A Guide to YouTube Interactive Cards ► Future of Annotations

A Guide to YouTube Interactive Cards ► Future of Annotations

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With 50% of views to YouTube coming from mobile devices, the lack of access to annotations for these viewers has long been an issue for creators and users of the site. We knew that YouTube was planning an upgrade to the feature, and early this week, it finally announced new mobile-friendly functionality in the shape of interactive YouTube “Cards”.

Cards allow the creator to add an extra layer of interactivity to their video content, on a per video basis. Most importantly, the new Cards will finally display on mobile, as well as desktop, and will include custom images, titles and call-to-action text. They fall into 6 different options: video, playlist, associated website, merchandise, fundraising, and fan funding, and they can be used both for pre-recorded and live-streamed video content. 

UPDATE: Interactive Cards are now also available to advertisers to use on YouTube Trueview Ads

YouTube states that the Cards will eventually replace traditional annotations once the site is confident that they can do everything that annotations currently can – and even more. So, how do you take advantage of all the new features the Cards promise? We take a look at some optimization techniques you can use right now, and in the following post we will discuss:

New Interactive YouTube Cards: Annotations Come to Mobile!

YouTube annotations have long been a gift for brands and creators as they have opened up the options to link to content both on and off-platform, and provide some neat extra features for the viewer. But YouTube visitors from mobile devices have been missing out, meaning that creators have effectively been denied the ability to provide extra information regarding their content, products, and services to as much as 50% of their viewers. Finally, this is about to change, and the new Card feature should provide consistency for the creator/brand message across all screens and devices.

youtube cards across devicesThe new Cards are interactive annotations that allow brands and creators to add links to associated websites as well as other info that may benefit the viewer. Each of the Cards come with their own settings, and they can be set to pop-up at any time during the video.

YouTube has also enabled an information button for content that carries these Cards, which remains in place throughout the length of the video. Viewers are able to click on this button to see all of the enabled Cards at once. YouTube Card Teaser Viewers who find the Cards a distraction, can choose to ignore the information button and continue to watch the video uninterrupted.

How-to Create New YouTube Cards in 5 Easy Steps

Creating the Cards couldn’t be easier. Just follow these easy steps:

  1. Sign into to your YouTube Video Manager, and click on ‘Edit’ for the video you want to add a Card to
  2. Click on the ‘Cards’ button in the top navigation bar, click ‘Add Card’
  3. Click on ‘Add Card’ again to open up the creation window for the Card type you want to add. Enter a valid URL applicable to that Card type.
  4. Upload an image (or pick one from the suggestions offered). Edit and optimize the title and call-to-action text
  5. Click ‘Create Card’ and adjust the start time for the teaser if required

YouTube states that creators can add up to 5 cards to one video. The Cards can be edited at any time just by clicking on the ‘edit’ icon next to the card in question under the Cards tab. Cards can also be cancelled at any time.

create youtube cards video manager

Current Limitations to Functionality 

Creators can’t choose the size of the Card they want to use, or place them exactly where they want them (they are all set to appear on the right hand side of the screen at the moment). Also, creators can’t set a color scheme, a feature currently available in annotations. Oh, and YouTube recommends that creators not directly point to any Cards they have enabled because the location may change slightly depending on the device they are being consumed on (and we know how YouTube likes to tweak and tinker about with its features, right?).

However, we think that the new Cards are a very welcome addition to the creator toolbox, so, let’s take a look how you can best optimize each of them to benefit you as a creator, and to enhance the overall experience for your viewer.

How to Optimize YouTube Cards for Selling Merchandise

youtube card merchandise optimizationThe ability to sell merchandise against your video content allows many content creators to make a viable living from the platform. The new Merchandise YouTube Card gives creators the ability to add an image, a link to a URL, and a good call to action to encourage users to visit their retail landing page.

You can see in this video from AsapSCIENCE how they have used the merch card to promote their new book. When the viewer clicks anywhere on the image it takes them directly to a landing page on the creator’s own website where they can purchase ‘AsapSCIENCE: Answers to the World’s Weirdest Questions, Most Persistent Rumors, and Unexplained Phenomena’ at various online outlets like Amazon, or Barnes & Noble. Considering this video has already generated 18.7M views (at time of writing), and is still generating a huge amount of buzz on the back of #TheDress meme, that’s an incredible amount of potential traffic that could drive substantial book sales.

Even though YouTube has given the AsapSCIENCE video as an example, in reality, it looks like you can only enter a URL that links to the designated retail sites that YouTube approves. These include CafePress, Shopify, Etsy, Eventbrite, TicketMaster, Gumroad and around 60 more. You’ll find the official list of approved retailers here so if you have merchandise or tickets or music to sell, set up an account with one of these retailers.

