Want to write a Youtube video description that captures hearts, views and algorithms? I did the research, so you don’t have to, in dos and don’ts guide to SEO YouTube descriptions.
While a lot of technical research goes into the process, writing a killer YouTube video description is easier than you think.
At the end of the day, it’s just a carefully constructed template that helps you accomplish specific marketing goals.
And it all starts by learning to speak algorithm. Don’t worry — I’ll translate.
Think Like YouTube
Like Google, when you search for a topic on YouTube, it suggests videos based on a complicated, ever-changing algorithm. That means, in order to have YouTube show your videos to its viewers, you have to play according to the algorithm’s rules.
YouTube’s algorithm has two goals:
- Help people find the videos they want to watch, and
- Give them more content they like so they keep watching.
This is where your YouTube video description comes in. It helps tell YouTube, as well as real people, what’s in your video, so it can properly match your video to the people who are searching for it. Basically, it’s your space to speak the algorithm’s language — and more importantly, capture the attention of your ideal audience.
When it comes to writing a well-written YouTube video description, I like to get my information straight from the source. That’s why this YouTube video description guide summarizes the best do’s and don’ts from YouTube’s Creator Academy, as well as a few other reputable sources.
So let’s dive in!
Don’t: What NOT To Write In A YouTube Video Description
Before we go into detail about the perfect YouTube video description, let’s first talk about what you definitely don’t want to write. Why? These mistakes make YouTube unhappy, and well, we want to keep YouTube happy if it’s going to make you famous, right?
So here are the big don’ts for writing a captivating YouTube video description:
1. Write a string of keywords.
Aside from filling your description with profanity and unmentionables, this is probably the worst thing you can do in a YouTube video description. YouTube wants you to provide valuable, useful and engaging content to its viewers, so they’ll stay awhile. By plopping in a paragraph of keywords and calling it a day, you’re basically breaking YouTube’s little heart.
In fact, YouTube even penalizes this behavior. Keyword jamming is a “bad experience for your viewers, against YouTube community guidelines and terms of service, and can have a negative effect on your youtube account,” according to YouTube’s Creator Academy.
Still itching to plug in your list of keywords? YouTube created a space for that! Add your string of keywords to the “Tags” section that appears directly underneath the description box. Now everyone is happy!
2. Write off topic.
Another way to upset YouTube is to write about things that are irrelevant or off-topic in your video description. I repeat: Your description should only talk about what’s in your video or things related to the topic of your video.
Basically this means don’t use your YouTube video description as a space to plug every product and service you’ve ever offered. Don’t exploit the space by using it for something that won’t add value to the viewer. In short, stay on topic.
3. Repeat the same description.
Another way to lose points in the eyes of YouTube’s fickle algorithm is to use the same description for every video. Why? Like Google, YouTube sees repeated content as a form of plagiarism. And people who plagiarize are not reliable sources of information.
YouTube is looking for authentic, valuable information people really want to watch. If you’re not writing accurate, original content that helps YouTube help its viewers, then you won’t get the plays.
Do: What To Write In A YouTube Video Description
Now that we’ve covered the biggest mistakes when writing a YouTube video description, it’s time to dive into the structure and goals of a description that captures the hearts of viewers and algorithms alike.
1. Choose one focus keyword per description.
This beautiful little SEO rule can be applied to more than just your YouTube video description; in fact, it goes for anything Google reads, including blog posts and your website pages.
Basically, you want to choose one keyword to focus on in each post. Yes, you can include others. I like to use a list of 4-6 core keywords in everything, and then vary the other 2-4 keywords depending on the topic of the post.) But you want to choose one keyword that you focus on in each post. This is your focus keyword, which will need to appear in specific places throughout your post.
For more of a deep dive, here are a few notes about keywords:
- Keywords can be a single word, a short phrase or even a full question/sentence. For example, if I’m posting a video about how to keep your cat safe on the 4th of July, you could choose: cats, cat safety on the 4th of July, or how to keep your cat safe on the 4th of July. It all depends on what people are searching, as well as the specificity of your topic.
- Try to avoid repeating your focus keyword on multiple posts because YouTube will be confused about which video to show people when they search for that term. It’s best to give YouTube a clear signal with one, original focus keyword per video.
- If you’re a small business that’s looking for local leads, make sure you add “Santa Clarita” to your keyword phrases, so you have the best chance at attracting viewers who live close enough to take advantage of your products and services.
2. Use your keyword in your title, first sentence and throughout the body.
Once you’ve decided on your focus keyword, you’ll need to weave it into several places throughout your YouTube video title and description. If you can get it the following places, you’ve maximized your usage of the keyword and satisfied YouTube’s algorithm:
- Title: Get your focus keyword as close to the front of your title as possible. This tips off the algorithm with very little effort. Example: How To Keep Your Cat Safe On The 4th Of July.
- First Sentence: Like the title, you want to get your focus keyword as close to the beginning of the sentence as possible, so you can quickly signal the algorithm. Example: Wondering how to keep your cat safe on the 4th Of July.
