Where are the best pranks on YouTube? I’m partial to amateurs, so I’d say my favorite YouTube Partner pranksters are Edbassmaster (just look at this) and Jack Vale. I also spent much of the weekend binging on the epic battle between girlfriend and boyfriend on PrankvsPrank (the modern Spy vs. Spy). Prank vs Prank’s “Wet T-Shirt Prank Gone Wrong” is my favorite, and it makes me squeal with laughter.
If you like more commercially produced content, however, here’s one you might not have discovered. JustForLaughsTV are short and mostly physical-comedy pranks (read: international potential). The apparently French Canadian show has been posting a few new pranks each morning lately, and its YouTube channel is at under 70K subscribers… I’d predict that to be at 300K plus in months. A nice player on the hahaha.com website displays many of the micro pranks.
They’re far from subtle, mind you. They each feature dangerously campy music, a laugh track and almost insulting pantomime explanation of the prank to viewers (which to me steals some thunder). But the tight editing and great tight shots of the “victims” is rewarding. And even if you don’t like the old goatee man’s “theater like” acting, you’ll dig the brunette who pops up occasionally wearing yellow.
What the channel reminds me is the criticality of explaining a prank (like we did in “Farting in Public” but failed to do in “Itchy Butt Prank“). I like to plunge people into an awkward scene, but the viewers generally want to be “in” on the prank… and what might seem obvious to the creator is not to the viewer.
Laughing is a cue that works even if it’s a laugh track. The off-camera muffled giggles in “Farting” make an audience feel more like a participant than a distant viewer (this was quite an accidental discovery and I’m reluctant to “force” it). You’ll notice EdBassmaster has a giggler in the car for his “Just Look At It Prank,” and her laughter makes it genuinely funnier. The best part of “Prank vs Prank” is the maniacal laugh of the couple when they’ve powned the other. Watch this “Girlfriend Wears Mario Pube Prank” and listen at 1:28 to Jesse and 1:46. The breathless spasms of laughter contrasted with his girlfriend’s scream is hysterical.
Prankster be warned, however… a forced laugh is very detectible and toxic.
I’m on Clicker. Don’t know how I got there, but that means you can search for me using Clicker, and watch me on the giant monitor you call an HDTV. I even asked the peeps at Quicker if I could customize my “show” banner (below).
So put down that laptop and join the 113 of us who are using our television sets like big fancy online-video viewers. And if you’re reading this from your web television, we are most impressed. Comment below using your remote control or a toaster or something.
Clicker is “one part directory, one part search engine, one part wiki, one part entertainment guide, and one part DVR.” You can download it on your iPhone or Android, or watch it at Clicker.tv. I’m not shilling them. I learned about it just this week, and its database contains 1,000,000 episodes, from over 12,000 shows, from over 2,500 networks, 30,000 movies, and 90,000 music videos from 20,000 artists. Based on that volume, I think I can safely assume there’s something worse than my videos.
I met recently with Steve Rubel, who Business Week once called “the all-knowing thumper in a forrest of bambinos.” He’s dumped his Micropersuasion, but still posts on SteveRubel.com.
Steve asked me what I knew about video and SEO, and prompted this succinct 101-post on “how to use online-video to crawl your way to the top of Google rankings.” As I’ve reminded you before, YouTube is the second most important search engine, and YouTube videos get a strong advantage on Google. When you search a term, and see a video thumbnail someone’s done their homework.
Sure you can buy text ads surrounding these Google searches, but they will burn through a budget fas. Furthermore, searchers usually jump to the “organic” or “natural” results that aren’t in yellow. Google eye-tracking charts have proven that, and undisclosed eye-charts of YouTube show that the primary navigation attracts eyes to that coveted search field. I’m not suggesting “either/or.” You want to appear for key searches anyway you can… even if you’re buying ads on searches that you already organically dominate. I have fought this logic, but the text ads for your brand name usually yield the highest-quality traffic (even if they MIGHT have found you without the ads).
Now some fresh tips and secrets for helping your video content rise on Google results, where you are exponentially more likely to be discovered by curious prospects.
1) Put Your Video in Places Easy for Search ‘Spiders” to Find. Your video content is either on YouTube or it’s hiding. Google’s automatic “spiders” dig routinely through your site, but don’t make them work too hard. If you have videos streaming on Quicktime on your website, then don’t expect them to get discovered easily (especially if they’re buried deep). Start posting on YouTube, then use TubeMogul to go more broadly (a free tool that distributes videos to dozens of existing online-video accounts, as long as you have accounts on them). I have asked TubeMogul’s CEO (Brett Wilson) to allow video publishers to vary keyword tags by site; currently you tag your video the same for all sites, which doesn’t allow you to experiment and hedge bets. That will increase odds of “Mother Google” blessing you with first-page result for niche terms. Again, if your video is on your brand site it might as well be in a file cabinet.
