Ray WangDigital Media Specialist


digital marketing

How to Make Your YouTube Videos More Discoverable (Part 1)

The year was 1979. The Buggles sang “Video killed the radio star.” Flash forward to 2021, and those words couldn’t be truer.

Despite the buzz surrounding audio-only apps like Clubhouse, video remains as popular as ever. Wyzowl’s 2021 Video Marketing Statistics Report reveals a 41% increase in businesses using video as a marketing tool since 2016. 

And on average, viewers are watching 18 hours of video per week, with over two-and-a-half hours consumed per day. 

Where are the majority of these videos being watched? 


In fact, more than a billion hours a day are spent on the platform by people around the world. In today’s global economy, that means big benefits for businesses of any size. 

YouTube is more than a video hosting site

It’s a search engine, too – the second largest in the world, actually. YouTube processes more than three billion searches monthly, with one billion unique visitors each month. 

Which brings us to the question: how exactly do you optimize your videos for search on YouTube?

Three easy ways to rank videos on YouTube

A number of factors contribute to a video’s ranking – from clicks and comments to likes and shares to channel subscriptions after a video has been played through – but how can you increase the likelihood of your videos being discovered? 

Let’s take a look at three proven tactics to make your videos more discoverable on YouTube.

1. Optimize each video for the right keyword or phrase

Similar to optimizing a blog post for search, using relevant keywords and phrases improves the SEO of your YouTube videos. And there are several ways to inject a targeted keyword into a video, such as: 

  • Placing a keyword near the beginning of your video’s title
  • Inserting keywords as video tags and hashtags 
  • Adding a keyword or phrase within the first 25 words of your video’s description

Another way to target a keyword is to say it in your video

YouTube gives you the ability to transcribe your video for subtitles and closed captions, so when you speak the keyword you’re optimizing for, the algorithm ‘hears’ it. 

This allows YouTube to better understand what your video is about, which helps serve it up as a relevant result when users search that topic (see Part 2 of the guide for more on creating subtitles and closed captions). 

Of course, optimizing your videos around keywords is only effective if you’re targeting the right terms. So, how do you come up with the right keywords? 


The first place to start is YouTube’s search bar. Type in the topic of your video and let the suggestion feature populate a list of terms people are commonly searching. 

Another method is to select a high ranking video and review its title, description, and tags to see what keywords or phrases are being used. To see a video’s tags, check out the free VidIQ Chrome extension

After generating a list of potential keywords, it’s time to select the best one for the video you’re optimizing. This means choosing one with high search volume (the number of people searching that term) and low competition (the number of videos targeting that term).  

One of the easiest ways to determine search volume and competition is using the free Google Keyword Planner. 

If Google’s Keyword Planner is a foreign tool to you, Brian Dean from Backlinko walks you through the process in this ultimate how-to guide.  

2. Categorize each video 

Once you’ve uploaded a video to YouTube, it’s important to categorize it so YouTube can group it with similar content. 

Doing so not only increases the chances of your video being listed on others’ playlists, but it also improves the odds of it being suggested to those who view related content.  

To categorize your video, toggle the “SHOW MORE” menu below your video’s audience settings and click the “category” dropdown menu. You can only select one category per video, so be sure to choose the most appropriate

WARNING: YouTube’s algorithm penalizes videos categorized incorrectly – this applies to videos targeting keywords and phrases irrelevant to the topic, too. 

3. Upload a custom thumbnail 

Users visit YouTube to watch videos (duh!), but how do they select which videos to watch?

Often, people make their choice based on the thumbnail image, which means it plays an important role in your video’s ranking, clicks, and viewership. 

90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube include a custom thumbnail!

Yes, you can choose one of the three thumbnail images YouTube automatically generates for you. But these are taken directly from the video and typically catch you mid-sentence or in an unflattering pose. 

Not to mention, these images don’t include custom elements like vibrant graphics or the video’s title, and they don’t follow proper design parameters such as the rule of thirds – all of which help grab a user’s attention and encourage them to click on your video.

