Notes from YouTube’s Partner Summit / Tips and Tricks for Optimizing Videos on YouTube

Kevin Dando, Director, Digital Marketing and Communications

Several of us at PBS were recently invited to a meeting at YouTube for a “Partners Summit” where, during the course of two days, a number of YouTube staffers from many divisions walked us through a number of strategies and tactics for ensuring that our YouTube videos are seen by as many people as possible.

Here’s a rundown of the specific items that I thought you might find interesting or helpful regarding YouTube videos.

Throughout the meeting, the YouTubers reinforced (very often, in fact) that their main goal is to keep users on the site, watching as many videos as possible, and its algorithm will reward channels and videos that are shown to be engaging and hold users’ interest, and lead users to watch other videos.

To that end, YouTube gave a number of tips for helping to make videos more discoverable.

•    Metadata is incredibly important – YouTube video titles, descriptions, tags and thumbnails can’t be an afterthought – you must be strategic about all these pieces of metadata. Here are some specific metadata tips from YouTube’s Partner Playbook.

•    Also, YouTube is focusing on emphasizing the importance of channels as content distributors. Individual videos are important, but the overall performance of your channel should be something you’re tracking on a day to day basis.

On that note, if you’re not already, you should be making it easy for people to subscribe to your YouTube channel so they can know when you upload new content. You can see good techniques for how to do this on the PBS Digital Studios PBS Idea Channel page (  See how the “subscribe” button is really prominent there?

•    You should also urge users to subscribe to your YouTube channel on your Facebook page, on Twitter, etc.  Are you putting your YouTube channel’s URL in your station’s email sig, etc?  Think of all the opportunities you have to make sure people are seeing (and subscribing to!) your YouTube presence.

•    Playlists are also amazingly important --even if it means creating playlists that include content from other channels (not yours).  Be creative. Use smart curatorial skills – make people interested in coming to your YouTube channel not only because of your videos, but because your playlisting other videos you think your users might like, too. (Remember, too, that adding videos to playlists updates your channel’s feed, which everyone can see.)

The PBS YouTube channel, for example, includes a number of featured playlists on its homepage that showcase videos from the PBS Off Book and PBS Idea Channel YouTube pages. In this way, we can cross promote our other channels and drive traffic to them, as well.  They, in turn, have prominent links to the PBS YouTube channel on their pages.

It’s possible to create a topical playlist that can be used for other purposes. (if news is breaking about a certain topic, consider creating  create a quick playlist on that topic -- then promoting it. This is especially smart if your station does news programming.)

•    Remember to post notes to channel’s subscribers, but be judicious.  This isn’t something the PBS YouTube channel has done much of, but because of this YouTube meeting, we’re going to being doing it more, especially in connection with our biggest promotional

•    Use video annotations wisely -- especially to encourage subscriptions. Put annotations/notes at the end of your videos suggesting that people subscribe to your channel.

•    Custom thumbnails – YouTubers emphasized repeatedly how important it is to have engaging thumbnail images, comparing them to a book cover.  Soon, all users, not just partners, will be able to upload custom thumbnails for individual videos. Remember however, to look at how your custom thumbnail will look scaled down to actual size.

In the discussion of custom thumbnails they showed us this slide with their suggestions and examples:

•    Publishing Schedules: Publish strategically and release videos at opportune moments and around tent-pole events.

•    Here are some other scheduling tips in a slide:

Also, watch what your competitors are doing, and what videos are trending in general, and use that information to your advantage. See a trend developing – think how your videos can leverage that trend.

Three sites favored by YouTubers for learning about what’s hot in viral videos are:

If you have any questions about any of this, please contact me.

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