12 YouTube Tips and Tricks for Optimizing Your Channel

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Considering the vast amount of time and resources that’s invested in search engine optimisation every year (the industry is worth over £500 million in the UK alone), it always baffles me how badly people optimise for the world’s second largest search engine. I’m talking, of course, about YouTube.

The Google-owned site welcomes over a billion users every month, and its gigantic community watches 4 billion videos a day, uploading eighty hours of footage every minute. Because of this, it’s surprising that so few people bother to optimise their videos and their channel for search, engagement and, ultimately, success.

Luckily, help is at hand – setting yourself up for greatness requires none of the lengthy link-building that an SEO campaign often demands, and it’s usually a matter of common sense. We’ve done the hard work for you, so sit back, log in and prepare to follow our steps towards YouTube stardom.

#1: Optimize Titles, Tags & Descriptions

YouTube allows you to describe each of your videos with tags, titles and descriptions – do so. Consider your keyword research – it’s likely that the keywords that you use on your website are applicable on YouTube, too. If in doubt, or if you’re looking for extra inspiration, use YouTube’s keyword suggestion tool. Remember your human visitors, too – they’ll want more information, so elaborate on the video’s content and include links to your website and social media profiles in the video’s description.

#2: Remember the Fold

By default, YouTube only displays the first 140 characters of your video’s description in search results, and the first 200 characters of the description on the watch page. Include your most important information, including your call-to-action and any links you want viewers to click, within the first 140 characters, so that you’re not requiring extra clicks before visitors can find your URL.

#3: Make Custom Thumbnails

YouTube allows its users to upload custom thumbnails for their videos, instead of using the automatically-generated thumbnails that the network provides for you to choose from. Take the opportunity to create an eye-catching design that’s more likely to make people click through from search results, but make sure that it’s not misleading – people will quickly click away if they don’t receive what they’re promised, and that will harm your search rankings. In fact, your click through rate is one of the things that YouTube considers when choosing where to rank your videos – improving the click through rate with custom thumbnails generates more traffic from your existing rankings and helps to improve your rankings in the future.

#4: Create and Embed Playlists

Remember mix-tapes? Playlists are the YouTube equivalent, but they’re not just for music – you can collect up to 200 videos in a customised playlist of your choice, and each playlist can be embedded on your website and discovered through search just like a normal video. By grouping videos in to playlists, you can encourage people to watch several of your videos at once, rather than risking losing them to a related video after a single view. You can even use playlists to showcase videos from other channels, allowing you to provide useful content without necessarily needing to release a video.

#5: Create an End-Slate

An end-slate is a template that you can use to encourage your viewers to take further action at the end of your video. Many YouTubers use an end-slate to encourage people to subscribe to their channel to receive updates in the future or to click through to a relevant video or a playlist. Combine an end-slate with our sixth tip for maximum effect.

#6: Use Annotations

Annotations are clickable overlays that you can add to your videos to encourage your visitors to take an action. YouTube allows you to add text as an annotation, but all of the pros tend to use a transparent overlay over text or graphics on the video itself for maximum customisation. Annotations can also include links, but only to certain sites – you can use them to link people to videos and playlists, and you can even prompt them to subscribe to your channel. Try to encourage people to subscribe at the end of each video as a minimum.

#7: Fill Out Profile Information

This might seem like a basic tip, but you’d be amazed at how many people fail to fill out their profiles in detail. Any text that you add to your profile makes it easier to discover in search, as videos are difficult to index and search engines are in desperate need of more information. Claim your vanity URL, add a channel banner, include a brief description of your brand or business and add links to your website and social networking sites.

#8: Enable Comments and Ratings

Too many businesses make the mistake of disabling all comments and ratings on their videos in case a disgruntled customer takes to YouTube to attack them. In social media terms, this is equivalent to launching a Facebook page and refusing to allow people to write on your wall or to message you. Enable both comments and ratings and monitor them over time, responding to any customer complaints or queries as appropriate. These interactions will also be shared to the users’ feeds, generating additional exposure for your channel.

#9: Regularly Check Analytics

Checking your analytics on a regular basis will help you to know what’s working and what isn’t, and you can adapt your content strategy as a consequence. YouTube can provide you with all kinds of information through its inbuilt analytics, including where your viewers are from, what age groups they belong to and even how long they watched your video for on average. If you’re creating more content without analysing your existing metrics, you’re going in blind.

#10: Don’t Monetize
Unless you’re one of the top (50,000+ subscribers) YouTubers, monetising your channel is counter-intuitive. Ads are annoying and off-putting for new viewers, and you’re not going to make enough money from them to cover your costs unless you’re filming on an iPhone and editing your videos yourself. Personally, I’ve been known to unsubscribe from channels and to stop watching them after they monetised their videos, particularly when it’s the channel of an organisation (as opposed to an individual).

#11: Keep it Short

It’s no secret that our attention spans are continually shrinking, driven in part by the ‘everything now’ society that we live in. Limit your videos to a length of 2-4 minutes, checking your analytics to see how they perform. The longer the video is, the more likely the viewer is to stop watching. YouTube also considers your audience retention level (how long they typically view your video for) when deciding where to rank you in their results pages.

#12: Shoot and Upload in 16:9/1080p

There’s nothing more irritating than a video that somebody has filmed on an iPhone in portrait mode – most of the pixels are lost, because YouTube displays video in the 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. Shoot all of your videos in 16:9, and export them to the highest quality possible – for best results, make all of your videos available in 16:9 1080p HD.

With these tips and tricks under your belt, you should be well on your way to creating and maintaining an active and engaging presence on one of the world’s most popular websites. Video is just one part of a healthy content marketing mix, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t aim to excel.

Remember, a sturdy presence on YouTube can make or break your brand, and while viral successes like BlendTec’s Will it Blend? series are hard to come by, you’d be daft not to make the most of what you’ve got.

What other techniques do you use to optimise your YouTube channel? Have you experienced success using the network to promote your products and services? Let us know with a comment!

Dane Cobain is a social media specialist at fst the Group, a creative agency with offices in Marlow (UK) and Singapore. When he’s not creating content at work, he’s writing articles for his book review site.

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  1. Awsome post and learnt much from it but you should know that youtube keyword tool has been shifted to display planner in adwords so i think you need to edit this post.
    Thank you and here is my blog about optimizing seo and much more geekdoes.blogspot.com


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