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This article was published on November 20, 2015

9 tips to make a video go viral on YouTube

9 tips to make a video go viral on  YouTube
Mackensie Graham

Cute animals, kids saying the silliest things, talk show clips, comedy sketches and fitness instructionals: YouTube is the bustling agora of the Web, capturing all of life’s hilarious moments, compiling helpful tutorials and trending news. From its humble beginnings a decade ago, YouTube has propelled itself beyond a call to action to “Broadcast Yourself.”

YouTube is an ever evolving, all seeing eye that is incredibly social, comment-intensive and gives us cocktail conversation, “Oh, did you see that YouTube video?” YouTube is the emperor of video platforms, and having a strong brand presence means contributing to the kingdom with videos.

YouTube is also the world’s second largest search engine. Yes, you read that right; as well as the third most visited site on the Web. Meaning if you’re not incorporating the video network into you digital marketing mix you should. Right now.

Every so often, a YouTube video goes viral. Try as you might, you cannot force virality. The essence of virality is user generated, passed contagiously amongst video watchers. Daily, more than one billion users collectively watch more than watch hundreds of millions of hours of videos, generating billions of views on the platform localized in 75 countries, available in 61 languages.

Users upload 300 hours of video every minute meaning there’s a whole lot of audio visual noise. Being found takes a special talent — this is where the art of optimizing your content for the search engine comes in. It takes time to stand out but this can be made easier with tips and tricks.

viral video on youtube

Do your keyword research and monitor ranking progress

It may have been a while since your last academic research paper, but your brand’s video optimization is not the time for guesswork.

Start your investigation by digging deeply into keywords related to your industry and brand. Rank Tracker, is a standout tool for evaluating keyword potential. Rank Tracker treats individual YouTube URLs as site names. In just a few steps, you can have detailed information on keywords for your YouTube videos.

From the entered URL, keywords and keyphrases will automatically generate which you should add and delete from this list. Be sure to choose YouTube from the list of search engines (separated into folders by country).

The project will run, data will be collected (it’s super fast with a solid internet connection) and then click finish to view the results. That’s all it takes!

Keep in mind that while the YouTube platform is indeed amazing, it cannot scan audio within a video for keywords and phrases. You have to do that job yourself, adding it into the context of the content surrounding the video.

The importance of ranking keywords cannot be stressed enough. YouTube, like Google, utilizes ranking to determine which videos rank at the search engine results page (SERP): AKA top of the heap and more likely to be played.

To play the ranking game, the number of views, length of watch time, ratings and comments are all key components. And, in addition to each of these factors, the right keywords can make all the difference between being at the top of page one and page six (and really, who clicks that far). Keyword tools like RankTracker ensure you’re on the right track, not just throwing great videos into the dark depths of obscurity.

Optimize the file name

Before uploading a video to YouTube it will likely have an auto generated title something like, “” Rename utilizing keywords that describe the video in similar or fewer words than a title. A video featuring how to carve a pumpkin should be renamed, “carve-pumpkin-tutorial.”

Improve the title using the right Keywords

Your video title may seem like a chance to execute your amazing ability for puns, but this is a great starting place to be smart with video optimization. Be descriptive but concise like you would with any webpage URL. Add in modifiers like “new” or “official” to draw attention and add value to the video right from the title. (People have an innate trust in the word “official” in our social world to rise above the fan pages and robots.)

For example instead of “How to Bake Banana Bread” add your brand and additional fitting keywords, like “Foodie Magazine New Recipe: How To Bake Delicious, Easy  Bread,” or “New Recipe: Delicious Banana Bread – Foodie Magazine.” Capitalize each word in your title.

using the right keyword meme

Other words that have a strong descriptive pull are words like
: DIY, Reviews, Case Study, Free and Tutorial.

Create a video for mobile devices

Smartphones aren’t just for texting about YouTube vids, they’re for watching. More than half of all YouTube videos come from mobile devices and they’re dedicating significant time to the platform; the average viewing time for mobile users (smartphone and tablets) is more than 40 minutes. Mobile is also YouTube’s top priority according to Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s chief executive; if it’s the company’s first prerogative it should be your brand’s as well.

First off know what you’re working with. Track your YouTube channel’s traffic from mobile by clicking on the Channel icon then click on Creator Studio. Under the left hand navigation click to Analytics followed by devices. Check out your mobile traffic and break it down by operating system.

