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Maximise Your Video Views with Our YouTube Optimisation Guide

By Unknown, blog post 16/02/2015

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“Why isn’t my business’s brilliant video getting many views?” If this is a question you keep asking yourself, you’re probably not adequately optimising your videos.

With over 100 hours of content added to YouTube every minute, simply uploading your video in the hope of exposing it to a huge number of eyeballs is not enough. To cut through the competition, you need to do the right things to ensure people can find your videos easily.

To help, this guide outlines four key steps to YouTube video optimisation. This way, you’ll be able to increase the chances of your videos and channel pages appearing in the search results and recommendations of people looking for content related to your business.

Step 1: Familiarise Yourself with YouTube

YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, behind Google. And while the video sharing website’s search algorithm is similar to Google’s, it also considers a range of factors specific to user engagement. So, if you’re having trouble determining why your videos are not ranking, try considering the following questions:

Are your videos attention-grabbing from the first second?

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Above: At nine seconds, goldfish have a longer attention span than humans. See the full YouTube videohere.

YouTube will only count your video as viewed if the user has watched it for more than eight seconds. As such, it is crucial that you engage with your audience from the moment the video begins and give them a reason to continue watching.

After those eight crucial seconds, YouTube then measures the average time users spend on your video, and factors this into its search rankings. This illustrates YouTube’s aim to encourage you to consider what your audience wants to see first and foremost when making a video.

Will people want to share and discuss your video?

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Above: It’s not all about Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus, there are many other social media platforms where your video can be shared as well.

Since the YouTube comments section merged with Google Plus, the number of comments that each video attracts has become a significant ranking factor. In addition, if your video is ‘trending’ across social media – particularly Google Plus – it is more likely to rank better.

It’s no longer enough to simply post a video; you have to ensure that people will want to do more than just view it. If your videos are being shared and attracting comments, it helps YouTube to differentiate between topical videos and outdated content, which tends not to rank as well.

Does my channel have its own unique identity?

At the end of 2013, YouTube launched ‘YouTube One Channel’, which implemented a new view, new structure and a new algorithm. This update also placed a higher emphasis on the value of your channel. As such, it has become increasingly important to use your channel homepage as a place from which to send a clear and consistent brand message that attracts subscriptions.

Step 2: Impress With Your Channel Homepage

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Above: Hilah Cooking, an example of a YouTube channel that leaves an excellent first impression. Photo from YouTube.

The channel homepage is your home-away-from-home and a very useful conduit between your website and your video content. Consequently, when formatted well, your channel homepage has the potential to attract subscriptions and click-throughs to your website, blog or social media page. You can also use your homepage to recommend specific videos to the user and maximise the potential of an already popular video.

In order to create an enticing channel page, you should consider adding the following:

Channel icon

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Above: Hilah Cooking’s YouTube channel icon. Photo from YouTube.

The channel icon is a small picture that represents your channel. Typically, this is your company’s logo or a portrait, and the ideal size for an icon image is 800×800 pixels.

Channel art

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Above: Hilah Cooking’s YouTube channel art. Photo from YouTube.

Channel art is a picture that sits like a banner at the top of your homepage, reflecting the channel’s brand message or personality. The ideal size for this picture is 2560×1440 pixels, but the new ‘One Channel’ view automatically adapts the image to fit on all device screens, shortening or lengthening the ends as appropriate.

Once you’ve uploaded your image, you’ll also have the option of adding links to the bottom-right hand side of the image. This presents an opportunity to link your channel page to your website or your social media pages. It should be noted that you can change the anchor text of the link in order to entice the user. Additional links can be added, but these will only be viewed in the ‘About’ tab.

Channel trailer

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Above: Welcome to Hilah Cooking!  The Hilah Cooking channel trailer. Photo from YouTube.

Think of this in the same vein as a TV trailer. This video needs to inform users of the type of content that you provide and why they should take an interest. Including a call-to-action prompting the user to subscribe or visit your website can also help encourage users to engage with your channel.

You don’t want to overwhelm users with your trailer, though, so keep it short and between 30 to 60 seconds long. In addition, you should consider including an outro menu to the end of your trailer, directing users to a selection of your most popular and topical videos.

Branding intros

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Above: A branding intro for Moz’s weekly SEO-based video, Whiteboard Friday. Photo from: YouTube.

You can now upload a three-second video clip that will be added to the beginning of every video (or just the videos that you have specified). This allows you to add brand-based iconography to all your videos, without having to edit each one.

Channel description

Your channel description should include a clear and short summary expressing exactly what sort of content you provide, how regularly you update your channel and how people will benefit from watching your videos. Ranking keywords can be added to increase the chances of your videos showing up in search engine results pages (SERPS) and recommendations.

Sections

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Above: Created playlists from the Guardian’s YouTube channel. Photo from: YouTube.

YouTube allows you to divide your videos up into sections in order to showcase specific videos on your channel. You could divide them up by content type, or date – whichever way is best for your specific needs. In addition, you can add an introductory sentence to the beginning of each section.

Once you have divided your videos up, you can sort them in order of relevance, or popularity. Keep in mind that you can only create up to 10 sections. You can also add a description to each section to provide the viewer with more detail.

