Take a moment to reflect on your own YouTube and online video habits (as a watcher, not a producer of videos – that’s another story). What gets you clicking on a video and watching it? Possibly, you’re one of those who like to have a look at what’s trending or at the recommended videos that pop up when you first open YouTube (which look at your previous browsing history). Or you might enter search terms to describe the sort of thing you’re in the mood for. Or you might just check out the latest from the channels you subscribe to.
If you watch absolutely everything that pops up in response to your search or everything on your recommended list or everything on the trending list, you are probably in the minority. There will be a moment when you scan the list and make your selection. What is the factor that makes you click on one video rather than another? Is it the thumbnail picture? Maybe – speaking personally, the thumbnail will deter me from watching a video if it hints at anything Not Safe For Work. But think how dull the thumbnails for the very popular TED Talks are, especially compared to the titles. Is it the title of the video? Nine times out of ten, it will be the title that presses your button and gets you pressing the button.
Guess what: other people probably think along the same lines that you do.
The lesson learned from this quick reflection is clear: get a good title that intrigues and catches the imagination and you’ll probably pick up a few more viewers (and possibly subscribers) than you would with something that lacks sparkle. Let’s say that you’re in the construction industry and you’ve put together a really great video explaining common mistakes people make when planning or designing a building. The video has great footage, it has lots of human appeal, it’s funny – all the right content. However, you will probably deter a heap of viewers if you give it a title like “Common Building Mistakes” or “Examples Of Poor Building Design”. You’ll get some, sure. But if you gave it a title like “Australia’s Worst Building Fails”, you’ll probably appeal to a few more viewers.
However, don’t fall into the clickbait trap. YouTube has been around for quite a while now and there are teenagers who don’t remember a time when YouTube didn’t exist. This means that most of us are rather jaded about titles with “Try Not To Laugh…” “Funniest Ever…” or any of the other clickbait phrases we have all come to know and hate. You’re cynical and so are your viewers. Who really wants to appeal to the lowest common denominator anyway when you can deliberately focus on the informed and intelligent clients, customers and supporters you really want?
It’s also best to avoid giving misleading titles that contain keywords that touch on popular or trending topics but actually have nothing or very little to do with your actual content. If you’ve put out a DIY video about making a wall, don’t mention Donald Trump in the title, even if you do reference his (in)famous suggestion about building a wall between the US and Mexico. (If, however, you’re a politician and you are indulging in a little DIY involving walls in a “see the human side of Joe or Jane Politics” clip, then go ahead and parody Trump AND mention him in the title.) Yes, you’ll get the initial clicks and views, but you certainly won’t get viewer engagement. The reaction you’re most likely to trigger will be one of frustration, annoyance and downright anger. Not the sort of response you really want from those who you’d like to make into your future subscribers, supporters and customers!
If the title attracts attention but hasn’t quite convinced a potential viewer, then the clincher could be the description that pops up in smaller text beneath the title. Again, this is a chance to whet the appetites of your viewers and engage with them.
Above all, make sure that your content is top-notch and your video is well put together. Even the best title in the world won’t make up for poor videography.