Content creators, brands, and video marketers alike want to know how to get more views on YouTube.
It’s important to make sure your optimization strategy is current, as YouTube’s algorithms have changed quite a bit over the years.
In this column, you’ll find strategic insights and tactical advice from 20 video marketing and SEO experts to help you get more views of your own on YouTube.
And as the moderator of this panel, I’ll share a few tips of my own at the end of this article.
1. Seek Out Help From YouTube
Jim Louderback, the GM of VidCon, says, “One of the best ways to grow your audience on YouTube is to seek out help from YouTube.
“The YouTube Creators Channel is an ideal place to hear directly from the internal team on what works TODAY, and how you can take advantage of new YouTube features. Big Red has been known to prioritize new things – like Shorts – in the algorithm, so if you jump on new things earlier your chances of rising to the top increase.
“For brands and creators, the YouTube Creator Playbook is also full of great strategies to explore and implement.”
2. Create Something Sustainable
Brendan Gahan, Partner & Chief Social Officer at Mekanism, says, “There are a lot of great tips out there. One thing few people talk about is the importance of creating something that is sustainable.
“Odds are, you or the brand you’re working with wants to do something cool, new, and innovative. Odds are you’re also biting off more than you can chew. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
“Ask yourself — can I do this every week without it becoming so burdensome that I’ll give up?”
3. Make Adjustments and Apply Learnings
Gahan adds, “Recognize that not every video is going to be a hit. Instead, look at each as a learning opportunity. Make it so that you have time to make adjustments and apply learnings over time. This allows your success to compound.”
4. Comments Can Be an Absolute Goldmine
Carla Marshall, a Content Marketing Manager, says, “The comments on your videos can be an absolute goldmine for content ideas and feedback.
“Once you get your filters in place to silence (at least some of) the trolls and keyboard warriors, take the time to go through as many comments as you can and listen for any questions or any suggestions about content that you could create.
“Talking of comments, taking the time to engage with your subscribers by responding to their feedback is an excellent way of building a community around your channel. Just don’t feed the trolls.”
5. Think Ahead About Tentpole Events
Marshall adds, “Think ahead about tentpole events or seasonal traditions that you could create content about. This approach works fantastically well for how-to or informational videos as you’re answering the questions that viewers are asking.
“Doing the research and planning ahead for holidays, sporting events, and other milestones means you have the opportunity to create evergreen content that could keep those views rolling in year after year.”
6. Stay on Topic
Jeremy Scott and Chris Atkinson, the creators of CinemaSins, say, “Stay on topic. Follow the trends and keep up with what people are talking about.
“Those recommended videos on the side of the YouTube page? They drive views like crazy. And the best way to be recommended to a viewer is to be talking about something a lot of other channels are talking about – this is part of why you see so many news and news-commentary channels on the rise.
“So if you are a cover artist, cover current/new songs. If you talk movies, talk about new & upcoming films others are talking about.”
7. Be Consistent
Scott and Atkinson add, “Be consistent. It’s hard to build an audience and increase views when your video publishing schedule changes constantly.
“How many times have we seen television shows get canceled because the network kept moving the show around on the schedule and it never found an audience? The concept is the same with YouTube.
“Teach viewers to expect new content at roughly the same time and interval (day, week, month) on a consistent basis and it is proven to grow your audience.”
8. Optimize Your Title and Description
Bree Brouwer, a B2B Copywriter and Content Marketer for Video/Tech, says, “While YouTube is inherently a visual medium because it was created as a place to share videos, the power of text can’t be ignored if you want to drive more viewers to your channel.
“YouTube is, after all, a massive search engine, which still uses words to find videos you’re looking for!
“This means you not only need to have titles with at least one good keyword or phrase related to your video, but you also need to describe that video in detail in the description box. YouTube generously gives you 5000 characters, or ~800 words, to describe your video in detail — use this opportunity, every single time.
“The more text YouTube, Google, and other search engines have to crawl about your video, the more likely your content will show up in results, therefore bumping up your views.”
9. Upload Closed Captions
Brouwer adds, “Likewise, don’t forget to upload closed captions for every single one of your videos.
