YouTube Annotations are an important tool for any online video producer on YouTube, but many people either don't know how to use them nor use them well. This is not a tutorial on how to create annotations on your videos -- there are plenty of those around on YouTube already. This is a look at how to use annotations to effectively engage with your viewers, how to use annotations to get new subscribers, how to introduce viewers to your other videos, and promote interaction with your audience.

Use YouTube Annotations To Increase Engagement



Reel Video Producer Tips is a weekly show that helps online video producers with tips, tricks, advice, secrets, and suggestions for how to make their videos stand out on the web.

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On this week's Creator's Tip I show you guys how to effectively use YouTube annotations to effectively engage with your audience and I also tell you a couple of things you might not know about YouTube annotations. So that's coming up.

Hey guys! My name is Tim Schmoyer and welcome to another Creator's Tip. Every week we like to make a new video for you guys who make online video content, just giving you tips and tricks and secrets for how to make your videos stand out.

And this week I'm going to show you guys how to use annotations effectively on YouTube. But since annotations do not work on mobile devices, if you're watching this on your phone, on your iPod or iPad or whatever, I would encourage you to get to a desktop, if at all possible, so you can see some of the annotations that are going to be popping up around here as examples.

First of all, let's start with the obvious. You should be using annotations on your videos. They're free and to not use them is wasting an opportunity to potentially facilitate some engagement and interaction with some of your viewers. All of your videos should at least include an annotation that encourages people to give it a thumbs up, to comment on it, to add it to their favorites because every time someone engages in that way in your videos, it bumps that video to the homepage for all that person's friends. Which obviously not only gives you more exposure, but it also influences Google search algorithm for how valuable your video might be to other viewers.

It's also a good idea to add a little annotation to remind people to subscribe if they like your content. You can even make a little box like that one right there and put a little annotation around it for people to click, making it super easy for people who might not even know what like subscribing is on YouTube. But if you make it easy enough, just tell them to click on something, then they're much more likely to do something than to try to dig around for some subscribe button on the page and figuring out what it means and how it works. Just explain it real briefly and tell them to click.

You can use annotations to link to other videos and other playlists that you've set up. This is especially effective at the end. If people like your content and they're looking for something more, well you put something right in front of them right away that you recommend, like, "Hey, go check this out next!" And they'll just clickety-clack their way over to the next video.

One thing that Google says that really influences their search algorithm for videos is how many video responses it has. The problem is most people don't know how to submit a video response. The link to do it is kind of hidden down next to the comment field. So make it super easy for them to do it by like adding a box like this with the submit video response annotation thing around it, so people again can just click it and your viewers will thank you for making it so simple.

Two really powerful annotations that I don't see used around YouTube a lot if this one where you can click and it opens up a private message on YouTube, which is great. If you're asking for engagement or your audience to respond to something, but you don't want it to be public in the comments below the video, you can just make a quick little annotation for people to click and they can send you a private message right here on YouTube.

The other annotation that's not used very much is the ability to link to a search query on YouTube. Say, for example, that you've been curating a playlist that you kind of want to be authoritative on a certain topic or subject. If there's too much content coming out on that topic, you can just as easily like to a search query for people instead.

But here's the thing. Don't use too many annotations. If you use too many, it just gets annoying and it's really easy for people actually to just turn annotations off completely on your videos by just clicking the little annotation button on the YouTube player. But more than likely, they'll just leave your video and not bother watching the rest of it anyway.

Also, be careful about which color combinations you use. For example, the big red one pops up like that. That kind of comes across as a warning. So be careful how many of those you use. Or if you use like really light colored one, like a white one or a gray one, it just kind of blends in and people don't see it at all. Or worse yet, they're just squinting and trying to make out what it says and missing everything that's going on in the video.

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One of annotations that I have personally found is the most effective is just using something subtle up in the corner, like that one. It's very subtle and non-obtrusive and it kind of prompts some curiosity. So that when people go and hover their mouse over the top of it, a little message comes up and they can see whatever text you've put in there for them that explains what that annotation is all about. Go ahead, try it.

And we're back. I actually stopped this video from playing completely. I knew you. I put it on pause for you so you'd have time to look at that little annotation in the corner. How did I do that? Well there's a pause annotation that also doesn't get used very often. But when used sparingly and at the right times, can be very, very effective. So, for example, if you want to give someone a little extra time to click on an annotation around there but you don't want to make your video to play longer because then people would be less likely to watch it if they see it's four minutes but three and half minutes is just really long, waiting for someone to click on something. You can just use the pause button instead.

Some of the top YouTubers are telling their audience, "Hey, I've included a tiny little annotation somewhere in this video that includes a link to a secret video." And some of these YouTubers top fans will scrub through that entire video carefully looking for that half second annotation or even a tenth of a second annotation that leads to a special video or gives them a special message or something.

I think the value of that is that it increases the attention score that YouTube gives their videos because people are watching the full video. They're
even watching it through a couple times, looking for that secret message so YouTube scores and rankings go up and you influence the search algorithm.

Another really powerful aspect of annotations is the ability to make them invisible. All the annotations can be adjusted to be either square or
rectangle. But what happens if you have like a circle that you want people to click on instead and you don't want like a square grey box around it?
Well, check this one out. You can just make an invisible annotation that still pops up the text but people actually don't see the line anywhere. And
you can link it to whatever you want and it just looks beautiful.

