Top tips on how to improve your video performance

Performance-io / May 28, 2020

Video performance is a subject that’s gained traction in recent years, mostly with a focus on analytics. However, in this blog post, we don’t just want to cover reporting – we want to deep-dive into how to improve video performance, start to finish. According to HubSpot, 85% of businesses are using video for marketing in 2020, so it’s timely to revisit end-to-end video performance and how to do it well – specifically for YouTube and Google search – so you can win at video.


How to plan video content

And in three easy steps! Let’s look at the main considerations for how to optimise video performance before starting to film:

1. Define your audience

The first step in video pre-production is defining your target audience, as this will not only inform the type of video you create, but also the information you cover and your approach – plus video keywords and length. We recommend using buyer personas to identify your organisation’s ideal customers, based on data and educated assumptions (feedback from sales and customer service teams is invaluable here). Think about how these personas like to consume video content, and the kind of video you’ll need to create to align.

2. Select your keywords

YouTube is the second-biggest search engine in the world, so for video performance, planning for keywords isn’t nice to have – it’s essential to content discoverability. The right keywords will get your videos in front of your audience, matching these to searches based on relevance and intent.

One of the easiest ways to plan keywords is to start a YouTube search. Like Google, its auto-complete functionality shows you the most popular keywords for a topic. You can also use professional keyword tools for search engine optimisation (SEO), such as Ahrefs (paid) or Keyword Keg (free). Google also has tools you can use, like Google Trends and Google Ads Keyword Planner.

3. Consider your optimal video length

Optimal runtime depends on your video content. On one hand, the average length of top 10 YouTube videos is around 3 minutes, which is great for short ‘how to’ videos, topic intros etc. On the other, TED Talks cap at 18 minutes; long enough to give a deep-dive, but short enough to still retain viewer interest. It all depends on your content goal – if what you need is a short, sharp summary, then a 1-3 minute video will be better for engagement. Conversely, if what you require is granular detail, then look at 10-18 minutes.

How to optimise your video

Optimising video performance is one of the most important things you can do (outside creating great content). Optimising for content discoverability is how you get viewers and grow a channel, so it pays to learn about YouTube and SEO – and what you must nail to ensure your video performs:

YouTube video title

Video titles are one of the biggest factors in how to improve YouTube performance. This is due to:

1. Impressions click-through-rate (CTR): Your video title, along with your video thumbnail, is a key factor in users deciding whether to click and watch. A strong title needs to be simple, relevant – and enticing.

2. SEO: Your title, like your description, gives an overview of your video. Prioritising your 1-2 keywords early and with emphasis in your title establishes your subject matter and makes finding your video easier for YouTube.

The title field has a maximum of 100 characters, but only 70 of these will show up in Google Search, so aim for less is more.

YouTube video description

Your video description is a summary of your video, that when combined with your keywords drives discoverability in YouTube search (aiding views and watch time, again helping you get found). While the description is a single text field, it helps to think of it as split into two parts: above and below “SHOW MORE”, the grey drop-down link displaying the rest of a description. The text above this ‘fold’ is what appears in search results as well as user feeds. For performance, YouTube recommends:

  • Paying attention to the first few lines – 2-3 sentences – as this is what users will see, along with your title, when choosing your video. Put your primary 1-2 keywords near the beginning of your description for the most impact, ensuring they’re relevant to your video content.
  • Natural language is your friend. Don’t think spammy keywords; think about how to describe what your video is about, in a way that’s clear and concise but still compelling for viewers to click on.
  • In the text below the fold, you can include info like a 1-line blurb about your channel, metadata and links to your website / landing page / social etc. (set a default description to auto-populate).
  • Description length should be 200+ words, with additional, contextual keywords. The description has a max. of 5,000 characters.
  • A note on hashtags: you can use them in the description, however YouTube will ignore them if there’s over 15 in total.

YouTube video timestamps

In 2019, Google launched ‘key moments’ for Google Search, based on timestamps labelled in YouTube videos. These timestamps effectively split videos into chapters, with the goal of improving user experience by helping viewers find what they’re looking for more efficiently and effectively. A core benefit of this update was its impact for SEO, in that searches could now serve videos as featured snippets and specify exact timecodes for content. Consequently, timestamping your videos is an excellent way to help them show relevance and get discovered, both on YouTube and Google Search.

For more information on timestamps, check out Shootsta’s blog, ‘YouTube Timestamp Links – What They Are And How To Use Them’.

YouTube video tags

YouTube tags (or video tags) are described by YouTube as ‘descriptive keywords’, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you can hack search queries by stuffing; there’s a 500-character limit. Tags are useful for highlighting key misspellings of your content – and while it’s good form to make your first tag(s) the exact 1-2 keywords you’d like to rank for, this is more to alert viewers to your subject matter, than to force search performance. A benchmark of 10+ tags, with plural and singular words / phrases is advised.

