Getting Discovered on YouTube
By Doug Kennedy
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Welcome back to the YouTube Best Practices Series. In Part 1, we took a look at some fundamental things to keep in mind while creating YouTube content. Perhaps by now, you have a concept for your channel, shot several videos, and maybe you even have them ready to upload to YouTube. Congrats!
The next step is just as hard! Now that’ve you’ve done the work of creating the best content you can, you need to focus on getting viewers to watch.
This is accomplished by two major elements. The first element is all in your control. This is your video assets and metadata (thumbnails, titles, descriptions, tags etc) are created by you, to entice viewers to watch your content. These assets and metadata tell both the viewer and YouTube what exactly your video is about. They work together to tell an intriguing story that will get a viewer to click on your video.
The second element is the YouTube algorithm. This is less in your control, but you can still optimize to be in the algorithm’s favor. Now, let’s dive deeper into the best practices for assets and metadata.
YouTube SEO Best Practices
Branding – Branding should make it easier for viewers to find your videos and channel. Make sure it reflects your style and mission.
Titles – Video titles are one of the first things viewers read so consider what keywords or phrases might compel your target audience to click.
Descriptions – Offer context for your video and channel in the video description. Viewers see your top two sentences before clicking to see more, so use that real estate to hook them in. Put the most important keywords toward the beginning of your description. And identify 1-2 main words that describe your video and feature them prominently in both your description and title.
Thumbnails – Thumbnails are like a movie poster and can give viewers a visual preview of your video. Try creating a custom thumbnail that shows an exciting moment and looks great on desktop and mobile. Thumbnails should accurately represent the content and be enticing to potential viewers, but you may also want to think about thumbnails in the context of whether many brands would be comfortable showing up alongside them.
Tags – Tags help your videos get discovered. Misleading tags, on the other hand, are a violation of YouTube community guidelines, so be sure to only include words that truly describe your content. Select tags that accurately represent the content of your video and channel.
These are all elements that help audiences connect with your content. Take a look at YouTube’s homepage. You’ll see thumbnails of all types. Which ones stood out? And why?
The ones that stood out – did you read the title of the video? Did you click to watch? Why or why not?
These elements help the YouTube system identify and categorize your content as well as inform and entice viewers to watch. It took a lot of hard work to create the video, spend an equal amount of effort on making these assets and metadata just as great. They need to be enticing because once your video is posted, the YouTube algorithm monitors every aspect of your video.
Make friends with the Algorithm
After you’ve told YouTube what your video is about, the YouTube algorithm looks at the various engagement metrics of the video. These metrics are a major determining factor as to how YouTube decides what to suggest to viewers.
Just because you made a video and posted it with the best possible accompanying thumbnails, title, etc, doesn’t guarantee YouTube will desplay it in their results. You need your audience to interact with your video in order to get your video to rank higher in the algorithm. The higher the rank, the more your video will be suggested to others.
Here are the various metrics the YouTube algorithm looks at to identify engaging content. If the algorithm sees high activity in one or many of these metrics, YouTube will more likely surface your video to more viewers.
Watch Time – High watch time = engaging content
Likes – High amount of likes on a video tells the algorithm that the content is engaging.
Shares – The higher, the better.
New Subscribers – If a video gets a high number of new subscribers, this is a positive signal to YouTube.
Comments – People commenting is a sign of engagement.
Monetization Enabled – There’s a rumor going around that YouTube also takes the monetization status of a video into account when surfacing videos to new viewers. Some creators have noticed that if their video is not monetized or deemed not advertiser-friendly, their videos will not be surfaced as much as their other ad-enabled and advertiser-friendly videos.
So let’s recap on how to get your content discovered on YT:
1. Create great SEO assets and metadata – this tells YouTube and the viewer what your content is.
2. Get your audience to engage with your videos – this tells YouTube that your content is interesting.
So now you know why every YouTuber inevitably asks you to “Like, Subscribe, Comment below, share this video with your friends and don’t forget to click that Notification bell!” They’re not just trying to build an audience, they’re doing all of their hard work justice by giving the algorithm what it’s looking for.
Next, let’s take a look at the many different ways you can monetize your content on YouTube and get rewarded for all of your hard work in Part 3: Monetizing YouTube Content.