You’ve finally finished up that awesome marketing video after the lengthy steps of pre-production, filming, and editing. Now, you’re ready to export, toss it up on YouTube and call it a day right?
Not so fast..
Before you hit that export button, you should consider a few more things. After all, you put all the time into crafting that beautiful video, now let’s make sure the juice was worth the squeeze.
300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, what are you doing to make sure you’ve got your video optimized to stand out? In this article, I’m going to detail some of the essential steps you need to take to improve the watch time on your YouTube videos from the moment it’s uploaded.
First, we’ll cover the steps you need to take in post production, or before you export the video. Then we’ll talk about the tools in YouTube you’ll use before and after you upload, making this the ultimate checklist for video marketing on YouTube.
Post Production Checklist
YouTube is more than just a video hosting platform. It’s also a social media community and therefore provides you with many ways to be found via search and recommendations, as well as resources to build your own channel and community. Although there are many tools we can use to increase engagement and improve video SEO after the upload, there are vital steps to take in post production.
#1 HD Video
Video quality has been found lately to have a strong correlation with search rankings. In addition, higher resolution videos provide a more enjoyable viewing experience.
Minimum HD resolution on YouTube is 720p (or 1280×720). If you’ve uploaded at this resolution or higher, your video will automatically display with a small HD badge on the video player.
All resolutions that YouTube displays (from 240p up to 2160p) are in the aspect ratio 16:9 widescreen. Make sure that you are exporting at this aspect ratio to avoid black bars on the sides of your video.
#2 End screen Template
In October 2016, YouTube rolled out a new feature called “Cards” which would help increase viewing time, and replace “annotations.” End screen cards specifically can be used during the last 20 seconds of a video to drive viewers to take some sort of action (subscribe, watch another video, etc.).
To get the most out of these Cards, think about what your viewer might be looking to do at the close of your video. Do you have another video that’s related? Do you have an offer or blog article related to this topic? Furthermore, including a subscribe button is always a wise choice.
To maximize the effectiveness of these cards, we recommend creating an “End screen template” which serves as a placeholder to overlay the cards on. This must be done in post-production (before you export) as YouTube does not have an ability to add the template after the fact.
#3 Calls to Action
In addition to using on-screen elements like Cards, it’s a good idea to use verbal cues to drive action as well. Engagement signals like subscriptions driven, likes, comments, and shares are also major ranking factors. Work on incorporating verbal calls to action into your video and formulate a plan to use in post production.
For instance, during your video, you may ask for the input of your viewer i.e. “comment below if you agree that video marketing on YouTube rocks.” If done properly, these comments will not only help build a community but also increase engagement for SEO purposes.
In most cases, these verbal requests should come at the end of a video, when the viewer is done watching and in a position to make another action. You might just ask the viewer to like the video (if deserved) as well as subscribe and share it with others. At any rate, it’s critical to verbalize the action you’d like your viewer to take, no matter how simple it may seem.
A little-known secret to optimizing your video around keywords is including it in the filename. It’s been speculated that the algorithm actually favors the filename over the title, but there is little evidence to support this.
Nevertheless, including your target keywords or key phrase within your raw file name will be just another SEO trick to optimize your video.
YouTube Upload Checklist
Once you’ve developed a great video and checked off the above items, you’re ready to export and upload to YouTube.
There are many important things to understand about the YouTube algorithm and how it ranks and recommends videos, but the most significant goal is to get the video in front of viewers who will appreciate the content and watch it in its entirety.
These techniques should be used for that purpose specifically. If you try and “hack” the algorithm, use irrelevant click bait, or stuff keywords for more views, the algorithm won’t work in your favor. In addition, you risk penalization from YouTube.
#5 Captivating Title
There’s a real science to writing compelling titles for any sort of content whether it’s text or video. On one hand, you want something easily searchable while on the other hand, you want it to sound compelling and capture the viewer’s attention. It’s best practice to make the title short and to the point, but if you need to make it longer to include pertinent information, that’s ok.
Once you’ve developed a keyword strategy for your video content, it’s good practice to include an exact match keyword in your titles. For instance, if you’re making a video about how to bake bread, you would likely include “homemade bread” in your title.
When you start concepting video titles, keep the searchers intent in mind. You may ask yourself, “how would I search for a video like this?”
Remember, there’s a world of people who are interested in what you have to say, it’s just a matter of finding them.
#6 Create Custom Thumbnails
Creating great, clickable thumbnails is also a science, but coupled with a great title, will drive more views and increase shareability.
A great custom thumbnail should effectively set the expectations of the viewer. For instance, in this thumbnail below, the imagery clearly displays the benefits of watching the video. As a viewer, it’s clear that I’ll be learning how to improve dull photos in Photoshop. Judging by the title, I’ll also be doing it FAST!