YouTube video subtitles / closed captions

In today’s modern world of sound-off for mobile (or even your computer at work), it’s best to include closed captions or subtitles for your videos. This is even more important when you factor in accessibility for the hearing impaired, or foreign viewers. But the final advantage comes down to SEO, in that your video should reference priority keywords, which will boost chances of getting found in YouTube search. You will need to upload an SRT file for captions – if you don’t have one, YouTube does give you the option to provide automatic captions based on its machine-learning algorithm (that said, quality can vary, so always check and correct any errors manually).

YouTube video cards

Cards add a level of interactivity to your videos. Cards can be channel cards, video / playlist cards, donation cards or link cards e.g. to your website or a landing page (note: there is criteria here, as you need to be eligible for the YouTube Partner Programme). Video or playlist cards are useful as you can link users to related video content or playlists, while channel cards are good for promoting sponsorships.

How to measure video performance

Once you publish, here are eight insightful metrics to help you track improving video performance:

1. Organic traffic

First and foremost, organic traffic will give you a top-level understanding, from your earlier video planning, of how your video is performing for keywords. Organic traffic is counted as views resulting from user intent-based actions like performing a YouTube search or clicking on a recommended video. You can find traffic source types under Reach in YouTube analytics.

2. Watch time

Watch time is the estimated total viewing time for your video. This is a key metric as YouTube search prioritises high video watch time – the more people watch your video, the more relevant and engaging it’s deemed to be. High watch times help your videos get found.

YouTube’s watch time metric suite also includes average view duration and average view percentage. View duration is watch time divided by video plays, and essentially helps measure how well your video gets and holds attention. View percentage is self-explanatory and similar in goal, both metrics impacting YouTube search results and recommendations.

3. Engagement

YouTube’s engagement suite actually includes several metrics, such as comments, likes, dislikes and shares. Not just vanity metrics, YouTube engagement drives organic reach – so it’s worth examining these metrics for video data and insights on performance.

Comments provide qualitative feedback on your video content, and let you know what has and hasn’t resonated with viewers. Likes (vs. dislikes) is the percentage of likes your video has, and helps gauge how people feel about your content, similarly to comments. Shares, however, is more about brand affinity and credibility; people share video content when it adds value and reinforces their beliefs in some way. It’s the online version of word-of-mouth, and points to value-add content and trust.

4. Subscribers

Your subscribers metric for a video (or channel) is subscribers gained minus subscribers lost i.e. the total change in subscribers, and is specific to your date range / region. Subscribers matter for obvious reasons – as fans who publicly like your channel, they advocate for you and your content, and those subscriber numbers add up. But more than that, YouTube subscribers get notifications when you publish new videos – “shown to watch twice as much video as non-subscribers” – so their support can go a long way to raising watch time, as well as informing your video content strategy.

5. Audience retention

Audience retention is found under the Engagement tab in YouTube analytics, and like watch time, is about measuring your video’s engagement. The drawcard: at every second of your video, you can see the percentage of users that drop off (see point #8 on bounce rate), which offers insights into which segments did or didn’t resonate and how you can improve next time.

Of note is that percentages can be over 100%, since audiences can rewatch parts or chapters in your video – in which case, it may be worth creating a video solely focused on that content.

6. Click-through-rate

As elsewhere in marketing, YouTube click-through-rates (CTR) give an indication of how well your video is influencing user behaviour. For impressions CTR, it’s the percentage of video impressions that become views after users click on your video thumbnail. Comparing this CTR to your watch time metrics can also inform whether content is relevant to users; if CTR is high but watch time is low, people didn’t get what they expected.

“Half of all channels and videos on YouTube have [an impressions] CTR between 2% and 10%.” — YouTube

Card CTR is based on your more typical call-to-action (CTA) during a video, like clicking another video, subscribing or clicking through to a website.

7. Conversion rate

Conversion rate is another marketing performance indicator, and is usually sales-based, measuring how many users become leads or customers (though conversions can be defined as any goal). To measure conversions, you’ll likely be looking at card CTR – linking viewers to a landing page – where the aim is to convert them into contacting a business or buying a product. Note: you’ll also need to quantify these lead / sale conversions, so ensure you’re able to track this on your landing page.

8. Bounce rate

Following on from conversion rate, bounce rate is the percentage of people who visit a website (or page) and then leave without performing any actions. Bounce rate can help you determine if: a.) your video isn’t enticing enough to convert to your landing page, or b.) your video is converting, but the linked page itself isn’t. Either way, you have insight into what to solve for.

* Our friends at video technology company Shootsta have a helpful video on how to read your video analytics.

We hope you enjoyed our top tips on how to improve your video performance! If you’d like to learn more about how to optimise your videos or online marketing to drive performance, contact us for a free 30-minute consultation.

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