Should I Use TrueView Discovery or In-Stream?

The two most common ad formats for video campaigns in Google Ads are TrueView in-stream and TrueView discovery. While both of these ad formats can be very beneficial, they each have very different features and benefits. I want to quickly go over which ad format would be best for your video marketing efforts.

What Video Content Will You Have?

The answer to this question is going to have the biggest impact on which video format you should use. To explain what I mean, let’s take a look at this video example. (So many to choose from thanks to brands who don’t leave their videos as unlisted)

This video is perfect for that TV commercial feel. Both the brand and product name are visible in the ad within the first second. This is important because the user can skip this ad after five seconds (if the advertiser doesn’t want to have unskippable ads). This way, the ad can still get the main message across even if the user skips before watching the full video. This would mean free brand awareness. Plus, the advertiser can easily layer on call-to-action extensions to push more action which would be totally in line with this video style.

Now let’s say you have video creative more like this. 

This video is still product-focused. It still can help influence the user to eventually buy it, but look at the length. That’s a 14-minute video. Odds are the vast majority of users who would see this video content as part of an in-stream ad would not make it to the end of the video. They want to get to the video they originally intended on watching. 

With TrueView discovery, we can take advantage of the users who want to be engaged with certain videos. Discovery allows us to target just the YouTube search results or show up in the related video section of a watch page. So if users on YouTube are actively looking for videos on this specific product, it’s easier to have those users engage with longer video content using discovery over in-stream. 

What’s the User Intent?

I can think of so many times when I couldn’t figure something out and went to YouTube to find out the answer. How do I install a Britax car seat? How do you connect an Xbox controller? The list could go on and on, but my intent at those moments is the same.

When I’m looking for help, my intent at the time is not to buy something. My intent in those moments is to find help. So, turning to YouTube (the second largest search engine after Google) is where TrueView discovery can shine. 

This video’s content has the answer to a specific question that a user might search on YouTube. It’s not heavily pushing a product like you’d expect in an in-stream ad. It’s actually answering the user’s question.

I already mentioned how TrueView discovery is the only ad type that allows advertisers to just target the YouTube search results. You cannot show in-stream ads on the YouTube search results page. This situation alone might help you decide which video creative you would need to create if you want to capitalize on a variety of user intent situations. 

Are Your Campaign Goals Looking to Push More Action?

If you’re looking to push more site traffic and/or conversions, then TrueView in-stream is the way to go. There are so many ways to drive traffic to your website that are only available for in-stream ads. These examples include the following:

Call-to-Action Extension

Showcase a headline and call-to-action button to drive users to a specific landing page. The extension will appear on the video ad itself and also has a second placement above the recommended videos. The call-to-action extension will remain visible in the second placement even if a user skips your video ad. 

Shopping Cards

With TrueView for Shopping, you can showcase up to six products from your Merchant Center feeds to show up alongside your in-stream ad. These product cards will send users directly to the product pages to try and push direct sales or awareness on those products. They also can be good to build audiences from specific product categories. 

YouTube Lead Gen Forms

This newer ad extension (still rolling out in accounts) is only available for campaigns using TrueView for Action. Advertisers can now collect leads directly from their YouTube ads (only on mobile devices). These leads will stay in the Google Ads interface for up to 30 days for you to export. You can also set up a webhook and have the leads sent directly to your CRM.  

YouTube Sitelink Extensions

Just like lead gen forms, this extension only shows up on mobile devices and is only available if you are running TrueView for Action campaigns. Advertisers have to add at least two sitelink extensions. But this could be a good mix to send users to different landing pages than what’s being used in your call-to-action extension. 

Are Your Campaign Goals Looking to More Video Content Awareness?

TrueView in-stream can be great for brand awareness. If you are using the skippable ad format, you will only have to pay if a user watches at least 30 seconds of the video or the entire video if it is under 30 seconds. And we just went over many of the ways you can engage with a new user with TrueView in-stream ads. If your goal is to get users to engage with your video content or YouTube channel, then TrueView discovery is the way to go. This is because when a discovery ad is clicked, it sends the user directly to a video watch page. 

All the cool features and extensions I mentioned in the previous section cannot be added to a video watch page. The main actions users can take on this page is watch your video, like or dislike your video, share your video, add your video to a playlist, subscribe to your channel, and comment on your video. You could try and send users to your site from a link in the video description, but that action is far less common than video engagement. 

TrueView discovery is another way to help grow your brand (especially in the demonstration type video example above), but it won’t have the same intent and user actions as an in-stream video. We have seen success using TrueView discovery to answer specific questions and target a very specific audience with channel and video placement targeting. We can then take the engagement we get from our video watch page interactions to come up with new audiences to test in Google Ads for future remarketing campaigns. 

Final Point

I love to use both video formats for my clients. Answering the “which one should I use” question will get you an “it depends” answer. What creative do you have? What are your goals for the campaign? What do you want the user to do when watching your video? Answering these questions will help you decide which video format is best for your audience and for your campaign goals and hopefully this post made that decision a lot easier. 

Which video format is your favorite? We’d love to hear in the comments below!