No Impressions on YouTube Ads?
Find out why your YouTube ad campaign isn’t getting impressions
Use this list to fix any YouTube ad campaign that’s not getting any impressions or not getting the spend and impressions you’re expecting.
As the founder of Adzoola I get to see a lot of questions around YouTube ads. One of the most frustrating is not getting impressions.
Here’s just one example of how frustrating it can be (in this case impressions were inconsistent):
Are you in one of these scenarios?
1. Your YouTube ad campaign is running and hasn’t had any impressions from the start.
2. Your YouTube ad campaign is getting some impressions but nowhere near as many as you were expecting.
3. Your YouTube ad campaign was doing well, getting a lot of impressions for a while but then dropped to little or nothing.
We’ll fix those scenarios in the list below.
When I started writing this checklist I realised there were more than just a few reasons you might get no impressions. So I’ve split the checklist up into areas that will help you find and fix your specific issue.
There’s a specific section for placement targeting as there are a few more scenarios and fixes that are specific to it.
Fixes for no impressions applying to all YouTube ad campaigns
Video ad status
Start with simple first!
If it’s a new campaign sometimes the video ads can take a few days to get approved – sometimes they even get ‘stuck’.
Equally of course, ads that were approved can suddenly get disapproved.
So it’s worth checking here first.
Action: Check all your YouTube ads in the campaign are enabled and eligible to serve.
Ok, so you’ve checked and your YouTube ad is active but doesn’t have impressions…
Bid strategy quirks
Your bid strategy and bid amount could be the reason for not getting impressions.
There are two main branches of bid strategies – automated (or ‘smart bidding’) and manual.
Automated bidding strategies use Google’s algorithms and artificial intelligence to optimize for conversions.
Manual bidding strategies are managed by you the media buyer with no input from algorithms.
In the many ad accounts I’ve seen, manual bidding seems to be a forgotten feature but there are scenarios where they’re preferable. Placement targeting being one such scenario and now Google have even removed automated bidding for placement campaigns.
Here are the bid strategies you can use with YouTube ads.
Automated bid strategies (smart bidding):
Maximize conversions / conversion value
Target Cost Per Action (tCPA)
Target Return On Ad Spend (ROAS)
Maximum CPV (cost per view)
Target CPM (cost per thousands impressions)
You can experience all kinds of impression fluctuations with automated bidding that are specifically due to the bid strategy and any bid you’ve set (rather than other factors, like market demand).
If you see a significant drop in impressions in a campaign that uses an automated bid strategy, it could be that you’re no longer hitting that your set Target CPA for example. If that happens for long enough, Google will ramp down impressions. Just like this:
I’ve even seen Maximize conversions campaigns that have been hampered and switching to a manual strategy solved that.
Manual bidding is pretty straightforward. If you’re getting impressions then you’ll continue to unless external factors change. You’ll see fewer fluctuations than with automated bidding strategies because there’s no algorithm or AI changing things in the background trying to hit conversion-based targets.
Oh and I’d like to bust the myth that using manual bidding means you won’t get conversions. Some people have expressed this concern. It’s not the case – you can absolutely get conversions with manual bidding. The difference from automated bidding is that you’re taking the place of the AI, so you’ll need to manage the bids and targeting more actively.
1. You’ve had no impressions since launching your campaign?
If you’re using a strategy where you’ve set a bid target – remove it or increase it (or decrease for Target ROAS). Wait for up to 3 days. If there’s still no impressions consider changing your bid strategy.
2. You’ve had impressions in this campaign before but none (or few) now?
Increase the bid amount. For automated bidding this is your ‘target’ CPA or ROAS percentage [increase your tCPA or decrease your ROAS percentage].
3. You have no impressions and a relatively narrow target audience (or you want to force impressions fast).
Choose a different bid strategy to kick start your campaign. The more narrow your targeting the more manual bidding will help you get impressions. Automated bidding struggles with narrower targeting because it needs data to optimize for the conversion target you’ve set. They also struggle if you’re not getting conversions.
Budget too small
This is linked to your bid and can limit your impressions if you’ve set a very low daily budget.
What’s the ratio between your bid amount and your daily budget?
If you have a low ratio between your bid and budget, impressions are going to be slow coming or limited altogether.
For example with a ratio of 1:2 or below (Target CPA of $20 and daily budget of $40) you could struggle to get impressions or you’ll get impressions but if that conversion target isn’t met, you’ll get fewer and fewer impressions over time. It may be too low for automated bidding to start learning.
Google recommends a much higher ratio of around 1:20. This makes sense because the more data you give the AI the better and faster it’ll learn. But, let’s be honest, that’s not always possible for small businesses or small budget experiments. Again, that’s one scenario where you might consider manual bidding.
When you start a new campaign you want your budget to allow for at least a full week of spend at your target cost per conversion, covering Monday to Sunday or a full sales/conversion cycle, whichever is longer.
Here’s the calculation:
Daily budget = [Your sales cycle, minimum Monday to Sunday] x [Estimated/target cost per conversion] x [The bid:budget ratio]
Example for a target CPA of $20 and short sales cycle of <7 days:
7 days x $20 target CPA x 3 [1:3 budget ratio] = $60 per day ($420 per week)
Increase your daily budget – if possible to a bid:budget ratio of 1:3 or higher.
