Tips on Making YouTube Videos and Understanding How Rankings Work

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YouTube is a wonderful platform to gain more exposure for your website and build credibility for your overall brand.

In my opinion, it is one of the most underutilized strategies when it comes to marketing a website.

The traffic potential is still pretty sweet. Just as someone could type in "golfing tips" in Google.com and find your site, they can do the same with your videos on YouTube.

And if your video gets popular enough, it can also rank well on Google.com.

More and more people use YouTube every single day and this can funnel quite a bit of traffic to your video... especially if the video is exceptionally done.

Tips for YouTube SEO (Ranking Your Videos on YouTube.com)

I have a handful of few videos that rank #1 for some fairly competitive keywords.

So after analyzing the ones that rank well and the ones that don't, I've come up with some tips to help you with your own rankings.

Check out the Infographic below, and there's a more detailed explanation of the tips below the image.

Tips for Ranking Your YouTube Videos

Popularity Trumps Everything!

How many Likes and Shares your video receives plays a big role in how your video ranks.

Obviously, YouTube wants to show the most popular content, so they tend to rank videos well that have a good View/Like ratio.

The dislikes don't really seem to hurt as much as long as the number of likes outweigh the dislikes.

So don't get too down in the dumps if your videos receive some dislikes. It comes with the territory. Just focus on quality and you will naturally earn those likes.

So as you are reading the tips below, keep in mind they won't matter as much if no one likes and shares your videos.

Audience Retention is BIG Today!

How long people watch your videos play a HUGE role in rankings now. And it makes perfect sense why it's such a big deal.

If people sit and watch a video to the end, it must be interesting and deserves a better rank than related videos that only have a 10% retention rate.

Statistics show that people have an attention span of about 3 minutes when it comes to watching a video.

However, that doesn't mean you should never make a video longer than 3 minutes.

If you create a lot of tutorial-based content then it's generally acceptable to bend this rule a bit. In fact, many of my longer videos rank very well and have decent retention.

The key is to keep the video moving and use lots of titles to break things up.

In my more recent videos (like the one on SEO), I use a Draw Tablet to make the longer, tutorial videos more interesting. People seem to really enjoy it.

However, sometimes it does make sense to split videos into several parts. I should probably do this more often myself.

People's attention spans continue to decline, so we need to be mindful of that when creating our videos.

You can track the Retention stat right from your account by going to Analytics >> Audience Retention. This will give you your overall channel retention.

If you want to view your retention for an individual video, you'll have to click the Analytics button while watching the video in question.

One final note about retention...

It's definitely relative. For example, I have videos with low retention yet they rank well. This is likely due to the number of Likes and how the retention compares to related videos.

So having poor retention doesn't mean your videos won't rank. YouTube definitely looks at the big picture and how your videos match up to others.

Optimize Your Titles, Descriptions and Tags But Don't Over Do It!

Just like Google.com, YouTube.com is harder to manipulate than it was years ago.

Titles, descriptions and tags still matter, but you aren't going to rank well for competitive phrases if your videos don't get the Likes, Shares, have great Retention etc.

So, you could copy the meta data for a very popular video and still never rank if no one is rating or sharing your video.

Ratings and social shares are EVERYTHING when it comes to ranking now.

When creating your title, description and keyword tags, keep them relevant without overoptimizing.

For example, let's say you want to rank for "How to Make a Birthday Cake."

Do this...

Title: How to Make a Delicious Birthday Cake From Scratch

Description: Easy-to-follow tips for making a birthday cake your guests will love. Recipe included.

Keyword Tags: how to make a birthday cake, birthday cake recipe, dessert, chocolate cake

Notice that I don't repeat any phrase too often and I also included extra words in the title.

Ever since Google implemented the overoptimization and "exact match" penalties in 2012, I noticed they seem to like variation (especially for competitive phrases).

So I try to add additional keywords instead of just the phrases I want to rank for.

Also, don't dilute your important tags by adding a bunch of unnecessary phrases that aren't really related to what your video is about.

You don't need 100 tags. Just 5-10 very relevant ones will do.

You can also use the YouTube suggestion tool to help you decide what phrases to target.

Now, here's what NOT to do...

Title: How to Make a Birthday Cake - Tips for How to Make a Birthday Cake!

Description: How to make a birthday cake. Great video for how to make a birthday cake from scratch. Make a birthday cake today!

Keyword Tags: how to make a birthday cake, how to make a delicious birthday cake, how to make a cake, birthday cake, desserts, chocolate, sweets, birthdays, icing, cooking, how to cook desserts, birthday party, birthday parties

That's called over-optimizing.

