YouTube video covers and titles might grab your attention, but descriptions are where the search engine shines. YouTube SEO is conceptually similar to what you would write for a blog post or website page: titles are important, but so are the details. The better you understand video SEO, the more likely your video will appear in search results. However, writing great YouTube descriptions doesn’t negate bad video content. Descriptions get your viewer to your video, but your video has yet to hold the end of the quality deal.
The two different YouTube descriptions
There are two types of YouTube descriptions: one for the channel and one for the video itself. Most of the tips listed here apply to the video description, but some, like using the correct keywords, apply to the channel description as well.
Channel descriptions Summarize what to expect from the canal. Similar to writing a corporate boilerplate, a channel name is repeated a number of times, along with some keywords that should be assigned to the channel.
Video descriptions You will get far more detail about what to expect from the video, it may contain related links, and will also use repetitive keywords. You have a lot more space to describe videos, and those first few lines are important to viewers.
Why are YouTube descriptions important?
If you’re using a search engine or YouTube’s native search, many factors play a role in how your video will appear in the results. YouTube descriptions are one of those factors. If your video description includes popular search terms or their associated keywords, it is more likely to appear in the results and in the related video sidebar. If you are familiar with how website SEO works, think of this as a meta description.
However, this does not mean that you should keyword your description. People are still reading YouTube descriptions and clicking through important links. Here are some tips on how to write some great YouTube descriptions.
Customize your video description to match your video title
The video title has about 75 characters that you can use to grab a viewer’s attention immediately. Whatever keywords you use should be in your title and used a few more times in the description itself.
In the example above, Star Trek targets the keywords “Star Trek” and “Video Effects” in both the title and description. The description goes further than the screenshot, but only in the first few paragraphs you can tell how difficult it would be for a search engine to overlook that this video is Star Trek video effects.
1. Let the first 200 characters count
Yes, the full description is important, but what is more important is the first 200 characters. You get 5000 characters to be verbose, but those first 200 will show up in search results and “above the crease”. In the case of YouTube, it’s roughly the first line, or what appears above the “Show More” extension.
The first line should contain the most important keywords to be associated with the video and written in a way that attracts the viewer’s attention. Similar to how you would write a tweet, tips for headings and text also apply here.
2. Repeat the video keywords
As mentioned earlier, keywords are important in both search engine optimization and YouTube video descriptions. Whether you’re writing for an existing video or looking for the most appropriate one for your channel, Google’s keyword planner tool is handy for keyword research.
A couple of keywords are all you need. Once these are identified for your video, make sure they are spread out in your description.
3. Add additional keywords
Do you think you are done with keywords? Think again You still need to consider the supplemental keywords, which are additional keywords that are similar to the first target sentence. For example, you could search for “environmentally friendly products” but additional keywords could be “green”, “earth” and “no waste”. These are synonymous and adding them will help YouTube understand how your video can be associated with “green products” too.
4. Add call-to-action words and links
It is advisable – and best practice – to link your social media handles in your YouTube descriptions. And separate from sharing those links are those associated with the video. These links can be calls-to-action about reading a blog post, purchasing a product, or general additional information. If you mention multiple products in your video and your viewers ask about them frequently, it is a good idea to include these links in the descriptions.
In the example above, Red Bull not only links the on-demand apps, but also the two people who are involved in the video itself. To go further, your own link and other links on social media will be shortened below and branded for easy analytical tracking.
5. Add the default video upload settings
Tired of copying and pasting the same 10 lines that you add to each video? Add a default to your description that can be viewed without adding it manually. In most cases, this includes describing your business, getting views to subscribe, and following links on social media.
6. Write like a human, not a robot
Who wants to read a description filled to the brim with repetitive keywords? This is frustrating for both reading and writing. Use the first 200 characters to get the viewer involved and the rest of the area to be more informative. Here you will find tips for web text writing like short, sweet and understandable sentences.
In the description above, Living Big In A Tiny House writes the main sections as a narrative of tiny life and provides basic details about the tiny video shown in the video. You couldn’t easily have included these words, but having them adds to the appeal of the video.
7. Add some hashtags
As with keywords, hashtags help other viewers find your video. These hashtags are displayed above the video title and can be added anywhere in the video description. It is recommended that you only keep a few important hashtags so that someone reading the description doesn’t get turned off by a crowd of them.
In the example above, Sephora has written the top three hashtags to include their brand name, the brand name of the product, and the product category. Additional hashtags are also searchable terms associated with the hashtag. You will notice that the words used in the hashtags also show up in the title of the video and elsewhere in the description. Keep this in mind when using hashtags with multiple words or phrases to make them case-sensitive so that screen readers can recognize each word.
8. Customize your social voice
Do you remember when we talked about writing like a human? Your brand’s social media voice should also be considered. Boring descriptions won’t do anything for your brand. You want to add your brand’s personality, vocabulary, and writing style to the description.
For similar types of videos, it may make more sense to write some YouTube description templates. For example, how-to video descriptions are written in a similar way: two sentences for a summary, some calls-to-action, links to products, and then your links to social media. Creating description templates makes it easier for you and keeps you up to date.
9. Make video descriptions easy to read
This is not so much about the actual content you write, but how you format it. Nobody likes reading huge blocks of text, but neither do people like reading 10 one-liners in a row. Break your description into sections with prominent headings, using either emojis, symbols, capital letters, or line breaks. Once you check the format, read your description and see what catches your eye and what you skip completely.
10. Preview your video description
Recent YouTube statistics say that 70% of total viewing time is on mobile devices. You can write your descriptions on the desktop, but make sure they make sense on a phone and tablet too. In addition to a mobile preview, check out how the description will appear in search results and watch pages.
11. Review your analyzes
As with any social media network, YouTube analytics is helpful in determining which videos are performing well.
Analytics can help you determine if certain keywords work against others. Which videos may become increasingly popular with a keyword change and the general type of video that will resonate with your viewers.
YouTube descriptions shouldn’t be sidelined in your YouTube marketing strategy. Not only are video descriptions important for the usual ranking in SEO keyword search results, but they also serve as a place to get your viewer to stay in the video longer. With the right first copy that engages the viewer to read, use the 5000 character limit to include your branding voice and important links. And now that you have the descriptions in a nutshell, it’s time to start thinking about how to promote your YouTube channel.