It is worth noting that sections can no longer be optimised with tags. As of July 2014, any sections that contain tags have been automatically converted into playlists. This means you may have to replace previously tagged sections in order to maintain your desired channel structure.

Featured channels

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Above: Featured channels from the Guardian’s YouTube channel. Photo from: YouTube.

Featuring other channels is a great way to cross-promote, and YouTube likes to see evidence of this, as it serves to bridge the gap between different types of content. These can be the channels of affiliates, partners, review sites, etc. You can also showcase other channel videos in your playlists.

Subscriber view

When a user subscribes to your channel, a new panel appears on the page: the ‘subscriber view’. This displays recently viewed videos, which can be handy in promoting the most viewed/popular videos. The ‘subscriber view’ also shows recommended videos to view, further increasing the control you have in promoting the most relevant, topical or popular videos.

Step 3: How to Optimise Your Videos

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Above: YouTube inspired street art found on a wall in Malmö, Sweden. Photo by: Jonsson.

Now that your channel homepage is in order, it’s time to optimise your videos to help users find your content. Here’s how:

Video Title

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Above: An example of a YouTube video title that is well optimised. Photo from: YouTube.

Just like page optimisation for SEO purposes, the title needs to contain enough relevant keywords to allow the search algorithm to make the link between search terms and your video. Remember: your title should be no longer than 70 characters.

Google’s keyword planner and YouTube’s internal analytics tool can both provide insights into which keywords are the most popular in searches. It is considered good practice to focus the title on the purpose of the video, or what the viewer will get from the video, e.g. ‘Build Sci-fi Armour for Cheap: DIY’.

Description

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Above: An example of a YouTube video description that is well optimised. Photo from: YouTube.

Like the title, a video’s description field helps YouTube and Google to understand what your content is about. When a video appears on the Google search page, users will only be able to view the first 120 characters of the description, so it is paramount that the most relevant information is placed at the beginning.

YouTube is a little bit more generous with showing descriptions in the search page, allowing for 342 characters. The remainder of the description is only viewable when the user clicks on the video and then clicks on the ‘Show More’ button.

Thumbnail

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Above: A thumbnail describing Bring Your Dog to Work Day. Photo from: YouTube

This is a snapshot of your video to give users an idea of what the video is about. As it is likely that the user will look at the thumbnail before reading the title and description, it is important that the thumbnail provides an accurate impression of the video. If it is a funny video, take a snapshot of a visually amusing moment. If it is an informational video on DIY repairs, take a snapshot of the broken item.

Tags

Tags are descriptive keywords that help YouTube to better understand your video, ensuring that it will rank for specific search terms. It is best to include a combination of video-specific keywords and more general tags, as well as any keywords you included in your title. You can also update your tags, as time goes on, to match the latest trends. If you need to include a tag containing multiple words, use speech marks (e.g. “digital marketing”).

Annotations

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Above: An excellent use of annotations by Google Developers. Photo from: YouTube.

Annotations are a very useful way to increase user engagement. By adding annotations to specific points in the video, you can encourage users to click on a link that takes them to a product page, when that product is mentioned in your video. Also, if your video touches on a topic without going into too much detail, you can add a link to a page with more in-depth information on the subject.

Transcript file

A transcript file is essentially the script for your video, allowing you to add subtitles to your content. In the past, one issue with videos and SEO was that search engines couldn’t read video content, and therefore couldn’t understand it. As Google now indexes transcript files, it’s a great way to help the search engine understand and contextualise your video content – especially as the script will contain relevant keywords.

You can even plan your video content around the keywords that you wish to rank for. To add a transcript to your YouTube video, click ‘Info and Settings’, ‘Subtitles and CC’ and then ‘English’.

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Above: Google’s Year in Search 2014, complete with transcript and subtitles. Photo from YouTube.

Date/location

Add the location of your video to help YouTube to determine which geographical areas it should target (in terms of recommendations). You can also post the date of filming to help YouTube understand which videos are topical and/or trending.

Fan Finder

You can upload your channel trailer to the Fan Finder feature, which ascertains your target demographic(s) and showcases the trailer to them in the form of pre-video advertisements. It is completely free and so should not be overlooked.

Step 4: Monitor Channel Performance with Analytics

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Above: The YouTube Analytics  subscribers report. Photo from Google.

In the previous steps, we have addressed keywords and promoting the most popular pages, but how do you track such information? The answer is YouTube’s own analytics tool. Like the Google counterpart, YouTube’s analytics tool allows you to gain access to a wealth of metrics that will provide valuable insight into video performance and user behaviour.

If you currently have a paid ad campaign, you can even synchronize it with your main Google Analytics account to see how users get from your site to your channel page, and vice versa. You can even discover how many users viewed your video on YouTube and how many viewed an embedded version on another website.

Try to experiment and compare the results within YouTube Analytics. For instance, follow your videos with the best descriptions or recent changes by tracking them. You can then compare each video’s number of clicks/watch time with different call to actions, and compare the success of videos with annotations vs videos without.

Final Thoughts

It’s almost impossible to predict whether your business’s videos will go ‘viral’, or attract a large number of views. However, if you follow the steps outlined in this blog, you will increase the chances of it happening exponentially.

To talk to us about how our expertise in SEO and optimisation can help your business be seen by more people online, call Mark Poppleton on 0117 971 2499 or get in touch via our contact form.