You can almost taste it as the uploading bar starts to fill. 40%, 70%, 90% and then finally 100%. Your latest video is finally live, baby! This one is going viral for sure. YouTube fame, here I come — except that nothing really happens. I mean, the days go by and there are a few views and it’s not a bad number either, it’s just that… it didn’t blow up.
It might be easy to dream about PewDiePie numbers and personalised T-shirts with your face on them but the reality is that YouTube is tough. If you want to stand out you’ll have to make sure you’ve got all of your bases covered and promoting is just the first of them. YouTube offers many tools for the creators to make the best of every video but are we maximising them?
Here are a few ideas to promote your video — for free!
1 – Use the cards system wisely
These are the rectangles with a CTAs you often see in YouTube videos. They were designed to link to other websites but can be used in many different ways. Make the best of them, they’re versatile and easy to implement.
- Use them to promote other videos;
- Link to other channels;
- Make amends;
- Or even for comedic purposes.
If there’s a particular video you want to promote, use the cards on older content to link back to it.
For their channel, the community team behind the video game Smite used the YouTube cards system to create a ‘choose your own adventure’ type of videos. These feature two options at the end of each clip that affect the story in different ways. The way they did it, is that each card links you to a different video. It’s double the work but it paid off. The creative approach resulted in 40K views in just its first day live.
2 – Design a good-looking thumbnail
YouTube allows you to upload a personalised thumbnail to every video. These are better than the usual standard ‘frame’ because it gives you more control over the first impression your video might have on viewers.
- Resolution of 1280 x 720 (width of at least 640 pixels)
- Formats .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG
- Size cannot be more than 2MB
- Aspect ratio suggested is 16:9
There’s no formula to creating the perfect thumbnail but as a general rule, keep it relevant to your content (you don’t want to mislead people), use faces (they engage better than pictures without) and use text. The text on the thumbnail is easier to read than the one that appears below.
Love them or hate them, the Fine Brothers know how to do YouTube well. Though a bit cluttered for my taste, their thumbnails tell everything you need to know. The subject is portrayed not only in images but also text and it also shows you the people who’ll be participating in the video.
Note: You need a verified YouTube account to upload customised thumbnails.
3 – Come up with an eye-catching headline
Not unlike blog posts, titles for videos on YouTube are of the utmost importance. In order to create a good title for your video, you have to include the keyword your targeting and write it in a compelling way without entering ‘clickbait’ territory. Make sure you always portray faithfully what people will see or they will click away and that’s never good.
- Remember that the limit for YouTube titles is 60 characters.
- Offensive words or anything that violates YouTube’s terms of service may get deleted.
- Advertisers run away from certain words and terms. Be wary of what you include in your titles.
YouTube channel Film Theorists does a good job with their headlines. Notice how they place the keyword at the beginning ‘Film Theory’ and then add the details of the specific clip. If there’s one criticism, it would be that sometimes the titles are too long so they get clipped at the end.
Tip: Use power words in your headline to grab people’s attention.
4 – Write a better description
Time after time I see channels committing cardinal sins in this space. This is not the place for keyword stuffing and it certainly shouldn’t be left blank (you’d be surprised). Instead, you should always leave a well-written description of your video here. Use your keywords but in a natural way.
Put the important information first, as the first sentences are the ones that will appear in the suggested list and above the fold. When you watch a YouTube video there’s a ‘Show more’ link that when you click it, it unveils more information. Everything that’s not a priority should appear there.
As if their 15 million subscribers weren’t enough, one can tell Top 10’s channel WatchMojo is on top of its game for the way they optimise their videos. Notice how the keyword ‘Horror Movies’ appears three times just in their first paragraph and below you find several links to places they’d like you to visit, like their homepage, playlist and social media.
Add the link of your new video to the description of your older videos
If there’s a particular video you want to push, use this place to link to it. Remember to include the entire URL (with the http or https) since this is the only way YouTube can hyperlink in the description box.
5 – Spam your loved ones
Maybe not necessarily ‘spam’ but do let them know that you have uploaded a new video and that you would appreciate it if they could share it with their contacts. Start contacting your friends and family on Facebook, WhatsApp or via email. This would also be a good opportunity to let them know that you’re serious about your YouTube career if you hadn’t done so already.
Tip: Link the video to your email signature so it’s sent to everyone you get in contact with.
6 – Don’t be afraid of Hashtags
Include hashtags in your description. These will help people find your videos. In the following screenshot, Grace Helbig uses the hashtag #LWYMMD to make the video easier to find to those who are looking for information on Taylor Swift’s single.
Tip: If you add a hashtag to the description box, it becomes a link so viewers can see what else has been tagged under it.
7 – Add the video to your website or blog (if you have one)
Embed your video into your main page or last post to make it as obvious as possible. If you don’t have a website or blog then it might be time to time to start one. According to 90% of marketers, a video is the most engaging type of content out there. If you’re serious about your YouTube career then eventually you will want to create one. Think of the place where you’ll send people to buy your merchandise.
8 – Add the video to a Playlist
Like music playlists, YouTube playlists allow you to organise content into different groups. If you’re a Gamer, perhaps you’d like to divide your content into different types of video games or Let’s Plays. Playlists are a great tool because first, they can be found through the search engine and second, they make it easier for viewers to ‘binge’ watch. Meaning they’ll stay longer in your channel and create more views for you.
Deligracy is an Australian YouTuber who’s mostly known for her Sims 4 videos but she also likes to, from time to time, create content about other video games and even her everyday life. In order to keep everything organised, she has created neat playlists where her videos can be found according to a theme. Since her Sims 4 videos are so popular, she has created different playlists inside that category.
Trivia: ‘Important Videos’ is a playlist that has been viewed over 800 million times because of its weird and random videos.
9 – Share it on Social Media
In today’s age, it seems ridiculous to include this tip on the list. I mean, of course, you’ve already shared the video on social media! While it is obvious, one must keep in mind the peculiarities of each network.
Twitter and Facebook
Remember to pin it at the top. Both platforms allow this and it makes it much easier for viewers to find your latest video.
Don’t forget about Google + and Pinterest
Yes, Google + still exists and it works very well with YouTube since they’re owned by the same people. Also, did you know you can post videos on Pinterest? Yes, that’s a thing now. Depending on your audience, it might be a good idea to go there, too. Here’s how to do it.
If it’s relevant, perhaps you have a marketing channel, then sharing your video on Linkedin might be a good idea.
10 – Use a call to action
Want your video to be shared? Remind your viewers to do so. Most YouTubers like to end their videos with a call to action but Philip DeFranco comes to mind as he is always encouraging people to subscribe, check out his other videos and have discussions in the comments section. He uses cards along with animations to make his message clear but it’s enough to just look at the camera and say what you want clearly.
So there you have them. These are all the tips we have for you today but if you’d like us to add more, feel free to let us know in the comments below. Also, if you’d like to start selling merchandise in your channel, check out our Ultimate YouTube Merchandise guide.
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