YouTube Video Optimization: Here’s What You Need to Know



Did you know that YouTube is now the world’s second largest search engine?

It’s not just a place to hold your videos, although many brands still treat YouTube that way. In a sense, your YouTube videos are to YouTube what your website is to Google – they’re your web presence on a massive search engine. It’s how people find you.

Just like your website needs to be optimized so that it shows up as high as possible in Google’s rankings, your YouTube videos – and channel – should be optimized, too. Here’s everything you need to know to make your videos easier to find.

Start with your video titles.

Not surprisingly, your video title is one of the most important keys to helping people find you on YouTube.

Titles should include keywords, but also be short, clear, and closely related to what’s actually in the video. People tend to click away quickly if a video doesn’t live up to its title, and there are literally billions of other videos they can watch instead of yours. So do your best to keep them with you by carefully choosing your titles.

In addition, titles with exact keyword matches tend to do slightly better in YouTube’s rankings. Here’s a graph from Backlinko that illustrates the relationship between keyword-rich titles and YouTube search rankings:

Source: Backlinko via Hubspot

Tag your videos.

You know that sidebar with “Suggested Videos” that pops up any time you’re watching a video on YouTube? That sidebar can be a huge source of clicks for your brand videos, so you want to make sure you make it easy for YouTube to figure out what kind of content it should associate you with.

Tags are how you do that.

Properly choosing tags is similar to choosing keywords. If you don’t already have a varied list of keywords that are relevant to your brand, then use the Google Keyword Planner or another keyword planning tool to generate that list.

Once you’ve got your keywords, you have to narrow it down to the keywords that actually describe what’s in your video. It may be tempting to choose popular, generic tags, but while this may get your video in front of more eyes, it doesn’t mean that those eyes will take the time to watch it.

Relevant, specific tags, however, will make it more likely that people who are actually interested in your brand or what’s in your video will find it. It will also pop up in their Suggested Videos sidebar. Then, once they’ve watched one video by you, they’re more likely to click on your profile or channel to see the other videos you’ve posted.

To make it easier to tag your videos properly, YouTube has a “default tags” feature that allows you to set tags that will auto-populate for every video you post. This is so you don’t have to add the exact same tags to each and every video. For example, if you’re a pianist posting videos of your performances, your default tags would include “piano,” “pianist,” and “music.”

From there, you’d just add in the video-specific tags, like the name of the piece you were playing, the type of music, the location of the performance, etc.

Choose video lengths carefully.

For most brands – unless you’re creating a short film, like Lyft, H&M, Marriott, and so many other brands have done – short videos perform better than longer ones.

According to research by Animoto, two-thirds of consumers prefer videos that are less than 60 seconds. However, remember that you will lose viewers as your video continues no matter how long or short your video may be.

You’ll lose viewers as your video progresses, so place CTAs and vital info at the beginning. #videomarketing Click To Tweet

For videos of 1-2 minutes in length, Wistia found that 75% of viewers will watch till the end. For videos of 4-5 minutes, that drops to less than 60%. For this reason, you want to make sure you place your call to action and the most important information – customer testimonials, for example – toward the beginning of the video.

And a good rule of thumb is that if you can get all the information you need into a 1-2 minute long video, do it. With so many pieces of media competing for their attention, consumers want to get what they need quickly, without a bunch of extraneous lead-in or long opening shots.

Optimizing your YouTube Channel

Once you’ve optimized your individual videos, you’ve got to look at your channel as a whole. Here are some tips for making your channel perform as well as possible.

Spend some time on your channel icon and art.

You want your channel art to match your brand, so take the time to personalize your icon and art. Not sure what these things are? Here’s a helpful diagram from Buffer:

Source: Buffer, showing art from Vsauce

The icon is an image that will show up across the web when people search for your YouTube channel, so it should be easily identifiable whether it’s showing up large or small.

The channel art, or header image, is specific to your channel and will show up differently depending on the device your viewers are using. To ensure that it will show up well across all devices, use YouTube’s support guidelines for image size and text placement here.

Your channel header is a chance to not only capture viewers’ attention but also to give some information about who you are and what your channel is about. Have a short (one sentence only) description of your channel? A posting schedule? A company slogan? Your channel header is a great place to put it.

Introduce people to you and your brand in the featured video.

Your featured video – the video that shows up front and center when people click on to your channel – is the perfect place to introduce people to who you are.

Your channel’s featured video is your chance to introduce viewers to your brand. #YouTubeMarketing Click To Tweet

This is your opportunity to show people who’ve never visited your channel and who don’t know much about your brand who you are and what you do.

Take a look at our CEO, Shama Hyder’s, YouTube channel intro video:

In just 34 seconds, Shama tells viewers exactly what they’ll get on her channel: news and advice on digital marketing, technology, and business. It’s a great way to introduce new viewers to both Shama and Zen Media, and encourage them to subscribe. It also leads them directly to watching episodes of Shama TV, short videos about marketing and business trends affecting the digital world.

Your YouTube presence can be a huge asset to your brand – if it’s optimized and organized well. For more on utilizing video in your marketing, read our post “3 Reasons Why Video is Vital to Your Marketing Strategy.”


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