The reason why some videos go viral and others remain largely anonymous is often less to do with the video itself and more to do with its title. Like any product, a good video needs a good title to sell itself effectively.
It’s important for content creators and content users alike to consider titles, whether for use on a website, mobile app, OTT or elsewhere. From examining how titles appear in a video player on a page, to how your internal teams can integrate them into their process, good titles can improve video adoption rates as well as click volumes.
With so much content flooding the digital space today, titles help users narrow their choices to these core values: Relevancy, Discoverability and Presentation.
Know your audience! The first element of a video that a user will engage with is the title, so it stands to reason that titles should be tailor made for them. Consider what category or niche your content fits - if it’s hard hitting news for audiences looking to stay up to date, keep the titles concise and practical. e.g. “First Lady Melania Trump undergoes surgery”. However if it’s millennial celebrity news, consider using slang and capital letters to up the impact for a younger audience. e.g. “Bella Hadid CLAPS BACK at haters from Met Gala 2018”
Titles can be a vital tool in the battle of increasing adoption rates too. When encouraging your editorial team to use more video, editors are influenced just as easily as members of the public. They assess content based off of their audiences’ values and given the time-sensitive nature of curation, titles are often the quickest way to an editor's heart - thus expanding their adoption rates and your site’s video inventory.
Editors don’t just assess relevance against their own interests, they also judge videos against one another. If the content is in a news-based category, it may be competing with a number of other videos on the same topic. So does the video have actual footage or stills? Provide that information in your title. Editors are much more inclined to choose content if they know it depicts the event in question. e.g. WATCH: Firefighters use mother duck recording to help rescue ducklings - Fox 29 video. Raw video is valuable. It can give your content or site the edge.
Of course, an audience has to be able to see your title in order to be able to judge it - does your title include enough terms to make it discoverable? Some keyword research can quickly tell you how popular some terms will be, and specifically, how popular they may be for your core audience.
Keep in mind that users may behave differently when searching for videos compared to generally searching the web. However Google’s Adwords keyword planner tool is a great application to help you research and understand what keywords are getting the most views (and what keywords will get your content blacklisted!).
Try to avoid profanity of any kind, graphic descriptions in the case of news coverage and anything too politically charged. If you want your content to appear across the highest volume of searches, make sure it doesn’t included terms that will get it discounted.
Some content may fulfil an important niche but may not exactly set the internet alight at first glance. Fresh news-based content may drive clicks initially, as everyone has an interest in breaking news, but there is also long term demand for time-agnostic content. If you can name an evergreen video correctly then you may see it generate consistent views in the long run. The key to this is delivering a title that will draw a users eye. e.g “You won’t believe what happens once this kid gets on stage..”
Some UGC content has massive potential to thrive and generate views over long periods of time, but unless audiences find an initial reason to watch, it will languish unclicked for just as long. Promise the audience a reveal or significant moment in the title and give them a reason to engage. e.g. Mom not letting go of her military son after he comes home will melt your heart - Newsflare.
Of course, not all evergreen content is comprised of shareable footage. Some of it is advice based, magazine style content. Beauty tutorials, health advice and recipe content can all suffer from chronically boring titles. e.g. "FDA have announced cigarettes cause lung problems”
Health findings aren’t necessarily the most dazzling for any audience but if phrased properly, they can be refitted to add an element that compels a user to view the content. e.g Soothe Dry Winter Skin: 4 Proven Ways to Glow Again - Healthination. This title doesn’t just state “How To Hydrate Winter Skin”, it sells the process itself.
You may not be able to edit the title once the content is present in your inventory, but by being more aware of how it appears for your audience, you can make better curation choices in the future. For instance, if the title is clipped by your player, make sure the subject of the video is the first word of the title to maximize the possible impact for your site visitors. e.g Beyonce partners with Google bosses to expand scholarship programme - Cover Media.
The key to video titles is to treat them as the very first marketing tool your content has. What title you give your content on your desktop for distribution doesn’t have to be what ends up live on a site. Don’t be afraid to experiment, modulate the language in your titles depending on potential keyword searches and your audience’s preferences. Similarly, if you’re choosing content, titles should be your ally in your quest to increase your team’s adoption rates and your sites’ click rates. Above all, pay attention to what the content itself is trying to tell you - and the best title is usually right in front of you!
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