Evaluate your page with a keen eye from various mobile devices to check how video titles and thumbnails appear. Ensure the image is clear and easily discernable.

different points of view

76 percent of Millennials subscribe to brand or company channels on YouTube
. The users are out there, now it’s time to create the content they want to watch. Seven out of 10 of these millennials are likely to watch a branded video while shopping online. And, nearly 75 percent of millennials find videos helpful when comparison shopping. This means your brand and company needs to host quality brand and product-oriented videos featuring details that will influence these savvy shoppers. Remember to keep the video titles focused on the product or service at hand so if a consumer is searching within a brand channel the intended video is first on results list.  

Write an effective video description

When uploading a video, the description box may seem like the last thing you want to fill out. But don’t miss this step – it’s important for SEO potential. Give your video at least 300 words of a description packed with keywords and phrases related to your brand and industry. So, write the description after you do your keyword research. Emphasis pull quotes and comments that give insight to the content in the video. Also, link to content related to the video that offers further information or a place for purchase with branded, tagged URLs. Add a domain link to your site at the very top of the video so viewers don’t have to dig deeper for you content.

You should also utilize the description area to place a link inviting users to subscribe to the channel and a link to a related different video on the channel. This will aid in guiding viewers on your branded content.  

Submit all the subtitles and create closed captions

Closed captions and subtitles are perhaps one of the least employed SEO tactics on YouTube. But, when YouTube conducted an A/B test with one of their channel partners, finding that videos with English captions saw a 4 percent increase in views. Beyond SEO purposes, closed captioning opens the video content up to a larger audience including those with hearing disabilities or language translated captions for an international audience.

YouTube does offer automatic speech recognition tech to craft captions, but these automatically generated scripts can host mistakes. You can employ this tactic and then edit the text to ensure quality control. It’s better to have no subtitles than automated gibberish which could mark the YouTube URL as “pure spam” by Google, shooting down any SEO value.

check video subtitles
Or, you can craft your own closed caption script and upload to YouTube. Such a file includes the text of what was said in the video and time codes for when it was said. Be sure to add auditory descriptors into the text such as [group laughter] or [loud door creak.]

If writing out your video script isn’t the idea of a fun workday, support the gig economy and hire talent on or work with a freelancer in your network.

Add tags properly

Tags are essentially keywords. (Another reason to yet again use Rank Tracker.) They are entered when uploading or editing the video and offer insight for the platform’s discovery system about the video’s topic and content. Include your brand’s name and related tags. If you’re stuck use YouTube’s auto suggest tool.

Don’t go wild with the tags — only include words that accurately describe what’s in the video. Start with longer phrases like “golden retriever puppy training” and then work your way down to “dog training” and “puppy.”  

Keep in mind that tags (like the video description) need not be stagnant. As new tags become popular and different search rise on the keyword list update your tags. Utilize quotation marks to indicate multi-word tags, such as “Donald Trump” or “Drake University.”

tags meme
Understand optimal length

The most popular videos are on the short side. That doesn’t mean you have to subscribe to a doctrine of defining time constraints, but it does mean you should cut the excess on your branded video. Viewers are more likely to watch the entire video if it’s short, meaning a more engaged audience.

If the content is something that requires something that requires more time, like a tutorial or testimonial, know that you don’t have to give all the gritty details, but provide an short and sweet overview. For viewers who are searching for more in-depth information you can direct them to the appropriate videos of web content by links in the description.

It depends on the amount of content and the purpose of your video, of course one-size doesn’t fit all. Consider separating out content, short snap videos all in one playlist so once one video is over the user is automatically directed to the next short clip on the list.

Open up to overlays

Overlays are those small boxes of text that pop up during a video. This text can appear as a clickable link which works wonders with strong CTAs for your audience, whether that be subscribing to the channel, making a purchase, or viewing more info on your site. Remember to also place that CTA in the description box so there is repetition of what action you’re calling the audience to take.  

With just a few upgrades to your channel and videos — with special attention on keywords and phrases — you’re on your way to a highly discoverable, engaging YouTube presence. Whether you’re paying to be on the top of the search ranking or striving for organic optimality apply these tactics for boosted SEO, engagement and views.


Read next: 4 tools for building a social media empire

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