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Writing Great Video Titles Isn’t as Hard as You Think

Great video titles

Whether you’ve just started making videos or you’ve been video marketing for years, coming up with great video titles can be the trickiest part of the whole process. A video’s title is more than just a minor detail or an afterthought – it’s a major factor in whether people decide to click the play button or not. No matter how good your videos are, weak titles make it hard to get views and grow your audience.

Empty road tumbleweed

Fortunately, writing good video titles is a skill that you can master with practice. By understanding a few general principles that make video titles effective, and by putting some thought into each one you write, you can learn the art of writing great titles without stressing over them.

In this article, we’ll delve into the topic of how your titles affect your videos’ success. Then we’ll give you some easy-to-implement tips for coming up with great titles that boost your views and engagement.

Why Your Video Titles Matter

There’s a lot of video content on the internet already, and more is uploaded all the time. If you don’t find ways to make your videos stand out, they’ll probably get lost among the noise. To put the problem into perspective, think about all the TV content that major U.S. television networks have created over the last 30 years. More video content than that gets uploaded to the internet every 30 days!

With that kind of competition out there, how can you give your videos the best possible chance of being found and watched? While a lot of things go into a good video strategy, one of the key things you can do is to write strong titles.

To beat the competition out there, one of the key things you can do is to write strong titles.

If you’ve done other types of content marketing, you know that a title or headline is often your only shot at getting somebody’s attention. For instance, it’s no secret that a title is the most important part of a blog post.

The same is true for video. That split second when someone glances at your video’s title is usually a make-or-break moment – will they click the play button, or will they move on?

Good titles also make it easier to stand out from the crowd. After all, not all the videos on the internet are well-made, let alone well-titled. Publishing high-quality videos with good titles puts you in a smaller pool of competitors.

How to write good video titles

You can also influence the image of your videos (or, for that matter, of your brand itself) by choosing your titles carefully. People perceive a funny or over-the-top title differently than a serious, formal one. Using this to your advantage will affect the way people watch your videos and think about your company.

Finally, a good title can help your video get found in the first place. While it’s not the main factor in video SEO, a strong title is a must if you want searchers to find your video through organic search in YouTube or Google. Choosing a clear, descriptive, keyword-optimized title is one of the simplest ways you can boost a video’s views. 

The Ingredients of a Great Video Title

Clearly, titles have a big impact on the way your videos get discovered and watched. But what exactly is a great title? What separates a great title from a mediocre or poor one? In general, a strong video title has the following qualities.

It’s succinct. If you write a long, rambling title, your video might get ignored. People skim more than they read on the internet, and you have just seconds (literally) to grab a viewer’s attention. Besides that, long titles tend to get cut off in search results. A good title is vivid and descriptive without taking up any more room than necessary.

It’s on-topic. A good title tells viewers what they can expect from a video. It’s clear, direct, and honest. People are busy, and they need a reason to watch your video, so using an unclear or ambiguous title is a bad idea. Similarly, misleading titles leave viewers feeling cheated, which is bad for your reputation.

5 Tips to Improve Video Titles

Writing great video titles isn't as hard as you think

It’s unique. Coming up with a title that’s descriptive, brief, and unique can be a tall order. However, a good video title avoids being completely generic. For instance, suppose you wanted to publish a video called “Kittens” or “Making Pancakes.” There are lots of videos on the internet with those titles already, so making yours stand out would be tough. Adding a couple of relevant details – for instance, “Brushing Maine Coon Kittens” or “How to Make Easy Russian Pancakes” – will make your video seem more unique and appealing.

It’s keyword-focused. Keywords aren’t just important for your website. They also matter for video titles. Google and YouTube can’t watch videos and understand the content (yet), so if you want people to find your videos when searching for certain terms, those keywords should be included in the title.

It’s intriguing. An effective title drives people to click on it. It offers a solution to a problem, touches on a viewer’s emotions, or promises a juicy secret. People won’t pay much attention to a boring and staid title, even if it checks all the practical boxes above. The “intrigue factor” can be the hardest part of a good title to capture. Once you get a knack for it, though, you’ll probably notice your videos getting more engagement, even if you don’t do anything else differently.

How Do Titles Affect Your Videos’ SEO?

SEO doesn’t just matter for text-based content anymore. With the rise of video– and image-based content marketing, it’s important to understand how to optimize all kinds of media for search engines. Video is an especially interesting case, because search engines can’t process or understand the video content itself. Therefore, they rely on text-based metadata – like titles, descriptions, and tags – to understand what videos are about and to rank them.

Just like regular SEO, video SEO has a lot of different moving parts, and the major search algorithms aren’t fully understood. Titles are important, but they aren’t everything. Other information, like a video’s comments and views, also figure heavily into how search engines rank the video. But regardless of what else you’re doing to boost your videos’ rank, choosing good titles will certainly help your content get found and watched. 

Recent research from Backlinko found that, on YouTube, videos appear to get a small rankings boost if their title contains an exact keyword match with a user’s search term. In other words, if someone searches for the term “build a birdhouse” and your video is titled “How to Build a Birdhouse,” your video might be more likely to show up high in the results. The effect is small, though, so you shouldn’t rely on it as your only video SEO technique on YouTube.

Why doesn’t an exact keyword match carry more weight? Backlinko hypothesizes that it’s because YouTube can understand synonyms in titles now, so it doesn’t rely on finding word-for-word matches so much anymore. The bottom line: using your most relevant keywords in your video titles is a good idea, and it will probably help you a little, but don’t expect it to transform your rankings overnight.

