This article is part of my ongoing YouTube Articles and Guides series.
Getting discovered and watched is one of the most difficult things about doing YouTube, and it is often what fellow content creators struggle with the most. Having good content alone is not going to be enough, you will have to keep in mind how people are going to find your videos in a sea of ever-growing content.
To be discovered and watched on YouTube, the average content creator has 4 tools at his or her disposal:
The title, description, tags and thumbnail.
This post will focus on descriptions, seeing that they often are the most ignored part of the equation. I see a lot of fellow YouTubers not take their descriptions seriously enough and missing out on potential traffic and views.
Unless you are already established and have a strong fan-following, these tools will also be the only ways to let people find you and (hopefully) become subscribers in the process. So let’s find out how to use descriptions to your advantage!
The first two lines of your description are immediately visible, making them especially important and you should treat them with special care. What else makes them so valuable?
- Your (potential) viewer sees those in the search results, helping them make a decision if they want to watch your video.
- These two lines are visible on most platforms, without the user having to expand the description.
- Influences the search ranking and your video being suggested under other similar videos
- Sets the tone for the video and the style and quality of content the viewer can expect
Often your first lines of your description span over these two lines (three lines on the video page itself), which is fine. YouTube cuts them off with an ellipsis.
Asking your viewer to leave a like, if they enjoyed the video is never a bad idea. Some creators prefer to have this call-to-action right on the first line of their description to remind their viewers of leaving a like or to subscribing to their channel. I think that having a generic message like this in the first line of your description does not make up for the upsides that come from crafting the first lines for every video(series). Not only will you lose out on important keyword placements, but similar to banners, viewers are pretty much blind to these default messages.
If you are bent on having the call to action right at the start of your description, make sure to make it engaging or funny and change them slightly in every video. (i.e. Please leave a Like if you enjoyed XYZ of the video!)
You can also ask your users to leave a comment with their take on the topic or ask them a question about a specific part of your video. Directly asking them improves their engagement (and with that your ranking) and adds relevant keywords in the comment section. (If users leave relevant comments.)
If you mention specific sites in your video, don’t forget to link these in the comments below. Viewers often look here for ways to easily access content discussed in the video.
After that, you should place any links to social media profiles or other relevant websites you would want to have in every video. You can use the YouTube upload defaults to make sure every video contains these links.
If you are linking to a service that isn’t well known (like ask.fm), consider using a descriptive or engaging title (”Ask me a question!”).
I would recommend shortening the links in your description, especially the reoccurring ones with a service like bit.ly. This has several advantages:
- Shortening makes your description look more organized
- Services like bit.ly allow you to track the clicks, giving you a better understanding what links people click
- With link customization, it adds keywords, which Google can find for its search algorithm
Do’s and Don’ts
- If your video is a Let’s Play / Review / First Impression, add a little description of the game in the description (feel free to grab one off of Steam or the developer’s website).
- Make sure also to add a title to a store page, where users can purchase the game, helping the developer sell more copies of their game.
- Stay up to date with changes on the YouTube Creator Playbook (see below under Tools). Read the YouTube Creator Playbook in the first place.
- Make sure to spell-check your description. Typos and bad grammar can deter users before they even watch your video.
- Look at other creators and their descriptions. What do they do differently? What would make sense to integrate into yours?
- Overdoing keywords: It is important to integrate keywords from your title and tags into your description, but don’t overdo it. Make sure sentences sound at least somewhat organic. Rather incorporate different keywords, than the same ones over and over again.
- Literal begging for likes or subscriptions. It only looks desperate. Also, don’t you even think about sub4sub!
- Putting irrelevant keywords into your description (or tags for that matter).
- Don’t dump a whole bunch of keywords at the end of your description, no matter if they are relevant or not. YouTube finds and removes these videos. Even if you manage to sneak a few past YouTube, it does not look good and does barely affect your search rankings.
Category (and Game Title)
Make sure to select the right category for your video. I would recommend not picking Comedy for gaming videos, even though some big YouTubers like Markiplier or jacksepticeye have their videos listed under that category. Gaming allows YouTube to show more relevant ads and suggests you more successfully.
If you select the category as Gaming, make sure to fill out the game title under Advanced Settings. Chances are, smaller and newer titles will not be in the database. In that case, just type it in and hope for the best.
Quick tip: You can change the category of all your videos by editing them with YouTube’s mass-edit tools.
Things to consider
If your video is part of a playlist, it might be worth adding a link to the playlist into the description. Creating an easy-to-find link for your viewer makes it easier for them to find the rest of the videos and follow along a series, resulting in more views. If you take advantage of Official Series, it might be less relevant, but I would still recommend doing it. You only have to do it once per series anyway.
If you have made other videos, that are relevant or similar, you can put a link or two in your description. Chances are, YouTube automatically suggests similar titles, but it increases the odds of a user choosing your video as his next one to watch.
Consider reworking older description if they are not very good or miss relevant links for your users. If your already released videos are lacking a description, at least copy-paste a default description with all relevant social media links and a call to action below them.
Tools and more resources
Working on descriptions can make up a huge part of the time you spend on working on your YouTube channel. Some of the following tools can make your life easier:
TubeBuddy supercharges your YouTube Video Manager and your Video Edit page with several useful functions. One of my favorite functions for editing descriptions are the Copy/Replace/Append Description tools for your videos. If you have many videos, you can easily append an extra link or if they are all using the same description, replace them with a better one.
- YouTube Creator Playbook
The YouTube Creator Playbook is a handy guide, written by the YouTube staff. Every YouTube creator should spend some time, reading this great (free) tool.
Well known service for shortening URLS. Makes your description look organized and allows tracking to see how effective your links are.
I hope this post made you appreciate your videos’ description more and can help you attract more traffic to your videos. If you have questions about descriptions or tips, make sure to leave them in the comments below!