During my time as a channel manager for a YouTube-funded channel, my account manager was relentless in evangelizing best practices on YouTube. Yes, YouTube is a user-friendly platform, but there’s a world of difference between my mom uploading a video from a local choir event and the world-renowned media company I represent. How do you make it obvious that you play in the YouTube major leagues? By creating metadata that doesn’t mislead.
There was a time when OMG BOOBS was a title found across the YouTube ecosystem, partnered with a thumbnail of a lady in a bikini top. But YouTube’s emphasis on watch time over number of views has changed all that.
Win the YouTube game by telling a narrative with the three most important pieces of metadata you have: your title, your thumbnail, and the first two lines of your description. And make sure each of those go as far as you can stretch them.
Your title is the most highly weighted piece of textual metadata for YouTube’s search parameters. The most important (and SEO friendly) words should go to the left. Below is an example of a good title:
The title starts off with information that is compelling (and topical, since the video was released just prior to the 2012 elections) and makes sure to state up top who the talent is (Henry Rollins.) Additionally, by listing the name of the series (Henry Rollins’ Capitalism) and channel name (TakePart TV) you are assuring that the suggested videos on the right side bar of the video page will include additional titles sharing those keywords. In this case, other episodes of Henry Rollins’ Capitalism, which is what the viewer is most likely to want to see next.
If your video isn’t in a series, make sure to list your channel name anyway and utilize a keyword that shows up in another video your audience is also likely to be interested in. If you’re unsure of what your strongest keywords are, use Google’s AdWords Keywords tool for ideas! Your title is limited to 100 characters, so make every one count.
Your second task is to create a compelling thumbnail that reinforces the most important parts of your title. In this case, the talent (Henry Rollins and Senate candidate Scott Howell) was important, as well as making the thumbnail similar to the other titles in the series. You may not want to include words in the thumbnail, as YouTube thumbnails are very small, especially on mobile, but grouping your series by color is useful. Plus, it makes your playlist page for the series more aesthetically pleasing.
Finally, your description. This video was created prior to the channel redesign, hence the use of a subscription link at the very top. This is far less necessary now. In a YouTube search you get just about two lines of text, so “watch this video!!!!” is not going to cut it. Again, strengthen the use of your keywords by putting them in the first line of your description. A search for Henry Rollins and Utah is definitely going to identify this video. Make it as compelling as possible, so that the viewer wants to click, and is clear on what’s going to occur in the video.
There’s no point in doing all the hard work to create a strong video if your viewer isn’t looking for this type of entertainment—don’t falsify what the video is really about.
There’s a lot of wiggle room for this type of thing and creating strong metadata won’t suddenly push your video to a million views. But by keeping these concepts in mind, you can position yourself ahead of the billions of other videos created by individual users who haven’t used the tools available to them. Good luck!