Not surprisingly, artists and music brands have lately come to view YouTube network as one of the most critical pieces of their digital marketing strategies. Not only is video content one of the most valuable tools available for increasing engagement and building an artist’s brand, but it has also proven capable of breaking new acts (just look at Psy and Justin Bieiber) in the rare event that a video goes viral.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer to that question. YouTube is undeniably one of the hardest social networks to crack for any artist trying to build an audience. Eight years’ worth of video content is uploaded to the platform every single day, which means your latest music video or behind-the-scenes clip is competing against a nearly endless pool of other pieces of content. What most YouTube users don’t realize, however, is that there are several simple tricks any content creator can use to easily increase their visibility on the platform, simply by understanding how YouTube ranks its content.
Of course, the first and most important step is to create high quality, entertaining content that people will actually want to watch. But once your video is ready to go live on the platform, make sure to follow these simple steps to ensure people will actually find it:
1. Optimize your tags. You may be surprised to learn that your video’s title and description has virtually no correlation to how YouTube assesses your video. Instead, tags are what tell YouTube’s algorithm whether your video is relevant to what a particular user is looking for—as well as what determine which videos show up in Google’s Video Search results. When building out your list of tags, make sure to include keywords from the title and description of your video, as well as broader terms that relate to your content (e.g. “pop rock music” or “hip-hop music video”). If your video makes reference or relates to themes from the news, popular culture, or other artists, make sure they are also included in your tags (e.g. “2012 presidential election”). Generate a list of go-to keywords—both specific and broader terms—that you can use as tags for every video you publish, but also make sure to update tags from existing videos on a semi-regular basis to include relevant trending topics in your keywords. Think about what terms users will search for if they’re looking for content similar to yours, and make sure those terms are included in your tags.
And don’t forget—you need to use quotation marks around your multi-word tags for them to register as a single tag.
2. Use captivating titles and select the most compelling thumbnail available. While your titles won’t dictate where your video shows up in search results, they will help users decided whether or not they want to click on your video over another. Which thumbnail you use also has a big effect on how appealing your video is in search results. Make sure to choose one that is visually appealing and an accurate representation of what users are going to see when they view the video. If viewers stop watching your video after a few seconds because it’s not what they expected to find, YouTube will give your video a lower quality score and decrease its ranking.
3. Whenever possible, don’t upload your video until you’re ready for it to go live. YouTube prioritizes fresh content, so if you upload a video as private and later make it public, it loses any initial momentum it could have garnered if it were pushed live when first uploaded. While promotional schedules sometimes dictate having a video pre-uploaded so that it can go live at a precise time, and while it may seem like you’ll save yourself precious time by having videos ready to go ahead of time, it’s worth the extra time and effort to only upload videos when they’re ready to be pushed live, if you can.
4. Upload fresh videos on a consistent, regular basis. Doing this will keep your channel active, which means all your videos will be ranked higher than if you have no fresh content at all. Not all of your videos need to be the highest quality production. Save time and money by shooting behind-the-scenes videos on available equipment (an iPhone works great), and you’ll not only offer your fans a more intimate experience, but also keep your video rankings healthy.
5. Use your description and annotations to build call-to-actions into your videos. Once you have a viewer, give them clear instructions for what you’d like them to do next. Every video you upload should include in-video links to Subscribe to your channel. You can create these by editing your videos’ “annotations,” and control their size, font, and appearance to ensure they don’t negatively impact your content. Annotations can also be plain text, which can correspond to further details or links within your video description. For example, you can advertise “Now available on iTunes” with an annotation, and then include a hyperlink to the iTunes store in your description. In every video description, make sure to include relevant information and hyperlinks to your website and key social media profiles, and always include the full URL (“http://...”) to make the link active.
There are many other tips and tricks you can use to increase the effective reach and quality of your YouTube presence, but the above are some of the most critical—and some of the most frequently overlooked. Ensuring your digital team understands the specifics of how YouTube ranks and profiles its content is essential for building a successful YouTube Channel. Overlooking these details can leave even the highest quality content unwatched.
Katonah Coster is a Marketing Manager at Fame House, where she helps artists manage and grow their digital businesses. Prior to this role, Coster handled marketing and development at the the non-profit Weathervane Music and served as a management assistant at Whitesmith Entertainment.