long. Use keywords to write up a short, broad description and then give a one-sentence recap of each video in order, so viewers will know what to expect.

Try cards for an uptick in leads

You know that every page you create must have a specific call-to-action if you want your site visitors to actually do anything, like make a purchase.

Videos are the same. YouTube cards allow you to insert a strategic CTA in your video, with options like playing the latest content, sending them to landing pages, take a poll, donate, or promote funding options.

Those are the functions, but you can manage the text how you like. So, you can make an offer, add a coupon code, ask people to subscribe, join a mailing list, and much more.

Find these options by heading over to the video page and clicking on the Cards button. Be sure to A/B test to see what works best with your audience—A/B testing is a must because these are essentially little clickable display ads.

Two things to remember about cards:

  • They do best in the first 10 percent or last 10 percent of a video
  • Only use one per video. Multiple options lead to less action

getting started.png

Cards lead us right into a new thought on YouTube videos: are these content, ads, or some blend of the two?

Your videos should feel like content because always selling is a turnoff to most visitors. The only place to directly blend the two is with these CTA cards. Other than that, aim for a soft sell to keep people engaged.

And it’s even better if you have some videos where you’re not making a pitch at all, just helping people out. They respect and remember that.

However, there are opportunities for ads on YouTube. Next, we’ll look at those options best able to enhance your revenues.

Support YouTube efforts with these four ad types

You’ve created some great content and are getting some views, but you’ve found out that other videos on the same subject are performing better.

That sucks because you’ve worked hard on your content.

But it also doesn’t suck because it means there’s an opportunity for you to reach an even larger audience with another type of content: ads.

We’ve come to believe that YouTube ads are the most powerful type of advertising around, especially if you’re targeting millennials, tech enthusiasts, or people looking after children under the age of 10 (which includes those boomer grandparents with large disposable incomes).

YouTube advertising delivers about a 20 percent increase in web traffic for most marketers, though following through on the YouTube SEO we talked about above can boost that a little higher.

In this section, we’ll look at four of the best YouTube ads for achieving revenue-based goals, plus give a very high-level intro into how to create your campaign.

Getting started: build your ad campaign

A YouTube ad campaign starts in your AdWords account, clicking the “add new campaign” button and then choosing the video options.

all campaigns.png

And then you’re ready to start by finalizing your targets and spending.

Before kicking things off, we recommend a few considerations on your campaign and content:

  • Always optimize each video
  • CTAs should be simple but compelling
  • Never forget this is a visual medium and focuses on the viewer’s goal: advertising a diet aid will benefit more from a shirtless model than a picture of fruit
  • Do research about what visuals work in your industry, paying attention to colors too

Now, let’s get started understanding the video options you’ve got. And, if you’re more of a visual learning, you can also see a review of your options within the system here.

Skippable ads

You’ve seen these and counted down the seconds until you skip them, so why start here?

Because, if you can capture people’s attention in those first five seconds, you can hook your audience. Plus, they weed people out very quickly.

Essentially these in-stream ads increase your overall visibility significantly well relative to your cost-per-view because you only pay when someone stays on and watches for at least 30 seconds.

zillow youtube screenshot.png

Skippable ads force the viewer to pay attention to you and interrupt what they’re thinking about, making it easy to get to the top of their mind. Pairing this ad with a landing page and offer is usually a safe path into your funnel.

A few considerations about these ads include:

  • You need to surprise in the first five seconds to grab attention
  • Sixty seconds still seems to be the max people will stay and still see your CTA
  • They’re smart for targeting people on a specific channel or who have visited a specific site
  • Target keywords and similar content to help narrow your targets, but remember that you may pay more as you start to significantly narrow your options

Non-skippable ads

Instream ads you can’t skip are referred to as non-skippable ads, and they are up to 30-second spots that hold the viewer captive. These can appear before, during, or after the main video, but all three segments seem to perform best when ads are shorter, about 15 seconds or so.

If you can make a compelling case, offer a high-quality product or discount, or want to focus on a quick message, consider using these.

quicken loans youtube screenshot.png

Sometimes the best offer is something that you don’t flesh out but make a promise to do, along the lines of how you entice people with a tripwire offer.

You need to be confident that you can grab and hold attention quickly, or this ad unit might not be best for you.

Display ads

What do people do when those non-skippable ads stink? They look elsewhere on the page, and that often means checking out the YouTube Display Ad at the top right of the playlist or search results.

These ads blend in with organic listings and are a smart way to show that you have the best answer to the problem they’re searching for right now.

youtube screenshot.png

One extremely important note is that these ads shouldn’t go to landing pages or any content other than a YouTube video you’ve made. Keep people on YouTube, or they’ll quickly navigate away from your website, wasting time and money.

Another consideration is that your image needs to look great so that people want to engage.

We recommend display ads to grow your subscriber base and to drive traffic to your videos that are generating the most clicks on your CTA.