Targeting too narrow
We’re lucky Google provides us with so many different targeting options to use with YouTube ads. It can be tempting to use more than we really need.
If you’re not getting impressions and you’ve checked your ad status, bid strategy and bid amount, then look at your targeting.
Are you using multiple layers?
I saw this in an account a while ago and had to screenshot it – 79 YouTube ad campaigns with layers and layers and layers of targeting.
By the way, we outperformed these 79 video campaigns with <10 simplified campaigns. You can learn how I do this by deploying the PTT framework which you can learn by taking this YouTube Ads Training Course.
These are some of the targeting selections you can use together:
Age (7 selections)
Gender (3 selections)
Household income (7 selections)
Parental status (3 selections)
Any selections you make in your demographics combine to select your audience.
Content Targeting [You can still use these with manual campaigns]
Detailed demographics (even more granular than the demographics above)
City, state, national, international
It’s easy to go through these and select your ideal audience but you can limit it so much you’ll get very few impressions – or none at all.
Even combining a few demographic selections along with one audience could result in no impressions. Especially if you’re also using an automated bid strategy.
- Check the extent to which you’re using multiple targeting options.
- Consider removing or opening up your targeting bit by bit to start getting more impressions.
- If you’re using placements, check the specific section below on placement targeting.
In some circumstances whatever you do you can’t get any impressions – even if the audience seems big enough and you’ve checked off everything in the list above. Your targeting could be restricted by Google.
This happens when your targeting includes keywords or audiences that are in sensitive categories. I’ve seen this frequently in the health and financial markets but there are others. You can dig into these in Google’s support documentation.
The tricky thing is that you don’t know when or if this is happening. It’s usually by a process of elimination (reading this guide helps!).
Action1. Test whether it is the targeting you’re using that’s stopping you getting impressions.
Create an audience that doesn’t include what could be considered sensitive categories. Or use a pre-defined Google audience such as an in-market or affinity audience. These aren’t restricted as they’re created by Google.
2. If you’ve proved you are being restricted due to the custom audience (including keywords) you’re targeting, start from scratch either with single targets (e.g. 1 keyword audience) or use lateral keywords that are less ‘sensitive’ if possible.The video below is a recording I made for a member of Adzoola who wasn’t getting impressions possibly due to sensitive keywords. In the video I show how you can work around it with Adzoola’s keyword tool
No impressions using YouTube Placement Targeting
The first is for testing new offers or campaigns. It’s great for this because it allows you to control the exact places your ad will show – unlike all the other targeting methods where you hand Google/YouTube the reigns. So this means controlled and targeted spend for potentially high ROI.
The premise is: If you can’t get a campaign to work when you’re targeting the exact moment when someone has intent, then it’s unlikely to work with other, less targeted methods.
The second scenario is to find super-high ROI video placements. I’m coaching someone at the moment who spent $10,000 in the last 30 days on YouTube Ads.
Which targeting method do you think has the highest ROI for them?
It’s video placements. Even though the spend on placements is less than 3% of the total YouTube ads spend, the ROI is 5x and double that of any other targeting method.
But there are common hurdles when you’re running placement campaigns.
Here’s how you fix zero (or few) impressions in your YouTube placement targeted campaigns – these apply to both video placements and channel placements (channel targeting has a “quirk” though – see below).
Bidding too low
One of the most common reasons for not getting any impressions with placement targeting is due to an insufficient bid.
I’ve seen Max CPV (cost per view) bids of <$0.20. In most markets that is far too low.
Remember with placements you are choosing specific videos or channels to target on YouTube. This kind of granularity usually costs a bit more than broader targeting methods.
The same applies whether you’re using in-stream or in-feed ads. Or even placement targeted Display ads. Placement targeted YouTube display and in-feed ads get fewer impressions than an equivalent in-stream ad. So your bid needs to account for that – bid higher.
I often start at a Max CPV of $1. Although $1 may seem a lot, it really isn’t a high bid for competitive markets.
Double the Max CPV every 2 days or so if you’re not getting impressions (or if you’re only getting a few impressions and you’re expecting more).
If you’re using Target CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and getting no impressions, your bid could be too low.
Note: You can’t use automated bid strategies with YouTube placement targeting.
1. Check your bid is high enough. <$1 Max CPV is likely too low (unless it’s for retargeting).
2. Increase the bid (don’t forget, this isn’t necessarily the amount you’ll pay – often it will be less, sometimes far less).
3. Wait 24 – 48 hours.
4. Double the bid if your impressions haven’t increased (assuming you’ve checked and confirmed your ad impressions aren’t being held back by the other items on this checklist)
Demographics or additional targeting too restrictive
Here I’m referring to any targeting you may have layered on top of your placements:
Other audiences or segments
I’ve mentioned this earlier but it’s much more of an issue for placement campaigns.
Placement targeting is already very narrow – you’ve found the specific videos (or channels) you want to target. Adding other targeting layers on top will only narrow your audience further – often too much.
