video content

13 Ways to Optimize Video Content

Optimizing written content for people and search engines is relatively simple when compared to video content optimization. After all, you usually only have a limited amount of space or words to use in conjunction with the video. And, let’s be honest, if you open the “About” section on a YouTube video and see more than a few hundred words it quickly dives into “tl;dr” area and you might find yourself thinking “I came here to watch a three minute video, not read War and Peace

That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to optimize your video to get the results you want whether it’s encouraging your customers to purchase something, getting shares, getting noticed by search engines, or simply getting views.


13: Know The Goals


This is just good advice for any time in life, but it also applies to marketing your video content. Knowing goals doesn’t just mean knowing your goals. You obviously know your goals. It’s important to know the goals of your customers. Keep them in mind and you’ll be able to make great video content that truly connects with them. This means that you should know how your customers feel at the moment, know what you want your customers to feel, and evoke those feelings. If you are evoking a negative emotion (like fear) then your video content should lead your customer to a remedy for that feeling. If you are going for a positive emotion (like joy) then you should let your customers know how you can help them continue that feeling.

Let’s be clear: evoking a negative emotion doesn’t always mean making them paranoid or generally unhappy. Allstate’s Mayhem commercials do a great job striking the balance between raising their awareness of certain concerns while having a sense of humor about it.


12: Create a Call to Action


Making sure that you have actionable content is absolutely necessary for any type of success with your video content. There are several different ways to do this. One of them is obvious: put a call to action somewhere in the video. Another, less obvious tactic, is to put a call to action in the description of the video (for example “Buy the album here” with a link following).

The call to action that falls in the description is frequently used by musicians, although this particular video features both types of call to action:


11: Know Where to Host Your Video Content


Now, when most people think of optimized video hosting they think of sites like Metacafe, YouTube, or Veoh. They’re quick, easy, and cheap. What’s more is that they have a built in audience that might accidentally stumble onto your videos while looking for something else, allowing you to passively build a crowd. It’s like being the opening act for The Rolling Stones (if there were 3 million other bands playing at the same time).

While that sort of video hosting does have a lot of merits and is very tempting, it won’t necessarily keep people coming back to your site. If you want to do that then it might be better to host it yourself on your own site (or host it through a major hosting site but only have it viewable on your website).

But what if you don’t have any frequent visitors but you want them? Then it might be nice to give them a taste of what you have on YouTube and then direct them to your site for more frequently updated video content.

One example is how the Food Network’s Cutthroat Kitchen uses this strategy to bring people to additional content on the Food Network website as well as tuning in for the shows (although Alton Brown does the call to action in a very… Alton Brown-y sort of way):



10: Analytics, Analytics, Analytics


This is a ridiculously obvious tip but it likely has a place in every blog post on this site. Use your analytics to their full potential. They’re not there for no reason. If you’re an American from Nevada and you find out that a strange amount of your views are coming from Iceland, it’s probably important to find out why. Maybe your views are peaking in mid-October.

Knowing why a lot of your viewers are coming from a certain region or at a certain time can help you ask specific questions that you need to know to expand your market and keep the viewers you have.


9: Use Better Meta


According to, metadata is an interesting little background figure because it has such an impact on our content but kind of blends into the background. It’s like a really good bassist in a band. You may not notice that they are there, plucking away during your favorite songs, but you’d notice if the instrument were gone from the mix.

Basically, metadata is the data that describes the data. It’s the text portion of the dating profile that is your content. “I am your YouTube video on how to properly iron your socks. My keywords are: How to, laundry, ironing, housekeeping. I enjoy walks at dusk on a sandy beach but am paradoxically annoyed by sand between my toes.”

You’re only fighting half the battle if you just know what it is. Using metadata properly is another beast entirely.

For an example of high-quality metadata, check out the title and description of this TED talk about tying your shoes. It mentions the name of the speaker and a concise, accurate description in the title (that doesn’t have unintentional ellipsis at the end) and describes the talk and the speaker, including the date, in the description. It will also tell you how you’ve been doing a basic skill slightly wrong for your whole life, which is always humbling.


8: Amusing or How To Videos


People love funny videos and how to videos is usually one of the best ways to get views online, if you’re not already an established brand.

The ExpertVillage channel is positively made of how to videos. It has everything from cat health care to how to properly ice a cake (and that’s just videos that were uploaded in the past month). And it’s kind of a big deal with nearly 3 billion views.

