So you want to know how to get views on YouTube. You want to grow a vibrant YouTube channel, go viral, and become the next Ray William Johnson. Do you cheat, or choose a more proven way?
No Kindle lovers… you could read a great American classic on that sun-enabled iPad you call a Kindle. Or you could dive into some magazine article about the proliferation of germs on door handles. But here’s “How To Get Popular On YouTube Without Any Talent” right on the Kindle store. Is this a blatant promotion? Yes!
Oh it’s 34 pages long which is pretty beefy even though the image makes it look like a tomb.
Yeah I had to look that word up too. In fact the only reader of WVFF who’s likely heard of “asymptotical” is StalkerofNalts, a mathematician who helped me monitor my own inappropriate use of the word “exponential” (something I apparently misused in Beyond Viral).
Indeed the odds of becoming tomorrow’s YouTube star are somewhat remote, but don’t let that discourage you, friend. I’ve watched with delight as many creators have gone from obscurity to six-figure salaries that exceed the earning potential these people would likely make otherwise. You just need patience, persistence, some talent, and an insatiable thirst for fame and social interaction with your viewers. Here’s the presentation I gave at YouTube’s “boot camp,” which is a bit of a malapropism (definition) considering the lavish food the YouTube Next peeps were fed.
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.
When uploading a new video to YouTube, or any other video-sharing site, you need to give a few pieces of information to the site because encoding software can’t actually watch your videos. Your title is important for tricking viewers into watching (they’ll think your video will be more interesting than it probably really is). Your description is important for whoring out links and shout-outs to other channels.
But your tags… your tags are where the real magic happens. Your tags are keywords used to place and rank your video within YouTube’s search results.
Even better, just like your video’s title, thumbnail and description, your tags — or keywords associated with your video — can be easily manipulated or gamed! Adding popular search words like “porn,” “sex,” “naked” and “guitar hero” to your video’s tags will give you a bump in views over the long run. In addition to appealing to the fourteen-year-old perverts, you could also include tags from recent popular news stories. Favorites this past week would have been “Bernie”, “Mac” and “RIP.” Users searching for news clips about an actor’s recent death would hopefully find your video waiting for them at the top of the search results.
Most users only tag their own channel name, or repeat the video’s title in their tags section. Get out of this habit now! You could be luring in a much larger audience if you only knew what they were searching for, and including those words in your tags.
For a list of the daily most popular search terms click here: http://google.com/trends
Also, if you’re lucky enough for your video to be monetized, your tags not only help pop your video into popular search results, but may determine which ads are placed beside and within your videos.
If you notice a cell phone company *cough*SamSung Instinct*cough* is spending a lot of money on a site-wide ad campaign, tagging the video with phone, electronics, or the product itself could help pull in some of that sweet Google ad revenue (assuming you’re a YouTube partner).
Okay…I’ve been taking an overly-sarcastic tone throughout this article. All of the above taken into account, it is a good idea for most content creators to make better use of their tags.
But for the love of koolsurfer24, please keep them relevant and appropriate for your video’s content. If your latest video documents your weekend fishing trip, don’t just leave “fishing” as your lone tag, include “boat”, “bait”, “catch”, “release”, “lake”, “fish”, “sport”, “tackle” and everything else related that you can think dream up.
Don’t try to cheat the rankings. Don’t game the system. Gamed views will only leave you feeling empty at the end of the day, can get you kicked off some sites, and at best, will get you a bad rep.
Alan Lastufka is on YouTube, BlogTV and occasionally writes for
his own blog, ViralVideoWannabe. Alan is currently writing a book entitled
“YouTube: An Insider’s Guide to Climbing the Charts” for O’Reilly Media, Inc.
If you’re a blogger, I know I can’t stop you from posting this, but it would be great if you could wait until the Friday (January 4). Unless you’re some big-ass blog like TechCrunch. Then you can do whatever the heck you want. The several days I spent on this would be time well spent if it resulted in an inbound link from a big ass blog (BAB). Up until now, TechCrunch has only given the black-hatted viral marketers a spotlight. 😉
That said, I’m kinda hoping to “soft launch” it to the WillVideoForFood regulars before it’s officially released. I’m somewhat anxious about releasing something via pdf, and knowing I don’t have the ability to fix some horrible mistake that’s bound to be lurking within.