Five Keys For Creating Viral YouTube Titles

As with text web pages, from an SEO standpoint the title of your YouTube video is the most important piece of content on the page. Well, to be fair, the most important piece of content is actually the video itself, but for the purpose of this discussion, let’s assume that the video is at least moderately watchable and entertaining.

Every YouTube video resides on its own page and has a unique URL. YouTube creates HTML meta tags for each of these video view pages based on different page elements. The title of the video becomes the title tag, the description becomes the meta description tag, and the YouTube tags become the meta keywords tag (never mind that this tag is ignored by most search engines). Therefore, writing a good title can vastly affect your video’s click-through from both YouTube and from non-video SERPs.

The following five tips will help you write the most effective titles possible for your YouTube videos.

Conduct some keyword research

Using a free tool like Google’s AdWords keyword tool or Wordtracker, identify what people are searching for around the keyword niche that your video occupies. For example, if your video is about Dwayne Johnson giving workout advice, plug in keywords like “workout tips,” or “weight lifting advice.” Most keyword tools, including the AdWords tool, will suggest synonyms with higher search volumes. Like any keyword research, you are looking for the sweet spot between high search volume and low competition. In the following screen shot, the keyword “tips for workout” has a considerably lower competition rating than “workout tips.”

AdWords Keyword Example

Therefore, “tips for workout” would probably be the better choice for a keyword given the higher chance of its ranking. A good title in this case might be Tips for Workout from Dwayne Johnson.

use the word “video”

Erik Freeman, a link-building guru at The Search Agency, turned me onto this tip a couple of years ago. The concept is simple. Many searches for videos include the word “video.” Including the word in the title of the YouTube video vastly increases your view page’s relevancy when a searcher’s query contains the word “video.” For example, if your video is a compilation of Bobcat freestyle tricks, try the title Bobcat Freestyle Video. Keep in mind that this tactic works best when you are targeting searches on non-video-specific search engines (like Google’s web search). People who search on YouTube use the word “video” less-frequently (in my experience) because it is implied.

Be mindful of title character counts

Google truncates page titles somewhere around the 66 character mark. Any longer and you’ll see an ellipse at the end of your title. Since YouTube automatically adds “YouTube –” to the beginning of every view page’s title tag, you’re already 10 characters down before you even start. In the following screen shot, the Google result for the search term “Michael Jackson video” is truncated because it exceeds the maximum character count.


There are two disadvantages in this scenario. First, a user will not be able to see the full title, and if there is descriptive information toward the end that might compel a user to click, it will be lost. Second, I have found that clean, non-truncated SERP listings tend to have higher clickthroughs. If you think of your SERP listing as marketing copy, you would never intentionally cut off the most visible part of the listing.

Be descriptive

This one seems like a no-brainer, but it’s likely the most common mistake that I see on YouTube. How many times have you seen videos entitled, AWESOME!, or What? or Genius Moves? It’s understandable that the users who uploaded these videos were excited about them, but it’s important to clear your head of amazing-beer-pong-skills induced delirium and remember that most people will have no idea what this video is about aside from what they see in the title, a brief description, and if you’re lucky a thumbnail image. Use the title to quickly summarize what the video is about. Instead of AWESOME! try Awesome Soccer Skills.

Learn from others’ successes and failures on YouTube

If you are certain that your video is the greatest thing since Leave Britney Alone but you are having trouble coming up with a good title, spend 10-15 minutes searching around YouTube for similar videos. See if you can find videos that perhaps haven’t gone viral but have views above several thousand. Is there a common thread among several of them? On the other side, is there a common thread among those videos you find with lower numbers of views? Searcher behavior is difficult to predict, but it never hurts to take a cue from past failure and successes.

A good example that could have been even better

One of the most popular videos this week is entitled Tim Burton Look. This makeup tutorial is not only well-timed to coincide with the buzz surrounding Tim Burton’s latest film, but the title is also short and to-the-point.

My only suggestion for improvement here would be to make the title even more descriptive. Expanding the title to Tim Burton Look Makeup Tutorial would still fall well within the safe-zone of title character length.

The best YouTube titles will use a combination of some or all of these tips. And, of course, it’s impossible to know what will be the next Evolution of Dance. But if you spent time crafting a quality, compelling and possibly humorous video that has viral potential, spend a little extra time on the YouTube page content. A great title has the potential to push your video from merely popular to wildly viral.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Video | Search Engines: Video Search Engines | Video Search


About The Author: is a freelance search & social media consultant and an avid food blogger.

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