5 Ways to Improve How You Use YouTube

Picture of Aliza ShermanAliza Sherman is a web pioneer, author, and international speaker. Sherman is the author of 8 books about the Internet including The Everything Blogging Book, Streetwise Ecommerce, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Crowdsourcing and Social Media Engagement for Dummies.

5 Ways to Improve How You Use YouTube

As most people gravitate toward smaller smartphone and tablet screens to consume their news, conduct research, shopping, and be entertained by videos, companies are revisiting using short and long form video to

  • attract attention,
  • convey their key marketing messages,
  • promote their brands, and
  • drive actions.

While YouTube undergoes continuous changes to their platform, housing your company videos on a YouTube channel is still a viable strategy for growing an audience and leveraging your video content. Here are five specific ways to better utilize some common YouTube features.

1. Select a Compelling Trailer Video

YouTube encourages you to add a video “trailer” to your YouTube channel that is seen by anyone who isn’t already subscribed to your channel. Think of this short video as a movie trailer that provides someone who isn’t familiar with your company or brand with highlights of who you are and what you do.

Trailer videos can be as short as 15 seconds or more commonly 30 to 60 seconds in length. While most of the videos you upload for free to YouTube end up with ads automatically placed in them, trailer videos are free from ads. Once a person is subscribed to your channel, they no longer are presented with your trailer but instead led to a video under “What to Watch Next.” Your trailer is an opportunity to capture an audience and compel them to stay connected.

2. Include a Call to Action on an End Screen

End screens show up on both mobile and desktop devices. Use an End Screen to add Calls to Action to your videos. An end screen can only be added to a video that is 25 seconds or longer and can be between 5-20 seconds in length.

Common calls to action that can work for video end screens include:

  • Subscribe to your YouTube Channel
  • Point viewers to other videos or playlists on YouTube
  • Promote another channel on YouTube with a custom message

YouTube limits where you can drive viewers, mostly keeping them within YouTube itself. You can, however, link out to your website, online store or other key web page if you are in the YouTube Partner Program. Otherwise, make sure to produce videos that draw people in and add end screens to prompt them to stay engaged.

3. Add a Transcript

Transcripts are a way to capture the content of your YouTube video, consisting of the text of what is said in the video. YouTube states that transcripts work well for videos under an hour with good sound quality and clear speech.

You can designate dialogue and changing speakers in your transcript. Transcript files do not require time codes. Once you upload your transcript file, set up timing to automatically sync text with your videos. All of the steps for adding a transcript file to your video are contained within the “Add new subtitles or CC” section – CC being closed captions. Viewers can opt to open the transcript file for any video they are watching.

4. Add Subtitles and Closed Captions

Transcripts open up as separate files next to your YouTube videos while closed captions appear on videos and can be turned on and off. Subtitles and closed captions are useful for hearing challenged viewers or viewers who speak a language other than the one in your videos. Closed caption files contain time codes to designate when each line of text should appear on a video.

YouTube can use speech recognition technology to automatically create captions for your videos. If automatic captions are available, they'll automatically be published on the video. Use the automatically transcribed text in your captions for other content that you publish such as blog posts.

5. Optimize Your Meta Data

Metadata is the text information that describes your videos including the title of the video, the description, any tags you use, and annotations you’ve embedded into your video. Metadata helps users find your videos as they are searching YouTube using keywords and phrases. The metadata you add to your video helps your video get found and also adds context so viewers know what to expect to be included in your video.

YouTube is strict about what content you use for your meta data and dictates that the words you use should be relevant to and descriptive of the content in your video. If you use irrelevant keywords or tags that mislead the viewer to watch your video thinking it contains content that it doesn’t, YouTube could remove your video. YouTube also prohibits “tag stuffing’ where you list keywords in your video description.