In a world that’s increasingly dominated by video, getting more views on YouTube should be near (if not at) the top of every content marketer’s to-do list.
Before you say it, allow me to address the elephant in the room: YouTube views don’t keep the lights on. If you’re hesitant to dedicate time and resources to a channel that doesn’t drive direct ROI, you’re not alone. Plenty of marketers—under pressure to meet short-term targets—prefer to forgo YouTube and invest everything they have in paid search and paid social.
I empathize with these folks—I really do. But we need to acknowledge a hard truth: Without a healthy volume of top-of-funnel prospects, you won’t be able to consistently meet your targets over the long term. You need to create content that spreads awareness of your company and builds affinity for your brand.
YouTube is the perfect place to publish that content. And with the COVID-19 crisis making it unusually difficult to sell, now is a good time to focus on that top-of-funnel prospect pool.
Here are 10 tips to help you get more views on YouTube this year:
- Make good content (that nobody else is making).
- Think in terms of series, not individual videos.
- Familiarize yourself with YouTube SEO.
- Link up with other content creators.
- Use cards and end screens.
- Write a blog post to accompany each video.
- Add timestamps to your video descriptions.
- Get the word out on social media.
- Don’t skimp on your thumbnails.
- Think hard about your titles.
1. Make good content (that nobody else is making)
Yup. This is it. This is my number one tip for getting more views on YouTube.
Make good content. Make content that nobody else is making.
I’ve made this my number one tip as a matter of principle. If you look hard enough—and you really don’t need to look that hard—you can find all kinds of nefarious and dishonest ways to increase your YouTube views. I know you fine folks wouldn’t think of stooping so low, but it’s important to me that we’re on the same page from the jump.
The best way to succeed on YouTube is to create videos that people want to watch—and watch all the way through, I might add. In a word, it’s all about value. If you’re unwilling to provide value to your viewers, you’re unfit for content marketing. It’s that simple.
There’s a reason Moz has found success on YouTube.
YouTube, much like parent company Google, is a search engine at its core. And what, my friends, is a search engine designed to do? Direct users to the best, most relevant content possible. That’s why Google is constantly advising SEOs to focus on creating value for their site visitors. In this respect, YouTube is no different.
Talk to your prospects. Find out what keeps them up at night. Use that to inform your videos. Let everyone else depend on tricks and hacks.
2. Think in terms of series, not individual videos
A lot of YouTube creators organize their videos into playlists. Why is that?
The explanation is simple: If you click on a video that’s embedded in a playlist, the next video in that playlist will automatically start as soon as the current video ends. As a result, a viewer can watch several related videos without lifting a finger. This, of course, makes YouTube happy, as it translates into greater ad revenue. But it should also make you happy, as it translates into greater engagement and more video views.
It goes without saying that compiling a bunch of unrelated videos into a giant playlist makes for a bad user experience. Instead, I recommend brainstorming your YouTube content not in terms of individual videos, but rather in terms of series. That way, as time goes on and you create more content, it’s easy to organize your videos into logical playlists. Your viewers will benefit from a seamless, enjoyable experience, and you will benefit from an uptick in views. Win-win!
Here’s an example. If I were marketing, say, a baseball academy, I would focus on creating a handful of video series: one about pitching, one about batting, one about playing in the outfield, and so on. Brainstorming with this framework from the outset is a great way to set yourself up for YouTube success.
3. Get familiar with YouTube SEO
Like I said: YouTube is a search engine. And just like any other search engine, YouTube uses a handful of ranking signals to organize its search results. Understanding the major ranking signals—and how to appeal to them—is a crucial part of getting more views on YouTube.
First things first: You need keywords. Without target keywords, there’s nothing to optimize for. Once you’ve made a list of the topics you want to address (thinking in terms of series!), go ahead and type them—one by one—into the YouTube search bar. As you’ve probably seen before, YouTube will generate a list of suggested search queries. Each of these suggestions is something that’s been searched over and over again by real YouTube users. Each of them, in other words, is a great candidate for a target keyword!
It’s important to note that some keywords are more competitive—i.e., harder to rank for—than others. With WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool, you can get a sense of how competitive each of your keywords is. Although the tool pulls data from Google and Bing—not YouTube—it’s nonetheless an effective way to gauge the level of difficulty you’re dealing with.
