In this blog, Croud’s Content Account Director, Billy Leonard, will be sharing best practices for writing content on YouTube, including how to write attention-grabbing titles, informative descriptions, as well as some rules around how to write for playlists.
Writing for YouTube is not too different from copywriting for search engine optimisation (SEO), but there is actually less of an emphasis on keywords – which allows for greater creativity. This is really a chance to let your creativity show.
Video titles are key to the success of a video and can make a notable difference in the impact of your content, so let’s examine what we need to do to ensure that we create a good one.
Pretty much all YouTube video listings use the following structure for their titles:
Hook – Explainer – Show Information – Channel Information
The hook is what will be of interest to most people, allowing you the most room to add some creative flair. Keep it short and punchy, and include the keywords you are aiming to rank for. And most importantly, keep the hook at the front of your title – it’s the part of the title that is most likely to bring in clicks.
The explainer is similar to a tagline (or what comes after the colon in the title of a bad movie). It allows you to give a little more detail and slip in a few more keywords that are of interest to the viewer.
The show information is more for the search engines, but it can also give important information to the user, especially if you have multiple different shows on a single channel or an episodic structure to your storytelling.
As with show information, channel information is more for the search engines, but it can also be reassuring to the user. This is typically the brand name or brand channel name (if there are multiple channels).
Show information and channel information are incredibly important, as the consistent use of them in your titles (as well as in tags and descriptions) will create a stronger association between your videos. This means you are more likely to turn up in your own Suggested Videos section and will begin to see an uplift in views.
Bon Appétit does this particularly well. They have multiple different shows all on a single channel, but they make a clear differentiation between them using a strategic approach to their video title structures.
Hooks are relatively easy to write once you get into the swing of it. There are roughly five different types of hooks you can implement into your title:
This is anything that is an explainer. This works well when paired with featured snippet data.
It’s pretty self-explanatory, but this type of hook is used when comparing two sets of things against each other, such as different types of products or brands. This can also work well with featured snippet data.
This type of hook relies heavily on emotions to encourage users to click. This doesn’t always have to be a positive emotion, but just needs to include sensational words like “amazing”, “epic” or “disgusting” to trigger it. However, you can also use smaller words to peak curiosity. In the Bon Appétit example mentioned above, the use of the word “attempts” is a subtle way to still create a remarkable hook, as it incites curiosity in viewers.
It’s human nature to have questions about things, which makes this type of hook all the more effective. This type of hook works well across both YouTube listings and organic search results.
The lasting impact of Buzzfeed will be felt for years to come, as they often use this type of hook to garner users’ attention. Lists clearly tell the audience what and how much they’re going to be getting out of the content produced. Remember, lists aren’t limited to the typical ‘top 10’ copy that is frequently used in video titles – on the contrary, using seemingly random numbers can actually help peak interest.
The Headline Analyser is a good tool to run your titles through, as it can help you understand how to improve a headline and make it more engaging and shareable.
As advised previously, when writing titles for YouTube, you want to make sure that you are including the hook towards the front of the sentence. When YouTube was more of a visually static platform, it was widely known that the hook had to be incorporated within the first 40 characters, otherwise, it would be cut off in search results and Suggested Videos. Luckily, the platform is now more responsive and forgiving, but the importance of hooking the viewer with the start of the title remains the same.
Unlike listings on Google, language on YouTube is often more colloquial, and at times, can remove words to ensure that the hook remains clear to the audience. One of the best tips is to try to remove ‘stop’ words, like ‘the’, ‘and’, and ‘a’ where possible. These words are useless to search engines, and you can easily get your message across without them. But if your title doesn’t flow after removing these words, try using shortened versions like ‘&’ instead of ‘and’, or ‘w/’ instead of ‘with’.
You can use any separators that you’d like between sections of a title, as search engines will ignore them. If you’re in a more fun niche, why not use some of the more eye-catching buttons on the keyboard – instead of frequently used hyphens – to help draw the eye?
You can even use emojis in the title if it’s within brand guidelines, as YouTube supports emojis within titles and descriptions. However, they must be used in compliance with YouTube’s community regulations, i.e. don’t use too many emojis, and only include relevant ones.
Note – whether or not you will be able to implement these changes will depend heavily on the brand tone of voice.
- Keep the length of your title to about 60 characters, so important details don’t get cut off, and make sure the most important information is displayed at the beginning of your title.
- Follow the hook, explainer, show information, channel information structure.
- Keywords have minimal impact on rankings, so instead, try to use creative natural language to encourage click-throughs.
- A catchy headline can help hook viewers. Try to write titles that build curiosity and set expectations for your video. Consider questions, top lists, exclamations, and other techniques to grab people’s attention.
How to write YouTube video descriptions
YouTube video descriptions are just as important as the title. It helps viewers understand what to expect from your brand. A YouTube video description is the text below each of your videos. It helps viewers find your content and decide whether to watch it.
