20th May 2019

That’s a wrap? – getting your videos noticed on YouTube

Everyone knows a video shoot begins with ‘Action!’ and ends with the edit.

Except it doesn’t. If you’re uploading your masterpiece to YouTube and then just hoping for the best, you’re missing a big part of the process, and the point, of video content.

Launching content with no strategy for promoting it is likely to be met with a collective shrug, if it gets any reaction at all. YouTube’s figures show that over 1.9 billion users log in to YouTube each month, leaving aside the casual drive-by viewers. Every day, people watch more than one billion hours of video on YouTube, so how do you get noticed?

If you’re new to optimisation you can get to grips with the basics in our handy YouTube101. If you’re experienced, but you’re currently putting the ‘meh’ into metrics, here are our tips for getting the reactions you want.

Question – search engine or social platform?

YouTube feels like a social site and is normally grouped with them but at heart, it’s essentially a search engine. It returns content based on queries and as such, your content needs to be optimised in the same way you would for Google.

1. Review and refresh your keywords

You may well have an SEO strategy in place, but keywords don’t stand still. Of course, a proportion of terms relating to your subject will remain, but behaviours evolve and trends emerge, which is why it’s important to periodically refresh your keyword research.

A good place to start is Google Trends, which will show you related terms and queries as well as a geographical breakdown of who’s looking for what. You can filter it to show only YouTube results. There are many keyword planning tools on the market, although predictably, Google AdWords Keyword Planner sets the standard. It lets you see the number of searches for a particular keyword, as well as the competition – the idea is to seek out those with high search volumes but low competition.

To use the Keyword Planner tool, you need an AdWords account, but another easy (and free) way to keep an eye on things is to run some YouTube searches yourself. YouTube queries autocomplete in the same way as Google, so just sort your results by the most popular and look into their tagging.

2. Learn to love analytics

It’s a word that engenders excitement or terror, depending on how tech-savvy you are. Analytics, love them or hate them, are essential to understanding who’s viewing your content. YouTube Analytics gives you a host of useful information about where traffic is coming from, audience demographics, unique viewers and of course the click-through rate.

One to watch is the relatively new and slightly confusing ‘Watch time’ metric – you’ll see it at the top left of your YouTube Analytics page. Despite the name it’s not a measure of how long someone watched your video for – it’s a broader measure of how often your videos bring people to YouTube and how long they keep them there. It looks at how many times your content is the start of someone’s YouTube session, how long they stay on the platform and how many times your content is what drives them to leave. It also measures how often you upload. It’s more of a sense of your worth as an influencer on the platform.

Being aware of analytics isn’t a tip so much as a reminder to get to grips with how it works. It’s a repository of useful insight – not just for celebrating or monitoring performance but for planning future content and ditching what doesn’t work.

3. Get your metadata right

In the age of machine learning, metadata isn’t quite the force it once was for connecting content to a search query. But it still matters and it’s important to remember all the parts. It’s like dressing for a winter’s day – your coat, hat and scarf are all important, but if you left your gloves at home you’ve missed a trick.

The title is first thing to get right. Make sure it describes the content, contains the keywords you want to rank for and doesn’t exceed 60 characters (otherwise it’ll be cut off). Next up is the description, again, keep it relevant, adding keywords and making sure they’re towards the beginning. There’s a trend at the moment for writing longer descriptions, just remember that attention spans are short and there’s a difference between useful copy and waffle.

Then there are tags – quick to add but easy to overuse. Pick a few really key themes and tag those. A final point about metadata – the first 48 hours really matter, so get all of this done as you upload your video, not later when you get around to it.

4. Maintain your brand look and feel

To go back to our winter clothing ensemble, a complete outfit is important, but wearing a purple bobble hat with a rainbow scarf and a leopard-print puffer jacket might make the overall effect confusing.

Audiences like consistency – they like to recognise and feel familiar with a brand. That means consistency in the look and feel of your video content, but also consistency in what you post and when. Make yourself a provider of frequent, reliable and recognisable content and you really do give ‘followers’ something to follow.

These days you can schedule videos to be published at a future time and date, so while you still need to plan ideas for content, there’s no longer any excuse to miss a date with your audience.

5. Take a good look at your thumbnail

Hopefully you know that a thumbnail is a still image grabbed from your video, otherwise your colleagues might wonder why you’re giving them a cheerful gesture.

Technically part of your metadata, the thumbnail is more important than you might think and deserves a special mention. According to YouTube Creator Academy, 90% of the best performing YouTube videos have a custom thumbnail.

YouTube will suggest some for you by default, but if they don’t summarise the content of the video, upload your own. Adhere to YouTube’s dimensions (they recommend 1280 x 720 pixels) with a clear image that isn’t stretched, squashed, difficult to see or busy. If you use text at all, use it sparingly, remember it may be hard to read when scaled down.

6. Remember to use playlists

There’s a struggle between the idea that longer videos are being prioritised as more and more people turn away from TV and the fact that attention spans are shrinking. What you shouldn’t do is shrink or lengthen your videos to second-guess demand. Your videos should be as long as it takes to tell your story in a compelling way.

To nudge people into viewing more of your content regardless of length, you can create playlists to keep people viewing. In the same way that the next episode countdown on Netflix can draw you into a binge watching session, playlists that move automatically to related content in digestible chunks can be very compelling.

7. Get involved in the community

Getting people to view our content is one thing but taking it up a level requires getting them talking about it. YouTube will give you reports on who’s viewed your videos, you can monitor your own likes, dislikes and comments and you can take a temperature check by monitoring how many unsubscribes you’re getting.

But there’s more to it than that. By being an active community member, liking and commenting on other videos in the same or related spaces, you increase your credibility as an engaged presence, rather than a fly poster. It’s also worth posting videos that invite participation. That could be as simple as adding an end card pointing viewers to a subscription link, related content or your website, or it could mean structuring an entire video around asking a question.

Audience engagement is what we’re all looking for, YouTube may technically be a search engine but it hangs out with the social crowd and to make sure people see your content you should be cross linking with other platforms as well as your own web presence. It’s not enough to open the door, shout about a product, then slam it again.

Unless you engage for real, they might not be listening.