Imagine standing in a crowded, bustling room. There’s hardly space to stand still, let alone move. The atmosphere is rowdy with countless competing voices – male, female, young, old. Bony arms and elbows poke into your sides as you jostle for position.
“I have something to say,” you whisper meekly. Nobody hears, and if they do, nobody looks.
They’re too busy paying attention to a handful of other, spotlight-bathed people, dotted around the room, who seem to really have their stuff together.
I’m pretty sure that, if YouTube was a physical place, that’s what it’d be like.
We all know there’s an audience there. We all know there’s inherent value in creating video content that grabs and holds attention.
But there’s also a ridiculous amount of competition. The often-used statistic suggests that a staggering 300 hours of video content are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Against that backdrop, trite truisms like ‘create great content’ aren’t enough anymore. You also need to be switched on to make sure your content is easy to find, appealing to click and delivers insane value every time.
So, it’s 2021. How do you get more YouTube views? Let’s find out…
Optimise for search
YouTube isn’t just a video sharing platform. It’s also the world’s second largest search engine.
This means that you need to invest the same amount of research you’d put into ideating blog topics. It starts with creating content around topics that people are demonstrably interested in. Sure, you can just ideate content based on your own notion of what’s entertaining or interesting – but it’s a risk.
A good starting point here is to search for a keyword related to your brand or profile, and check out YouTube’s ‘suggested searches’. These are incredibly valuable because they’re based on the terms people actually search for on YouTube.
Even in this simple example, many of the suggested searches could make interesting video topics.
The Chrome Extension, Keywords Everywhere adds another layer of data. This tool pulls out the monthly search volume, average CPC and competition level (from 0.00 – easiest to 1.00 – hardest.) This data is pulled from Google, rather than being specific to YouTube – but it’s still a really easy and seamless way to pull this data, and benchmark the general level of interest in your chosen topic.
Once you’ve decided on a search term to target, you also need to take care of the ‘basic’ optimisation tools available through YouTube. At the very least you want a compelling title and thumbnail that stands out on the search engine results page (SERP.)
SEO expert Brian Dean famously talked about what he calls the ‘Skyscraper Technique’ – the idea that the best way to create successful content is to identify the best piece of content currently in existence, and then making sure you create something even better. This philosophy definitely converts well to YouTube.
Run your chosen keyword through YouTube and take a look at the search results. The challenge is to make sure your title and thumbnail, at the very least, are the biggest, best and most attractive. This will optimise your clickthrough rate – which can help propel you up the rankings. After all, if your video is getting clicked more regularly than others on the results page, YouTube’s ranking algorithm is likely to assume, over time, that your video answers a question or explains a topic better than your rivals do, and rank it accordingly.
The really important things to spend time on are:
Title: Look for obvious opportunities. Can you improve the number in a list video? Can you make a title easier to understand? More generally, certain titles are just better at grabbing attention due to their length, and the words they use. We’ve written a whole article about a CTR experiment we ran on our title tags- How We Increased Organic Blog Traffic by 53% (In 5 Minutes…) – which has some transferable lessons.
Thumbnails: Your eyes are always going to be drawn to the best looking, slickest videos; there’s an implied credibility here. We make a snap judgement about which video is going to be the best use of our time, and first impressions really do count. This means taking the time to create professional thumbnails, rather than using the random video frame YouTube chooses for you by default, is almost certainly going to be worthwhile. Particularly when you see how unflattering YouTube’s defaults can be…I mean, what is number 3?! I look like I’m about to perform an exorcism.
Ideally, you want to try and keep the style consistent across all your videos. Take YouTube sensation The Body Coach, for example. His thumbnails are clear, consistent and clean – and, since they include the video title, we know exactly what to expect without even bothering to read the text underneath the thumbnail.
Description: This super-important piece of writing helps YouTube and Google understand the context of your video. Make sure to include your keyword in the first 25 words, make the whole description at least 250 words and include your keyword 2-4 times.
Tags: Probably the least important of all the basic optimisation settings, but make sure you include your target keyword as your first tag, and then use all the relevant tags you can think of – with ‘relevant’ being the operative word!
BONUS TIP: Thanks to YouTube’s auto-transcription tool, which we’ll cover in more detail shortly, the site is able to scan the actual content of your video as well as all these bits of information you provide. Many experts suggest saying your keyword, and early in the video at that, for this exact reason.
The video itself
I know I promised to avoid talking about ‘great content,’ but – while I AM about to touch on the content of your videos – I’m hoping it’ll be much less wooly than that!
Bottom line, your content is important.
Particularly, there’s plenty of evidence that YouTube tends to like longer videos. Experts argue that ‘Total Watch Time’ is THE most significant ranking factor, and – hey – that makes sense. After all, YouTube’s primary goal as a site is to keep viewers engaged on YouTube. Accordingly, total watch time is valued by YouTube’s algorithm in much the same way that dwell time is valued by Google’s. It’s all about their ability to serve up results that do the best job for their searchers.
