One of the most common questions we're asked when talking about the YouTube platform is “how do you rank videos...
In Luke’s latest video for SEM Rush, he shares the most common mistakes people make when they first start to do YouTube SEO. These mistakes could really be harming your progress, but the good news is that they are relatively easy to fix. Watch the video and find out what mistakes to avoid in your Video Marketing strategy.
I really want to help prevent you from making these same mistakes, so save yourself a lot of time and frustration, and start fixing these mistakes straight away.
Valuing optimisation over quality
So if you’ve ever uploaded a video to YouTube, and then been hugely disappointed by the number of views it had, what was the first thing you looked at? For most people, they look at their optimisation, and they assume maybe they didn’t use the right keywords or include the right META data.
An important consideration is that optimisation is just a multiplier of quality. Looking back at my first few videos on YouTube, no amount of optimisation was going to significantly improve their performance or make them suddenly become viral sensations.
Optimisation can have a huge impact on your channel, but only if the quality of your content is good. So focus on the quality of your content first, and don’t try and rely on optimisation alone to get you the results you want.
Writing titles for SEO not the user
For those with an SEO background, they typically write the titles of their videos for the algorithm rather than for the viewer. The issue with this is that if the title isn’t interesting to the user, they are less likely to click on it.
Click through rate can have a big impact on video performance, far more than any SEO benefit they might provide, so make sure your titles are user centric. This means, if you’re going to have strategically written titles, make sure the first part of your title is written for the user. Creating interest and getting that all important click will likely have far more value.
Not spending time on thumbnails
A common mistake we see with a lot of new YouTube channels is that they treat thumbnails as a bit of an afterthought. Typically they might select a frame from the video as their thumbnail during the upload process.
We know that click through rate is a hugely important metric on the YouTube platform, and it can even influence how a video ranks for a specific search term. Even if you theoretically ranked a video #1 for your chosen keyword, do you think the position would be maintained if no one clicked on the video?
To further emphasise the importance of this, big YouTuber’s often come up with the concept of the thumbnail before the video. Additionally, they may change the thumbnail multiple times based on how the video is performing.
So make sure you’re spending time creating an interesting, eye catching thumbnail that will encourage users to click on your video. It doesn’t matter how great your content is if no one clicks on it because the thumbnail isn’t doing it’s job.
Ruining watch time
The most important metric on the YouTube platform is watch time; it’s the single biggest ranking factor as it’s the best measure YouTube has in understanding the quality of your content, and the most difficult to manipulate and gamify.
As such, watch time can determine the visibility of your content in the search results and the likelihood of appearing as a recommended video in the suggested video sidebar.
Structuring your content for maximum watch time is an artform in itself, so initially you should focus on stopping the viewer bouncing off your video early by avoiding these classic mistakes.
- The first is not matching expectations set by your thumbnail & title. If a viewer feels tricked or clickbaited, they are going to bounce off the video pretty quickly which will tank your average watch time.
- Next is overly long intros or talking off topic at the start of your video. Make sure you get straight to the point – viewers are impatient and they will skip ahead or find another video if you take too long to deliver your content
- Finally avoid long talking to camera segments. Consider the 10 second rule, which keeps viewers engaged with scene changes, quick cuts and supporting graphics or b-roll approximately every 10 seconds.
Once you’ve implemented some of these changes, you can then start analysing your audience retention graphs in Analytics, and trying some advanced storytelling techniques to really boost your average view duration.
Too many CTAs
When it comes to a successful call to action in a video, an in-video request works best. However try and make sure you only ask for just one action.
A classic mistake is to ask viewers to like the video, leave a comment, subscribe, follow them on Instagram, sign up to their Patreon, check out their website… the list can go on! Generally speaking if a viewer is given too many options, they end up taking no action.
If you ask for anything, the best action you can include would be to encourage a viewer to watch another video. Session time and average views per viewer is a really important metric on YouTube, so the more content you can encourage viewers to watch, the better.
