Optimizing YouTube Metadata: Titles, Descriptions & Tags

By Teddy Lyngaas | Small Business

YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine trailing behind only Google itself. Part of the way YouTube indexes videos is with the use of metadata. Metadata is an ambiguous term that really means “data about data” but in the YouTube world we are referring to the video title, description, and tags of a video. We’ve said it before, but it’s worth noting again. Online videos are not inherently searchable. It’s imperative that you surround your videos with text that web crawlers can find. YouTube won’t know what your video is about until you tell it. It’s critical to making your videos discoverable for views from search and related videos.

YouTube Video Title:

The most important piece of the metadata puzzle is the title. YouTube says “Make it compelling – this is your video’s headline. Title and thumbnails are often the primary elements driving viewers’ decisions of what they’ll watch next. If your video’s title showed up in a search, would you click on it?” But the reality is the title is much more important than this. Beyond watch time this is the number one most important thing you can do to help your video become more discoverable.

To illustrate the importance consider the following example. A generic search on YouTube for “financial advice” yields results of videos with “financial advice” directly in the title.

Optimizing YouTube Metadata: Titles, Descriptions & Tags image title1YouTube Titles

Do a few other searches on YouTube and you’ll get similar results, so put your self in the shoes of one of your potential viewers. What would they be searching for if they were looking for this type of content? In most cases you’ll want to stay away from being too creative and steer more towards being literal.

YouTube Video Descriptions:

Your description is your chance to give more context to your viewers and search engines to the subject matter of your content. There’s lots of room so use it!

The structure I prefer is…

  • 1st Paragraph: Describe the video.
  • 2nd Paragraph: Describe the video series.
  • 3rd Paragraph: Describe the channel and / or video.
  • 4th Paragraph: Link to other content.

A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Order Matters: Only the first few sentences appear in search results. Put your important keyword rich text up front.
  2. Use Links: YouTube descriptions are one of the few places you can link off of YouTube to drive traffic to your website, social networks and other videos on YouTube and encourage subscribers.
  3. Use a recurring keyword tagline: Your second and third paragraphs can be consistent across your video series or your channel.
  4. Use Timestamps: For longer form content, adding timestamps can help your viewers navigate to the parts of the video that are important to them.

YouTube Tags:

Last year YouTube eliminated public tagsto reduce spam and discourage people from copy and pasting tags from popular videos to manipulate their rankings but YouTube tags remain an important way to help YouTube index your videos and help others find them.

  1. Order Matters: As with the description the tags you put up front are the most important.
  2. Include Keywords from your title: Whatever you titled your video should be repeated here and in your video description.
  3. Quantity: While YouTube doesn’t give a specific suggestion of how many tags to use I like to use a minimum of 8 – 12.

To generate a good list of tags I use the following tools and strategies.

  1. The YouTube keyword suggestion tool and the Adwords Keyword planner can help give you related tag suggestions and an idea of search volume. Remember you want a list of general and specific tags so don’t get too caught up if some of your tags doesn’t have much search traffic.
  2. Another great strategy is to just perform a few search queries on YouTube. What kinds of videos are showing up for the term you wish to be ranked?

Bonus Tip:

Even though it’s behind the scenes the title of the file you upload matters. So instead of uploading a video with a name like 100NCD40_Edit4.MOV take the time to retitle your file something more descriptive with a keyword like bestfinancialadvice.MOV before you upload your video.

None of this is going to make your corporate videos “go viral” but neglecting to put some thought into your metadata is pretty much guaranteeing that your videos won’t be seen by anyone. It’s a little bit of art with a little bit of science and there is no “right” or “wrong” metadata. The best you can do is to tell YouTube a little bit about your videos and let YouTube Analytics be your guide to what is working and what isn’t working and make adjustments.

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