Here are 18 ways in which you can tweak and optimise your videos for better rankings on YouTube.
This list has been compiled with the kind permission of the authors at Noble Samurai from their excellent YouTube SEO Cheat-Sheet. You can download your own copy for free here.
I speak from personal experience of their product, their support, and the results that these measures produce.
I strongly suggest you download your copy for future reference as it not only contains more detail but also links to useful tools that will help you to implement the changes.
But why would you want to do this? Well, video is HUGE. 70% of all web traffic comes from video.
If you post a video on Facebook it’s twice as likely to get shared as often as an image or just text, and of course YouTube has a massive and growing audience, particularly among younger adults.
And since Google owns YouTube it means that a carefully optimised video can sometimes rank higher than a comparable blog post or web site in Google search results.
So with these and other important points in mind, let’s get started with the list of 18 hacks that will boost your video’s chances of being found by your target audience.
I – Your Video Title Is Essential
Just as attention-grabbing headlines are crucial in print, so too are video titles, so spend some time getting this right.
The ideal video title should be short, to the point, and less than ten words long. If suitable, use numbers in the title and try to answer a question or suggest a solution to a problem e.g. 11 Ways You Can Boost Your Video Ranking.
II – Write An Accurate Description
Your video’s description is content in itself and Google examines this to find out more about the video. The description will show up in search results so it’s vital that it’s the best it can be.
A video description should be 150 words in length or more. You only have 5000 characters to use in the YouTube description field and that includes spaces, so it can’t be too long.
The first two sentences of your description are displayed in the search results so make sure you get your main point in there. This is where you should put your call to action and/or a URL.
You can add more links in the description area but don’t over do it, and you can end with links to your homepage and social media accounts.
View the description below this video in its entirety as an example.
III – Use Correct Tags For Your Video
Another critical factor that’s often overlooked are the video tags beneath the description field.
It’s essential that the tags you use are relevant to the video content. Don’t just stuff the area with what you think is correct. Instead, do some keyword research and pick those that people use in search terms as well as single word contextual tags.
You’ve only got 500 characters to play with in this field so make the best use of it.
IV – Craft An Eye-Catching Thumbnail
When you search for videos what is the first thing you see in the search results? The answer is of course the video thumbnail. It’s a just a picture with text on it but in order to increase the chances of someone choosing your video over the competition you need to create an eye-catching thumbnail.
YouTube will automatically create a selection of thumbnails for you when you upload your video but they are rarely suitable.
Instead, choose an on-topic image that isn’t too busy i.e. not too cluttered with detail. Add some text to this image. For example, you could add the main part of your headline.
Check your completed image and view it in miniature to see if it looks right on a tablet or smarthphone.
Don’t be tempted to use an image that’s eye-catching but which has nothing to do with your video content!
V – Upload in HD
When you upload your video make sure it’s in high definition. The more quality you can add the better.
With increased competition and the raising of standards it’s the videos of quality that will stand out.
VI – Transcribe That Video!
Just like the thumbnails, don’t leave it to YouTube’s defaults. If, like this video, you’ve narrated it then presumably you have a text copy of the narration.
This can be used in the Subtitles/CC area of your video editor in YouTube. Click the ‘add new subtitles or CC’ button and add it there.
VII – Keep An Eye On The Time
Winston Churchill once said,
“A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.”
Well, you could say the same about videos!
Ideally they should be 5-10 minutes long but there are very successful videos that are shorter. If you have to go beyond the ten minutes then perhaps add opening loops to recap and punctuate the video into sections.
VIII – Use ‘Open Loops’ To Capture Attention
The videos that rank the best are the once that people keep watching i.e. those that retain the audience’s attention.
One way of increasing your video’s chance is to add an opening loop. This is a statement at the beginning that informs the audience what the video is going to cover.
It works in presentations and videos alike.
IX – Keep It Moving
You’ve probably noticed through watching countless TV ads that things are always moving. Even with static images like those in this video the camera zooms in and out. That’s because our eyes notice motion and it attracts more attention than things that are perfectly still.
Don’t over to it though because too much motion is a distraction that may persuade your viewer to move on to another video.
