How to persuade YouTube to Recommend your video

Jan 16th, 2018

YouTube’s Recommendations drive more than 70% of what we watch, keeping mobile users watching for more than an hour at a time. So how can brands get in on the act?

When YouTube first launched in 2005, you had to wade through a lot of random content to find something that met your needs. The platform relied heavily on users subscribing to channels that matched their interests.

Nowadays, it’s become super-adept at surfacing relevant content – often that you didn’t even know you were looking for – and presenting them as a feed in the form of Recommendations. These prominently displayed Recommendations are generated by the platform’s algorithms, and personalised based on what you’re watching, have watched or liked in the past and what you’ve searched for – even, according to The Verge, by device (recommending shorter videos for those watching on mobile, for example).

Using Google Brain (its parent company’s machine learning project), YouTube has the ability to serve both those who visit the channel knowing exactly what they’re looking for, and those who are less sure. It recommends similar content that it senses may pique your interest, but might not have previously considered.

In an online world practically drowning in content, Recommendations are a welcome filter for many, with immediacy, relevance and convenience key to an improved experience. YouTube reports that the click through rate for Recommended videos is 207% higher than for Most Viewed Videos.

recommended videos on youtube

How Recommendations look on desktop

Optimising your YouTube content to appear in Recommended lists hinges on many of the same principles as for search engine optimisation (SEO). A key difference is that any appearance in Recommendations is likely to be only temporary, so the onus is on remaining there as long as possible.

  • Write a detailed description for each video using contextual keywords that demonstrate why your video is relevant to range of different searches. According to Fresh Egg founder Neil Patel: “Long tail keywords are as important on YouTube as any other site as they allow you to provide specific information on five-to-seven-word key terms through the usage of contextual information.”
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to optimise all of your video meta data; (as well as the description, this includes your video’s title and tags).
  • Create compelling thumbnails.
  • Carry out careful keyword research. YouTube is the second most popular search engine after Google – and the basic rules of keyword research for SEO apply.
  • Length is strength. According to research by OOyala, long-form content—greater than 20 minutes in length – now represents the majority of time spent watching video across all screen sizes.
  • Create playlists on specific topics to create a more immersive experience. Consider curating others’ content for variation.
  • Create a consistent flow of high quality videos, in terms of both engaging content and slick presentation (According Quick Sprout, most popular videos are shot in at least 1080p).
  • Add interactive commentary to your videos using YouTube Annotations to emphasise your call to action, such as watching further videos, subscribing to your channel or visiting your website.

youtube infographic QuickSprout

YouTube in numbers (Source: Quick Sprout)

One of the key things [Recommendations] does is it’s able to generalise. Whereas before, if I watch this video from a comedian, our Recommendations were pretty good at saying, here’s another one just like it. But the Google Brain model figures out other comedians who are similar but not exactly the same — even more adjacent relationships. It’s able to see patterns that are less obvious

Jim McFadden, technical lead for YouTube Recommendations

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