With 300 hours of videos uploaded daily and five billion video views per day, YouTube remains at the top of the video platform food chain and isn’t going anywhere. So big has the platform become that it now ranks as the second largest search engine in the world, (with its parent company Google taking the undisputed top slot).
Having a presence on YouTube is becoming increasingly important for small businesses as well as big brands. Creating well optimised videos for YouTube will greatly impact your company’s reach and allow you to engage with the platform’s one billion users.
While creating videos that resonate with your audience should be your primary goal, you also need to consider how search engines will index your content. No matter how excellent your video is, if it isn’t getting in front of the right people, then it will ultimately end up a waste of your resources.
Below are six ways to optimise your YouTube videos:
Provide a compelling and optimised title
Your YouTube titles should be a one-two punch: make it compelling but also include major keywords that you want your video to rank for.
To find out which keywords you should target, you can:
- Use the Google Keyword Planner – In the “ads formats and sizes” tab, check “video” and run the keywords you are targeting. Take into consideration the search volume when choosing your keywords. You can also input the URL of high-ranking YouTube videos to see which keywords rank high in your niche.
- Use Google Trends – Under the “Web Search” tag, you will find a “YouTube Search” qualifier, so you can see how your chosen keyword ranks on the video platform.
- Conduct competitor research – Look at your competitors’ videos and analyse what your target market is interested in seeing. Learn from their successes and failures, and find the common thread among those videos.
When writing your titles, use natural and conversational language, but remember attention spans are short, so make sure you get to the point and that your audience knows what they are getting.
Keep in mind that YouTube allows 100 characters (including spaces) in their titles. However, anything beyond 70 characters will be truncated in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
Create a full description
For 1,000 characters, YouTube allows you to fill a description box where you can provide additional background to your content or describe what your viewers would most likely see. However, keep in mind that they came to your channel to watch a video, not to read a blog post.
Include relevant keywords in your description and talk about the main points in your video. This way, YouTube’s search engine ‘crawlers’ can easily see what your video offers. Do keep in mind that for longer descriptions, YouTube will only display the first 100 characters before your followers need to click “show more.”
Mind your meta tags
Tags will help search engines “read” the content of your video. These tags would help YouTube figure out similar videos that can be associated with yours, thereby increasing your channel’s reach. You can also use Google Keyword Planner to find out which tags you should use. But be careful. The purpose of metadata is to add more contextual information to your videos. That said, you cannot use metadata that is not related to your video. You should also refrain from including tags in your description, as this can be interpreted as spam. Know that there is a specific section for tags, once you upload. If you break YouTube rules regarding misleading metadata your video will be removed and it will be considered it as a strike against your account.
Upload captions, subtitles, and video transcription
Similar to the way descriptions work, closed captions, subtitles, and video transcriptions will make it easier for search engines to ascertain the relevancy and value of your video against any given search query. The difference with captions, however, is that they have the added benefit of making your videos accessible for those to whom English is not their first language. While transcriptions may take a fair amount of time to implement, they do allow your videos to reach a much wider international audience. YouTube do offer an auto-caption facility but this is unreliable at best and can misrepresent your content at worst. If you want to learn how to time your captions perfectly, YouTube have created a very informative tutorial to get you up to speed.
Include a thumbnail
Thumbnails play a huge role in driving the clickthrough rate of your videos, as they give your audience a preview of what your video is all about. YouTube’s own data shows that 90% of the best performing YouTube videos use custom thumbnails. Their recommended parameters are: 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 ratio); saved as jpg, gif, bmp, or png; and high resolution but within the 2 MB limit. Do keep in mind that only verified YouTube accounts can upload a custom thumbnail.
When creating thumbnails, you should:
- Include the title or a few words to provide context to those who are scrolling through their feeds.
- Use eye-catching design that follows your brand voice.
- Avoid clickbait techniques.
- Establish your brand’s personality and signature style.
- Experiment with thumbnail styles to find out which one works best.
Use cards and end screens
If you are not using the cards and end screen feature on YouTube, then you are missing out on additional options for your brand to promote more of your videos.
- Cards – Cards provide additional interactivity to your videos. They show up as translucent bars of text or a circular icon with a small letter “i” in the middle. There are six different types of cards, namely video or playlist cards, poll cards, channel cards, fan funding, donation cards, and link cards.
You can add up to five cards on any given video. If you want to learn how to add cards, then Google has created this tutorial.
- End screens – End screens, on the other hand, can be used to direct viewers to your other videos on YouTube, invite them to subscribe, or promote your online campaigns (e.g. crowdfunding, website, merchandise). These appear during the last five to 20 seconds of your video and are available for both desktop and mobile users.
Make sure that your end screens are visually appealing and would drive viewers to action. Google also has an informative tutorial on adding end screens.
Quality and Optimisation
Video content is now an integral part of every online marketing campaign, considering that this medium will dominate internet traffic by 2020. Audiences understand better than ever before when visual cues are triggered. Couple that with video’s inherent capacity to tell stories that evoke strong emotional responses in the viewer, you then have a powerful and persuasive marketing tool in your hands.
Brands and businesses that do not incorporate videos in their marketing strategies run the risk of losing their competitive edge as this medium grows to dominate the web. While these optimisation steps will help put your content in front of your audience, know that your videos success will also come down to its quality. But that’s another story entirely…