YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world. The first is Google. Google owns YouTube. So Google is only second to Google. Meanwhile, we’ve got Yahoo and Bing slitting each other’s throats to be a distant third. (Yeah, it’s that kind of world.)
It’s a big world out there, with lots of content being produced every day. So how do you stand out from the crowd?
The first thing to consider is your video thumbnail.This is the first thing that most people see when they’re searching for video content, so it should be your first consideration for discoverability.
Your thumbnail should be:
1. Clear and in focus
2. Visually pleasing
4. Accurately represents your video
5. Legible at all sizes
The first two are pretty obvious – a blurry, ugly thumbnail isn’t going to represent your video well, and people will be less likely to click on it. Try to use close-up, high contrast shots.
“Informative” and “accurate” go hand in hand. As mentioned previously, higher watch time improves your search ranking. A good thumbnail will let your user know what your video is about very quickly. But remember: you want viewers to click your video, and you want them to be engaged by your content. It may be tempting to use a thumbnail of Grumpy Cat or a model in a bikini, but if your video isn’t about Grumpy Cat or models, then people who click on your video based on the thumbnail will click away quickly, giving you a low watch time, which may damage your search ranking. So be sure to use a thumbnail that accurately represents your content.
Legibility is key, but not immediately obvious. Remember that your thumbnail is going to be seen on many different platforms – desktops, tablets, and phones. A thumbnail with text that might be readable on a laptop may be totally indecipherable on your iPhone. Always consider all platforms when choosing your thumbnail.
Your video title is another important piece of the discoverability puzzle. Your title should be:
1. Descriptive and concise
2. List searchable keywords first
3. Relevant and important
This allows both YouTube users and YouTube’s search engine to categorize and make sense of your content. All of this is pretty straightforward, and helps users quickly figure out whether or not your video is one that’s worth clicking on. Also, episode specific information / episode numbers and branding information should be placed at the end of the title, not the beginning.
Descriptions are also important in aiding in discoverability. The same rules apply for descriptions as they do for titles. Remember, just because you *can* write much more doesn’t mean that you should. The first few lines of your video description will be universally visible across YouTube’s search results, subscription pages, and social media sites. Don’t fill this field up with nonsense – be concise, and talk about what’s in the video.
Be sure to write unique descriptions for every video – a simple copy and paste won’t do. And don’t forget to link to relevant content that you mention in the video. There are great reasons to link to external content, and lots of successful YouTube Partners do so, but keep in mind that if you send people off of the site, you may decrease your watch time.
Your thumbnail and your video title tell a story about your video. Check out this compelling video from VSauce.
The title is a quick, compelling question, and the picture matches the title. Have you ever wondered what the Earth is worth? This video will tell you. It’s also just so intriguing. It’s not something that you may have considered in the past. Even if this wasn’t exactly what you were looking for, you may want to click it.
Here’s another one from Epic Rap Battles of History.
Note the two closeups of the actors portraying Ellen and Oprah. Very visible on any platform. The close resemblance to the actual actors suggests high production values. The title of the video tells you that you’ve found what you were looking for, and the episode info at the end of the tag tells you the program and which season you’re watching.
I’m not a big fan of the description for this video, but it’s clear that downloading songs is important to this content creator, and it puts that link right up front. Also, the title and the thumbnail do a lot of work, so it’s basically okay.
Hope this helps!