A good example of this is this video right here.

Skip around using the timeline below. If you're on YouTube, use these buttons to see additional work or for other options.

Boone Oakley simply adds those three little boxes to their video. Then once it's on YouTube, they just annotate them so that at any point while a
viewer is watching their video, they can click to find more information about their company.

But here's the real question: how effective are annotations really? It seems to me and many other YouTubers I know that annotations are used most
effectively when they're used just to serve as a little reminder to somebody for whatever call to action you want them to take. You know, "Hey give us
a thumbs up!" Or why don't you comment below or subscribe or something like that.

The second most effective use seems to be getting people to click them for your call to action, like to subscribe or leave a video response. And
finally, according to the stats across the multiple YouTube channels that I have access to, it seems like using them to link to other videos is the
least effective.

In your YouTube Insights, click the Discovery link and it will show you how many people are finding your videos through annotations. According to the
channels that I checked out, it seemed that annotations that linked to other videos accounted for anywhere from 0.25% to 0.75% of new traffic to those
videos. Not a very big number at all, but that number can add up over time and give them more views and it's free so you've got nothing to lose by
doing it.

There's a lot of creative uses of annotations on YouTube. I'll link to some of my favorites in the description below if you want to see how some other
YouTubers are using these to really creatively and effectively engage with their audience.

I want to hear from you guys. How do annotations work best for you? Best practices and tips you have to suggest and recommend for the rest of us? Leave
them in the comments below or leave a video response. And if you need an annotation, there's one right there.

I would love to take some of you guy's tips for a future Creator's Tips videos. If you want to submit them as a response to this video, I would be
happy to highlight you guys and take some of your videos. Just make them short and leave all the editing out, no music and no titles or anything. I'll
add all that in there. And I'll make sure you get credit, don't worry about that.

But I would love to feature you guys in some upcoming Creator's Tips videos. That's all we've got for you guys this week. I hope it was helpful and I
guess I will see you all Monday for a look at the Reel Web. Bye!

  • John Z Wetmore

    I have long videos with several interviews (they are programs I produce for cable that I upload to YouTube as is). I use annotations to create a table of contents at the start of each video so that viewers can click and go straight to the interview they are interested in. It makes it much easier to navigate than trying to scroll through to the desired segment.

  • Arthur T Williams IV

    At 1:08, you say that viewer interactions 'bump the video' ' the homepage for all that person's friends.'

    What home page are you talking about? You're saying it bumps that video to the viewer's home page? If that's the case then I guess you mean their YouTube Channel home page?


  • Tim Tevlin

    Another great video Tim. I like the way you use jump cuts to go from one point you are making to another, and doing so has become an accepted way of doing things, unlike old school video pre-YouTube generation. thx

    • Tim Schmoyer

      Thanks, Tim! Jump cuts make it so much easier to shorten the length of a video if it's too long (as mine often are) and it makes it easier to shoot, too, because you don't have to remember as many words to say. :) Maybe I should do a Creator's Tip on that sometime.

  • Michael Nistler

    Aloha Tim,

    Wow, your videos keep getting better and better. Your annotations video was chalk full of useful "how to" tips - AWESOME! And your snappy story-telling keeps getting better. Ditto with your personalization.

    Your videos continually up the bar in production value, becoming more compelling, with more intimacy and personality. You've definitely found your voice and come across as comfortable sharing your humanity - keep it up!

    Happy Trails,  Michael Nistler.

    • Tim Schmoyer

      Thanks, Michael! I really appreciate the encouragement! Glad you find them helpful.

  • Pete Kvist

    Top shelf Tim. Long time fan, first time commenter. It's obvious you keep taking things to the next level. I was very interested in the conversion rates of each type of annotation. Would love to get your perspective on what would be an ideal combination of annotations and what type to use in a "regular" video to create maximum engagement. I dare say through testing someone has found a "sweet spot"?

    • Tim Schmoyer

      Hey Pete! No, I don't have stats that indicate how many annotations to use, when to use them, how long to make them, what they should say, where they should be placed, what colors to use, etc. A lot of that comes from experimentation with your audience. The only stats YouTube gives about annotations is how many views came to a video via an annotation somewhere. Unfortunately, it doesn't even tell you if the annotation was from your video or someone else's.

      On my personal vlogs, I have a small square spotlight in each corner throughout the whole video on every video. On ReelSEO, that's not there because I feel like it's more effective for me to verbally remind viewers to subscribe and thumbs-up and such. How you use annotations depends on your content, your audience, and more. Just err on the side of using them sparingly and unobtrusively.

    • Pete Kvist

      Thanks Tim Schmoyer. Great message. It really is up to the individual testing.

  • Ulrika Hedlund

    Hi Tim,
    Thanks for the great video on YouTube annotations, I just got started posting videos so this was perfect, now I have added annotations to my first video(
    I have one question - can I add an annotation that links to my web site? I couldn't find that as an option in the "Link" field.
    Thanks again!

    • Mark Robertson

      Unfortunately you cant link off site, but you can using promoted videos -

    • Ulrika Hedlund

      Brilliant, thanks for your help Mark! :-)

    • John Z Wetmore

      YouTube will now let you link to an Associated Website. So follow YouTube's procedure to get your website associated with your channel, and then your annotations can link to it.

  • JJ Currie

    I like your style thanks for that Tim some good tips here... I never knew annotations never showed up on the iPad!!!