“You can use YouTube’s automatic closed captioning feature, as well, but if you have the time or can afford to get closed captions written, that’s a better way to ensure your text comes across exactly the way it’s said in the video.
“Again, the more text YouTube and Google’s bots have to draw on, the more likely they’ll categorize and recommend your content.
“Closed captions are also just a kind way of showing the hard of hearing that you’re thinking of their needs, and that you want them to enjoy your content regardless of audio (this audience opens the door for you to get more views, as well).”
10. Conduct Keyword Research
Tom Martin, a YouTube Growth Consultant over at Channel Fuel in the UK, says, “I’d consider YouTube keyword research to be the secret weapon of anyone running a YouTube channel because it’s super powerful and it’s very unlikely that your competition are doing it.
“YouTube Keyword research harnesses search data in order to find out exactly what people are searching for on YouTube, the exact language they are using, the size of that opportunity and how competitive (or not) it may be to appear for that keyword in the search results and suggested sidebar.”
Martin adds, “Once we have that data (taken from either a specialist third party tool or free resources such as YouTube’s autocomplete suggestions) we can then utilize it in a number of ways.
“Firstly, we can use the keyword data to build a content strategy around because now we can make content for which we know there is a guaranteed audience as opposed to making content we assume people want to see.
“Secondly, we can take those keywords we want to target and ensure that we optimize for them at the time of upload, making sure they are present in our titles, tags and descriptions.
“For our most valuable keywords, we can also optimize our channel keywords, about section and playlists to target those too.
“This is no magic bullet for getting eyeballs on poor content but used correctly on great content, keyword research and optimization can be a major factor in a video reaching its full potential.”
11. Know Who Your Target Audience Is
Tim Schmoyer uploaded his first video to YouTube in 2006, quickly grew his channel, and soon began doing YouTube strategy for Disney, Warner Brothers, eBay, Budweiser, HBO, and more.
Schmoyer says, “The foundation of any effective growth strategy on YouTube is knowing exactly who your target audience is and what they ultimately want.
“It’s not enough to just known general demographic information about them – you have to know their story, their struggles, goals, beliefs, and more. When your most ideal viewer says, ‘You know, all I really want is…’ the rest of that sentence needs to clearly match what your channel provides.
“This makes it easier for a first-time viewer in that target audience to gravitate toward your content, give you more watch time, increase the likelihood that they’ll subscribe, and watch more videos from you.”
Schmoyer adds, “As this happens, YouTube’s search and discovery systems begin to learn who resonates with your videos and who doesn’t. The more they learn, the better they’ll know who else will resonate with your videos.
“Before long, YouTube will start putting your videos in front of the right viewers even when they’re not looking for it on their home page and in their suggested videos column.
“When this happens, your channel is ripe for explosive growth. But it all starts with targeting a specific viewer, not keywords. Optimize for people, not robots and you’ll win on YouTube.”
12. Don’t Tease
Rob Davis, Head of Digital at Ogilvy NY, says, “One of the biggest mistakes made on YouTube is running paid media teasers that link to a full video. That’s a big extra step for users, especially since they didn’t ask for your content in the first place.
“Instead, run the full video as a skippable True View unit. If you hook the user, all they have to do is keep watching. If you don’t hook them, you don’t pay for the view. Win-win.”
Davis adds, “We often focus on the importance of good SEO practice when crafting a YouTube video title, but we are talking to people not just search crawlers.
“Titles need to grab the viewer as much as the first 5 seconds of your video does. You’ll never get the view if you don’t entice the click. Titles (and thumbnails – see below) attract clicks.”
13. Pay Attention to Your Thumbnails & Treat Cards with Links as Your Friend
Davis also says, “We’ve come to think of thumbnails as illustrative frames of video, but they are much more. Thumbnails are your calling card.
“In fact, thumbnail effectiveness is so important that YouTube gives you thumbnail CTR data in the Creator Studio. The best thumbnails have bright colors, simple text and an uncluttered image (usually a human).
“Try it out. You’ll turn those boring 3% CTR frame grabs into much more effective poster art.
“We all know that most users don’t watch 100% of a video. Instead of trying to do the impossible and make that happen, embrace strategically placed cards that link to your other videos.