Once you’ve got your keywords in order, it’s time to optimize. Let’s briefly walk through the major YouTube ranking signals you need to be cognizant of.
SEO for YouTube video titles
When deciding where to place your video in the search results for a particular query, YouTube looks at a number of attributes—the most important one being your video title. Plain and simple, if you want your video to rank for a given keyword, that keyword needs to appear in the title—ideally at the beginning of the title, as there’s anecdotal evidence to suggest that starting your title with your target keyword can drive a small bump in rankings.
Note that there should be more to your title than just the target keyword. Ranking is important, but it doesn’t guarantee clicks. We’ll talk more about enticing users with your video titles later on in this guide.
SEO for YouTube video descriptions
The second attribute you need to optimize is your video description. Though not as essential as your title, your description is taken into consideration when the search results are being organized. Make sure to include your target keyword at least once!
There’s a difference between keyword targeting and keyword stuffing. It’s important to mention your keyword and demonstrate relevance to YouTube, but you shouldn’t harp on it to the point of writing bad copy.
SEO for YouTube video tags
The final attributes I want to mention before moving on to our fourth tip are your video tags. Unlike your title and your description, your tags are invisible to YouTube users (except for those who use a special Chrome extension, such as vidIQ). You’re not required to tag your videos, but you absolutely should—it’s an easy, harmless way to further demonstrate your relevance to YouTube’s algorithms.
As you can see here, it’s advisable that you use your video tags to target your primary keyword as well as close variations of it. This will help you rank for search queries that don’t literally contain your target keyword, yet signify the same basic intent.
4. Link up with other content creators
Just because you and another content creator are going after the same audience, doesn’t mean your relationship needs to be adversarial. In fact, I’d encourage you to forge a symbiotic relationship—i.e., a relationship that benefits both of you. Keep in mind that the ultimate goal of YouTube content marketing is to create value for viewers and expand your pool of top-of-funnel prospects. If you ask me, your capacity to accomplish that goal is in no way diminished by the presence of a competitor.
Throwback to a great collaboration between WordStream and Hanapin!
So, how do you get more YouTube views while establishing symbiosis with another content creator who’s targeting the same audience? Simple: You create a piece of content together. If, for example, you were to appear as a guest star in one of your competitor’s videos, you would benefit from the exposure to a group of users who may not have previously encountered your brand. At the same time, your competitor would benefit from the additional traffic driven by your promotion of the video. All the while, YouTube users benefit from a stellar piece of content. In this scenario, everybody wins!
5. Use cards and end screens
Watch time is a fantastic indicator of viewer engagement. In general, the further someone gets into your YouTube video, the more interested they are in whatever it is you’re saying. And if someone is highly engaged with your content, it follows that they’re open to watching more of your videos. That’s why our fifth tactic for getting more YouTube views is taking advantage of cards and end screens. Let’s take a quick look at each feature.
A YouTube card is a banner-esque notification that appears in the top right corner of your video and alerts your viewers to a related piece of content. It’s an easy, effective way to capitalize on high user engagement and promote another video without diminishing the quality of the viewer experience.
Think of each card as the YouTube equivalent of an internal link within one of your blog posts. Although, yes, you’re being self-promotional, you’re also directing your viewers to a piece of content that they can benefit from. Once again, we have a win-win scenario.
An end screen, much like a card, is meant to direct your most engaged viewers to a related piece of content. As the name suggests, an end screen appears as your video is winding down.
In addition to promoting a video or two, I suggest using an end screen to encourage your viewers to subscribe. The more subscribers you accumulate, the more people YouTube will notify when you upload a new video.
6. Write a blog post to accompany each video
If blogging is already part of your content marketing strategy—and it should be—why not write a blog post to accompany each of your YouTube videos? Yes, this does require an additional time investment, but the benefits far outweigh the costs. It’s an easy way to introduce your website visitors to your YouTube channel and drive an increase in viewership. Plus, for all those prospects who would rather watch than read, the inclusion of a video is a surefire way to improve the quality of the user experience. And since you’re already sitting down to write a script, the additional effort required to create a corresponding blog post is extremely low.
Accompanying each YouTube video with a blog post is a super easy win.
On top of all that, let’s not forget the potential SEO benefits. As Search Engine Land columnist Wesley Young pointed out all the way back in 2015, “video is evidence of quality content, and as part of a media mix on a site, it helps send signals to search engines that your page or site contains rich media relevant to search requests.” In other words, embedding a YouTube video at the end of a blog post is an effective way to tell Google and Bing that you’re going the extra mile to provide value to users. In return, you could be rewarded with an improvement in ranking!
