As a content creator, one of your main objectives is to spread your message to as many people as possible. Since launching in 2005, YouTube has been the top choice for video content creators like myself, offering a simple platform, and an incredibly wide audience. However, if you’re new to the world of video creation, you may find yourself with little to no video views on your YouTube uploads. Let me take you through a few tips to help you reach the largest audience possible, and boost YouTube viewership.
The YouTube Effect
When I first started uploading videos to YouTube back in 2007, the platform was very different than it is today. Commercialization hadn’t taken place yet, and there was a very strong community of content creators. It’s because of this that I was able to get my initial boost. Unfortunately, today’s YouTube is a completely different beast. With over 72 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, and with advertisers throwing millions to grab the ‘top spots’, new content is a needle in a haystack.
Before we get into optimizing the video once it’s been uploaded, let’s talk about what can be done during production to ensure that your viewers stick around throughout the video, which will increase audience retention, a key stat that YouTube uses to determine which videos rise to the top.
- Audience Retention
It’s no secret that people’s attention spans are rapidly decreasing. Just like a good TV show, your viewers must be engaged within the first fifteen seconds of your content, otherwise, there are a slew of other videos which they can very quickly switch to. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you out.
- Do not include a lengthy intro. Branding your video is fine, but a 30 second intro is not going to fly with online content. Keep it short and to the point.
- Do include an excited, engaging welcome! Your excitement will spark interest in your viewers.
- Do give a preview of what the end result will be (if you are creating a how-to video).
- Do give your audience an incentive to stick around until the end of the video.
- Do encourage your viewers to subscribe to your channel.
One other stat that YouTube pays close attention to, is audience engagement. Are people simply watching your videos and running away, or are they leaving comments, liking the video, and adding it to their playlists? The more your audience engages with your content, the quicker your video will rise up the charts. Here are a few things you can do to improve engagement.
- Ask your audience a question related to your topic. “What do you guys think about ___? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!“
- Looking for “Likes”? Don’t be afraid to ask! “If you enjoyed this video, hit that “Like” button down below to help out this video!“
- Ask your viewers to subscribe! “Want to stay up to date with new videos? Hit that subscribe button!“
With YouTube’s recent changes, if a user comments/likes/favorites one of your videos, people that are subscribed to that engaging user may see that activity in their feed. So in short, the more users that are engaging, the more your video will be seen by other users.
It may be difficult if you’re just starting out, but in the “HD” age, viewers are expecting crystal clear audio and video. No matter how strong your content may be written, if the audio or video is rough, viewers will leave! Many cameras, including your phone, are now capable of recording HD video, however the audio may not match up. For my training videos, I’ve used mics from Blue Microphones which have given me incredible audio! If you’re serious about your content, spend the extra money to ensure it’s as sharp as possible.
So now that you’ve produced your content, it’s time to upload! YouTube makes the uploading process quite simple, but there are a few things you should pay attention to, which will not only attract viewers, but boost your SEO (search engine optimization), as well.
- Catchy Titles
The title of your video is likely one of the first things a potential viewer will see. The first few words needs to draw them in, so you’ll certainly want to include the main topic (keywords) of your video first, and leave the branding for the end.
Do: Create a Winter Wonderland in Photoshop | IceflowStudios Design
Don’t: IceflowStudios Design | Create a Winter Wonderland in Photoshop
The reason for this is simple. First, many people read left to right, so you’ll want your main keywords on the left. Second, if you have a longer title, YouTube may cut off the title, leaving the viewer confused as to what the video is about.
- Detailed Descriptions
The description section of your videos should contain a detailed overview of what the content contains. This not only helps viewers understand what they are/will be watching, but it also plays a huge role in SEO. Once you have nailed down a firm keyword (which should also appear in the title), you should try to include the keyword at the beginning of the description. Here’s an example:
Keyword: “Fireworks Text Effect”
Title: “Fireworks Text Effect in Photoshop CS6″
Description: “In this tutorial, we’re going to create a fireworks text effect in Photoshop. You’re going to learn how to create your own custom brushes, use Photoshop’s Brush panel to customize the brush, then apply it to a text path. You’re then going to learn how to use Layer Styles to make the fireworks glow.”
As you can see in the above example, the keyword, “Fireworks Text Effect”, is used in both the title and the description, and the contents of the video are outlined for the viewers and search engines.
In addition to a detailed description, it’s a good idea to brand your video by including the other places around the web that your viewers can find you. This may include your website, Facebook, Twitter, etc. This information will be available for your viewers to see while they’re watching your videos.