Not only is your audience getting smaller, your bid is likely affected – the narrower the audience the higher the bid required.
You may be able to use these additional layers with broader targeting methods but it doesn’t work well with placement targeting unless you’re in a market with huge volume.
In any case, you can start without these additional layers and wait for the data to tell you how they perform in the ‘Audiences’ area of your campaign. You can then make adjustments based on your data.
Unlike Facebook, Google is guessing a person’s age, gender, household income and parental status.
It does a pretty good job at it but it’s not always pinpoint accurate. Here’s part of what Google uses to personalize the ads I see:
25 – 54. Yes but that’s quite a big age range! In Google Ads, that covers three age ranges (more than 40% of the age selections available) – 25-34, 35-44 and 45-54.
So by only selecting those criteria which fit your target audience exactly you may still be missing out on a large number of people who Google haven’t identified as being in those audiences.
Equally there could be people who Google has wrongly identified as being in certain audiences.
Bottom line: Open your targeting up a little bit and you’ll start getting some impressions.
- Remove any and all additional layers of targeting.
- Monitor the data in ‘Audiences’ area for the campaign.
- Make adjustments if necessary once you have the data.
Location targeting area too small
YouTube placement campaigns targeting anything other than national or international locations will usually struggle to get impressions.
Even small countries with a population of <20 million can struggle to get impressions with placement targeting on YouTube.
1. Open your location targeting up to the whole country, if applicable. If you can’t, consider broadening your targeting – add videos on related topics for instance or set up a campaign targeting YouTube channels.
2. Alternatively if the location(s) you serve is relatively small – try using a keyword or audience targeted campaign.
Video placements with no impressions
The placements you add to your YouTube ad campaign can also be a reason you’re not getting impressions.
– Too few views on your placement videos
– High proportion of videos that don’t show ads (not monetized)
– Not enough placements
– You’ve encountered the “quirk” that happens when you try to target YouTube channels.
Using the wrong keywords to get your list of video placements can lead to getting videos with too few views. It’s a common mistake to use keywords that are too narrow on a topic or too commercial. Usually this happens when you find placements by searching YouTube like you would Google, rather than what people go to YouTube for (to learn or get entertained).
Start with informational keywords your market use to get your list of placements.
If you’re confident you have the right video placements which should be getting impressions, are you using enough?
If you’re getting them manually it’s hard to get enough. The time it takes usually means it’s not time efficient and so people skip to much broader targeting options. You can use Adzoola’s free video targeting tool to do that – upgrade if you want more results, faster.
I often get asked ‘how many placements should I add’. There isn’t a perfect number.
In some markets you have videos getting 100,000+ views in a matter of months or even days. In those markets you may only need 100 placements to get going. Still, you’ll want to add more over time or if you have a bigger budget.
In other markets, videos may never get to 100,000 views. So you’ll need to add more placements.
Also, remember this:
1. Some of the placements you add might not be showing ads at all. YouTube channels that are eligible to monetize their videos may have turned ads off. These channels are often owned by businesses who are using YouTube as a marketing channel (smart!). [Grow your YouTube audience using The Slingshot Strategy] You’ll get a higher proportion of videos with ads turned off if you’re using commercial or B2B terms to get your list of placements.
2. The view counts you see on the videos are made up of views from around the world. The majority of views may not be in the country you’re targeting so your ad may get far fewer impressions than you anticipated.
1. Use informational keywords to get your placements.
2. Find a new keyword angle to get more video or channel placements. Note: Don’t put channel placements in the same campaign as video placements.
3. Add more placements.
Zero impressions targeting YouTube channels
This is something I’ve never heard anyone talk about but it could help you reach a big targeted, relevant audience that maybe you couldn’t before.
If you’ve ever done YouTube channel targeting you’ll likely have encountered some channels where you can’t get any impressions. Even ones you’ve seen ads on.
Here’s the workaround:
When you come across a channel that you’ve targeted but you’re not getting impressions, target the videos the channel has posted.
Doing that has worked on many occasions for me – if I get no impressions from targeting the channel, I get the videos from the channel and use those as placements instead. I usually start getting impressions.
1. Find the channels you’ve targeted that aren’t getting impressions.
2. Get the videos they’ve posted and add them as placements in your campaign. You can use Adzoola’s Channel Explorer tool to get the videos and even filter them like this:
Want to set up a channel targeted campaign the right way? Here’s how to set up a YouTube channel targeting campaign.
There you have it! A comprehensive list of reasons and fixes for getting no (or few) impressions with YouTube ads.
Launch more winning YouTube ad campaigns
Now you know how to get your YouTube ads spending again.
You’ll have seen we used Adzoola on several occasions to find the right video placements, channel placements, getting videos from channels, finding lateral keywords and more.
I encourage you to join your fellow YouTube advertisers by checking out Adzoola for your targeting and competitor research on Google and YouTube ads.
Adzoola will help you uncover:
YouTube video and channel placements
Keywords that are specific to YouTube
Expanded audience keywords you’d never have thought of
Websites, mobile apps and keywords to use in your custom segments
“Until you have Adzoola you can’t really unlock the power of YouTube Ads”