When you think about your title, you have to realize that it’s the first thing the viewer sees when evaluating whether or not to watch your video--whether that's from a search result, or via your social network. It’s important that a title works well for search, but also speaks to potential viewers and compels them to view your video, which will ultimately help with video rankings through engagement.
Last week, at Vidcon, I spoke on a panel with Jim Louderback, Corey Vidal, and Brett Lemick (producer for Shay Carl), titled "Headline Secrets and MetaData Mastering -Titles, Descriptions, Thumbnails and Tags, Oh My!" Not a bad title, eh? We had standing room only in the session and for at least half of the session, we discussed best practices for titling your videos. Because there was so much interest in titles and headlines, I figured it would be worth while to focus on titling videos for this week's tip.
Video Titles & Headlines - 7 Tricks to Balancing Search & Social
Sometimes it is important to focus more on optimizing your titles, especially if you want it to be on YouTube and found in Google, while other times, you'll want to make sure your videos' headlines are compelling when showing up in people’s social stream so as to encourage clicks. Keep in mind that both are possible, but you'll want to keep several things in mind and test different ways of titling your videos for maximum effect in both search and social. Here are a few things to try when selecting a title for your video.
1) This Should go without Saying
Always remember that you do not want to deceive users, so title your videos appropriately. If you have a video that just shows a bunch of pictures of various cakes without any instruction, don't title it "How to bake a cake." If you do, users will likely bounce from your video (if they don't also give it a thumbs down), which will hurt you in the long run.
2) Experiment with Titles Later
When you first publish a video, most people will be seeing your video show up in their subscription boxes, in twitter streams, etc... As such, with all that we are flooded with today, you'll want your title to stand out and be compelling to click and watch. However, this usually means that your title will not be as well optimized for search engine rankings as you're instead trying to elicit an emotional response as opposed to merely using keywords for ranking.
Creating titles that work for both search and social can be done from time to time, but keep in mind that you can always go back and re-title your videos. So, after a few days when your subscribers and followers have seen your video, it's ok to go back and optimize your titles more-so for search.
The main point here is that it's ok to experiment with your titles from time to time to see what works best.
3) Take Advantage of Current Events
On the theme of experimentation, another thing you can do is to take advantage of Tent-pole events and other current events when you have an older video that may be relevant. If you have a video that is of you watching a fireworks show, you could update that during the 4th of July (for those in the USA), and again during New Year's to see if you get an uptick in views.
4) Keep in Mind Title Character Counts
You have around 100 characters in the field for your title in YouTube, but when it shows up in searches, people will only see the first 50-60 characters. 50 Characters will be seen when viewing your video result in Google universal search, 60 in regular Google search, and 55 characters in YouTube search. You'll need to work with your title until you've got something that works but you'll want to show the most important and compelling piece within the first 50 characters.
If you're going primarily for SEO, keep your main keywords/phrases towards the start of the title.
5) Try ALL CAPS, some CAPS, Stars, Etc...
Sometimes you can draw attention by putting certain words in caps, or putting all caps. You can also use certain characters like stars ( ★), arrows (►), etc... . If people do a search for your subject area and see words in caps, it may increase the chances of them clicking on it. Who knows, again, experiment. You might want to try various words like "secrets" "tricks" etc... Things that would get you to click on a video. Again, don't forget the golden rule to keep it relevant and not deceptive.
6) Study Magazine Headlines
Jim mentioned this great piece of advice... Magazines have been coming up with interesting titles for a very long time. When you think about it, they have little time to capture your interest amongst other magazines in a rack. They know how to give you titles that make you want to look. Study them and see how they do it.
7) Prime and Odd Numbers
Here's another great tip from Jim. How many times have you seen the “top 10” tips of how to do something. It’s so common that people wonder if there are really 10, or did you stretch it to be 10. If you use the “top 7,” however, they’re more apt to believe that you have 7 solid tips. So, try using odd or prime numbers and see if that makes any difference.
QUESTION: What tips do you have for selecting titles and headlines? Have you ever gone back to older videos and changed or optimized your titles and if so, how well did it work?