Learn how ads are served on a YouTube video and how you can optimize your channel’s content to be advertiser friendly.
How ads get placed on YouTube videos
Why do ads appear on some videos, but not others? What determines the kind of ad displayed? YouTube has an ad serving model to maximize channel revenue by matching eligible videos with the right ad based on factors like viewer demographic, geography, and viewing device. The goal is to optimize for the right ad to the right viewer so the most lucrative ad can be shown on your videos.
What kicks off this process? It all starts with a view. A view happens when a user actively chooses to watch a video, e.g., presses the play button. Once a view occurs on monetized content, the view enters the ad serving model and undergoes a series of checkpoints (outlined below) to see if it can have an ad placed on it. The grey rows cover areas where you can optimize your channel, and the other rows cover the criteria influenced by the viewer behavior and ad inventory available from advertisers.
Are videos or policy set to ”monetize”? Are all ad formats enabled? Is the view from a monetized country? Is the video advertiser friendly?
Is it the right time to show an ad to the viewer?
Considers how recent and often the viewer has watched an ad.
Are ads supported on the viewing device?
Not all ads are available on mobile.
Are all ad categories allowed? Is the viewer a YouTube Red subscriber (ad-free)? Is the video at least 30 seconds long for in-stream ads? Is there an ad available in the auction or reserve inventory?
What makes a channel attractive to advertisers?
When thinking about ads on channel content, it is helpful to consider how advertisers and viewers impact which ads show and when. Advertisers and brands often look for certain qualities in both the viewer attributes and the videos when buying ads. To maximize a channel’s ad revenue, these are some levers advertisers focus on when they are purchasing ads - and they will vary depending on their campaign goals:
- Audience. Advertisers target ad placement based on the audience demographics, the geographic location of viewers, and device viewers are watching on. Check the channel’s demographics, geography, and devices reports to see if the audience of your channel could match with potential brands and to see which ad formats are enabled on the devices your viewers are watching.
- Content. Brands target audience behaviors and interests. Advertisers can target ads more broadly across a category (i.e., Entertainment, Sports, or Gaming). Review the channel and video category to see if the video content matches the category.
- Advertiser-friendliness. Advertisers generally look for content that falls within YouTube’s advertiser-friendly formats and aligns with YouTube’s community guidelines. Adhering to these content strategies may attract a broader range of advertisers. Check the channel to see if the videos meet these criteria.
How does the viewer attract advertisers?
Since advertisers can specify certain viewer demographics when they bid on an ad (e.g. age, gender, geography, content category), the demographic and behavioral attributes of a viewer can influence the ad serving model. The model checks to see if the ad type can display on the viewer’s device (some ads may not display on mobile), whether the video is embedded, if the viewer is a YouTube Red subscriber, and if a viewer has just seen an ad.
How do advertisers buy ads?
Depending on their resources and goals, advertisers can buy different kinds of ads from our inventory --reserved and auction.
- In Reserved, there is a guaranteed inventory (like from Google Preferred channels) where advertisers can target specific audiences, select what type of content their ads run on, and pay more to guarantee that their ad is shown first based on a fixed rate of either CPM (cost per mille) or minimum CPD (cost per day) and guaranteed impressions.
- In Auction, ads are sold to the highest bidder in a marketplace of non-guaranteed inventory. Advertisers bid by selecting the maximum CPM, CPV (cost per view), or CPC (cost per click) for the ad. Display and True-View ads are usually sold the most.
In terms of CPM ranking, reserve ads generally have higher CPMs (with non-skippable ads having higher CPMs than skippable) than auction-served skippable ads. Remember that lower CPM ad formats (i.e., display ads which tend to have the lowest CPMs) will often be a major source of revenue for a channel. Choosing to only optimize for higher CPMs by disabling ad formats may cause total channel revenue to decline. See which ad types are represented in the channel.
Once the ad is selected, it is shown based on the ad server priority and ad format priority within each server.
Ad server Priority
Ad format Priority
Reserved (high CPMs)
In-stream ads (non skippable and skippable)
Auction (often lower CPMs)
InVideo overlay Display ads
Once a channel is enabled to show ads, channels have the ability to block certain ad categories from showing on their content such as general or sensitive (racy, religious, political or alcohol/gambling), or those that may conflict with the channel’s mission, values or business (like a competitor’s ad). Note that blocking ads could decrease revenue opportunities.
How do you optimize a channel for ads?
YouTube’s ad serving model checks to see if the channel is setup to monetize and has successfully enabled videos for monetization. Below is a checklist you can use to maximize your revenue opportunity:
- Is the channel enabled for monetization?
- Are videos enabled for monetization? Look for the “$” icon in video manager or troubleshoot monetization status.
- Is the video claimed by the channel owner? What is the monetization policy? Is there a Content ID claim that affects this?
- Are views coming from a YouTube monetized country? Views not from the monetized country list are not eligible to be monetized.
- Is the content advertiser-friendly enough for the particular advertiser?
- What ad formats are enabled? Enabling all ad formats can increase revenue opportunity. Non-skippable ads (reserve) tend to have the highest CPMs while skippable formats can have lower CPMs with display auction as the lowest CPMs.
Tip for Content ID users: You can also optimize your revenue potential by adding ownership to assets and setting match policies by country to “monetize”. To streamline operations, you can also set default monetization policies for your content.
How do you measure success?
Once an ad is served and viewed, you can measure this as an estimated monetized playback (EMP) in YouTube Analytics. This number approximates how many of a channel’s views resulted in ad impressions. The ratio of views to EMPs can help inform you how well views are converting to ads served and whether this ratio is trending up or down across different time periods. The goal is to have both viewership and EMP growth and you can use this information to identify opportunities where, for example, content could be further optimized for ads.