Researching keywords during the upload process
Ideally you should perform your keyword research before you make your video. This will give you the insights you need to make sure you’re making content about a popular topic, and will help you structure your content, title and tags.
A big mistake is doing this during the upload process after the video has been made, and trying to make the keywords retrospectively fit your content.
It can be very frustrating if you upload a video, and realise you should have written or structured your content differently based on the data.
Having too broad a niche
When I first started making videos on YouTube, it was purely for fun. I made videos on widely different topics, so I would publish a video about fitness, then one about tattoos, another about cars… it was different every time.
As a result, the performance of my channel was really poor. Getting new subscribers was difficult because the range of topics was so broad. Every time I published a new video, traffic from notifications was also poor and I would often get people unsubscribing with each new release.
This is because if they had subscribed based on my car content, and then I published something they weren’t interested in, they’re not going to stay subscribed in the hope that at some point in the future I might make some more car content.
The more you can niche down, the more likely you are to be able to build an audience, and the more likely they will be interested in every new video. If you consider a popular gaming channel, they typically niche down to one particular title or a particular style of game.
So choose a niche and try to stick within it as best as you can.
Overlooking interactive features such as cards and end screens
Interactive features can be fantastic for increasing your session time and average views per viewer. Make sure you’re linking to relevant content that the viewer will be interested in. This works especially well for serialised content, so linking to the series playlist and the next episode can be a really powerful strategy.
These features can also improve the data relationship between your videos, which can improve the likelihood that YouTube will recommend your own content in the suggested video sidebar on your watch page.
Not engaging with your audience
Not engaging with your audience can be a big missed opportunity. Make sure you respond to every comment you receive, and try to encourage more comments by asking questions from your viewers.
While engagement metrics might help with the performance of your video, the real benefit from this is about building a loyal and engaged community from your subscriber base.
Creating loyal subscribers that watch and comment on all your videos is extremely valuable, so provide value to them with your content, and show them that you care about them by responding to every engagement you can.
Sub4Sub is a term used for when another YouTube channel subscribes to your channel purely so that you reciprocate. This can be very tempting, especially for smaller channels that are trying to grow quickly. In fact, I’ve seen channels grow their subscriber base by 1000s of subscribers overnight because they joined a sub4sub thread on Reddit or sub4sub Facebook Group.
Although this sounds great it can actually have a really negative impact on your channel. The best case scenario is that these subscribers remain inactive. This means that although they are subscribed, they won’t watch your content or engage with it in any way.
Doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well it can negatively impact the CTR of your videos and your notifications, sending a signal to YouTube that your latest content was a swing and miss for your audience. It also may lead to your genuine subscribers not receiving a notification – unless they have clicked the notification bell, YouTube only initially notifies around 10-15% of your audience.
The worst case scenario is that they watch every single one of your videos, but only long enough to let you know in a comment that they watched it, again in the hope that you will reciprocate and watch and comment on their latest video. This can be devastating to your average view duration, if you have 50 people that all watch your video for just 15 seconds and leave.
Believe it or not, there are even more downsides to sub4sub, so please – although it may be tempting, avoid it at all costs. You would be much better off focusing on 10 engaged subscribers that like your content, than a thousand sub4sub subscribers.
So to summarise, these are the 10 common YouTube Optimisation mistakes you need to avoid [on screen display]. As mentioned they can be relatively easy to fix, so stop limiting the potential views and growth of your channel, and start fixing some of these mistakes straight away.
Not having a launch strategy
If you’re starting a new YouTube channel, then initially you might not get a lot of reach with your content through the platform alone. So for every video, have a launch strategy to help maximise views from external sources as well as on the platform.
As a minimum, make sure that you publish the video at the best time for your audience, and coordinate social media posts, blogs and email notifications to go out at the same time.
Having a high initial view velocity of your video can trigger the algorithm to extend the reach of your content, so the more comprehensive the launch strategy, the more potential your video has to perform well.