Before any viewer decides to watch your videos, the first thing they see are the thumbnails and titles. They work together as a team to build anticipation while accurately representing what’s in your video which is why they are important pieces of your video’s metadata.

If the thumbnails and titles deliver the promise of what the viewers can expect on your videos, they will continue watching and this lets YouTube know that the viewer is enjoying your content and makes your videos appear more in related search queries, suggested videos, and on the homepage.

Two other key components to optimize your search result ranking are description and tags. If you promote your videos well and optimize these 4 elements, altogether they are factored into YouTube’s and Google’s algorithm to increase discoverability.

Thumbnails

Video thumbnails let viewers see a quick snapshot of your video as they're browsing YouTube.

  • When you customize your thumbnails, be sure you’ve got a strong, vibrant image, and conveys key information about your video.

  • Think about your thumbnail BEFORE you shoot so you can capture several options.

  • You can apply the rule of thirds to compose interesting and dynamic images, then overlay them with your branding and/or descriptive text.

  • Choose an image and/or graphics that stand out and pique curiosity.

  • Include people’s faces, and make sure they are large enough that a viewer can see the whites of their eyes on a small screen.

  • Add extra contrast, saturation, and sharpness.

  • Include large-font text that teases a value or a story. Make sure to use a font that's easy to read onscreen.

  • Check that your thumbnail looks good on mobile and desktop.

  • See if your thumbnail would stand out among other thumbnails.

Titles

Craft a title that piques the curiosity of the prospective viewer, without giving away the answer. Well-written titles can be the difference between someone watching and sharing your video, or scrolling right past it — and it’s best to create titles that accurately represent what’s in the content.

  • Keep titles concise (60 characters) with the most important information upfront.

  • Save episode numbers and branding towards the end.

  • Check that your titles don’t get cut off in suggested videos, search results, and mobile.

  • Model your title after search phrases.

  • Pay attention to trends related to your topic.

Descriptions

Writing descriptions with keywords can help viewers find your videos more easily through search.

  • Begin your description with the search phrase that you used to determine the title. Give an overview of your video using natural language -- not just a stream of keywords.

  • Write your description copy using keywords to optimize search result ranking. Put the most important keywords toward the beginning of your description.

  • Identify 1-2 main words that describe your video and feature them prominently in both your description and title.

  • Include backlinks to your website, blog, and social media profiles to improve general SEO and visibility.

  • Include calls-to-action where relevant.

  • For long videos, include time stamps for topic-specific sections.

Tags

Tags are used to help people find your videos when they type something into the YouTube search bar.

  • Your unique channel tag - make sure you have a common tag used throughout your entire YouTube channel.

  • Use Four- to five-word search phrases related to the video including the title of the video.

  • Use variations on your search phrases including commonly misspelled keywords.

  • Avoid random tags and one- or two-word tags.

  • Don’t use misleading keywords.

  • Use software like TubeBuddy to help you identify strong keywords and phrases.

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