Merchandise Card Optimization Tips:  

  • Sign up with a YouTube approved retail site
  • Optimize that retail landing page as much as possible – i.e. full description of what you are selling, upload testimonials and reviews if you have them etc.
  • Use the best available image you have for your Card – think of it as a custom thumbnail that is going to entice viewers to click on
  • Use a strong call to action – ‘buy your tickets now!’ or ‘Get the T-Shirt Here’

How to Optimize Associated Website YouTube Cards

You can link off-site in your YouTube description box, but viewers that are watching your video via an embed where the description doesn’t automatically appear, or viewers who choose not to expand the description on the watch page to see the links you have added, will miss out on that information.

associated website cardImplementing the Associated Website Card allows the creator to point the viewer (including, finally, those who tune in via their mobile devices) to the home page, or a landing page, of their official website.

YouTubers who confirmed that their YouTube channels were the official representation of their brand could link off to their site via an annotation, and now they can do the same via the Associated Website card.

If your website is officially associated with your YouTube channel, you should consider creating this card if you want to guide viewers back to your home page, or to a particular landing page.

Associated Website Card Optimization Tips:  

  • If you haven’t already done so, associate your YouTube channel with your website
  • Link off-site to your home page, or to a specific landing page (especially one that supports the video you have created, like a blog post or product page)
  • Optimize the title and call to action to entice the viewer to click for further information
  • Upload a compelling thumbnail image

How to Optimize Video or Playlist YouTube Cards

Guiding the viewer to a YouTube Playlist that you have created, or to an individual YouTube video that you want them to watch not only offers more value to that viewer, but it can significantly impact the watch-time of your channel, and we know what an important ranking factor that can be.

In the video below, we created a Playlist Card that for the How-To’s Day video series, so viewers can watch more of our tips for video marketers. See how it pops-up in the first few seconds to catch the viewer’s attention? If a viewer clicks on that info button, the Video/Playlist card will appear on the right-hand side and they can choose to watch all the videos in the playlist. The new Playlist or chosen video will open in a new window.

Associated Website Card Optimization Tips:

  • Choose your featured video or Playlist. If you haven’t created a Playlist before, read our handy guide to why they are so important for video engagement, then create one, or as many as you feel would provide value to your subscribers and viewers
  • You can’t actually customize the Cards for this option so you’ll need to optimize the actual Playlist title as that feature is pulled through.
  • Linking to an individual video within a YouTube Playlist will default to the Playlist, and that’s a great option to consider.

How to Optimize Fundraising YouTube Cards

Fundraising YouTube CardCreators, such as charities and non-profits can use Fundraising Cards that will link interested viewers directly to projects listed on YouTube-approved fundraising sites. These include Indiegogo, Kickstarter, Patreon & Subbable (which are now one and the same), Kiva, Tubestart, and around 30 others.

Creating video content to support fundraising projects is an excellent way of raising awareness for your cause. In fact, non-profit campaigns generated 670M YouTube views in 2014, and video is proving to be an invaluable factor in many fundraising campaigns for charities and other non-profit organisations across the world.

You don’t have to be a charity to use this card of course, you can implement to point viewers towards any approved fundraising site that you have set up a campaign on.

Fundraising Card Optimization Tips:

  • Make sure you have thoroughly optimized your campaign landing page so you give viewers a reason to support your cause, buy your product or service, or follow the call-to-action you want them to
  • Optimize the title and call-to-action of your Card to entice viewers to click-through
  • Use the most compelling thumbnail image you can

How to Optimize Fan Funding YouTube Cards

youtube-fan-funding-thumbnailYouTube introduced the new fan funding feature for creators late in 2014, as a way of allowing subscribers, and supporters of a YouTube creator, to donate a one-off contribution via Google Wallet. In exchange, YouTube would charge 21 cents for administrating the transaction, plus a 5% commission.

If your YouTube account is in good standing, and you have applied, and been accepted into the fan funding program then you can enable this Card across your videos and supporters can start donating to you.

Fan Funding Card Optimization Tips:

  • You must have the Fan Funding feature enabled to use this Card or it won’t appear as an option
  • When setting up the Card, you will be given the option (via Settings) to confirm the greeting and thank you message that appears to those who donate – really put some effort into this so those who have taken the time to give a donation feel appreciated.

YouTube Cards: Use Them Wisely – But Use Them!

The new YouTube Cards have been a long-time coming but we think they are off to a very promising start and we urge all creators to consider using them to build engagement with their viewers. We also recommend that brands and creators revisit their content and enable the new Cards across any videos they feel would benefit from them.

However, just like annotations, the Cards have the potential to be incredibly annoying for the viewer if they haven’t been thought out properly. Although creators can use up to 5 of the Cards in one video if they really wanted to, that’s going to be a lot for the viewer to take in and could potentially drive engagement down rather than up. Just stick to one (on a short-form video) or two (on longer-form videos) and test how that works for you.


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