7. Add timestamps to your video descriptions
The YouTube search bar isn’t the only channel for users hoping to discover relevant content. Indeed, it’s quite common for people to stumble upon YouTube videos by way of Google. This shouldn’t be too surprising, as many queries yield videos in the search results.
To help search users more easily find the information they’re looking for, Google announced in September 2019 that they’ll link to key moments in YouTube videos directly on the SERP. If you include timestamp information in your video description, Google will use that to highlight important moments and direct viewers where they want to go. Here’s how it looks in action
Assuming you don’t want to lose potential viewers who are particularly crunched for time, including timestamp information in your YouTube video descriptions is a no-brainer. There’s nothing quite as powerful as a stellar user experience, and this feature is a relatively easy way to delight prospective customers. Take advantage of it ASAP!
8. Get the word out on social media
Nothing groundbreaking here, folks—sometimes the basic stuff yields the best results. A key step towards getting more views on YouTube is using social media to promote new content.
Here’s the problem: This is the one item on our list that everyone does. Not everyone knows about YouTube SEO. Not everyone is willing to link up with a competitor. Not everyone cares about producing legitimately valuable content.
Juuuust about everyone uses social media to promote their YouTube videos. And that’s why it’s so important to get creative with your tactics. Let’s talk about three steps you can take to ensure that you stand out on social.
Give your followers a substantial preview
For reasons I’ll never understand, some marketers believe that the key to success—whether in the form of views, clicks, conversions, or whatever—is to give away as little as possible. These folks will encourage you to give your social media followers the scarcest preview imaginable, so as to not … dilute the actual product, I guess? Like I said, I’ve never understood the rationale.
Regardless, I think this philosophy is utter nonsense. You can’t succeed with content marketing if you’re unwilling to be generous with your insights—not only because you’ll miss out on opportunities to build brand affinity, but also because you’ll fail to actually promote your content. Why should someone leave Twitter and head to YouTube if they’re unsure that your video will actually help them? If you want to stop people in their tracks and get them to watch the entirety of your YouTube video, you need to give them a substantial preview on social.
Promote your YouTube videos in the way Brian Dean promotes his blog posts.
Join the conversation
Another great way to promote a YouTube video via social media is to find people who are already talking about whatever it is your video addresses. These folks wouldn’t be talking to one another if they didn’t care about the matter at hand, so it stands to reason that they’d be open to checking out your content.
Let’s say you own an ecommerce website that sells plants and garden-related products. You recently published a YouTube video that shows viewers how to properly grow tomatoes. Now, take a look at this:
I found this tweet by searching “grow tomatoes” on Twitter. If you were trying to get more views for your how-to video, why not reply to this user with a link? It’s targeting marketing—for free!
Reach out to industry influencers
One last tip for social media promotion: If there are individuals in your industry with large, dedicated followings, try to get in touch with them! Getting an endorsement from a relevant influencer—even something as simple as a retweet—can do wonders for your brand authority. And when you’re trying to grow a business through content marketing, authority is everything.
Believe it or not, there are influencers everywhere—not exclusively in the worlds of fashion and fitness. Let’s stick with the example of a garden-related ecommerce website. Google “gardening blog” and you’ll likely stumble upon a website called You Grow Girl—a blog about plants, food, and artwork. The woman behind the site, Gayla Trail, has nearly 17,000 followers on Twitter. An endorsement from her would be huge for our imaginary brand!
Influencers. Are. Everywhere.
I say all that to say this: If you doubt the efficacy of influencer marketing in your specific industry, do a little digging. It took me less than three minutes to find Ms. Trail. What’s the harm in trying?
9. Don’t skimp on your thumbnails
Some people will deliberately search for your content. Others will stumble upon it via your social channels or your website. A few folks may even find your videos by way of friends sending links.
Inevitably, however, many people will encounter your YouTube videos simply by browsing the platform in search of something to watch. Without compelling, unique thumbnails that pique your prospects’ interest, you won’t get as many views as you’d like. With that in mind, let’s briefly talk about what it takes to create an effective YouTube thumbnail.