No need to repeat your targeted phrase over and over. And forget about adding all those semi and unrelated phrases because you are diluting the important ones.

Just like Google does with web pages, YouTube probably places less (or zero) emphasis on the keyword tag. But it still never hurt to use it responsibly.

Freshness is Another Big Deal

YouTube.com now mirrors Google.com when it comes to fresh content.

It used to be that old videos would rank well for years, now it seems that videos have a shorter ranking lifespan (unless it's a very popular video or the targeted phrase is not very competitive).

If you notice some of your videos no longer rank as well, create an updated version. There's probably new, relevant information to share anyway.

Do Captions and Transcripts Help for SEO?

There's been some debate over this. Some say they help, others say they don't because it would be too easy to manipulate.

If you learn anything about SEO, whether it's YouTube or Google, understand that ANY tactic that can be easily manipulated, will have a minimal impact.

Having said that, if all things are equal between two videos, (Like/View Ratio, shares, etc.) and I were YouTube, I'd favor the one with the captions. So why not add them?

Whether they help your videos rank or not, it never hurts to add them for the user experience.

Publishing Your Videos on YouTube

Computers and cameras are making it easier and easier to get video on the Web. No need to buy additional software just to get your video in the right format. Today many cameras come with a direct YouTube upload feature.

As far as files and editing, YouTube accepts all common video formats and your computer probably already comes with free editing software. Windows comes with Windows Movie Maker and Macs come with iMovie.

What I Use to Create My Videos

I use a Macbook to edit and publish my videos. My software of choice is Final Cut Express.

It's a bit pricey compared to many other solutions, but it's very powerful. If you want to learn more about my video creation process, read this article.

More Video Production Tips

1. Have adequate lighting.

Make sure people can actually SEE you. What are you hiding anyway? ;-) Three point lighting is best.

2. Don't memorize a script...

Avoid this unless you're good at delivering where it doesn't sound like you're talking from memory. I've found if you just talk off the top of your head, it comes across much more conversational and natural.

If you need a guide and want to remember key points, have an outline in front of you (out of the camera's sight). If I do use one, I'll tape it right below the camera so I can glance down if needed.

3. Don't Ramble.

Do your best to get to the point. If you start rambling for 10 minutes about nothing, you could lose your audience before the video is finished.

This is something I've struggled with and now do my best to get to the point earlier in the video.

4. Check your backdrop.

Remember, this video is representing you and your site. If you've got a junk heap behind you, it will distract your audience. If you don't have a nice background, then just film in front of a blank wall.

5. Watch your filler words.

We don't realize how often we say "Um" and use filler words until we see ourselves on video. It's normal to need a sec to think about what to say next, so practice just being silent in those moments if you are an "Ummer." :)

The other option is to edit out those words before you publish. This will make your video much cleaner.

6. Record and edit in the same resolution.

Ever wonder why some videos are distorted or have those black bars alongside the video? That comes from recording and editing in two different resolutions.

Check your camera and editing software to make sure they match before you produce the video.

I always record and edit in 1280x720 HD. Yes, YouTube accepts higher resolutions now, but I find this resolution still produces a nice quality video without generating a huge file size that takes forever to produce in my software.

Worried About Criticism?

If you're like a lot of people, you are hesitant about creating videos because you're concerned about being judged or criticized. I know the feeling. I was worried about that in the beginning too. But the more videos I made, the more comfortable I became.

This video has some words of encouragement for you, and it will help you deal with the fear of criticism.

The Bottom Line

No matter what method or software you use, it's definitely worth experimenting with video to help promote your site. And since YouTube is owned by Google, that can only mean good things if you make a good video and optimize the title and keywords for your audience.

Just like Google.com, YouTube can bring you a good amount of targeted visitors.

And if your video is good enough, others will want to embed it into their sites or link back to it. The backlink can also help the ranking on both YouTube and Google.

If your videos do earn enough likes, YouTube will recommend them on the homepage or suggest it to people who have watched related videos.

I earn the majority of my subscribers because of YouTube recommending my videos.

So how do you get people to "Like" your videos?

  1. Know your audience and keep them relevant
  2. Be conversational and relax.
  3. Edit out umms and awkward pauses to make the video flow
  4. Avoid unnecessary chattiness and keep it moving
  5. Get to the point early
  6. Break up longer videos into parts or use tools (draw tablets) to make longer videos more visually appealing

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