- Body: Throughout the body of your description, you’ll want to sprinkle your keyword in whenever you can. Ideally, it should show up about 5 times per 100 words, but don’t let yourself get too caught up in those numbers because it’ll make you crazy. Example: Once I explain how to keep your cat safe on the 4th of July, I’ll talk about some resources in your area.
2. Write a catchy video title.
Now that we covered all the keyword information, it’s important to reiterate that you are also writing for real people — not just YouTube’s algorithm. While you want to speak to the algorithm, you don’t want to get so lost in the technical details that you forget the point, which is to attract people.
So when you’re constructing your YouTube video titles, you want to simultaneously consider two viewers: your ideal client and YouTube’s algorithm. Here are my best tips on doing just that:
- First and foremost, brilliance lies in volume when it comes to titles. The more titles you brainstorm, the more likely you’ll get to the brilliant one. I always recommend writing a list of at least 30 titles, even if you feel like you got it at number 12.
- Deliver on your promise. Avoid clickbaity or sensationalized titles because, bottom line, they just make people mad.
- Keep titles concise — 60 characters is ideal.
- Save episode numbers and branding for the end of the title.
3. Hook the audience with the first sentence.
Like a blog or social media post, the first couple sentences of a YouTube video description are where the money’s at. Why? When you search a video, all you can see is about two sentences before you hit the “Show More” button. Then viewers have to click the button to see the rest of your description. That means those first two sentences really have to compel.
“Keep in mind that YouTube only displays the first two or three lines of text — that amounts to about 100 characters. That’s why we suggest front-loading the description with the most important information, like CTAs or crucial links,” Hubspot writes in “YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search in 2019.”
So, when two sentences are that important, what do you write?! Describe what’s in your video in the most catchy way possible. To find a catchy angle, ask yourself how your video would be most useful to viewers. How can it help people in their everyday lives. Hone in on the pain point you’re solving, and let people know how your video will help make a real difference in their lives.
4. Always write more, if it’s relevant.
Once you’ve gotten your title and introductory sentences down, it’s time to fill out the rest of the description. This is where you can play around a little more and tailor your video description to the goals of your marketing campaign.
While the general rule of thumb is the higher the word count the better, make sure you’re staying on topic. Irrelevant words will work against you, as discussed in Don’t #2.
Here are a few elements you may want to include in the body of your YouTube video description:
- A couple paragraphs about the content in your video
- Links to related videos or playlists on your channel
- A paragraph about your channel and what viewers can expect
- An outline with linked timestamps that will take viewers to specific parts of your video
- A reminder to subscribe
- Your website and social media accounts with links
- A paragraph from the “About Us” page on your website
- Helpful resources from other experts
7. Develop a hashtag related to your business.
Hashtags can be a useful way of attracting a wider audience because, when viewers search that hashtag, they are more likely to find your video.
However, if you’re looking for a targeted local audience, then keep your hashtags specific to your business. You’re not trying to create a national audience, so there’s no need to use #catsafetytips and attract everyone and anyone searching cats. Instead, create a hashtag that allows viewers to search for your videos specifically. For example, you might want to use the hashtag #SantaClaritaCatVet on all your videos, so viewers can easily find more stuff they like by you.
8. Include a powerful call to action.
Lastly, and most importantly, make sure you have a goal for each video post — especially after you just invested so much thought and time in your YouTube video description! With every marketing action, there should be an equal and opposite reaction. Ok, so I stole that from Newton. But it’s true in marketing, too. Don’t waste your time by putting content out into the world unless you have a specific goal for that piece of content. For example:
- Want more subscribers? Add a reminder to subscribe several times throughout the copy.
- Want likes? Ask for likes at the high point of your video, when viewers are most invested in your content.
- Want leads? Make sure you’re sending people to your website for more information, such as a blog post!
Bottomline: Your YouTube Video Description Has A Split Audience
If nothing else, when you write your YouTube video description, make sure you’re thinking about the two audiences who will be reading it:
- The YouTube algorithm, and
- Real people, who you eventually want to become clients
The goal is to strike a balance between this split audience and satisfy the technical demands without getting too lost in the weeds or sounding like a robot.
Yes, this takes some creative thinking and a whole lot of brainstorming, but after a while, you’ll develop a voice that naturally takes both audiences into account.
And then, my friends, you’ll be writing your YouTube video descriptions like a pro.
If you’re even nerdier than me, you can take a deep dive into all the YouTube-related content in the YouTube Creator Academy “Get Discovered” course.
If you’re looking for more ways to increase the SEO of your YouTube videos and channel, check out this guide by Hubspot, which goes past optimizing the YouTube description to share other useful nuggets about analytics and such.
If you have questions, I’m more than happy to answer specific inquires about your project. Shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Like What You Read?
Subscribe to the WordSmith blog by filling out your email address at the bottom of the page. I write regularly about copywriting for small businesses, best SEO practices, blogging, email marketing, grammar and other nerdy topics of the written word.