Before you shoot your next video, do a YouTube search for your target keyword and see what other creators have used for their thumbnails. You want to stand out from the pack, so it’s wise to find out what you’re going up against before hitting record. That being said, the number one rule of YouTube thumbnails is that you must faithfully represent the content of your video. Using your thumbnail to deceive users into clicking is a big no-no—one that will cost you in the long run, as tanking watch times translate into lower rankings.
Perhaps the best way to communicate the DNA of a strong YouTube thumbnail is to analyze an example. Take a look at this one from Vox:
Let’s start by addressing the all-important question: Does this thumbnail faithfully represent the content of the video? I suppose you’d have to watch the video to know for yourself, but you’ll have to trust me for now. Yes, this thumbnail is completely appropriate. The video addresses a widespread misconception about the power of Vitamin C to cure the common cold. By centering the thumbnail around five everyday items that people typically use to combat the sniffles, Vox gives us an accurate preview of what will be discussed.
What this thumbnail doesn’t do is use controversial imagery or language to elicit an extreme emotional response from YouTube users. There’s no implication that Airborne is a completely fraudulent product. There’s no unpleasant image of an extremely sick person. It’s a simple, colorful thumbnail that grabs your attention and sets appropriate expectations for the corresponding video.
Word to the wise: The specs for YouTube thumbnails are 1280 x 720 pixels (16:9 ratio). You’ll need a .jpg, .png, .bmp, or .gif file.
10. Think hard about your titles
The title of your YouTube video, much like the thumbnail, requires a substantial degree of forethought. Although it’s unethical (and ultimately counterproductive) to use your video title to trick users into clicking, you do need to write something enticing. All those discovery-minded users? The folks who are browsing YouTube in search of something to watch? They’ll scroll right past you if your title fails to capture their attention and spur them into action.
The goal, in other words, is to find a healthy middle ground between dry and dishonest. We’ve got some ideas as to how you can make that happen.
Focus on the outcome
What will viewers walk away with after watching your video? What value or benefit do they stand to capture? How will your insights change their everyday lives? Ask yourself these questions while you brainstorm titles and you’ll eventually arrive at a winner.
This video title promises a simple yet powerful outcome: Watch this video and you’ll walk away with the knowledge you need to get more leads for your business. The creators could’ve gone with “Lead Generation for Beginners,” but that wouldn’t have made the benefits of watching the video quite so obvious.
Use specific, impressive numbers
People like numbers. Numbers are familiar. Tangible. Easy to understand. And when used correctly, numbers can be extraordinarily enticing. Case in point:
Maybe it’s just the content marketer in me, but if you wouldn’t click on this video, I think you’re out of your mind. Here we have a textbook example of using a specific number to make a video title exponentially more interesting. 850% is not only a large number—it’s also a fairly uncommon number. How often do you come across an instance of 850% in your everyday life? I’m willing to bet that it’s rare, and the marketing team at SEMrush is undoubtedly aware of this.
P.S. This is another example of emphasizing outcome in a video title. Watch this video and you’ll walk away with the knowledge you need to increase organic traffic by 850%.
Appeal to user curiosity
People like numbers, but perhaps not as much as they like knowledge. We’re curious beings. We want to be in the know. I’m sure there’s an evolutionary explanation for this characteristic of ours, something about hunter-gatherers needing to gossip in order to survive. Regardless, the final insight of the day is this: Using your video title to appeal to user curiosity is a time-tested way to get more views on YouTube. You shouldn’t write clickbait, of course, for the reasons I’ve discussed ad nauseum. As long as your title reflects the content of your video, you’re golden.
Of all the examples I’ve shared throughout today’s guide, this one might take the cake. The first half of the title targets a keyword, and the second half creates one heck of a curiosity gap. If you want to earn high rankings and entice relevant users, this right here is a winning formula.
Now you know how to get more views on YouTube
I don’t expect anyone to implement each and every tip we’ve laid out here today. What works for one YouTube creator won’t necessarily work for another. Whereas influencer marketing may do wonders for my YouTube views, you might find it best to focus on optimizing your thumbnails and partnering with other channels. It depends entirely on your unique circumstances.
The one insight I hope everyone takes to heart is that creating value for viewers always takes precedence over everything else. Does producing unique, high-quality content guarantee thousands of views every month? No, it doesn’t—there are additional steps you need to take in order to succeed. But without that foundation of truly valuable content, nothing else we’ve talked about today will matter.
On that note, go make a video!