Whether it is an Ice Bucket Challenge video, a tutorial, or a cat video, it is not enough to just upload a video onto YouTube and hope it will get discovered sooner or later. Just like with webpages and images, optimisation is necessary if you want your videos to rank in a search engine such as YouTube.
Optimising a Video for YouTube: Case Study
A practical case study is always one of the best ways to learn a new skill. In this post I will share with you the steps I took to optimise one of our recently uploaded videos.
YouTube uses a set of rules, known as its algorithm, to determine the rankings of videos in the search results. At this stage, YouTube cannot “watch” a video to determine and index the content. Instead, it uses supporting text to detect the story a video is telling.
Although YouTube does not publish its algorithm, there is good evidence that indicates the practical steps you need to take to help your videos rank better.
The video is this case study is shared using this embed link: https://youtu.be/FMjVTDhT6nc
Every YouTube video starts with a text title which describes what the video is about in a concise and clear manner. This text will not only describe the video content, but will also provide keywords to help with indexing and ranking in the results.
You typically have 100 characters for your title and it’s good practice to include your keywords, perhaps followed by your company name.
In this example, our video’s Title Tag is “International Digital Marketing Agency | Hallam”
It appears like this in the YouTube Search results:
And it also appears as an overlay on the video itself:
The second attribute is the description of the video. You can write up to 5000 characters of content. Keep in mind, however, that the first 125 are the most important ones because they are displayed in the search engine results pages (SERPs).
In the image below you can see our description highlighted in yellow:
So, the first words of the video description will play an important role in encouraging searchers to make the decision to click play on your video.
Another common click-boosting tactic is including links to your website, your social media, or a specific landing page within the description. You can see in the example below I included a link to our website right at the start of the description. While these are not optimisation methods, they can help you reach objectives such as more website visits, more whitepaper downloads, or more followers on social media networks. My advice would be to base your call to action on your wider marketing objectives and also include the link to your website at the beginning of the description to increase CTR as viewers may not expand that section and will only see the first few words.
The use of tags doesn’t play a vital role in video optimisation but they do help YouTube gain more information about your content. At the same time your video will be more likely to be recommended as a related video in the sidebar (when your keywords match those of other videos). Include your target keywords and other notions related to your content to reach a wider audience.
Video Transcript and Subtitles
Providing a word-by-word transcription of the content in your video provides additional text that will help YouTube determine what it’s about in greater detail.
There are a number of low-cost video transcription services you can use, including SpeechPad, which costs from US$1 per minute.
User Experience Signals
The user’s interaction and engagement with your video is another YouTube ranking signal. The number of views, shares on social media, likes, subscribers (after watching) and comments are all positive engagement signals. You can boost your engagement by, for example, responding to comments even if only to say thanks, or by posting the link to your video on relevant sites. Inbound links to your video are another key ranking signal which shows users are satisfied with your content.
Other behavioural signals that show engagement include watch time and the virality of the video.
Recency is another important ranking factor. A video that has had 200,000 views in the past two days alone will rank higher than an old video with more views because YouTube wants users to discover videos that are popular in real time.
I hope this gives you a quick and easy starting point for optimising your own YouTube videos. If you have any other recommendations, or need help with your video optimisation, don’t hesitate to contact our experts.