As the 2nd largest search engine in the world, YouTube is not just a place for hosting videos. And since it’s so important for getting your videos to be seen, it’s even more important that you optimize your videos to put them in the best position to be found. Whether it’s through metadata, enticing thumbnails, or adding ways for your audience to keep watching, it’s all part of the optimization recipe. Here’s how to optimize your videos for maximum YouTube potential.
Metadata Is Key
It may seem super obvious, but having a proper title with interesting keywords, a thorough description, and relevant tags are the first steps to getting your videos found on YouTube. Your title can be up to 100 characters long, and it’s the thing that everyone is going to see when your video shows up in a search.
Make sure that your title is descriptive, has interesting and exciting words that grab viewers’ eyes, and of course make sure that it actually says what’s going on in the video. If your title is misleading or if it’s “clickbait-y,” it could hurt your search juice if people are upset about the content not matching the title. No one wants to click on a video about cute baby animals that’s really a travel vlog.
When it comes to your description, be sure to include any and all links and information that you think might either be useful for viewers or your brand, or that might keep your viewers watching. You can include links to your social media channels, the gear you use, your merchandise page, or you can link to other related videos that you’ve produced and invite people to subscribe.
The last piece of metadata text to add are the tags. Although your video’s title, thumbnail, and description are more important, your tags can give the search engine additional ways to find your video and present it to viewers, albeit minimally. Tags are useful if there are often misspelled words in your title or description. There are rules when it comes to tags, so avoid spamming, using irrelevant tags, or adding too many tags to keep your video from being taken down.
Make Captivating & Informative Thumbnails
YouTube is a visual medium. Your thumbnail should be visually interesting, and hook viewers’ eyes instantly. That means having big, bold letters, sharp and high-quality imagery, and it should be a good representation of what’s in the video.
You may be able to get by with just selecting a still image from the video, but creating your own thumbnails should be a standard part of your production process. Grab the most tantalizing still frame from your video (or make a composite frame of several stills from the video), add some text that complements the video’s title, and include a face if you can. People love faces, especially excited ones.
The thumbnail should be visible at all sizes and on all devices, so keep that in mind and try to make your thumbnails simple, yet enticing.
Hashtags are yet another piece of the metadata puzzle that you can utilize to get more eyes on your content. Simply choose your topic, brand, or whatever you want to associate your video with as a hashtag and put it in your title. It will then be hyperlinked and allow your video to show up among everything that uses the same hashtag.
Your hashtags can be placed directly in the title, or they can be typed into the description. If they’re not in the title, the first 3 hashtags will be placed above the title. All of them will be clickable.
Just as is the case with other metadata, excessive, inappropriate, or spammy hashtags could hurt your channel and could violate YouTube’s terms, so make sure to use hashtags wisely.
Keep Them Watching
There’s no other way to say it–the longer someone is on your channel, watching your videos, the better. You can keep people engaged and watching by adding end screens, cards, and other calls-to-action. You can also link them to other videos and create playlists.
You can add up to 5 cards per video, and these cards can be for your channel, polls, links, or more. End screens can be placed at the end of your video, between 5 and 20 seconds before the end, and can also point viewers to similar places like approved websites, playlists, and more. Make sure your video has some extra padding on the end to accommodate an end screen, because you don’t want to cover an interesting part of the video if you can avoid it.
The last thing you can do to keep viewers watching is to link them to other videos you’ve created, or other playlists that you’ve created. You should group your videos into categories that make it easy for viewers to remain on your channel. If your videos are part of an ongoing series, link all of them in the same playlist. Think about the common threads between the videos, not just from a subject or topical standpoint, but from a stylistic standpoint. If you have 30-second advertisements, lump them all together, regardless of the subject. Put all of your tutorials together. Make sure all of your sizzle reels are in the same playlist. And on and on it goes.
With all of these options, remember that you don’t want to give people too many options for leaving the current video, because it can hurt your watch time. If you are constantly pointing people to other links, it can literally drive traffic away from your channel!
Get That Referral Traffic
Sure, it may be great to get the hits on YouTube. But you’re losing out on potential views if you’re not also trying to drive traffic outside of the YouTube website. Thinking about how and where your videos can go outside of YouTube is a great way to improve overall visibility of your content.
Social media is obviously one of the most important and easiest places to distribute your videos around the web. Depending on the upload specifications for each platform, you may need to make alternate versions or teasers and repurpose your videos for each social media network. Grab the most exciting, informative, and important sections of your videos, add some subtitles or graphics, and post it with a link to the full video.
You can embed your videos in your own blog or try to cater it to a specific blog where it would work well. Using paid channels is another big way to get eyes on your content, so always consider throwing a little money behind your videos to make sure they’re being seen.
Optimizing your videos on YouTube can actually be just as important as making a high-quality video that people want to see. You shouldn’t skimp on putting in your metadata or creating alternate versions that link back to the main video, because in the end, it’s all about attracting eyeballs to your video.