Maru’s YouTube channel is an example of how amusing videos can drive views. As you will surely note, the channel is primarily dedicated to an obese cat’s struggle to fit inside of various types of cardboard boxes. The comedian Wyatt Cenac, when talking about the popularity of amusing cat videos, said this:

Millions of people love this video. They’ve seen this video of this cat jumping in and out of this box. It’s really popular. And I was thinking to myself ‘I wonder how other popular things do on YouTube.’ I was thinking, ‘You know who’s popular? The president.’ … So I went to go look at one of his videos… Five hundred people had watched that video.

The following video is a perfect storm of being both amusing and a how to video and has 1.4 million views in its two year run.


If there were a microphone here, the microphone would be dropped.


7: Lead Capture


A lead capture is basically asking for the commitment of your viewers/listeners/readers before they are able to access your content. It can be through registration or through simply requiring an e-mail address in order to activate content. Although it’s not a video site, Bandcamp uses this method every time you purchase an album through their site so that the bands you are buying from can contact you in the future.


6: Stay Relevant


Unless it’s a popular topic, like World War II or Ancient Egyptian culture, you’re going to want to stay as topical and relevant as you possibly can, writes. Don’t make too many Milli Vanilli jokes or talk about the merits of Ross Perot’s 1992 presidential campaign. No one cares about those things anymore. Talk about troubles Justin Beiber is facing or the recent Russian/Ukrainian unrest (if you’re reading this in the future then you can insert the pop star scandal or political turmoil du jour).

This video, although not as relevant right now, was created toward the tail end of Breaking Bad’s run and got several million views rather quickly because of it:



5: Transcribe Your Videos


Sometimes your videos will work just as well through text with just a little tweaking. Transcribe your videos and give them touch ups for blog posts or articles. It’s also good to simply have your video content transcribed and close captioned because, if you’ve ever used YouTube’s embedded closed captioning system, you know how quickly “I’ve been taught by some of the best chefs in the world” turns into “be told by some of their ships in the wells.”

Speaking of clearly food-related videos, many cooking YouTube channels will do this very thing by teaching you the recipe visually and also having it as a written recipe either in the description or on their site. This is a great way to bring people to your site or bring people from your site to your YouTube channel.


4: Allow Embedding


There’s only one reason you shouldn’t allow embedding (especially in email) and that was already discussed (hint: it involves hosting a video on your site to drive pageviews). For 99.99% of cases, you’d be an idiot not to allow video embedding. Every time someone embeds your video others see it, driving your views up. Those people can be directed to your channel, but it also works in your favor in the YouTube rankings. The higher your views are, the more likely you are to be featured or recommended to others.

And if you’re not on YouTube for that then… well, what exactly is your plan?


3: Internal Video Links


YouTube allows users to add links within their videos (kind of like hyperlinks) to other places. This can direct people to your channel or to other places quickly and easily. It can be used to link to related content, previous or subsequent videos in a series, or simply things that you may think are interesting.

For a look at how this is used here’s a video of Gordon Ramsay that doesn’t involve him yelling (watch until the end):



2: Don’t Forget the Titles


Just like your page titles, don’t forget about the titles when optimizing videos for YouTube search. If you end up making a mess of your titles your video will be difficult to find or might be inaccurate. On the other hand, if you make it short and to the point, you can get views from people who are looking for your exact video.

If you want an example of this in action just type in a musical artist you like followed by the name of the song. You’ll see quite a few videos of just that. Some may have “music video” after it, others may have “live performance,” and others may even have “cover,” but you’ll know exactly what you’re getting when you click on the videos.


1: As For Your Playlists


Your playlist titles are just as important as your video titles. If your playlist titles don’t make sense then no one will click on them. If they’re accurate then you will be able to get a lot more views just because people are watching the playlist all the way through.

For instance, Numberphile’s playlists are quick and easy. If you want videos about the number pi, click on the “Pi” playlist. Do you like the videos he does with James Grime? Click on “Feat. James Grime.” Titling your playlists really is that easy.
Videos can be one of your most powerful tools if you use them right. They take little or no effort on the part of the viewer and can often simply be listened to. How many times have you turned something on while you’re doing a task just to have something to listen to? Now, how would you like to have someone doing that with your YouTube video?


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