Structure for descriptions
When writing the descriptions, it’s advisable to use the following structure:
- Intro sentences – two to three attention-grabbing sentences
- Detailed video description – 200 words to explain the video further
- CTA – any relevant call-to-actions, including further reading, resources, etc.
- Links – links to social media profiles and any other relevant resources
This structure may be tweaked depending on the video, but using this as a general guideline helps to ensure that descriptions are all relatively well-structured and standardised.
The description field is incredibly useful for helping viewers discover, learn, and decide if they’d like to watch your videos. There are two key aspects of a YouTube description: before ‘Show More’ and after ‘Show More’.
Before ‘Show More’
The section that comes at the top of the description should be the most engaging and creative part of the copy.
Keep in mind that there is zero correlation between the description and rankings, despite Google’s own advice. This means you can be as creative as possible here.
For example, check out this example from the National Theatre:
Here they keep the text above the fold engaging and concise. The eye is quickly drawn to the emojis placed within the whimsical copy, which is reflective of the overall tone of the video itself.
After ‘Show More’
The section of text that comes after the ‘Show More’ expander button is a chance to give more detail to those who are interested.
If we revisit the example we mentioned above from the National Theatre, we can see that the expanded description is incredibly lengthy and contains multiple parts:
- Introductory sentences – flashy sentences decorated with emojis to catch the reader’s attention
- Expanded copy to draw the user in – big-name cast members
- More detail about the play – a brief synopsis of the plot
- Details – dates that the video is streaming, followed by run time and British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) rating
- Further reading – a link to a full cast list on the National Theatre site
This is only about half of what is covered in the description of this video. There were also links to every social platform for both the National Theatre, who ran the play and the Bridge Theatre, the actual venue that hosted it. Further information on the cast, directors, producers, and crew was also detailed in this section.
- Descriptions have zero impact on rankings, so they should only be used for giving key information
- The optimum length for YouTube descriptions is between 300 – 350 words
- Drive viewers to subscribe and include a subscribe link
- Use what shows up when a user clicks “Show more” for extra information like what the client’s channel is about, social links, etc.
Tags for videos
YouTube tags, also known as ‘video tags’, are words and phrases used to give the platform context about your video. Tags have a small to moderate impact on rankings, but it’s still important to get them down right.
How to research and write tags
Tags can be pulled from two places: keyword research and competitor information.
When conducting keyword research, particularly for a client, take a look at the client’s content calendar for any relevant keywords that could be used as tags.
To find information on what tags competitors are using, try using the Tags for YouTube Chrome extension, which highlights and displays tags on YouTube videos. You can then look for videos that are similar to the one you’re writing about, and pull any interesting tags that could also be used for your video.
When selecting your tags, try and use a mixture of broad and focused tags. Focused tags (like ‘get bigger biceps’ or how to start a blog’) help YouTube figure out your video’s specific topic. On the other hand, broad tags give YouTube important context about your video. For example, let’s say the primary keyword for your video is: ‘how to do a pushup’. You’d want to use that keyword (and variations) in your tags, e.g. ‘how to do a pushup’, ‘pushup form’ and ‘best way to do a pushup’
You’d also want to throw in a couple of broad tags that describe your video’s wider category or high-level topic. For this example, broad tags could include terms like ‘fitness’ and ‘workouts’.
Organisation of tags
When it comes to video SEO, YouTube pays close attention to your first few tags – especially the very first one. Therefore, you need to organise them before submitting your work.
Make sure that your first tag is the exact, word-for-word keyword that you want to rank for. For example, let’s say you want to rank your video for the keyword ‘world’s best teacher’. You’d want to make your first YouTube tag this exact term.
- Stick to five to eight tags that accurately describe the video’s topic
- Use a mixture of broad and specific tags
- Make sure the primary keyword is the first tag
How to write playlist titles and descriptions
Writing titles and descriptions for playlists is very similar to the above, but with some minor tweaks.
How to write
Your playlist title and description play a big role in how your playlist performs.
Unfortunately, many YouTubers use generic sounding playlist titles, like ‘Ab Workouts’ and ‘Cookie Recipes’. Instead, create compelling titles that highlight the benefits users will gain from your playlist, like: ‘How to Get a Six Pack’ and ‘Delicious (And Easy) Cookie Recipes’. Then, write a description that supports your title and outlines why your playlist is worth watching.
When constructing your playlists, remember to use the types of hooks we discussed previously. This can greatly enhance the quality of your playlist titles and descriptions.
- Keep playlist descriptions to a maximum of three lines. There is no need to expand on them beyond this.
- Playlist titles should contain a hook and potentially an explainer, but the channel and show information is not necessary.
To help you move forward, here are some additional tools that can help you write effective content for YouTube:
- Grammarly Chrome Extension for finding spelling and grammatical mistakes
- CoSchedule Headline Analyser to receive a rating on your titles and suggests improvements
- Casey by Croud to check for inclusive language in all copy
- Tags for YouTube to view you what tags have been applied to other videos
If you have any questions or would like to discuss your YouTube strategy, connect with our content team.