Wondering how to improve your organic reach on YouTube? All of this said, when working with the YouTube algorithm, keep in mind that the algorithm follows the audience. If you already have a plan for how to market on YouTube, these tips will help you get more people to watch your channel.
1. Do your keyword research
No one is watching your video and giving it a rank at YouTube’s headquarters.
Instead, the algorithm looks at the video’s metadata to figure out what it’s about, how it fits in with other videos or categories, and who might want to watch it.
When describing your video for the algorithm, you should use clear, short words that people already use when they search.
YouTube is both a video platform and a search engine, so you can do keyword research the same way you would for a blog post or web copy: with free tools like Google Adwords or SEMrush.
Once you know what your main keywords are, you should use them in four places:
In the file name of the video (i.e., laparoscopic-appendectomy.mov)
In the title of the video, catchy phrases like “Real life step by step laparoscopic appendectomy” are used.
In the video’s page on YouTube (especially within the first two lines, above the fold)
In the video’s script (and, by extension, in its subtitles and closed captions, which means you’ll need to upload an SRT file).
But you don’t need to put your keywords in one place:
In the tags of the video. Youtube says that tags “play a minimal role” in finding videos and are most useful if your keyword or channel name is often misspelled. (i.e., laporoscopic, lapparascopic, appendictomy, apendectomy, etc.)
2. Make it impossible for people to resist clicking on your thumbnail
But, of course, without being clickbait.
YouTube uses the word “appeal” to describe how a video makes someone want to take a small risk and watch something new. To get the most out of your video:
Add your own thumbnail (and keep the visual style consistent across all your thumbnails)
Write a title that is interesting and makes you want to click on it.
Remember that the search results will only show the first sentence or so of the description, so make it interesting and relevant.
Tee Noir’s pop culture commentary channel, for example, has a consistent, lively format: thumbnails that show her face (with a clear expression) and titles that are conversational and direct. Almost always, the background image relates to the title in some way, making a package that makes you want to click.
3. Keep people watching your video, and all your videos
If someone watches one of your videos, make it easy for them to watch more and stay in your channel’s ecosystem. To do this, use:
Cards: Mark other videos in your video that are important.
Screens should end with a call-to-action to watch another related video.
Playlists: of videos on the same subject
Watermarks for subscriptions (for more on converting viewers to subscribers, read our guide to getting more YouTube subscribers)
A great way to take advantage of a recent rise in viewers is to make a video series.
If a video of your 12-year-old singing a cover song went viral, you might want to do more covers. Depending on your plan, you can release a series all at once so people can watch it all in one sitting, or you can drop new episodes often to keep people coming back.
4. Attract views from other sources
Even if your views aren’t coming from the YouTube algorithm, they can still tell you how well you’re doing with the algorithm. For example, depending on your strategy, you can get more views and subscribers through YouTube ads, external sites, cross-promotion on social media, and partnerships with other channels or brands.
The algorithm won’t really punish your video if it gets a lot of traffic from places other than YouTube (a blog post, for example). This is important because click-through rates and the length of time people watch a video often go down when most of its traffic comes from ads or a site outside of YouTube.
The YouTube product team says that the algorithm only looks at how well a video does in its context. So, if a video does well on the homepage, it will be shown to more people on the homepage, no matter how well it does on the blog.
5. Engage with comments and other channels
Your audience will grow if you keep in touch with the people who watch your videos. Many people like YouTube because they feel like they know the creators better than they do traditional celebrities.
Getting to know your viewers and other creators can help you make connections that will help you in the long run. The community engagement tools on Hootsuite are a great way to keep up with this.
6. Give the people what they want
In a time when there is a lot of content, people want quality more than anything else. The algorithm gives each user’s happiness the most weight. So find what you’re good at and focus on that.
YouTube says it is working on getting more metrics about how happy creators are with their work and putting them in their analytics to help.
Pro Tip: YouTube supports the idea that you should upload regularly to build and keep a relationship with your audience, but it’s a myth that the algorithm will punish you if you post too often or not often enough. Audience growth has nothing to do with how long it’s been since the last upload.
7. Evolve by experimenting
At the same time, if you keep an eye on Google Trends and give yourself room to try new things, you won’t be left behind when the zeitgeist changes quickly. (I’m looking at you, skinny jeans.)
Take heart in the fact that if an experiment fails, a low-performing video won’t hurt the ranking of your channel or future videos. (Unless you have really turned off your audience to the point where they don’t want to watch you anymore.) The YouTube product team says that all of your videos have the same chance of getting views.