Luckily, creating a custom thumbnail is fast, easy, and doesn’t require a graphic designer (although using a designer is advantageous). 

Check out the video below to learn how you can quickly make a custom thumbnail.

This concludes Part 1 of our guide to YouTube SEO. If you’re ready to learn more about how to make your videos more discoverable, jump into Part 2.

Ray WangDigital Media Specialist

Ray WangDigital Media Specialist


digital marketing

How to Make Your YouTube Videos More Discoverable (Part 2)

Ready to find out more about how to make your videos more discoverable on YouTube? 

In Part 1, you learned how to optimize each video using keywords and phrases, why you should categorize your videos, and the benefits of using custom thumbnails. In Part 2 of the guide, we’ll discuss: 

  • Subtitles and closed captions
  • Video promotion and increasing views
  • Formatting for high retention
  • Cards and end screens
  • And a bonus tip to consider 

Let’s get to it!  

Add subtitles and closed captions

Subtitles and closed captions are another way of optimizing your video for a targeted keyword. They also allow a user to view your video on mute without missing key information. 

This is critical as silent-autoplay is the default on most social media apps (TikTok being the exception), and more than 80% of viewers on mobile devices watch videos with the sound off.

If you don’t include subtitles or closed captions, it’s more likely a user will keep scrolling while searching YouTube or when your video pops up in their social feed. 

How does this relate to ranking? Keep reading for the next two steps on increasing viewership and formatting a high-retention video. 

To learn how to add subtitles and closed captions for free, check out the short six-minute video below. 

Promote your video and increase views

You may have noticed high ranking videos on YouTube have a lot of views. That’s because the algorithm is designed to favour popular videos. 

In other words, if a lot of people watch your video, YouTube will rank it accordingly so more users can benefit from its content. 

This is why closed captions are so important – they increase views by engaging those watching with the audio muted. 

Of course, once you upload your video to YouTube, you can’t just rely on people finding it organically. Optimizing with keywords, custom thumbnails, closed captions, and categorization only gets you so far. 

Promoting your video is a must. 

  • Link how-to and explainer videos to threads in forums like Quora or Reddit
  • Embed videos into relevant blog posts and pages on your website
  • Group related videos together and create playlists
  • Link a video to your email signature
  • Share your videos on social media

Another way to increase viewership is to optimize your YouTube channel

This means adding keywords to the about section, creating a proper banner image and profile picture, and producing a trailer video so people know what to expect from your content. 

For a deep dive on channel optimization, this Brafton blog post breaks down the top 14 ways to optimize your business YouTube channel.   

Format for high retention

Another key ranking factor on YouTube is how long a video holds the viewer’s attention. YouTube admits the closer your video gets to 100% play-through, the better it ranks and the more likely it is to show up as a recommended video. 

In addition to closed captions and subtitles, here are three more ways to retain user attention in your videos: 

  1. Start your video with a summary of the content. Most dropoff occurs within the first ten seconds, so it’s crucial to quickly let the audience know what your video is about.
  2. Jump right into the content following your summary. The audience is time-pressed with several distractions competing for their attention; don’t make them wait for the payoff.
  3. Add open loops throughout your video. Tease content coming up later on in the video to create curiosity and build anticipation (keep reading for a bonus ranking tip at the end of this blog post). 

Use cards and an end screen

Adding cards within your video – as well as an end screen – is another way to increase views, boost subscribers, and keep users engaged. And these elements all play into how well your videos rank on YouTube. 

Cards are preformatted notifications that appear in the top-right corner of a video to help cross-promote another video on your channel. You’re able to add five cards per video, with each one allowing you to insert a custom message and teaser text. 

Cards are useful when you address a topic but don’t go into detail about it in the video currently being viewed. If you have another video specific to that topic, cards give you an opportunity to let viewers know about it. 

To learn how to add cards to your videos, vidIQ shows you how in this five-minute video.