Writing great video titles isn't as hard as you think

Backlinko found that highly-ranked videos are slightly more likely to have an exact keyword match in their title.

Video titles matter for SEO outside YouTube, too. As the main text content associated with a video, a descriptive and keyword-optimized title can help your video rank higher in search engines like Google.

Most importantly, video titles affect your SEO by making your content more (or less) user-friendly. At the end of the day, SEO isn’t really about exploiting tricks to improve your rankings – it’s about providing a good user experience and making your content easy to find. A strong title helps you deliver value to your human audience, and that’s the most important thing you can do to improve your SEO over the long term.

6 Tips for Writing a Great Video Title

Need some inspiration for your next video title? These tips can help you generate title ideas and stay on the right track. Just remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all formula for a winning video title, so don’t be afraid to get creative and try new approaches.

1. Do your keyword research.

If you want to write titles that appeal to people and to search engines, understanding keywords is a must. If you already have a keyword strategy in place, you’ve got a head start. If not, or if you just need a quick refresher on keywords, here’s how you can do research for your video titles.

Start by visiting a keyword finder tool online. There are plenty of good free ones you can choose from. One popular option is Google’s keyword planner in AdWords. If you have an AdWords account, start here by navigating to the keyword planner tool and clicking “Search for new keywords using a phrase, website or category.”

Finding keywords in Google

Finding keywords in AdWords, step one.

Let’s say your video is about taking care of bonsai trees. Type a relevant word or phrase, like “bonsai tree care,” into the box labeled “Your product or service.” Then click “Get ideas.”

Finding keywords in Google

Finding keywords in AdWords, step two.

Google will show you a list of related keywords. Pay attention to how competitive keywords are and how many searches they get every month. Your videos will have the best chance of success if you use keywords that have low to medium competition, but a fairly high number of monthly searches.

Finding keywords in Google

Finding keywords in AdWords, step three.

Another useful and free keyword tool is Answer the Public. This tool gives you keywords in question form. Since many people start their search by typing a question into the search bar, it’s often a good idea to title your videos as questions, too.

How to use Answer the Public

An example of Answer the Public’s question-based keywords.

If YouTube is the main platform you want to use for your video, their autocomplete feature can also be useful for coming up with keyword ideas. Type in a word or phrase related to your video, and you’ll see a drop-down list of frequently searched terms.

How to write video titles with Youtube autocomplete

YouTube’s autocomplete feature can help you get keyword ideas for video titles.

An often-overlooked video keyword is the word “video” itself. If you’re focused on increasing your video’s visibility in non-YouTube search engines, it’s smart to include Video as a keyword at the end of your title.

2. Use a headline analyzer tool.

As you do keyword research, you’ll probably start coming up with ideas for titles. Plug those ideas into a headline analyzer tool to see how strong they are. The Advanced Marketing Institute and Sharethrough both offer free tools that require no sign-up.

Headline analyzers can give you useful feedback on your ideas, but take their results with a grain of salt. An algorithm will never be able to predict exactly how people will react to your titles. However, these tools are a good way to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t.

Wtine engaging video titles with Sharethrough

Sharethrough’s headline analyzer finds your title’s strengths and gives you suggestions for improving it.

3. Keep it short.

Can you shave a word or two off your title without losing meaning or clarity? If so, consider deleting them. Short, snappy video titles are more eye-catching and memorable than long ones, and they’re less likely to get truncated in search results. A good upper limit to aim for is 60 characters.

4. Frontload your title.

People are more likely to glance at your title than to read it carefully. Put your most important words up front to catch viewers’ eyes.

5. Consider using a question format for your title.

If your video answers a question or provides information of some kind, it can be a good idea to use a question as the title. How-to videos, product demos, and general informational videos are good candidates for this titling technique. This also makes it easy to come up with ideas – just think about what questions people might search to find your video.

6. Be interesting.

To come up with an interesting title, ask yourself why somebody would want to watch your video in the first place. What’s in it for them? Why should they care? Once you’ve identified your main selling point, put it front and center in your title. Try to make people feel like they’ll miss out on something great if they don’t watch your video.

More concrete tips for coming up with a catchy, interesting title include:

  • Using numbers or lists. For instance, “The Top 5 Best Bonsai Trees for Beginners to Grow” is a more compelling title than “Easy Bonsai Trees for Beginners to Grow.”
  • Creating a fear of missing out. For instance, if you allude to a “secret” or to a special method for doing something, people are more likely to watch your video.
  • Offering expert tips. Everybody wants exclusive knowledge.
  • Keeping your finger on your audience’s emotional pulse. What do they want most? What are they afraid of? Try to use words in your titles that trigger those emotions.
  • Being sincere. You don’t need to create clickbait or resort to cheesy titles to get people interested in what you have to say. Don’t be too salesy, even if you’re trying to sell something, and don’t promise more than your video delivers. Remember, you aren’t trying to trick people into watching your video – you’re just trying to present your awesome content in the best possible light.

6 actionable tips to improve your video titles

The Takeaway

Titling your videos doesn’t have to be a stumbling block in the creative process. While it’s true that your titles matter a lot, it’s not as difficult as you might think to come up with titles that are memorable and effective. Use the ideas in this article to jump-start your creativity, and soon you’ll be on your way to writing great video titles more easily than ever.

How do you come up with your video titles? If you have any tips of your own to share, we’d love to hear them in the comments section below!

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