Ten Tips for Those Who Still Aren't Using YouTube

Here's a Primer for Potentially Powerful Marketing Tool

By Published on .

Christa Toole
Christa Toole
By now the Annoying Orange, dancing Matt, and the Mentos-Diet-Coke-experiment, all examples of YouTube's popularity and amazing global reach, are the stuff of media legend. Just over five years old, YouTube is the second-largest search engine, according to ComScore, and ranks as No. 3 in popularity, per Alexa. Its ability to engage consumers is powerful.

Interestingly, while so many individuals have found their 15 minutes of fame thanks to YouTube, fewer are the brands that have garnered acclaim with savvy use of the channel. Old Spice and Toyota Sienna's Swagger Wagon, two current examples, are the exception among marketers, not the rule. It's a missed opportunity, because YouTube has the potential to be a great marketing platform.

Using YouTube, marketers can target specific groups, filter related videos and allow users to forward videos they like to others. Because it is a search engine, people interested in particular content -- from medical issues (Pink Glove Dance) to silly product videos (BlendTec's Will It Blend?) -- will find it. And YouTube has improved users' ability to link out, allowing marketers to link to their websites, for instance. Finally, from a cost perspective, it is a deal. While marketers shoulder the cost of creating a video, launching a user channel on YouTube is free. Just as on Google or any other search engine, marketers buy ads on a cost-per-action basis, and pay per view based on key word searches.

Marketing successfully with YouTube requires some savvy, which can be developed with a bit of practice. Follow these tips, and you'll be on the way. But one step before you start: Decide which channel best suits your needs: The User Channel, free to all and the most popular, or The Brand Channel, which allows users more options to customize but requires a significant bit of money -- $200,000 in media spending on YouTube per quarter.

Now, to the list:

1. Select your channel name (with care). Create a keyword-rich channel to improve the odds of your video showing up in relevant keyword searches. Also, consider the pros and cons of using an unbranded vs. a branded name. A brand name will facilitate consumers' ability to find and select your content. In addition, the URL identifies the brand on the user's toolbar, which can help increase awareness. The downside of using a brand name is that if it is not well known, it is unlikely to be used in search terms.

2. Craft your message. Keep it simple -- seriously. YouTube users have short attention spans. Though YouTube allows users to upload as much as 15 minutes of video, that's far more than should be used for a message. Between three and five minutes is sufficient, and because viewers tend to tune out before the end, deliver your message early on. Use a call-to-action if that's important.

3. Content, content and more content. Upload at least three videos at the launch of your channel in order to engage those viewers who want more than just one. Doing so satisfies your viewers and helps the channel gain popularity and visibility on YouTube and other search engines. There's an ROI reason, as well: A marketer pays for just one view (click) but can get between one to five views, depending on how many videos viewers watch. From our experience, most traffic is generated from related videos, not from search. So the more videos, the better your chances of achieving more views. Continually adding new content will keep your audience coming back.

4. Use SEO best practices when building a profile/channel page. Use keyword-rich descriptions and titles in the profile area, and also include links to your own site, as we did with the HowIFightMS channel. Toyota Sienna's Swagger Wagon, for instance, provides a succinct overview of channel content, and is clearly crafted with its targets' search habits in mind.

5. Build video pages to exploit SEO and linking. Maximize organic search visibility and drive quality traffic to your video by including keyword-rich titles, descriptions and video tags on your video upload page. YouTube's organic search results are based on the relevancy of video tags, titles, descriptions and popularity. Because only 1,000 characters show in the initial search, be compelling and brief. Tags are 426 characters, but I don't recommend using all.

6. Consider YouTube for a teaser strategy. Posting a short version of a video on YouTube with a link to a longer version on your website is a traffic-driving strategy. Be sure to add the website domain name in the video and include a call-to-action, as is done with MeetKim.

7. Watermark your videos. Embedding all frames of your video precludes stealing and helps to promote your brand. If the watermark itself is a particular domain or URL, viewers might remember it.

8. Consider privacy and comment options. Whether or not to allow comments on your channel is a debate worth having before launch. YouTube's audience and the amount of content uploaded are vast, but even in such a large universe there may be a few people who'll find and disparage your targeted content. Might it hurt your brand? Based on your needs, brand and industry restrictions, you may decide to disable the comment option. Doing so allows you to avoid negative posts and to maintain control over your content.

9. Investigate promoted video ads. Paid search in YouTube's world is called promoted video ads. Served around YouTube search results, these can be an efficient way to drive targeted traffic to your channel. The format consists of several lines of text and a video thumbnail; a click yields an actual view of a video. The new overlay feature enables advertisers to link out to a website while consumers are watching a video. Promoted video is priced on a cost-per-click/view model similar to traditional paid search.

10. Capitalize on YouTube's insights and analytics to target precisely. As part of its services to marketers, YouTube's tools allow advertisers to see the number of views, where they originate within YouTube, where viewers are coming from based on IP data, as well as what key words are driving traffic. Analyzing this information allows you to adjust and improve the user experience on your channel.

YouTube is still an underused marketing resource that can reap benefits with the right strategy and execution. Consider that, in the early days of search, many marketers were slow to embrace it; the same opportunities to beat your competitors to a choice audience exist with YouTube. Think of it as an investment in the future.

Christa Toole is director of search marketing and web analytics at Greater Than One.
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