YouTube is a great place to host video content for several reasons:
- It’s free.
- It’s fast and reliable.
- There’s a built-in, “always on” audience of people looking for specific video content.
- YouTube videos show up easily in Google searches.
Similar to Google’s search algorithm, there are several factors YouTube examines to determine the rank of a video:
- How often the video has been viewed
- How long people view the video
- How often the video appears in a playlist
- The number of positive rankings/comments
- The number of subscribers your channel has
- How often the video is added to a playlist
- How often the video is embedded on the web
Search engines generally do not understand the content of videos by default; there isn’t any text for them to index. By adding metadata to your videos, you allow YouTube, Google, and other search engines to find and index your content. (Of course, you also make your videos more useful and understandable to your potential viewers.)
In order to get maximum exposure for your video content on YouTube and in search engines, MSP‑C recommends the following best practices for video metadata.
1. Create an interesting and descriptive title.
Create a title that is both interesting and useful to searchers. For example, pretend you’ve created a video “how-to” about changing the oil in your car – you want to be as descriptive as possible. It’s best to err on the side of being literal and descriptive, vs. being cheeky or catchy (Note: This depends on your audience, of course. Some audiences may lend themselves to cheeky video titles. Never place the importance of search engines over your viewers!)
Here are two potential video titles for the oil change video:
- Not so good: How to change the oil in your Honda
- Good: How to change the engine oil in your 2004 Honda Accord 3.0L V6
In this case, the good example specifies the make, model, year, and engine type of the car getting its oil changed. All of this information would help a potential viewer zero in on your video, and would also be more useful to search engines.
2. Create a useful description.
For the description, try to expound upon the title and add useful information. Don’t just rehash the title. Instead, use the description as an opportunity to give users an idea of some specific things they will see in your video. For our Honda Accord oil change example, consider the following description:
In this video, I will show you how to change the oil on your 2004 Honda Accord 3.0L V6 (should be similar for model years 2003-2008). You'll need the following tools and parts, which you can get at almost any local auto parts store:
- 3/8” wrench
- 15mm socket
- 5 quarts of synthetic 5W-30 engine oil
- A new oil filter
- A new drain plug washer
- Funnel (makes pouring the oil much easier)
- Shop towels or paper towels
- Pan to catch the old oil
- Car jack and jack stands, or ramps
Skill level: Easy. If you can pour fluid and turn a wrench, you can do this!
Time to complete: 30-45 minutes
The description added a lot of new useful information: what parts are needed, what additional model years this procedure applies to, and how long the entire process will take.
3. Use tags (YouTube’s version of keywords).
Unlike Google searches, which have been ignoring meta keywords since 2009, YouTube’s tags are very important.
YouTube is pretty good about recommending tags based on the title and description of your video. Be sure to review the tags it suggests, and ensure they are relevant to your video. Additionally, add any additional tags that you think will help users and search engines find your video. Here are the tags YouTube suggested for our oil change example:
You can see that not all of the suggested keywords apply to the video, so be sure to review them thoroughly, and only use the ones you think are relevant. There’s no harm in adding a lot of tags, so use as many as you need.
4. Set the video’s permissions.
The default setting for YouTube videos is “Public,” which means anyone can see your video, and it will show up in search results. Only create private or unlisted videos if you have a specific reason to do so; these types of videos can’t be found in YouTube searches, and may not be indexed by search engines.
5. Embed your video on your web properties (if applicable).
If you have the opportunity to embed your video on your website, it’s a good idea to do so. YouTube uses the number of times a video was embedded as part of its algorithm to determine video relevance.
6. Share your video content to other social channels.
Use your own social channels to promote your video content. Consider an editorial strategy where you have a regular cadence of video promotion across your channels.
7. Set a custom thumbnail (optional).
YouTube will automatically choose thumbnails for your video, but if you have something that will be more interesting to viewers, you can override the automatic thumbnails and upload your own.
If you adhere to these simple YouTube metadata best practices, the likelihood of your video being found by users and search engines will be much higher.
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