Overlay ads

For those masters of the copywriting craft, an overlay ad is also a useful tool. These semi-transparent display ads take up about the bottom 20 percent of a video and are great for displaying related CTAs to your landing pages.

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They’ve got great lead conversion chances when put on your videos, but the offer should be short, sweet, and related to content that’s going on when it displays. They can also do well when overlaid on competitor ads, but those should be written as almost a counterpoint.

It’s a painless way to generate more leads and views of your content without being disruptive. Plus, if you are in a niche where some videos take way too long to get to the point, you’ve got an opportunity to steal people away from your larger competitors.

All of these ad options are necessary for your growth on YouTube. And they’re best paired with content that’s gone viral. While there’s no secret formula to execute to make sure an ad or video goes viral every time, there are some things to do to increase your success.

Keep these video ad options in mind while we look at ways to boost your viral potential or to understand what your advertising conversions mean.

The analytics behind most viral successes

No one really knows what is going to go viral. Sometimes it is an incredibly heartwarming video about the love between a puppy and a horse, a younger brother’s bite, or Oreo tweeting that you can dunk in the dark.

Of those three, Budweiser likely spent the most time looking at its advertisement and optimizing it for success on YouTube. You might think TV was the big goal, but remember that those commercials run for a few months on the big screen but still live on (and gain new views) for years and years online.

We’re going to follow their example and the example of some other top brands by looking at the analytics that can help boost your success at making a big splash. There’s no promise of going viral worldwide, but this will assist in targeting your audience for some industry acclaim.

Existing channel performance

The first place to check is your existing channel performance. This is a goldmine for initial efforts, sitting right inside your YouTube Analytics dashboard.

Start by monitoring your total views to see which videos are performing well, keeping an eye out on topic areas or playlists that do especially well.

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Look at your Top 10 Videos report to see how much these views they garner compared to your total. This can help you understand not only what people are watching but also what is doing best in terms of search and video SEO.

Mix in your estimated minutes watched, which covers all views of all the content on your channel. Your goal is to increase this and get people to every minute of each video. The pair of metrics should help you learn what is working and what to create next.

Check channel engagement

Another key tool for understanding channel popularity is your engagement scoring. These are some of our preferred metrics to check before we create something new because it shows us how engaged the audience is and what people want to share.

  • Subscribers: Your YouTube subscribers get a message or notification when you post new content. This helps them be more engaged and watch more regularly, and it’s the primary metric of success for brands who want a conversation with customers.

  • Likes/dislikes: This report shows how many people have liked or disliked your video, giving you a total for the overall number of people who clicked. Sometimes a dislike is valuable because it means people feel passionate about the topic. Use these to pick topics and then fine-tune your subject matter.

  • Comments: Here’s a bit of a mystery box. Some videos get scores of comments that are very relevant and powerful; other get comments that have nothing to do with the content. A high number of comments, even those off-topic, show an engaged community that feels comfortable with your channel.

  • Videos in playlists: This will help you understand the long-term usefulness of your content. It shows when people add or remove content from their own playlists, like “Favorites” or “Watch Later” lists. Look at what people are using and how long content stays in playlists to get a handle on what’s popular and how often you may need to revisit topics.

These universal characteristics are good to keep in mind as you drill down deeper.

Channel demographics and discovery

Your demographics report is the straightforward way to review your personas and make sure you’re creating content aimed at the right age range and gender as well as top locations by views. Always adjust based on these demos because they make it easier to understand how to build for shareability within your audience.

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Select the “Show only subscriber views” to see the demographics of the subscribers who are viewing your content to learn greater details about those most engaged with your work.

Next, review your discovery reports to see playback locations and information, so you can learn if these viewers are coming to YouTube, your website, or a different site to watch your content. That will help you understand if you should focus on video or site SEO to increase your reach.

Putting it all together

YouTube videos and advertising are two incredibly powerful ways to market your business and reach new customers.

Related Article:

Video Marketing 101

If you want to give your brand the best results possible, you’ll need to invest plenty of time in learning your viewers, your market, and which ads make the most sense for your products or services.

We believe everyone needs to focus on gaining an appreciation for the service itself as well as the different ad formats because they operate in their own unique sphere. You can’t just blindly apply other techniques or strategies to your YouTube efforts.

Learn how to target videos and ads on the platform to build your reach and steal eyeballs away from competitors. Then, it’s time to experiment and learn what works best for your audience.

Give yourself some time each week, or each day, to review the platform, find content you like, and see how your efforts are performing. The more you know and understand, the easier it will be.

This guide will help you get started and lay the groundwork for a successful small business campaign, and your hard work will pay off with returns as you increase your knowledge and capabilities.


Mark Marcelletti is the CEO of 7 Figure Automation, a digital marketing agency that helps B2B companies fill their sales pipeline so they can focus on serving their clients. They use 1:1 marketing strategies like LinkedIn Marketing and Cold Emailing to help companies take business to the next level. Check out their blog at for more tips, shortcuts, and free premium resources.

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