How to get your YouTube video seen

Friday, April 4, 2014

Posting a video to YouTube doesn’t end once the upload’s complete. If you want to make the most of your video (and given the time and resources it demands, you really do), even a few minutes of extra attention can make a big difference.

You have to sell the video to your potential audience if you want them to watch. And before you can reach them, you need to persuade YouTube that your video is worth displaying in their search results.

In each case, that means thinking about the title, description and keywords — sometimes called metadata. YouTube has some advice that's well worth reading. Here are the main points to remember:

Checklist for posting a YouTube video

  • Have you chosen the best category for your video?
  • Have you selected at least four keywords (or phrases), and chosen a main keyword?
  • Does your title contain the main keyword?
  • Does your description contain all of your keywords?
  • Does your description include a call to action and an URL?
  • Have you added your keywords as tags?
  • Have you included a custom thumbnail image?
  • Have you told your staff, members and leadership about it, and encouraged them to share it online?
  • Choose four or five keywords (terms or phrases) that you'll use to optimize your video.
    • Think about the search terms people are most likely to use related to your video. Decide which of them is the most important to you.
    • Look at videos from your opponents, allies and similar organizations. How are they performing? What keywords do they seem to be using? Are they worth using for your video?
  • For benchmarking purposes, search a few variations on those keywords yourself. See whose videos come up: your opposition? your allies? A few days after you’ve optimized your metadata, run the search again to see whether your video has risen in the search rankings compared to theirs.
  • Compose a short title – one that's compelling, engaging and accurate, and that has your primary keywords in it. They should be near the beginning of the title.
  • Now compose a description, one to three sentences long. Work in your keywords to help YouTube and other search engines find your video. The first sentence or two can be where you really sell your video to potential viewers. And it’s a good idea to include an URL where people can visit for more information or to take action.
  • Finally, add tags: the keywords you came up with, and if necessary, a few other keywords to describe your video. (Enclose phrases in quotation marks.)
  • One extra thing that can make a big difference to your audience: uploading a custom thumbnail image that’s representative of your video. YouTube requires at least 640px x 360px, with relative dimensions of 16:9. Choosing your own thumbnail ensures the image YouTube uses to represent your video is an effective, appealing one, and not (say) a freeze-frame of your chief spokesperson with their eyes closed and mouth open. Here are YouTube’s guidelines.

And one more thing: upload a captioning file. It lets search engines scan the actual spoken content of your video more accurately, and you’ll be able to reach viewers who are hearing impaired (as well as those in an office where they can’t play a video with the sound on). Here’s our guide to quick and easy closed captioning on YouTube.

If you’ve had trouble getting your videos seen in the past, this may well dramatically improve your results. Check your search rankings before optimizing your videos’ metadata and afterward; we’re guessing you’ll see a big difference.