In Part I of our YouTube series, we discussed the importance of YouTube search rankings and described the major factors that determine these rankings: video titles, descriptions, tags, how many social interactions have taken place on your video, and much more. Check out “How Does YouTube Rank Videos? YouTube Series, Part I” if you haven’t yet.
Now, let’s get into the more fun stuff where we get to experiment and see measurable results on our videos. One of the more common questions that is always floating around the Internet: “how do I get more views on my YouTube videos?”
There is no secret, no magic formula. Getting lots of views on YouTube is similar to getting visitors to your website in that you follow a set of generally accepted guidelines for good search engine optimization, experiment, observe results, rinse and repeat. Of course, there are steps you can follow to take some of the guesswork out of this video optimization process.
What You Need to Know to Get More YouTube Views
- Understand video content still is and always will be king.
- Do keyword research before you upload videos.
- Analyze videos with similar content.
- Consistently monitor and re-optimize your videos.
Content Precedes All
The first is pretty self-explanatory. Content is king. If your videos are boring, unoriginal, non-entertaining, or lacking information valuable to users, you’re going nowhere.
You can Tweet or share your video on Facebook until your fingers fall off, but nobody watches or shares boring videos. Your views will peak and fall off quickly.
When brainstorming for video ideas or while filming, think about the reasons you click on a video. More importantly, think about the YouTube videos you’ve shared on Facebook or bookmarked in the past — why did you share or bookmark those videos?
Researching keywords for YouTube video titles and descriptions
Doing a small amount of keyword research before you upload videos can go a long way. Your choice of keywords will determine how often you show up in search results on both YouTube and Google, and whether or not you hit your target audience. Since Google operates YouTube, the best keyword research tool you’ll find is Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool.
Let’s go through a quick case study to show how important the right keyword(s) can be. Here’s a fire safety video for children that I uploaded to YouTube about eight months ago. Make note of the keywords I used in my title, description, and tags.
I could have targeted the key phrase “fire safety,” and the image below shows this search term pulls in about 673,000 global monthly searches. But that’s a pretty vague, competitive search term. Fire safety certainly fits the content of the video, but this video is specifically about fire safety for children. Our target audience should be parents, educators, and younger children.
The term “fire safety for children” only pulls in about 12,000 global searches per month, but viewers from these searches are going to be highly engaged and making the key term more specific means I have less competition.
Now, after eight months, we have some good data from YouTube’s analytics page showing the number of views my video has received from people using the YouTube search box. As you can see below, “fire safety for children” makes up nearly 16% of views from searches.
Compare that to “fire safety,” which has basically done nothing for me, because so much content is uploaded with “fire safety” as a key phrase. The lesson? Choose specific keywords that accurately describe your content and stay away from key terms that everybody and their mother uses.
Searching “fire safety for children” in either YouTube or Google puts my video at the #1 spot. Even over videos that have 60,000+ more views than mine. If I had targeted just the phrase “fire safety,” I probably wouldn’t be anywhere near the top. And since people rarely go beyond the first page or two of results, I would have gotten few views. Pick the right keywords. Get views.
How to Quickly Analyze Videos with Similar Content
Relating your videos to similar content can give a huge boost to your view count. In my experiences, somewhere around 20% of your total views will come from the Related Videos sidebar on YouTube. Related videos are determined largely by comparing video titles, descriptions, and tags.
How can you use this to your advantage?
I tend to follow a pretty simple process if I want my upload to get attached to solid related videos. It takes maybe 15-25 minutes depending on the video:
- Open a clean Excel spreadsheet or grab a notebook.
- Determine the keywords you want to target for your video. Do your research first using the Adwords Keyword Tool.
- Search YouTube for the keywords you want to target.
- Select eight or ten (the more the better) of the highest ranked videos you would like to be associated with. Analyze the keywords used in the titles, descriptions, and tags of these similar videos. Record this information in your spreadsheet or notebook.
- After you’ve gathered the information in your spreadsheet, go through the list of keywords you’ve recorded. Pick out keywords and phrases that appear frequently. I usually do this quickly, but you could record tons of data and do some fancy work with Excel functions to test the frequency of certain words showing up if you’re a statistics nutcase!
- You should have a good list of key terms to use in your own video title, description, and tags. Since your video is sharing a high percentage of common terms with other videos that have similar content, you should start to see a lot more views from related videos and you’ll likely hit your target audience really well.
Test, test, test…until you find the right combination
It’s insanely important to consistently monitor your YouTube analytics page and keep a log of when major changes are made to video titles or descriptions. Don’t shoot blind and hope you hit the jackpot.
Your video will be ranked largely on the basis of information you provide to the search engine, so always test different title/description combinations until you find one that makes an impact. After making a major change to my videos, I usually give the search engines about 3-4 weeks to catch up.
If I’m seeing an upward trend after these changes, no more major changes necessary for a while. Otherwise, change another variable and observe what happens.
Be patient, be persistent, and get used to trial and error.