Of course, you still need to keep your viewer engaged, so don’t spin things out for the sake of it. But if you’ve got a choice between doing a series of 10 x 3 minute videos, or one comprehensive 30 minute super video, there’s a good chance you’ll see better results with the latter.
Equally, you need to get to the point quickly. Again, to revisit Brian Dean’s advice, he recommends following a simple, ‘PPP Formula’ during the first 15 seconds of your videos. This stands for ‘Preview-Proof-Preview’ and it looks like this:
Preview – talk about what your video’s all about. “In this video, you’re going to learn XYZ…:
Proof – tell your audience why they should listen to you. “I used the lessons from this video to achieve ABC…” or “The lessons I’m about to share with you are based on extensive research and experience…”
Preview – talk about something specific and particularly interesting the viewer will learn. “And I’m going to share a particular tip that you won’t find anywhere else,” or “One of these lessons is based on new, exclusive research and will DEFINITELY surprise you.”
Thanks to YouTube’s Autoplay functionality, we rarely end up watching one video these days. Once you’ve grabbed the interest of a viewer, chances are good that they’re going to be interested in other content you’ve created. Playlists are a good way to direct them towards your other videos. The Autoplay feature can be worth thousands of views per month, so use it to your advantage.
Identify a few of your videos united by common themes, and throw them together as Playlists. We’ve done this with our Useless Fact series on YouTube, for example. You can find a useful step-by-step guide on setting up a playlist here.
Double check your transcriptions
YouTube is getting cleverer all the time, and now automatically transcribes your videos. Of course, computers still sometimes make mistakes – particularly if you have a regional accent! So make sure to check the transcription. This will ensure that YouTube has optimal understanding of what you’re saying in your video.
(For the record, I was saying, “Hi I’m Adam, Content Manager here at Wyzowl,” rather than “either I’m out of Content Manager here at wiser.” :))
Low hanging fruit
A lot of the time, we get so strung up on advanced marketing tips that we forget the really basic stuff. Think about some of the super-easy, completely free ways you can generate views just by getting your video content out there. For example, you could paste a thumbnail in your company email signatures – research suggests that the average office worker receives 121 emails a day and sends around 40. In an company with 100 people, that’s 4,000 people per day receiving a link to your video. Email newsletters, social promotion, sharing your video content with sales leads – these are all incredibly easy ways to get the ‘View’ counter ticking upwards.
Paid advertising sometimes gets a bad rap purely because the traffic, in theory, stops when you take away the budget. But in reality, if you have confidence in your content and feel it truly adds value, a paid ad campaign can have what we sometimes call a ‘kickstart effect.’ Thanks to the magic of organic sharing and subscriptions, great video content that truly helps people can quickly take on a life of its own.
If your objective is purely to get eyes on your videos, then a video ad campaign could well be a good idea. You’ll use Google AdWords to set this up. Start by pasting the link to your video, and determine what your ad text is going to say.
Decide whether to route people who click your ad through to your YouTube channel, or your website. If video views are your metric for success, then the former is probably going to make more sense.
Set your daily budget, and then choose a target audience. Initially you’re able to target by age, gender, geographical location, and web activity – but once you’re through the initial setup stage, you’re able to get much more granular.
Our advice with PPC is always ‘trial and error.’ Start small; make small changes and let them play out. Use YouTube and AdWords analytics to understand what’s working and what isn’t. And most importantly, avoid knee jerk reactions. If you’re just looking for a starting point, ‘YouTube Creators Academy’ has a brilliant step-by-step guide for setting up your first campaign.
Calls to action in every video
There’s a reason why the majority of top YouTubers remind people in EVERY video to like, comment, share and subscribe – it’s because these engagement factors play a key role in the success not only of the video you’re watching, but of the channel itself and all its content. Simply asking people to do these things is often more effective than you might think.
Cards & end screens
Basic interactive functionality within YouTube can really help create great experiences for your viewers – and encourage them to stick around on your channel.
There are two options here: Cards and End Screens. They both offer the ability to link to related videos, channels, websites and polls within videos. The only significant difference between them is that end screens appear at the end of your video.
Cards can pop up at any point during your video, which means you can be contextual with them. For example, if you make a point within your video – which you also happen to have made a full video about – you can reference that fact, and have a clickable thumbnail link pop up for your viewer.
YouTube continues to be a hugely influential tool to help show off your brand, reach a huge audience and monetise the content you do create. To generate the views your content deserves, remember:
- Create video around topics that people really want to know about.
- Optimise your video for discovery – spend the comparatively short amount of time it takes to write a great description, create a strong title, and make beautiful eye-catching thumbnails. It’ll be worth it in the long run.
- Get your video out there however you can – email signatures, mailshots. Whatever works!
- Make each video part of a playlist to tap into the ‘Autoplay’ views.
- Consider paid advertising if you’re looking for a ‘kickstart effect’ for your video content.
- Use Cards & End Screens to increase engagement and retention on your channel.
- For some awesome tips on how to use video on social media, check out our free ebook here.