Getting videos watched on YouTube

One of the questions I field regularly is how to improve the visibility of videos on YouTube. The answer is quite simple: start with highly sought after content. It’s not as hard as you think and the secret ingredients are in your web browser’s search history. People generally want two types of videos: entertainment and informational. Everything else is crap and won’t rack up many views. For the purposes of this post, I’m going to ignore entertainment videos. These are music videos, funny home videos, clips from mainstream entertainment and of course, cats. So let’s focus on the other category – informational.

People go to search engines typically looking for answers to their questions. So, make sure your videos provide those answers. How-to videos, informational snippets and overviews of processes all do well. For example, “how to fix a leaky toilet”, “how to test your smoke detector”, “how to solve a square root”, “how to remove wallpaper”, “how to fry an egg”. Get it yet? This is what people want. It’s what people search for. If you have a video like this, when people search, they’ll see a big icon for the video, and be immediately drawn to it. Search engines love videos, because searchers click the videos. As a result, they tend to rank highly and they get more clicks. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy which is the search paradox I’m always discussing.

At American Public University, we took very expensive, Hollywood-style production videos and placed them on YouTube. Sure, some of our prospective students watched them. And they are great videos. They were expensive videos. So they have a few thousand views after a year. We then took some low budget, crudely produced videos on how to solve the most common K-12 math problems like polynomial equations, sine/cosine, adding fractions, etc. These took a few minutes each to produce and cost basically nothing. In the past three years since adding the videos to YouTube, iTunesU, and our site,, we’ve had nearly 2,000,000 views of the series. Why? It’s what people want! It’s what students are searching for.

Give people what they want.

Also important is the proper naming, tagging and description of a video. That will help the search engines connect searchers with the videos. It’s easy. Create a short title – about 40 characters or so. Make sure you have a dominate identifying keyword. Then, create a description, no more than about 250 characters. Include more keywords that identify your content. That’s really it. Here’s a good article that goes into more depth with regards to ensuring discoverability of your content.

We’ll leave another important topic to cover on another day – marketing your videos if you are a small business. I have some more tips on that later…

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