Tags aren’t as important as they have been in the past, but they should still be utilized. It’s a good idea to include both short and long tailed keywords that single in on the topic(s) of your videos. Here are a few examples.
Short: “Photoshop”, “Adobe Photoshop”, “Text”, “Font”, “Fireworks”
Long: “Fireworks in Photoshop”, “Fireworks text effect”, “Create fireworks in Photoshop”, “Photoshop text effects”
At this point in the game, it may be best to nail down the long tailed keywords, as it will be almost impossible to rank for the shorter keywords, like “Photoshop”. If you use the Google Keyword Tool, you can get a sense as to which keywords have high competition, versus the keywords that may be a bit easier to rank with. I’ll be writing a separate article on the Keyword Tool shortly.
At the current time, only full YouTube Partners have access to custom thumbnails, but all users can choose between three generated thumbnails once your video has uploaded. If you’re not a YouTube Partner, you’ll want to choose the thumbnail that best describes your content, and a thumbnail that is likely to catch your viewer’s attention.
However, if you do have access to the custom thumbnails feature, you have the ability to upload a thumbnail of your choice. As the thumbnails are the first visual as to what your content contains, this is a huge opportunity to rope your viewers in! After many years of uploads, it’s clear as to what viewers are sucked in by. Vibrant colors, a simple visual as to what the content is, and bold text (if you choose to include text).
One of YouTube’s lesser used features, is Annotations. This feature allows you to include on-screen notes for your viewers, which can increase engagement and retention.
As seen in the image below, YouTube offers a variety of annotations for you to use on your videos, from speech bubbles to notes, plain text to spotlights. Each will help you further engage your viewers at different points throughout your videos. Remember, your goal is to keep your viewers until the end of the your videos. Use your annotations wisely!
One reason why [some] TV shows are so popular, apart from quality content, is the fact that their viewers know exactly when to expect a new episode. Once you have uploaded a few videos, take note as to what time during the day returned the best results. Depending on your audience, uploading at night may be best, while other audiences may be more engaging during the day.
Once you have figured out what day/time is best for your uploads, you can utilize YouTube’s “Scheduled” uploading feature, which can be found on the Upload page.
This feature can ensure that your new videos are always uploaded on the same day, at the same time. With the right promotion, your viewers will always know when a new video is coming out!
Uploading your video is only the beginning! Whether you have a large following or not, promoting is key! The faster you link your content on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc, the more likely your content will be seen. On top of this, rankings can be improved from linking your content on top social media websites.
If you’re a Google+ user, and your YouTube account is linked together, embedding your videos on Google+ can also heighten viewership. Not only is it favored in Google’s search queries, but if you have subscribers to your YouTube account, those embedded videos are now displayed under the “What to Watch” section.
- Video Responses
YouTube has a very simple feature that can help kickstart you video views; video responses. When you click inside of a comment field on someone’s video, you may see the option to “Create a video response“.
This feature will allow you to ‘link’ your video to a more popular video of the same subject. If the original video creator accepts your video response, your video will appear below that video, exposed to a much wider audience. When looking for a video to add a response to, you should consider the following.
- The video should be of the same subject matter. Don’t post a Photoshop tutorial to a video about making cheese.
- The target video should have a nice amount of views, and should be ranked well (higher in the search listings).
- Check every few days to see if your video has been accepted. If not, try to submit it to a different video. Older videos may belong to inactive YouTube accounts.
In addition to wanting your viewers to engage on your videos, you should be willing to engage in return. You should not only be ready to comment on your own videos, but on others, as well!
In your YouTube channel settings, you can control what appears on your subscriber’s feeds. Likes, subscriptions, comments, playlist activity.
This means, that if you’re replying to comments on your own videos, some of those comments will appear in your viewer’s “What to watch” section, along with the video. For subscribers who may not have initially seen that video, this could get them to click on it for the first time. This is a great way to bring older videos back into the spotlight!
In addition to commenting on your videos, commenting on other, similar videos, can help drive traffic back to your channel. Users who actively engage with videos often check out those who leave well written, well thought out comments. The comment section isn’t a billboard for your content, but it can certainly drive a small percentage of users back to your channel.
YouTube’s Creator Playbook
The tips I have offered in this article come mostly from personal experience as a video content creator, however, if you’re looking for a more ‘official’ set of optimization techniques, YouTube has a fantastic tool called the Creator Playbook which will help you further boost your YouTube viewership.