A good description can do many things.
Take you to a world you’ve never been. Let you see things that don’t exist. Tantalise. Tease. And Titillate.
It can also get you more views on YouTube and that’s what I’m going to help you with today.
Like any aspect of your YouTube channel, video descriptions have two functions:
1) To help your content get discovered with solid video SEO
2) To encourage clicks once it’s presented to the audience
The ability to link off-platform.
This is a feature that can be hugely important and one that I will go into much more detail on shortly.
The optimization of descriptions was already key but with the new expansion of the above-the fold section, now is the time to make sure that your descriptions are fulfilling their potential.
9 Steps for optimizing your YouTube descriptions
1) Make it Keyword rich
Before you upload (ideally before you create) a YouTube video you should know the exact keywords and phrases that you want it to rank for in the search results.
Once you have your keywords they need to be placed above the fold (viewable by everyone without clicking “Show More”) and will be reinforced by being included in your Tags and Titles.
Keep keywords relevant and honest because like with Tags, YouTube doesn’t take kindly to keyword stuffers or abusers. Even if you do benefit in the short term from spammy keyword placement, you’ll be hurt in the long run by negative audience retention when viewers don’t get what they clicked for.
I’d say a safe bet would be to include keywords twice at maximum but make sure they don’t seemed forced. Remember you are ultimately writing for humans here not search engines.
And with that in mind…
2) Sell, Sell, Sell
When composing your video title you’re hampered by a lack of space in which to sell your video to the audience.
Here’s your chance.
Write creatively and work to sell your video to the viewer.
What will they see?
Why should they watch?
How will it benefit them?
Whatever niche you’re in, know your audience and what they respond to.
Tease and inform and make sure to do it in the first 5 lines as this is all they’re guaranteed to see without clicking. Not a lot of space but consider yourself lucky as only last week this was just two or three lines. You now have more than enough space for a quick synopsis and can drop in a subscribe link on line 5.
3) Include Subscription links
Yes, heavy users can get tired of being asked to subscribe but unfortunately it’s just a mechanic of the platform. You don’t have to come across as spammy and instead suggest rather than request e.g “If you found this useful, you can subscribe here…”
It’s really simple to get a direct link to your subscription opt-in:
Take the following url and replace XXX with your channel name:
Wherever possible you should track links that you post so that you know what’s being clicked and what isn’t and can adjust in the future based on analytics. You could use a free service such as bit.ly or Google’s own link shortener but I’d always use one on your own website if you have one. This way you retain more control and it looks more professional.
Don’t forget to include http:// before any link you post.
This creates an active link, making it clickable for users and visible to Google.
4) Link out to websites and other people’s videos
No, I’ve not gone crazy. It IS important to link out to other people’s content.
YouTube is a search engine (the 2nd largest in the world in fact) and like it’s bigger sibling Google, it uses links as a big ranking factor.
YouTube and Google’s main aim (excluding revenue) is to provide the most valuable search results possible to their users. Linking out to related content helps search engines get a better idea of what your content is about and also shows that you are interested in helping your viewers.
In terms of linking externally, point to high authority articles on Wikipedia and notable news and educational sites.
Linking to other videos on YouTube also has a potential advantage where the search algorithm may start to associate your video with the video you are linking to. If that video gets lots of hits and you start getting presented in the Suggested Videos for it, this will turn into a great source of traffic for you.
Any external linking is a fine balancing act because it could potentially shorten your video watch time and the session time of the user. I do believe that the benefits far outweigh the potential downside though, as click through rates to these sections are rarely significant.
5) Add links to your own videos and playlists
Click through rates to these sections may be lower than most would like but even if it generates just a few extra views it’s worth the effort.
Point to related videos that people would be interested in and, where possible, link to a version that sits in a playlist. That way they are exposed to even more videos and may continue to watch through all of the remaining videos in the playlist.
6) Make longer content easy to digest
If you’re working on longer content why not split it into virtual chapters and link to the time codes in your description. You can do this easily by putting the time (mm:ss) in the description and YouTube automatically makes it a clickable link to that point in the video.
Anything that gets the audience to stick around, even if they miss a big section of the video, is better than them leaving. This may seem counter intuitive but giving them the option to skip is in fact a good audience retention tool.
The following 3 steps can be added to your channel defaults once and then they will automatically be added to every new description going forward. This is a great time saver and ensures consistency.
You can easily add this to your defaults by visiting Video Manager > Channel Settings > Defaults
Here’s how mine look:
7) Link to your own website
You don’t have one? You should. And I’ll be speaking at length about why in a future post.
If you do, this is useful for traffic generation (make sure you are sending them to a mobile friendly landing page) and also for the SEO of your website as it’s getting a backing from a high authority domain.
8) Link to your social media
Some viewers may not be heavy users of YouTube but could be die hard fans of a different social network. Give them the option of following you on other platforms if that’s what they want.
9) Include a description of your channel
This could be a condensed version of your “About” page and should include the main keywords for your channel.
This gives the audience a quick overview of your channel if they’re new and also helps in terms of SEO.
The steps above may seem quite a lot to implement, but if you start to use them as a quick 5 point checklist (3 of them are automated) then this will be a simple part of your upload process that will become second nature.
They will help your overall channel experience and provide consistency and professionalism as well as helping your wider SEO efforts.
Make sure to put these into action on your next release and go back and change any old descriptions that no longer live up to your current standards.
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