2) Oddly, Metadata Still Works. Metadata includes the title, description and keywords that search engines can use to find your content. Be selective, and go for targeted terms. Don’t try “digital camera,” but something more narrow like “how to buy cheap video cameras.” Then be consistent with your title, first words of your description, and the keywords. This can be challenging, because viewers like short irresistible titles… but spiders will index based on common search terms or phrases.
3) Engagement Matters. A well-viewed, top rated, commented, favorited video is going to work MUCH better than one you post solo. That’s why the YouTube stars (already popular amateurs or pros) have an edge on the rest. Their active fan following moves them to top of most-viewed videos, and makes them easy for a new audience to discover them. This is one of the reasons I urge marketers to tap into the credible platform of a weblebrity instead of posting their own videos. If I upload a video on my “Nalts” channel, it’s going to do better on SEO than the same exact video posted to a new account or your account. Many people attempt to replicate this by asking friends and family to “5 star, favorite, and comment.” But a few dozen people aren’t as powerful as the thousands of active fans that rate their favorite creators 5 stars even before watching the full video.
4) YouTube is Getting Smarter about weeding out videos boasting provocative thumbnails (the images that represent the video on YouTube or Google search results). So in time, pictures of neon graphics (a hot trend) and boobies (a timeless certainty) will not outrank relevancy. Ultimately I expect YouTube to rank videos based, in part, on “attention scores.” As a YouTube Partner I know which of my videos have high “attention scores,” which is a relative score based on videos that are of similar duration. I can’t tell precisely how many people stopped watching at a specific moment (or the average view duration) but I can see where most people dropped, and I try to manage that by “teasing” video that comes later. If a video for a particular term has a high “attention score,” then Google/YouTube can correctly assume it was relevant to the searcher. So I’d expect that to be as vital as transcribed text, and Google/YouTube already has the ability to connect these (and may well be using them).
5) While Waiting for Transcription. Don’t hold your breath for Google to transcribe videos, which will be the Holy Grail. Rubel observed that “Google Voice” is teaching Google to recognize various dialects, and that will come in handy when it’s time to transcribe and index video speech for word searches. In the meantime, you want your videos to be valuable/relevant and short (30-90 seconds), then compel action (like a visit to a website) with a meaningful promise. Remember it’s much easier to get a YouTube viewer to a channel page than to abandon YouTube. We’re still seeing click-thru rates (from YouTube to brand sites) in the low single digits. Some YouTube creators (like “CharlesTrippy” and “Shaycarl“) post daily videos as long as 10-12 minutes, which automatically propel them to the most popular page. This may give them an advantage, and I recently speculated that long videos may, counter intuitively, be a view driver. I’m now thinking that the frequency keeps them “top of mind” and forges a bond with their viewers, which is the real driver. Still, their fans will watch more of those videos than typical videos of that duration… and that certainly should help. While we wait for transcribed search, consider captioning your content (it’s time consuming but free on various sites) or adding a full or partial text transcript to your description.
5) The basics of SEO apply when it comes to keywords. Spell hot ones wrong on purpose, focus on less competitive terms/phrases, and use desired ones first. Before Google stopped using metatags to rank, it always put exponential emphasis on the first word than the fifth. So consider carefully the first words you’ll use in sequence, and don’t try to fight for highly competitive terms. I used to automatically use “Nalts” as a keyword, but now I place that at the end of my list. Sometimes I’ll use a partial phrase like “how, to, become, popular, on, youtube,” and name the video similarly. Then my description will begin with “How to become popular on YouTube…”
6) I haven’t seen evidence that YouTube videos embedded on other sites have an advantage. Logically, an embedded video means bloggers and other websites find the content valuable… and YouTube videos used to show publicly (under video you’ll see “statistics and data” the sites that drove traffic to a video, but have inexplicably eliminated that somewhat recently). It was probably being abused by spammers. Google tends to focus on relevancy rather than monetization, but it’s hard to ignore a motivator YouTube has: the site can monetize videos on its own site easier than on other sites. So it’s in Google’s financial interest to reward video content that draws traffic to YouTube rather than embedded videos on sites that use its bandwidth without creating a premium for advertisers. We know that if hundreds of websites link to President George Bush using a hyperlink called “stupid,” then he’ll rise on search results for the word stupid. So perhaps my top ranking for the keyword “fart” was helped by any sites that linked to me with the tag, “fart video.”