“This gives the weary viewer a path forward that keeps them within your content. Don’t do this and you’ll lose them search or suggested videos.”
14. Get People to Embed the Video on Their Site
Eric Enge, Principal at Perficient, says, “There are any techniques to increase the number of views to your YouTube videos. Of course, the first and most critical aspect of any of these ideas is to create great quality content. No tactic or technique will get you anywhere if you fail to do that.”
“Here is one idea that is among my favorites: Get people to embed the video on their site. YouTube makes embedding videos on your site really easy and, in fact, provides you with the code to do it.
“The key to making this work is to create content that is compelling to the potential embedding site. This starts with knowing who your target audience is prior to initially creating your video. A keen laser focus on this from the very beginning of the process.
“Advanced publishers also understand who their target sites are for embedding the video prior to filming it and make adjustments to make their video more attractive to those audiences.”
15. Buy Google Ads for YouTube
Enge also says, “Here is another idea that is among my favorites: Buy Google Ads for YouTube. This is quite effective, and you can obtain a significant number of views (depending on your category) for a few hundred dollars.
“Note that there are several types of video ads, but I prefer to use Pre-roll ads. These can run before, during, or after a video selected by a user, and users can skip them if they want.
“In fact, there is no charge to you unless the viewer sees at least 30 seconds or more of your ad.”
Enge adds, “Setting up the right targeting is key to the success of your campaign. For example, you can pick out different market segments which is something you should do. There is even a specific one for SEO and SEM Services!
“Google Ads for YouTube also offers basic audience targeting, allowing you to filter based on age, gender, and income. You can set these filters to entire exclude certain audiences, or only include specific audiences.
“It will likely take some experimentation to get things optimized for your purposes, but it is well worth it.”
16. Create Great Content
YouTube’s goal is to get people to watch more videos they enjoy so that they come back to YouTube regularly.
That means you should align your goals with theirs and create more videos that your audience enjoys so that they come back to your channel regularly.
Um, okay. So, how do you do that?
Well, I know of three ways to pique your audience’s interest and make them care about your content:
Inspire the Audience with Emotional and Relatable Stories
For example, check out RoadTripOK. To inspire people to travel safely, the Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Department created a weekly YouTube series highlighting the state’s magic through a socially distant road trip.
With a 33:1 ROI, this campaign garnered almost $7 million in projected lodging revenue.
Entertain the Audience by Surprising Them, Making Them Laugh, or Sharing Spectacular Content
For example, check out Match Made In Hell.
Rather than avoiding 2020’s turmoil, Match embraced it with humor and empathy. In a made-for-YouTube ad, Satan and 2020 find romance through Match’s dating app, resulting in 14 million views in the first 24 hours and a 40% increase in consideration vs. prior campaigns.
Educate the Audience With Useful Information
For example, check out Breaking Barriers.
With a core audience of small business owners looking for guidance to survive the pandemic, GoDaddy responded with a YouTube docuseries following real-life entrepreneurs who defied the odds, along with tutorial content where viewers could dive deeper.
GoDaddy increased organic watch time by more than 250% and increased subscribers by 300%.
17. Make Your Videos Long Enough to Reach a Point
What about YouTube Shorts? Will they help or hurt your efforts to get more views on YouTube?
Well, YouTube’s discovery system uses absolute and relative watch time as signals when deciding audience engagement.
Ultimately, YouTube wants both short and long videos to succeed, so they encourage content creators and video marketers to make their videos the appropriate length depending on the content.
Broadly speaking, relative watch time is more important for short videos and absolute watch time is more important for longer videos.
You can use the audience retention reports in YouTube Analytics to understand how long your viewers are willing to watch and adjust your content accordingly.
There you have it: 17 expert tips on how to get more views on YouTube from 11 different video marketing experts.
Now, I hope that gives you more strategic insights and tactical advice than you can shake a stick at.
But, I should end this article with a “Best By” label and advise you that these tips are best if they’re used before December 2021.
Why? Because YouTube is constantly changing.
In fact, I’ve studied the pace of change, and about half of the 17 tips above will be out-of-date 18 months from now.
So, set a reminder for yourself and come back to Search Engine Journal at the end of next year for an updated list of expert tips.