How to Optimize Metadata for Your YouTube Business Video Ad – The YouTube Advertiser Playbook: Part 4

How to Optimize Metadata for Your YouTube Business Video Ad – The YouTube Advertiser Playbook: Part 4

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The first section of the YouTube Advertiser Playbook goes over all the basics of producing your video, from pre-to-post production.  In the next section, “Managing Your Videos,” YouTube discusses optimizing metadata, channel design, and social involvement.  Much of this is covered in the YouTube Creator Playbook as well, but advertisers may not know that their videos can be marketed exactly like creators market theirs: by enhancing its visibility in search with a mix of specific and popular search terms, people looking for a product or service can find your video more easily.

If your video is optimized for organic SEO, your advertising campaign will benefit.  Besides you might as well garner as many free views as you can through organic search to reduce your overall CPV.

The Role of Metadata In Advertising

For those of you just learning about metadata, I would suggest reading up on our coverage of it in the YouTube Creator Playbook and separately in our overview of video metadata.  It’s such a vast section of the Playbook that I wrote two posts on it.  Part 1 is here, and the 2nd part is here.

As we’ve discussed many times, metadata’s role in finding a video has several functions.  Since computers can’t really “watch” a video and tell you everything that happens, in context, it requires a human element to provide context clues so that a computer can scan keywords and make it visible in search.  Also, good metadata will separate your video from any other similar video with specific terms, like the name of your business, where you’re located, or what you offer, as long as the metadata you write is relevant to the video.

So you need to know how to write a good title, detailed descriptions, provide tags, and select the right category and thumbnail for your video.  And while the Advertiser Playbook doesn’t mention captions and annotations along with the metadata, those perform metadata functions.  We’ll get more into captions and annotations later.

So here are the main types of metadata to get people to find and click on your video:


Perhaps the most important metadata of all is succinctly explaining what a video is and making people want to click on it.  The more clicks a video gets, the more it becomes favored in search, so be sure to write something that is compelling and is specific to your brand.

People selling their brand might want to start with their name, but unless you are tremendously popular already, you should leave the brand name for last.  The beginning of a title is, in general, the most important part of it, so it should lead with the most compelling and important words first.  A brand like Old Spice can lead with their name, but look at the title of one of their most popular videos of all time:

“Old Spice | The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

It’s a compelling title, but without “Old Spice” there people wouldn’t probably click it.  This video obviously had a lot of help from being a huge TV ad first, then making its way to YouTube.  This is definitely a case of where the brand does need to lead with their name and then give a compelling title, because people went to search for “Old Spice ad” later

YouTube uses the example of “Vera Simon Jewelry.”  Vera Simon Jewelry is not well known, so the provided title is, “Gorgeous Women’s Watches from Vera Simon Jewelry.”

Someone looking for “women’s watches” in YouTube search is very likely to click on that title.  It leads with the pertinent information (what) and then moves its way into the secondary information (who).  Writing a good title means being able to write the very basic information in as few words as possible and adding attractive words to entice a click.


YouTube allows for 5000 characters on a description for a video.  This is where you can get very specific, but as always, the beginning is more important than anything else, especially since YouTube cuts off your description after the first couple of lines.  If your customer wants to know more (and hopefully they do), they can click on the “Show More” link underneath the first couple of lines of the description.

What you want to do is describe the contents and purpose of the video, while offering other information like website links, channel links, social media, etc.  The Old Spice ad gives this compelling description:

We’re not saying this body wash will make your man smell like a romantic millionaire jet fighter pilot, but we are insinuating it.

So this, in tandem with the title, serves to compel the user into clicking the video.  If they like it, they may want to know more about it, so provide all the other information about your business underneath.  Some creators even write the script for what you just saw in the description, which adds clarity but also works wonders for the search engine.  It gives you the wonderful opportunity of telling YouTube exactly what is in the video and what it’s all about.

What I like about this GoPro video is how they point out all the different sections of the video in the description.  First, here’s the video:

Underneath in the description, they have this:

Shot 100% on the HD HERO® camera from

  • Skiing & Snowboarding 0:08
  • Surfing & Swimming 1:17
  • Skateboarding 2:30
  • BMX & Freeride MTB 2:52
  • Motocross & Off-Road 3:23
  • Car Racing 4:02
  • Human Flight 4:51

The GoPro camera basically speaks for itself, but they do offer a link to the website and then give a blow-by-blow of where you can find certain sections of the video by offering linked time code in the description.  So if you wanted to go back to the Car Racing part of the video, they provide an easy way to get there without having to watch the whole video or trying to forward to the correct place.


Tags are one word or short combinations of words that describe the video in its essence.  You should take the basic descriptions of the video: what are you selling, and how many ways can you describe what you are selling?  Broad terms start it off, then you get more specific.  So if you’re selling gold watches you can start off with “jewelry,” “watches,” “gold” and then combinations, like “gold jewelry” and “gold watches.”  It’s also smart to throw in the misspellings, like “jewellry” and “jewellery.”

Also, is the video funny?  Add “funny” to the tags.  Any kind of descriptor helps to narrow down what this video is about.

Then find the highlights of your video.  Is there a particular phrase that is repeated or compelling, or a message you want to express?  That phrase should be in the tags.  For instance, Old Spice put in terms for “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” that people remember from when they first saw it on TV, like “I’m on a horse.”  It’s guaranteed people searched for the Old Spice ad typing that phrase in, because it was so memorable.


The broadest of the broad metadata on YouTube, this metadata is separated into 15 different genres.  They are: Autos & Vehicles, Comedy, Education, Entertainment, Film & Animation, Gaming, Howto & Style, Music, News & Politics, Nonprofits & Activism, People & Blogs, Pets & Animals, Science & Technology, Sports, and Travel & Events.  You often see advertisers use “People & Blogs” for their category.  This might be one of the less helpful bits of metadata YouTube offers, because it doesn’t narrow the video down well enough, even though you can pick more than one.

Still, broad as it is, it gives your video an “overall” for the genre.


Thumbnails are still a controversial topic.  Only partners can use custom thumbnails, while non-partners can pick from three YouTube generated thumbnails.  And while YouTube expanded the partner program recently, it doesn’t mean everyone has access to that kind of customization.  The Creator Playbook says something about “creating a video with thumbnails in mind,” but I don’t see how you really do that when you have a specific message and way of going about shooting.  The idea should be that most of the images you plan to shoot in the video should represent your company well.  That way, the choice of thumbnails should be an easy task.  You want to pick something that attracts the eye as best you can.

After you’ve written your metadata, you can now decide whether this video will be public, private, or unlisted, and then you publish.

Writing good metadata is important for search purposes and is often neglected, so make sure you make the most of it.


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