X – Music Has An Emotional Impact
Just as a film can be turned into success or flop due to its music so too can videos be enhanced or spoilt by the choice of music.
Choose some music that sets the mood for the video; upbeat or relaxed, sporty or chilled-out, happy or perhaps seasonal e.g. a Christmas jingle.
There are thousands of free to use Creative Commons tracks available both in YouTube and elsewhere. Many do not require any credits at all.
But if required, make sure you credit the artist in your closing text and in the description field.
XI – Make Use Of Those End Screens
In the YouTube Creator Studio you’ll see the End Screen & Annotations tab. This is where, at the end of your video, you can add links to other videos in your channel.
Adding End screens will increase the chances of viewers continuing to watch your videos as opposed to any others. You can also add links to playlists or simply use a Subscribe button.
YouTube provides several templates for End Screens so experiment with them to find the most suitable for your audience.
XII – Always Add Your Video To A Playlist
Whenever you upload a new video you should always add it to at least on playlist. A playlist is simple a collection of videos on the same subject.
If your video is on a playlist and someone starts watching it then there’s a good chance they’ll watch another video in your playlist too.
Grouping your videos into playlists can therefore increase your total watch time i.e. the total number of minutes that viewers spend watching all your videos.
XIII – Always End Will A Call To Action
If you’ve convinced your viewer to keep watching to the end – great! You’re doing really well.
Now, at the end of the video, finish with a call to action. This might by a request to subscribe, add a comment, like and share the video, or a suggestion to call a number or visit a website.
Give your viewer the next step in plain English.
XIV – Don’t Forget To Monetise Your Videos!
We’re all familiar with the adverts that appear on top of and within the videos we watch on YouTube.
So make sure yours are monetised too. This is important for two reasons. First, YouTube wants to offer its advertisers videos in which they can advertise, so they like it when you agree to carry ads on your videos.
Secondly, you make a little money from your videos! It’s not much, but if your video goes viral the earning potential increases significantly.
XV – Build Links To Your Videos
If you’re followed the steps explained so far your video’s chance of being ranked well will have increased significantly.
You’ve uploaded it and optimised it in the Creator Studio and you’re ready to start sharing it.
You now want to draw attention to it by sharing it throughout all your social media channels, emailing it to your mailing list if you have one, or just asking your friends and family to share it in their social media channels.
You could also add a link to your video in the appropriate forums and embed it in blog posts.
You could also submit it to sites like Reddit as long as you choose the correct community.
Get the word out but always post the link in the appropriate place and respect the forum or community rules.
XVI – Be Trendy And Catch The Wave
Another way to draw attention to your video is to create videos that are in keep with current trends, the season, newsworthy events, controversial topics, or specific events within a particular industry.
If you can make a video that adds to the discussion by putting forward a new viewpoint or opinion then it can attract attention from those eagerly engaged in the current discussion.
For example, there’s no shortage of things you can discuss in politics and world events, and the landscape changes week after week.
XVII – Use YouTube Analytics To Review Results
As you continue with your YouTube efforts remember to review the data provide to you in the Analytics section of your channel.
YouTube favours total watch time over the percentages, so if viewers are watching only the first 5 minutes of your 60 minute video and the first 2 minutes of your 10 minute video, then they favour the longer video even though it’s a smaller percentage of watch time.
YouTube is in the business of making money through advertising so they want videos that people keeping watching for longer.
XVIII – Schedule Publication Of Your Video
You can increase the chances of views for your new video by scheduling the publication for specific times that will suit your audience.
If you’re just starting out and you don’t have many subscribers then these is not so important, but when you’ve got thousands then use the Analytics area to find out where most of them live.
Based on this information you can choose to publish your new video at a time that suits the particular time zone.
This might be first thing in the morning when people are logging in at that start of the day, or it could be in the early evening after the working day’s end.
If your audience is a particular industry then you might choose a window within the working day.
That concludes this brief look at 18 different ways to optimise your YouTube videos for more views and audience retention.
Please like and share this post, and if you have any suggestion, questions, or you’d just like to continue to the discussion, please post a comment below.
Good luck with your YouTube channel!