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YouTube Titles: Basic Rules You Must Know

YouTube Title Formula How to Rank AND Get Clicks

Would you like to generate more views for your video on YouTube?

Creating a more clickable video title is probably your answer. YouTube titles are 

Video creation and editing take time and creativity. Make sure not to skip tiny steps – like coming up with an effective YouTube headline – to get your video seen. Read on to find out why you need to pay more attention to YouTube titles for videos and learn how to come up with a good title.

The Chicken and the Egg Situation: Visibility vs Clicks

Here’s the thing: Your title is crucial for two major factors that determine whether your video will ever reach its audience:

  • Video visibility: Will it ever be surfaced in search results or suggested for your target audience to see and click to watch?
  • Clickability: Will the title be intriguing enough for people to want to click it once they see it in search results?

Now, the toughest part in this dilemma is that one of those two factors may easily contradict the other, i.e. well-optimized YouTube headlines may rank well in Google, yet those are often too boring to get clicked.

This is where we are dealing with the chicken vs the egg situation: Without SEO there are no clicks, with too much SEO there are no clicks. So what comes first?

Visibility or clicks?

There’s no need to choose. We’ll try to achieve both of the goals with one title.

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When Video Titles Are Crucial for Visibility?

There are several ways people can discover your video, and – believe it or not – YouTube titles are crucial only for a couple of those. 

Let’s get things straight. Your video can be discovered through:

  • Suggested videos: When your video shows up as suggested to another video.
  • YouTube home page: Every user has a home page personalized towards their viewing history and preferences.
  • YouTube search: When someone actually uses search.
  • User- and YouTube-generated playlists: When your video is included in a playlist by a user or when YouTube generates an automated playlist and your video gets included.
  • Google’s video carousels: Google would often include interactive video results right within their organic search. These can be massive click-drivers for videos included in them.
  • A web page where your video is embedded.

Note: These are organic discovery channels, not including YouTube ads which are of course also very effective.

In a nutshell:

Video discovery channel The impact the video title plays on that discovery How easy it is to generate traffic through this channel
Suggested videos Low* Takes months or years
YouTube home page Low* Takes months or years
YouTube search HUGE Complex, but doable
User- and YouTube-generated playlists Low* Takes months + luck
Google’s video carousels HUGE Easy (no need to have an established channel)
External web page embeds None Embedding videos or playlists on your own site is a good start

* YouTube does use titles for some topical relevancy analysis to suggest their viewers new content they may be interested in but the impact is minimal. YouTube mostly focuses on their users’ behaviors (i.e. what other videos people watching this video engaged with).

So here you go — titles provide crucial discovery signals for only two channels, but those channels are huge:

  • YouTube search;
  • Google search:

YouTube title formula - video carousel

Both video carousels and YouTube search results are quite versatile: They often change video rankings, add trending videos, etc. So when you know your target keyword, make sure to set up some kind of monitoring to keep an eye on your target carousels and SERPs. Visual Ping is a handy page monitoring tool that can do that tracking for you:

YouTube title - page monitoring toolFor example, this monitoring task will only keep an eye on the top-most videos ranking on YouTube.

Generally, both YouTube search and Google’s video carousels are pretty doable to succeed in.

While getting suggested and appearing in auto-generated playlists take more magic into account, ranking in search results is something you have more control over.

The hidden benefit of optimizing your videos for YouTube and Google Search is that non-search discovery channels (like suggested videos and home page recommendations) are user-behavior-driven. This means that clicks your optimization efforts will generate, and those views will help your video show up in all other sections because YouTube will have data to work with.

With that in mind, let’s see what should be included in the title of your YouTube video.

Effective YouTube Titles: What Do They Include?

Character Count

YouTube allows up to 100 characters in the title and there’s nothing preventing you from using all of these.

What you need to keep in mind: Keep your most important part in front because no channel is likely to display your title in full.

Video discovery channel How many title characters are displayed
Suggested videos ~50
YouTube home page 50-55
YouTube search All 100
User- and YouTube-generated playlists 50-60
Google’s video carousels 50-60
External web page embeds All 100

Mobile and desktop characters may differ: I am putting in the average.

As you can see:

  • Despite common recommendations to limit your YouTube title to about 70 characters, I strongly advise using up all available characters. There’s nothing wrong in your video title being truncated. In fact, truncated titles may inspire curiosity (people willing to read the rest of it) and hence often drive a click.
  • Within the majority of channels, only the first 50 characters will be visible (the rest will be truncated), so make sure to make the most of the first half of your title

Your Target Keyword

While Google’s keyword processing algorithms are much more advanced these days, keywords are still great signals for Google to understand relevancy.

But it is more than that. Keywords help clickability too because searchers are naturally drawn to results that include the term they search for.

So searchable keywords in YouTube headlines help both visibility (i.e. rankings) and clickability.

SE Ranking provides a solid keyword research solution that allows you to identify your target keyword based on search volume, competition (i.e. advertisers), and difficulty (i.e. strength of your organic competitors). It also lets you see search queries that are currently triggering video carousels which is especially important for our goals here (i.e. getting our video to rank for those queries):

YouTube title - keyword research solution

Click Triggers

Getting a click is tricky: There’s a fine balance between inspiring a click and making your YouTube title look spammy. So try to limit your title to one or maximum two click triggers.

These include:

  1. ALL-IN-CAPS: Use it for one-two words in the title to emphasize important words.
  2. “Without”: like “How to do something without losing something”, etc. This word removes barriers and allows you to solve two problems within one title.
  3. “How to ( … steps to)”: A universal click-trigger for videos that provide tutorials. This trick is especially effective when you add the second part explaining another problem you are solving here.
  4. … vs …: Another powerful click trigger that allows you to target two keywords within one headline.
  5. Emojis: Don’t overuse these but emojis may be very powerful, especially for entertaining videos. Don’t use emojis in every video though.
  6. Numbers: Listicles are huge click-drivers, and YouTube videos are no exception.

Here are a few of these tricks in action right within one set of search results:

YouTube title trick examples

Truncated Parts Are for SEO

So once you’ve used up your first most important 50 characters, include more SEO-driven elements in your second part. While it can be truncated, Google is likely to use your whole title for ranking, so that second (often hidden from an eye) part will still help in discoverability.

It is a good idea to include:

  • Secondary keywords
  • Related terms
  • Synonyms, etc.

Text Optimizer is a great place to find those extra keywords and terms to target in your less visible part of the title. Here are related terms that the tool found for [YouTube title] keyword:

YouTube title - text optimizer

And here’s a good example of one video title targeting two different sets of keywords:

One YouTube video title targeting two different sets of keywords

Pro tip: If you’re stuck for ideas, use a YouTube title generator tool like TubeRanker, TunePocket, or others. These tools generate catchy optimized headlines for videos based on your keyword or topic.

The Ideal YouTube Title Formula

  • Characters: 100
  • First 50 characters: 
    • Your main keyword
    • Your click trigger (CAPS LOCK, emoji, how-to, etc)
  • Remaining 50 characters: Your secondary keywords, related terms, related problems you are solving, etc.

Obviously, we can come up with the formula but there’s no single method to phrase your YouTube title that would 100% work. Use these tricks to experiment and learn your own best working scenarios.

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