An end screen allows you to give the audience a call to action (CTA) once they’ve finished watching your video. It’s where you promote other videos, a product or service, your social channels, or your website. It’s also a great place to remind viewers to subscribe to your YouTube channel. 

The end screen shows within the last 5–20 seconds of your video, so it’s important to factor this into the filming and editing process. 

As well, dedicating 20 seconds at the end of your video to an end screen gives savvy video editors an opportunity to add graphics – like arrows or call outs – that draw attention to your CTA.

Think Media offers an easy how-to tutorial for adding end screens in the video below: 

BONUS TIP: longer videos outperform shorter videos on YouTube

The rise of short-form videos and the explosive growth of TikTok may tempt you to create shorter videos for YouTube. 

Want to learn how to leverage TikTok for your business? Check out this blog post on how to use the app in your next marketing campaign. 

But YouTubers around the world are seeing success with videos much longer than 15–60 seconds, especially when it comes to ranking on YouTube and Google. 

A lot has to do with YouTube’s algorithm and view duration being a major ranking factor. Again, the longer a video is watched, the better it performs. And that means the lengthier a video is, the more retention it can achieve – which also gives YouTube more time to show ads. 🤫 

So, is there a magic length to aim for? 

That depends on the topic you’re presenting. Some high ranking videos are over an hour long – like many popular videos about how to make a WordPress site – while others clock in around the six-minute mark.  

In the end, it boils down to this: always provide value to the audience, regardless of how long your video is.  

Ready, set, optimize!  

The popularity of video as a marketing tool is only growing, and it continues to be one of the most preferred forms of media for online consumers. But YouTube is a competitive landscape with over 800 million videos currently claimed by the platform. 

Don’t let your video get lost in the mix – optimize each one to increase your ranking and get more users pressing play!

Want to grow your marketing arsenal beyond video? Read our latest post on what to consider when starting a podcast, another valuable medium for marketers.

Ray WangDigital Media Specialist

Ray WangDigital Media Specialist


digital marketing - industry

How to Use TikTok for Your Next Campaign

According to App Annie, TikTok was the most downloaded app in 2020. An impressive statistic and one that signals TikTok’s next stage of maturity: monetization.

TikTok has made a calculated effort to monetize its platform—as evidenced by its first-ever small- and medium-sized business summit, Ready Set Grow (which we attended). TikTok is encouraging brands to participate in the short-form video app, either to grow their brand or to advertise with in-app ads or Creators. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the insights learned from Ready Set Grow and discuss ways brands can get in on the action.

The Creator Phenomenon

As you already know, TikTok is a mobile-only platform that allows users to create and watch short-form video content. What’s interesting is how TikTok describes its value proposition.

“TikTok provides viral opportunities that just don’t exist elsewhere.”

In a digital world filled with algorithms that suppress organic reach, TikTok is banking on the viral-marketing opportunities of the platform. Anyone with a smartphone and a little creativity can go viral with compelling content and the right hashtags. And with virality comes followers, influence, and the ability to become a Creator. Knowing that makes TikTok’s appeal clear. TikTok wants to build Creators who can earn money on their platform. TikTok wants to build businesses.

TikTok has already committed to invest $2 billion in Creators in the next few years. Why? Because, as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella puts it, “Creation, creation, creation — the next 10 years is going to be as much about creation as it is about consumption.” Microsoft actually tried to purchase TikTok last year, before losing out to Oracle.

This was followed by another unsuccessful bid by Microsoft to buy communication and social audio platform Discord for $10 billion. It just goes to show how valuable content creation will be in the coming years.

Interested in learning more about social audio apps like Discord, Clubhouse, and Twitter Spaces? We break it down in Clubhouse, Discord, Twitter, and Co: The Social Audio Wars are Heating Up.

The fervor around Creators and influencer marketing is why TikTok put on the Ready Set Grow summit—a virtual event that pitched the benefits of the platform and its Creators to businesses and advertisers. Here’s what we learned.

