While direct conversions may be your ultimate goal when it comes to paid advertising, generating brand awareness and engagement through channels like YouTube can still be highly beneficial to your marketing efforts, especially if you set your goals properly. To this point, TrueView Video Discovery campaigns are often overlooked when setting up YouTube advertising, since this ad type typically generates fewer direct conversions than formats like In-Stream ads. However, we have found that YouTube Video Discovery ads consistently produce higher engagement rates, making it a strong ad type to test if you are just getting started with YouTube advertising.

What is the difference between Video Discovery and In-Stream?

Video Discovery

Image Source: ThinkWithGoogle

Formerly known as “In-Display” ads, TrueView Video Discovery is an ad format that that promotes your video on the YouTube search results page alongside related videos and on the YouTube mobile homepage. The ad consists of a thumbnail image from the video along with a headline and description.


Image Source: ThinkWithGoogle

In-Stream ads, sometimes referred to as pre-roll ads, is the format most users are familiar with. In-Stream ads automatically play before, during, or after other videos and can appear on YouTube watch pages, videos on partner sites, and apps in the Google Display Network. After five seconds, the viewer is presented an option to skip the ad. In-Stream ads have a variety of formats, including Shoppable TrueView, which shows products alongside your video, and TrueView for Action, which includes a custom call-to-action that displays during and after your video.

Performance differences between Video Discovery and In-Stream

To evaluate performance differences between Video Discovery and In-Stream ad formats, we pulled six months of data from some of Metric Theory’s top YouTube accounts, all with varying business models. We then focused on engagement metrics – in particular, ‘earned subscribers’ per ad view and ‘earned views’ per ad view. Earned subscribers happen when users watch your ad and then subscribe to your channel, while earned views occur when users watch subsequent videos on your channel or watch pages.

Subscribers/View Rate

Earned Views/View Rate

As you can see from the data above, Video Discovery had a much higher rate of engaging users than In-Stream. This may be due to the nature of video discovery; with this format, users must actively click on your ad to view the video. This action indicates the user is interested in your video, product, or service and is more likely to engage with your channel in other ways.

Our study also indicated a higher rate of likes, shares, and playlist adds per view; however, volume for these metrics were lower.

Tips & Tricks for Video Discovery Ads

As you expand your YouTube Ad offerings to Video Discovery, here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind.

Ad Creation

Since your target audience must actively click the video to view, you’ll want your thumbnail and ad copy to clearly show what the video is about while being creative enough to grab the user’s attention.

Choose a visually interesting thumbnail image – Google will auto-generate four thumbnails to choose from. You can contact your Google representative to implement custom thumbnails.

Be creative and clear with your headline & description – Headlines can have a maximum of 25 characters, while descriptions can have a total of 70 characters (two lines of 35).


Targeting options for YouTube Video Discovery campaigns are identical to those of In-Stream campaigns – demographics, audiences, keywords, topics, and placements. Since these ads can show in YouTube search results, keyword targeting for Video Discovery will be more important than for In-Stream ads. The volume for Video Discovery is typically lower than In-Stream, so broader topics, interests, and keywords are more acceptable. Outlined below are a couple of recommendations:

– Copy your targeting from your existing In-Stream campaigns and compare performance

– Target your top performing short-tail keywords

– Target your competitor keywords

– Target specific channels related to your industry

– Leverage AdWords Audience Insights and any social media insights to target topics and channels your converters are interested in

Even if you have a small budget, if you are running YouTube advertising, you should be investing in Video Discovery ads. Not only does this ad format have higher engagement rates, but it generally also comes with cheaper costs. Because of this, YouTube Video Discovery ads are the perfect stepping stone and research tool if you’re new to YouTube, before launching In-Stream ad formats.

Need help launching your YouTube advertising? Contact our team for an account analysis.