Everyone wants to stand out from the pack — but when it comes to YouTube, you have to know the rules before you break them.

In part one of our complete guide to Youtube, we helped you understand the metrics that matter when building a long-lasting YouTube presence. In this installment, we want to help you learn more about the platform’s features — and how you can best capitalize on them to propel your social media performance to the next level.

With YouTube traffic doubling year over year, you’ll want to understand the ins and outs of the platform, from editing thumbnails to understanding your target audience. Here’s how to make Youtube’s myriad features work for you.

Are Your Titles Clickable?

YouTube’s algorithm plays a large role in determining what is displayed to users in response to search queries and as recommended videos. But to actually drive users to click and view your videos, you must ensure that your titles are well-crafted and enticing. If your titles don’t match the content of your videos, users will likely exit as soon as they spot the disconnect — and YouTube will rank your channel lower because of it.

The best titles will stoke potential viewers’ curiosity while giving them an appealing, accurate synopsis of what they can expect to see. On a more practical note, make sure that your titles are concise, put episode info toward the end, and double check that the text is not being cut off in recommended video sections or on mobile.

What Goes Into a Thumbnail?

Just like your titles, thumbnails make the difference between a user clicking on your video or scrolling past it, never to return. You should think of a video’s title and thumbnail as two members of the same team, working together to entice users to learn more about your brand.

According to YouTube, 90% of the best-performing videos on the site have custom thumbnails. To make sure yours stand up to the competition, make sure they’re high-quality and well-formatted, compare them with those displayed for similar content, and test them on small and large screens to check the resolution.

Can Video Descriptions Boost Performance?

The descriptions that accompany your videos should use casual language, but that doesn’t mean they should be an afterthought. Well-crafted descriptions can improve your ranking in search results and yield higher traffic.

Resist the urge to fill your description with keywords, but check out Google Trends and AdWords Keyword Planner to work in a few helpful terms. By featuring them toward the beginning of the description, you can help YouTube’s algorithm get your content in front of the right viewers.

How to Tag Your Content

Tags play a major role in how YouTube’s algorithm ranks your channel’s videos. While it’s against the platform’s guidelines to “tag stuff” in the description, you’re welcome to tag to your heart’s content in the designated tagging area. Include self-referential tags for your title, brand, and product, as well as those that are most relevant to the content of your video. YouTube’s predictive search bar may offer helpful suggestions as well.

The bottom line: accurate tagging that combines popular keywords with relevant descriptors will increase the odds that your content is recommended to users checking out similar videos.

How Long is Too Long?

Conventional wisdom dictates that the shorter the video, the better. But the reality is a little bit more complicated: according to Wistia, there are two main sweet spots to shoot for. Engagement remains high in most videos up until the two-minute mark, so it’s important to get key content delivered within that time frame.

The next Goldilocks zone covers content ranging from six minutes to twelve. At this point, user drop off plateaus — but if your content is still engaging, you’ll hold on to a good percentage of your audience.

Once you have a handle on these important features, it’s time for the most important decision: what will your videos be about, and how will they present the information at hand? Tomorrow, we’ll take a closer look at the genres you have to choose from for your video content, and how each allows you to carve a niche for yourself and your brand in the wider YouTube community.

Author Jake Dawe

Jake works with our clients and L&T's content management team to create and publish cogent, effective marketing content. A recent graduate of Yale University with a B.A. in American Studies, Jake pursued independent research that traced the evolving voice of ``Shouts and Murmurs`` over ninety years. When he's not writing and editing, Jake is probably watching The Crown or making up for four years of lost pleasure reading. Thanks, college.

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