As a YouTube content creator, you have to wear many hats—videographer, editor, public speaker, and for better or for worse, writer. If you’re wondering how you can make video descriptions that beat the YouTube algorithm, we’re here to help. Don’t worry if you’re not a natural wordsmith: we’ve created a simple plan for you to follow to ensure perfect descriptions every time.
Think about your description before you start filming.
The truth is, the better you understand things like SEO (search engine optimization), your YouTube analytics, and what content people are actually searching for, the easier it will be to write an effective description that helps your video rank and provides useful information to your viewers. Getting into the habit of researching keywords and related search queries before you’ve even started filming sets your video up for success right from the get-go.
To start, think about what kind of video you want to film and choose 2-3 keywords that will represent it. Start researching those keywords and any other related keywords that may pop up. Try typing your keywords straight into YouTube as well as Google and see what other suggestions there are. Check out the top ranking videos for those keywords and study them. Why did these videos in particular succeed? How can you emulate (but not copy) some of those traits? How can you make your video even better?
Know your audience and speak directly to them.
If you want to write a description that draws someone in, it helps to know exactly who you’re writing to. Think about your video and who it will provide value to. If you already have some YouTube videos published, you can check your analytics to see who’s watching your videos (age range, gender, and country). Keep your audience (or target audience) in mind when writing your descriptions.
Plan on making the first 150 to 200 characters of your description (the part that displays above the “Show More” button) the most important. Be sure to use your keywords, speak to your audience, and show why they should, better yet, why they need to watch your video. Let’s take a look at an example of a description for a scarf knitting tutorial that doesn’t work well with YouTube’s algorithm.
“The mornings are getting cooler and kids are starting to go back to school. That’s right, fall is just around the corner. It’s times like these where I catch myself daydreaming about sitting by the fire with some hot tea and doing my favorite thing in the world: knitting! A few weekends ago while visiting my sister upstate, I found the perfect hole-in-the-wall shop and picked up some new skeins…”
It’s easy to see that while this YouTuber is trying to paint a cozy scene to entice viewers, it’s not a good description in terms of what viewers (and the YouTube algorithm) are searching for. The primary keyword, “knit,” is only used once (as “knitting”) and the other keywords, “scarf” and “tutorial” aren’t even included. Now let’s take a look at a better example of a YouTube description for the same tutorial.
“Learn how to knit a scarf with me in this easy tutorial (great for beginners!). This tutorial is the perfect way to start filling your wardrobe with handmade knitted items like scarves and socks that will keep you cozy all fall and winter long.”
Within the first 200 characters, this description used all of the target keywords (“knit, “scarf,” and “tutorial”) and keyword variations (“knitted” and “scarves”) and doesn’t sound too forced or robot-like. It’s straight to the point and has a clear target audience (anyone looking to knit a scarf, even beginners). Combined with a high quality thumbnail, this video is sure to get recommended by the algorithm and get clicks.
Make a template description to streamline your workflow.
We’ve established that you should keep the important information at the beginning of the video description. After that, you should include things like a brief description of your YouTube channel, why people should subscribe, as well as links to all of your social media and a CTA (call to action). The standard “Follow me,” with links to your socials works, but something like, “Let’s keep in touch,” or “Come say hi!” sounds a bit more enticing.
YouTube allows you to make premade description templates so definitely take advantage. FAQs as well as links to any products featured in your video (bonus if they’re affiliate links!) are also great things to add. Depending on your niche, you can even include links to items you regularly use. For example, a fitness influencer might link to their usual protein powder or sportswear, an artist would link to their favorite tools, and a gamer would like to their PC parts and other gaming equipment.
Add chapters and timestamps to keep things organized.
Ever since YouTube allowed creators to break up their videos into segments called “chapters,” we’ve learned that viewers really like organized videos. By neatly separating your video into titled chapters and adding the timestamps to your description, you’re showing viewers that you care about their time and viewing experience—a considerate gesture that goes a long way with viewers.
Not only will viewers appreciate your efforts, your chaptered videos will receive better SEO rankings and therefore, more views. This brings us back to tip number one with planning: try to factor in chapters before you’ve started filming. Deciding chapters ahead of time will make filming, editing, and adding chapter tags so much easier and save you valuable time.
Let’s recap: Here are our tips written out in concise bullet points—feel free to jot them down!
- Before filming a video, choose 2-3 target keywords and research them.
- Study the ranking videos and see how you can make yours even better.
- Check your YouTube analytics to see who’s watching your content.
- Write a description to draw in your target audience and use your keywords within the first 200 characters.
- Use templates to include the same content in every description such as a brief overview of your channel and links to your socials with a CTA (call to action).
- Include extras such as FAQs and affiliate links to products you use often.
- Break up your video into chapters and include the titles and timestamps.
There you have it! As you can see, the more work you put into researching and planning your videos before you film, the better chance you have of writing top tier descriptions that will rank highly. As with anything, the more practice you put into writing descriptions with a purpose, the easier it will become. Before you know it, you’ll be a description-writing whiz and the views will come rolling in.