In most cases, including a screenshot of footage from your video will also set an expectation for the viewer. As you can see in the thumbnail below, I’ll be getting advice from a real landscaper and he’s actually in the field filming. Pretty cool, right?
Once you’ve got your imagery, consider including text overlays that reinforce your title. From the search results page, some viewers will be looking at thumbnails first, then moving to titles. If you can use text to “highlight” your thumbnail AND reiterate your title, that’s a win-win.
Use these thumbnail opportunities to cleverly display your message, reinforce your brand, and make it clear that your video is worth watching. You can always replace your thumbnail if it’s not performing well, which also allows for split testing.
#7 Custom Captions File
By default, every video uploaded will get an automatically generated transcription and therefore allow hearing impaired viewers to see captions. However, these auto-captions are not indexed by YouTube, or in other words, it doesn’t know what is being said in the video for SEO advantages.
Alternatively, a user generated or edited caption file will allow YouTube to properly crawl the subject matter of your video, and rank it according to the algorithm. By editing the captions, entering your own transcription, or using a service like Rev.com, you can easily change out the automatic file with your own.
Pro tip: You can download the completed .SRT file and use it on Facebook video as well.
#8 Relevant Tags
Tags are keywords that you want to associate with your video and want to rank for in YouTube and Google search rankings. There is pretty weak evidence that optimized tags are going to improve the overall performance of your videos. They do, however, help well-performing videos rank for more specific things.
Using free tools like TubeBuddy, Google Keyword Planner, and even suggestions in the YouTube search bar, you can find great tags to add to your video metadata. As of now, you can use up to 500 characters in your video tags, meaning there are plenty of opportunities to rank for short and long tail search queries.
#9 Thorough Description
A good, thorough description is helpful and adequately describes the subject matter of the video. Viewers who find your video in search results (including Google) will see this as the meta description next to the thumbnail. It’s crucial to give a good summary of the video within the first 1-2 sentences, otherwise, it won’t be shown in these results.
Additionally, the description area is a good place to put helpful links, additional information, and even video shortcuts (links to specified points in the video).
We recommend setting up a pre-formatted description in the “Upload Defaults” section of your admin area. In this description, include links to your website, offers like eBooks or white papers, social media profiles, other channels, or any other pertinent information you’d like to have automatically included in all future uploads.
#10 Add Info Cards
With the addition of Cards, YouTube has really created a mobile first, pleasurable viewing experience. Previously, you could use large colored boxes, outlines, and on-screen text as interactive elements within your videos. While this gave a wealth of opportunities for creators, it was very distracting for viewers and didn’t work on mobile.
Info cards now give channels the ability to add on-screen elements but are limited to 5 different categories, up to 5 cards in the video, and a nice, neat space for them to live.
These are different from End screen cards because they can be used anytime throughout the video.
You can choose from suggesting videos or playlists, promoting another channel, prompting a donation, creating a poll, or linking to an external website. All cards used within your video are in a small slide out on the right-hand side of the video.
We recommend using cards to either link between your videos or direct viewers to your website. When used properly with verbal cues (i.e. check out our eBook), you can provide easy navigation for viewers to get more information, and sign up or purchase something.
#11 Cross Video Promotion
Take advantage of the work you’ve put into the rest of channel and promote your new video across your entire library. Using the fleet of tools from TubeBuddy, you can easily change your featured video or even bulk edit the info cards, end screen cards, or descriptions to feature your new videos.
Using Vid2Vid promotion, you can easily set your new video to the featured one on your channel, or add it to your descriptions channel wide.
#12 Share on Social Media
Finally, let the whole world know about your awesome videos! A quick boost on social media will improve your view velocity, and therefore increase the likelihood for more recommendations and search rankings. Using YouTube’s native sharing links, you can post directly to a whole gamut of platforms without ever even leaving YouTube.
Additionally, you can use TubeBuddy’s share tracker to document where you shared each video.
Create, Analyze, & Adjust
Once you begin to understand the YouTube ranking algorithm, the tools within the platform, and the essential performance metrics, you’ll be able to plan and execute even more effective videos. For now, focus on publishing and providing your community with the video content they need.
Searches of “how to” videos on YouTube are growing 70% year on year. Rather than pursuing perfection, make it a priority to publish videos that will be helpful and informative, not a cinematic production. You’ll find that good video material, coupled with some of these strategies above, will perform well and give you the results you are looking for.
Remember, start each video with a goal in mind: increasing engagement, driving eBook downloads, increasing website visits, or growing an email list are all great examples. Every video won’t be great for accomplishing every goal. Instead, laser focus on the desired result, and use your video SEO strategies to achieve it.
What’s your idea of a perfect YouTube post? Have you had major success using the tactics above? Let us know in the comments.