Optimize Your YouTube Videos


In our previous post, Publicize Your YouTube Video, we continued a new series on YouTube with a look at everything you need to know about publicizing your video and and increasing views.

In this post, we move on with our YouTube series with everything you need to know about optimizing your videos to help them be found.

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Optimize Your YouTube Videos

Like everything else on the Web, your videos are no good if nobody can find them. In addition to maximizing the effect of your social presence on YouTube, as we discussed in the last section, you need to do Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your YouTube channel. The following recommendations are for YouTube and Google. Optimizing for other search engines will likely be slightly different.

You Tube’s search algorithm considers the following attributes of videos when determining ranking, whether they are embedded on your site or on YouTube:

  • Title — If you’ve embedded your YouTube video in a page on your site, make sure the title of the page matches the title of the video. You’ll do better in search rankings if it does.
  • Description — Optimize the first 27 characters, which is what displays before truncation in listings. Include a shortened clickable URL (see the Shrinking Long URLs post for more information). The video’s description is shown in the search results on Google.
  • Tags — Include relevant keywords that describe the video. Make these keywords consistent with those you use in the title and description fields. YouTube has a keyword tool[1] you can use to get suggested keywords. There’s even a beta capability to get keywords by demographic group.
  • Number of Views — You want to focus on getting more views, naturally, so share your videos appropriately using YouTube’s social media tools and commenting as well as other social networks. You also want to show up in the list of related videos that appear over a video that’s finished playing, and to the right of the video Try to get your videos into this area. People tend to watch videos in batches. The average YouTube viewer views more than 100 videos per month.[2] Try to keep your most important videos in the Recent Activity listing[3] on your channel by periodically tweaking the annotation (a text field that pops up over the video) or other text fields of the video. Videos in Recent Activity perform the best on searches.The Recent Activity box has a lot of other functionality. Adding new favorites to your channel shows up in the box, as well as new ratings and comments on others’ videos. You can broadcast bulletins directly to your channel subscribers, and these show up in your Recent Activity box as well. When you post a bulletin, it will also appear on your subscribers’ Recent Activity boxes.
  • Rating — The rating[4] of your video is similar to the Motion Picture Association of America’s movie content ratings. You can rate your video on five categories: Language, Nudity, Sexual Situations, Violence and Drug Use.
  • View counts — You can only influence this indirectly, obviously.
  • Playlist Additions — Viewers can add your video to their video playlists. You might consider asking users to add the video to their playlists in your video description or the video itself, since many viewers may not be familiar with this feature.
  • Thumbs Up/Down — Viewers can rate your video by indicating thumbs up or thumbs down. This type of rating, representing how much viewers like the video, is different from the content ratings mentioned earlier in this list. Consider encouraging thumbs up ratings in your video description or the video.

YouTube Like video Figure 1 — Thumbs Up Ratings on YouTube

  • Shares/Embeds — YouTube viewers can share videos they find interesting with their friends. They also can embed your video in their own sites. This social networking capability can be a key to your video’s success, so don’t be afraid to encourage those who comment positively on the video to share it with their networks. There is a bit of controversy among experts over whether third party embeds are more important than those on your own Website.
  • Favorites — Viewers can add your video to their list of favorites, which can be seen by visitors to their channels. Encourage this behavior as well.
  • Comments — It is unclear at this time whether YouTube is evaluating comments for what is known as sentiment — whether the comment is negative or positive. You obviously want positive comments. Your strategy should specify how you will respond to negative comments.
  • Complete Views — YouTube apparently weights whether the viewer watched your video to completion and factors that into its search algorithm. There’s little you can do about this, of course, except create compelling videos.
  • Channel Views — Another variable you can’t really control, channel views is the number of visitors who have viewed your channel page. It is not a summary of all video views, since videos can be viewed via search results and embeds.
  • Authority of Your Channel — Authority is a complicated concept similar to Google’s Page Rank. It basically is an assessment of your channel’s influence. A good way to increase your authority score is to leave comments on channels that have a high authority score.
  • Annotations — Text in the annotations on your video can also influence search results.
  • Flagging — If your video gets flagged by users for offensiveness, that will negatively affect your search ranking.
  • OneBox Results — Google often includes a “OneBox” at the bottom of the first page of its results containing a selection of similar sites. If your video appears in OneBoxes, that’s likely to increase its search ranking.

YouTube OneBox

Figure 2 — YouTube Video in Google OneBox

  • Number of Subscribers — Not surprisingly, the more subscribers you have to a video, the higher it will rank.

YouTube gives some guidance regarding search results in its GoogleWebmasterHelp channel.[5]

As noted in the previous list, one way that YouTube (and, Google, which owns YouTube) finds videos is by looking for keywords in the title, description, and tags fields. So you definitely want to determine the important keywords and ensure that you enter them in those fields.

However, make sure that the keywords are appropriate to the subject of the video, and that you don’t jam lots of unrelated keywords into the tags field. The reason: YouTube/Google will penalize videos for using a technique called keyword stuffing — placing lots of irrelevant tags in an item in an attempt to get more traffic. If they determine that you are keyword stuffing, both search engines will penalize your video. So make sure you use consistent keywords in the title, description, and tags fields and that they are appropriate for the actual video they describe.

While you should definitely pay attention to these techniques we’ve just listed, keep in mind that using the social networking aspects of YouTube will probably be even more powerful in not only getting you more viewers, but more-appropriate viewers. To develop a robust YouTube community for your business, follow our general community-building recommendations elsewhere in this book.

Next up: Getting Video Results on YouTube


Optimize Your YouTube Videos is the 139th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). We’re just past page 367. At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at bit.ly/OrderBeAPerson and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 6WXG8ABP2Infinite Pipeline book cover

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[1] YouTube keyword tool: bit.ly/aFQNft

[2] comScore press release comScore Releases May 2010 U.S. Online Video Rankingsbit.ly/9Y9D3m

[3] YouTube Getting Started: Recent Activity privacy settings: bit.ly/9qdBLs

[4] YouTube Learn More: YouTube Content Ratings: bit.ly/c16tqH

[5] GoogleWebmasterHelp: What factors influence video results in Universal Search?: bit.ly/91Fb15

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About Social Media Performance Group

Social Media Performance Group is a premier enterprise social media consulting company that offers a unique approach to integrating social media into the enterprise — forget about the tools, it's all about the strategy! Rather than focusing on the tactics (do this or that on LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube), first we work with you and your senior leadership to comprehend your corporate strategy. Once we understand your strategic objectives and goals, we show you how a comprehensive social media strategy can integrate with and support your corporate strategy. We take an enterprise-wide view based on our unique Enterprise Social Media Framework, which maps social media to all appropriate touchpoints in your enterprise. We go beyond the obvious quick hits — sales and marketing — and help you achieve social-media-driven results in areas such as product development, customer service, and employee engagement and retention. As a result, social media is not just bolted on; it is integrated with, and provides support for, your company's existing strategy and operations, yielding unprecedented results.
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