But there’s a true relevancy factor at play. If you’re inclined to search “fart,” I’m guessing a video of a kid with a fart machine is one of the things you may be hoping to find. Or maybe you were seeking a nice medical definition or the origin of the word (Wikipedia, which now has trumped me, indicates “immediate roots are in the Middle English words ferten,feortan or farten; which is akin to the Old High German word ferzan. Cognates are found in old Norse, Slavic and also Greek and Sanskrit.”
7) Timing. Michael Buckley’s “What The Buck” show and Sxephil’s vlogs benefit greatly from their regular content about topics being searched. Their recent videos are often between 500K to a million, and they have some videos that are cash cows for certain subjects (garnering regular views that are in the multi-millions). As I write, they’re no doubt making a video about the Golden Globes, knowing that on Tuesday people will return to work, and be grazing for recaps. This timely content also serves as “link bait” to popular social-media sites that are looking for current videos about hot content. Topicality is important, and the best personal example I can provide is my 2009 Superbowl “best commercials” video. It maintains a poor attention score (lots of early drops relative to most of my videos), but I launched it before last year’s Superbowl game… fetching it 3-4 million views in the days after last February’s game… and it’s up to 7 million now. The GoDaddy boob thumbnail doesn’t hurt either, but that’s not helping the attention score. If you want boobies, you’re turned off to see a dad and his kid talking about the best ads. If I did a daily vlog about the hot terms I found on Yahoo Buzz, I’m quite certain I could dramatically expand my daily views from 150K-200K to 500K. But alas I have neither the time nor interest. I’m guessing Buckley and Phil scour many sites to find out what content people are searching each day.
8) Untapped Secret: SEM on YouTube. I almost hate to give this away. But if you have an Adsense/Adwords account and you’re a YouTube partner, you can advertise your video based on keyword terms. This drives search-driven ads that display your video to a targeted audience, and is not expensive for most terms (a cost-per-click bid of a few pennies sometimes works). Even better, you’re then able to put your own simple “InVideo” ad over the video with a clickable hyperlink. See the example on my “Hair Transplant Fun,” which is more likely to drive viewers to my blog than a hyperlink in the description. And remember: get that hyperlink early in the description so it appears to viewers in a truncated description.
Now a few things that don’t work, or at least will die soon enough.
I’m finding lots of spam automatic blogs that are now embedding my videos and descriptions hoping to trick Google into indexing it. This annoying technique is also fooling Radian6 and other social-media monitoring tools, which report this old content as new. Last week I tried a “Nalts” search on Radian6 and was frustrated to see old video descriptions appearing as recent buzz about me. Maddening.
I’m also constantly finding my name packed with other YouTube usernames in videos by people who naively hope that works. Puh-leeze. Did that ever work? It’s a good technique if you’re mentioning a particular YouTuber, because we do tend to “ego surf” for content that tags our name. But as soon as I see 12 other names aside mine, I know it’s trolling.
Fake thumbnails might artificially drive views, but the video will be penalized when the attention scores show Google the video duped its users.
Spencer is my nephew’s friend who appeared in “Farting in Public” (now almost at 5 million views). We’ve done about 12 mostly public videos together, and here’s a playlist so you can watch them all on YouTube: “Best of Spencer.”
Spencer has a unique ability to suspend social anxiety and do just about anything without cracking up. Meanwhile, I stand behind the shaking camera laughing with tears in my eyes. He reminds me of The Man Show boy.
I’m starting a campaign to bring him back, because I miss him more than my online-video viewers. And he hasn’t returned phone calls lately. Maybe another creator has signed him. Well rest assured I pay better, Spencer! Free food, iTunes cards, gift certificates, Target trips and even a free Hamster that debuted in “Hamster on a Walk” (I hope Beaowulf is still alive).
Here’s my “Best of Spencer” video, appealing to viewers to charm him back in the “comments” section.
Yey! Nine people bought my “Best of Nalts” DVD, which is precisely 8 more than I expected. Thank you:
Jason (New York)
One of the problems about it is that you can’t select “play all.” Unfortunately, my Mac crashed and I lost the whole project so I can’t fix that. Thank goodness I produced the DVD, because some of those videos are gone except on this DVD and YouTube.
The quality is amazing, but people in general don’t like to pay for content they can get for free. So I didn’t expect to retire on this, much less cover my cell bill for a month.