From the Paladin team: We’re thrilled to have a guest blog this week from video optimization guru Tom Martin. Tom is a Certified YouTube channel manager and expert in audience growth and audience development. He runs FAQ Tube, where he helps creators and businesses achieve better results with YouTube.
Is content king on YouTube?
This is a point that has been debated since YouTube co-founder Jawed Karim’s Me At The Zoo was published 10 years ago, although in recent years the debate has been easy to quash with the use of two short but powerful words:
Watch Time is YouTube’s single biggest ranking factor, and plays a huge part in saying what videos get surfaced to viewers in Search, the Suggested Video side-bar, the home page and other browse features. It has been the heaviest weighted factor in the YouTube algorithm since 2012, the theory being that if people are watching lots of minutes of a video and a high percentage of that video, then it must be good.
And YouTube wants to promote good video (or video that gets watched) because they want viewers to keep coming back again and again and watch more and more because more views mean more ads served.
So in theory, the best videos that are getting watched for the most time and a high percentage of its duration will rise to the top. They will automatically be pushed to people’s Home Page, the Suggested Videos side-bar and rank higher in the search results.
Well that’s the theory but is that the reality? In my opinion that’s…
…a big fat NO.
Don’t agree? Ok, let me ask you a question: Ever look in the search results on YouTube to see where you’re showing up?
Even if you’re a YouTube Ninja, unfortunately you’re not always going to take top spot. And I know you’ve had the experience of clicking on someone that ranks above you and thinking…This video sucks! How dare they place this above my latest masterpiece? Don’t take it personal.
YouTube doesn’t watch your video, it can’t. So it uses a number of factors to make its ranking decisions: Watch Time (which we’ve discussed), tags, engagement, shares, titles, descriptions to name just a few. It doesn’t see how much effort you put into the video, how awesome it looks or how entertaining or useful it is. You have to tell it. That’s your job.
This is YouTube optimization, and giving YouTube a nudge in the right direction is what YouTube optimization is really all about.
But what optimization is NOT is a silver bullet that can magically get views for bad videos.
Optimizing your videos will give them the best chance of success and allow them to reach their potential (and potential audience).
Think of optimization as a multiplier of quality.
If we rank both quality and optimization on a scale of 1-10 (10 being most awesome) then a video with the highest quality optimized to the fullest will be:
Quality 10 x Optimization 10 = 100% of potential success
But then consider:
Quality 10 x Optimization 2 = 20% potential success
That’s the same exact video but now reaching only 20% of it’s potential because a few optimization steps were overlooked. Now let’s take another video on the same subject. It’s cool but not as good as the first example:
Quality 7 x Optimization 8 = 56% potential success
I know this is oversimplified but it illustrates the reality that videos of an objectively lesser standard can outperform and outrank better content because the uploader took the steps to optimize it for the platform.
It may not be fair, but you can quote me on it:
“An average video with great metadata will always outperform a great video with average metadata.”
The beauty of optimization is that once you lay down the foundations and understand the basic concepts, it can be built into your production and publishing workflows so that you don’t even notice you’re doing it.
Another bonus is that it’s never too late to take steps to optimize older videos. I’ve seen huge spikes in views for videos that have sat collecting dust for years because of a small change to a title and thumbnail.
So what are these optimization steps that seem so mysterious and complicated to so many?
The following is what I like to call The Three T’s Strategy. It focuses on optimizing 3 key elements of your YouTube videos:
#1 – Titles
#2 – Thumbnails
#3 – Tags
I cannot stress this enough: YOU SHOULD BE USING UPLOAD DEFAULT TAGS. If you take away just one actionable tip with you today let it be this. Consistent tags across your entire channel will increase the likelihood of appearing in Suggested Videos – arguably the richest and most sustainable source of views on YouTube.
As I mentioned before, the Three T’s are just the tip of the iceberg but a great introduction to optimization and a strategy that can help you see results almost immediately.
There are many more forms of optimization on YouTube such as optimizing:
- Video Descriptions
- Your Channel Page
- For Mobile
- For international viewers
And if this is something you are interested in finding out more about, I’d suggest taking a look at my ebook YouTube Optimization: The Complete Guide which is currently free.
I think I’ve made my case pretty clear that although content is of the highest importance on YouTube, great content alone is not enough to ensure success and I’ve seen evidence of this during years of publishing on YouTube.
No doubt you’ve experienced the pain of seeing a great video go unwatched too. Of course there will be outliers and exceptions to the rule because things can go viral without optimization, but going viral is not a long-term video strategy.
Also if you’ve built your audience to a certain size or been on the platform long enough, you can have success without optimizing. If you’re Casey Neistat or Vsauce or Hank Green you can get millions of views without inputting a single tag, but I’d be willing to wager that wouldn’t work for 99.9% of Creators.
Whether you agree with me or not, and whether content IS king or not, if you’re making amazing videos why take the chance of them getting lost? (Or never being found in the first place?). Instead, put as much effort into optimizing them as you do creating them and you increase their chances of success exponentially.
If the debate must continue, I’ll be around in the comments below to answer your questions and argue until I’m blue in the face.
Where do you stand on the debate?
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