“Think like a Marketer, Act Like a Creator”

Planning for TikTok as a marketer isn’t that different from planning for other platforms. Knowing your audience and having a sound strategy is key. Your insights might reveal that TikTok is not a right fit, and that’s okay. If it does seem like a viable platform, the approach will be somewhat nuanced.

TikTok insists that brands act like Creators on their platform. This means engaging with the community, participating in hashtags, and creating original video content. Unlike Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, TikTok cannot share URLs or still images. Whatever creative you have assigned for social can’t be repurposed on TikTok. You will need custom creative that looks and feels like a TikTok.

“Don’t Make Ads, Make TikToks”
“Don’t make ads, make TikToks” was the slogan of the show and it summarizes how brands should approach the platform. Business advisors from TikTok were present at the event. They stressed the importance of being native to the platform.

Use filters, video effects, voice effects, and text—and don’t be too polished. Overproducing a video, no matter how long, will look off on the platform and not resonate with audiences.

Always-On Sound 🔊

Music and sound is a big part of TikTok culture. All videos autoplay with the volume on. A bold move considering more than 80% of mobile users watch videos with the sound off.

With a verified business page on TikTok, you get access to over 7,000 royalty-free tracks that can only be used in TikTok videos. Another incentive to go native.

Ad Creative
Here’s an obvious fact: TikTok displays videos exclusively vertically; therefore, TikTok advisors recommend filming vertically for the platform as opposed to cropping in post-production. Additionally, the first three seconds are crucial for engagement. If running a campaign, they recommend updating ad creative three to five times a month! Take that as you will.

To make things easier, TikTok’s Ad Manager comes with preloaded text and animation templates to make videos faster. Great for small businesses but not bespoke enough for established brands.

What to Create?

Now that we’ve talked about the appeal of TikTok and how to approach the platform as a brand, let’s quickly discuss the types of content that resonate with audiences.

Challenges are the big claim to fame for TikTok. A challenge is essentially a call-to-action in the form of a video. Users are prompted to create a video that matches the tone or style of a certain hashtag. For example, see this collection of #WipeItDown TikToks.

TikTok’s discover page is full of trending hashtags and music that brands can participate in. Most of the work is done for you—you know how the video should look and sound. The only thing missing is the thread that connects the trend with your brand.

Since TikToks are filmed in small bursts, step-by-step tutorials have gained a natural popularity on the platform. Check out these examples from @thatdudecancook and @gingermarketer to see how fun and engaging tutorials can be.

Edits—short for video edits—are quick cuts of video footage tied to music. They’re meant to be short, snappy, and appealing to the eyes and ears. Edits are often used to show appreciation of something—an artist, a lifestyle, or a place—a great option for tourism brands that want to show off their region in a unique and creative way. 

A YouTube trend that has found its way onto TikTok, #StoryTime posts are just that, stories with a beginning-to-end narrative. Stories can be anything, but they’ve become a powerful vehicle for individuals to share inspiring and sometimes traumatic experiences, opening the door to a form of digital support and connection. While we in no way recommend brands take advantage of personal stories for marketing purposes, there is a use case for advocacy groups or associations dealing with specific causes.

The Takeaway
Unlike its predecessor, Vine, TikTok is here to stay. With a calculated focus on building Creators and monetizing its platform, TikTok is forthcoming with its intentions. It wants brands to consider the platform as a viable marketing tool. By using the native features provided in the app, stripping away polish, and getting creative with video and music, brands can find genuine viral-making opportunities to help grow their audience and further their influence.

Can we say for certain that it’s a must-have platform for every brand? No, we can’t. The culture on TikTok is unique, far different from other social media platforms. Committing to TikTok requires more than a social media manager. It needs a creator who can build content specifically for the platform, who can be an investment for marketing teams.

The best approach is to scope it out. Don’t jump on TikTok because it’s popular; do it because it’s right for your brand. Create an account, follow some people, and observe the type of content featured. You may just enjoy yourself and find a great reason to bring your brand on board.

Ray WangDigital Media Specialist