On the 20th of February YouTube introduced new regulations that make it tougher for businesses to earn money from the platform.
As a publisher, in order to monetise your channel you must first meet the eligibility requirements of the YouTube Partner Programme (YPP). Up until now the requirement was 10,000 total views across all videos, but under new rules the threshold is set at a minimum of 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 hours of watchtime within the last 12 months.
A blow to businesses
Channels that fail to meet this criteria will no longer be able to generate money from advertisements, or from YouTube Red subscribers watching their content.
Crucially for businesses, channels that aren’t part of the YPP will no longer be able to link to external websites or products from cards and end screens. Nor will they have access to Sponsorships, which allow viewers to purchase digital goods such as badges and emojis via a recurring monthly payment.
While the latter is unlikely to affect many companies outside of the gaming industry, the restriction on external linking poses a bigger problem. B2Bs and SMEs, who typically struggle to gain views and subscribers, are likely to suffer most. Not just from a loss in revenue, but website traffic generated by click-throughs on their videos too.
So what can I do about it?
There’s no two ways about it, you need to meet that threshold. YouTube isn’t going to change its mind. Here are five tips to help you optimise your videos…
1. Always remember: content is king
“Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet”, wrote Bill Gates in his 1996 essay titled “Content is King” - and so it has proved in the years since.
Content, and more specifically quality content, is the single most important factor in optimising your YouTube channel. In the early days of the internet it was possible to trick search engines into ranking your page high in the search results by stuffing the text full of valuable keywords - even if they weren’t at all relevant to the rest of the article. But those days are over.
In 2015 Google updated its algorithm to change the way it assesses content quality. Metrics such as average time spent on page and bounce rate (the number of users who exit a page without interacting with it) are now key factors in determining whether your page is ranked above a competitor’s. And guess what? Google owns YouTube, so ranking factors for videos are going the same way.
Unlike some social media platforms, where there is an emphasis on the quantity of content produced, posting lots of mediocre videos with poor engagement metrics will have a negative impact on your YouTube.
When deciding how to rank a video, Google looks at channel authority, which it determines by assessing the total watch time of all the content posted by that account. Videos posted to channels with a high authority will, at least to begin with, rank better than those posted to low authority channels.
Internet users are often accused of having a short attention span, but the average length of a page one YouTube video is 14 minutes 50 seconds - so don’t be afraid to go into detail on a subject. The bottom line is that if people find your content useful they’ll stay and watch.
2. Get the basics right
While there’s no concrete definition of what makes a good video, there are a few fundamentals you need to get right in order to come across professional. Here’s how to ensure your business puts its best foot forward on screen...
3. Make the most of metadata
Optimising your metadata is all about letting Google know what your video is about. There are three key areas to focus on: the title, description, and the tags.
The title is arguably the most important of these. It’s one of the first places that search engines reference, and often the first touchpoint with the user.
First and foremost a title should be readable. It should be written with a human being in mind, not a search bot. “How to poach an egg” might satisfy Google’s algorithm, but it’s unlikely to inspire click-throughs in quite the same volume as something like: “How to poach an egg like a kitchen ninja”.
It’s important to remember, though, that if you promise ninjas you better deliver on click-through, or risk leaving the user feeling tricked. A disgruntled user is likely to bounce - and that’s bad for everyone.
So don’t get carried away; the best titles accurately describe what the video is about while promising something of value to the user. Be specific and limit your use of keywords to one or two mentions. A good way to encourage click-throughs is to include the year in your title to show your content is relevant.
Despite what some websites will tell you, nobody reads the description. Think about it, when’s the last time you clicked through to a YouTube video and scrolled down to read what’s written about it? We click on videos to watch videos.
So whereas a title should be written with the reader firmly in mind, the description is your opportunity to sell your content to the search engines. Do your research and include as many relevant keywords as possible. But take care that it still reads well; keyword stuffing in a YouTube description will be penalised as it is on any other type of web page.
We recommend 300-500 words as a minimum.This may seem like a lot of work, but the payoff in ranking makes it well worth your while. Be sure to include any URLs in the first couple of sentences so they don’t end up hidden behind the “Show more” tab.
Tags are another way of letting Google know what your video’s about. Take care to be specific as over-tagging, or tags that aren’t relevant to your content, will result in your video being penalised.
Google still finds it tricky to understand semantics. So be sure to use as many variables as you can - both plural and singular - to give your video the best chance of ranking well.
4. Transcribe your videos
The transcription is something that most people don’t think about. By optimising it you stand to gain a real advantage over the competition.
YouTube has a tool that automatically transcribes all videos uploaded to the platform. These transcriptions then become an important ranking factor as they should, in theory, give the best description of your content.
But as anyone who’s ever tried talking to Siri will know, machines haven’t quite got the hang of listening yet.
Let’s say yours is a wildlife channel. You post a video on lizards. But the audio is lo-fi, the production team forgot the lapel mic that day and you had to rely on the camera’s built-in microphone. YouTube hears “lizards” as “wizards”, and indexes the transcription. Before long your video is ranking amongst World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings “Best of” compilations. But no-one clicks on it because they can see it’s not about wizards. And your video slides down the rankings. And your channel authority declines. And it’s all a big disaster.
Enter a transcription manually to avoid YouTube’s machine transcription program mis-representing your content. To do this:
- Click on your account in the top right of the page. Go to Creator Studio > Video Manager > Videos
- Select a video and click the drop-down menu next to the Edit button
- Click the Add new subtitles or CC (closed captions) button
5. Like, comment and share
Ever wondered why publishers go out of their way to encourage interaction with their posts? “Which member of the Friends cast would you most like to be friends with? Reply in the comments section.” “Hit ‘like’ if you’ve tried my new recipe for avocado cloud eggs.” “Tag a mate who waddles like this duck.”
It’s because social platforms such as Facebook and YouTube use engagement metrics as a way of measuring how valuable your content is to the user. If two videos have around the same number of views but one has considerably more shares, comments, and likes than the other, then YouTube is likely to favour it in the search results.
To reach the approval threshold for the YPP you need to encourage as much positive interaction with your channel as possible. This means maximising reach by sharing videos on social, actively encouraging people to leave comments, and replying to them promptly when they do.
There’s no question that YouTube’s new Partner Programme regulations will be a blow to businesses. Ultimately though, this new threshold will help to sort the wheat from the chaff, penalising low quality content and rewarding publishers whose videos are of highest value to the user. Follow these simple steps and you’ll soon see your videos flying up the rankings - and be well on your way to 1,000 subscribers and 4,000 watch hours.