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YouTube, what does it take to go viral? Insider SEO tips for top-ranking video

Episode Overview

When it comes to developing YouTube videos, there are many optimization techniques and innovative approaches that can make a big difference on how your YouTube videos rank. In this episode of the Searchmetrics Voices of Search podcast series, David Capone, executive producer for YouTube at Fanatics shares his insider knowledge on this specialized area of YouTube search, covering everything you need to know to drive visibility from creating a channel to viewer retention to which how-to videos are the most popular.

David and Ben go in-depth on:

  • Which YouTube channels perform the best and why?
  • How do you make your YouTube videos entertaining?
  • What are the best titles, keywords, meta tags, and descriptions?
  • What does it take to get Google and YouTube recommended?
  • What are the best techniques for portraying products to customers?
  • How do you effectively monitor analytics?

GUESTS & RESOURCES:

Episode Transcript

Ben:                             Welcome to Non-Google Search Month on the Voices of Search podcast. I’m your host Benjamin Shapiro, and this month we’re turning the spotlight on to how you can optimize your SEO efforts onto some of the most important search engines that don’t start with the letter G.

Ben:                            Joining us today is David Capone, who is the director of search engine optimization, and an executive producer for YouTube at Fanatics, which is the world’s largest eCommerce retailer of licensed sports merchandise.

Ben:                            And today, Dave is going to talk to us about his strategies for creating organic video content on Google’s sister site YouTube.

Ben:                            But before we get started, I want to remind you that this podcast is brought to you by the marketing team at Searchmetrics. We are an SEO and content marketing platform that helps enterprise-scale businesses monitor their online presence and make data-driven decisions.

Ben:                           To support you, our loyal podcast listeners, we’re offering a complimentary digital diagnostic. A member of our digital strategies group will provide you with a consultation that reviews how your website content and SEO strategies can all be optimized. To schedule your free digital diagnostic go to searchmetrics.com/diagnostic.

Ben:                            Okay, on with the show. Here’s my conversation with Dave Capone, director of SEO and executive producer of YouTube content for Fanatics.

Ben:                           Dave, welcome to the voices of search podcast.

David:                           Hey, thanks for having me.

Ben:                          Hey, I want to say, it’s great to have a not only friend of the show come on, but also a neighbor of Fanatics’ corporate headquarters or at least one of them is right around the corner from the Searchmetrics office. So, to everybody at Fanatics who may be listening to this podcast, hello. It’s good to reconnect.

David:                            I didn’t know actually where you guys are from.

Ben:                            We’re based here in San Mateo, right across the street from Fanatics’ office in Silicon Valley.

David:                            Oh, that’s awesome. San Mateo, a nice area. Been out there. There’s a Mexican food truck that serves delicious tacos over by Lowe’s in that location, that I’ve been to many, many times.

Ben:                            If we’re good for nothing, this area is definitely good for the occasional street taco.

Ben:                            But let’s talk a little bit about SEO, and specifically about YouTube. Why don’t we start off by you telling us a little bit about your role at Fanatics and what does Fanatics do.

David:                            Sure. So, I’ve been with Fanatics for about 13 years now. So, started from our startup, you know, from a little warehouse growing to a large company that we are now. You know, part of my role, what we do is in SEO, and probably talking to your audience, which is full of SEOs, is that I’m responsible for maintaining the strategy for all of our properties on the internet.

David:                            So, all of our properties means that we have our branded sites like Fanatics, Fan’s Edge. We have our league stores like NFL shop, NBA store. All those good stores like that. And then we have partner source as well, where we’ll run the official online store of the Florida Gators or Florida State University, for example. And part of my job as a director is to make sure that we are ranking for probably as many keywords as possible. So, looking at our keyword universe and then trying to find the best way to optimize those sites and increase the visibility of the sites on organic search.

Ben:                           So you’re not only a director of SEO, right, focusing on optimizing your keyword rankings, but you also focused as an executive producer of YouTube. Talk to me a little bit about how you think of YouTube as a channel, and how does it compare and contrast your SEO strategy.

David:                           Great. So, selfishly YouTube is something that has been on my mind for probably 10 years. And we had our first sort of take into YouTube a long time ago where we started creating video. They were awful, and it still did pretty good back in the day. And YouTube for us it was like hey, this is the next direction for video. People consume information in different ways. They can read an article, but not everyone has time to go through read an article or spend the time to research informational queries. Whereas video is something you can pick up, you can watch, you can be in the shower watching a video. I’m sure a lot of your listeners are in the shower listening to podcasts or going through your daily routine.

David:                           So, that’s how I kind of looked at it. Was like, well this is something that we want to focus on where I think being the second largest search engine in the world, with Google being first, there’s so much opportunity to develop content and to attack it a different way.

David:                           So, the quest started a long time ago. We lost a little bit of momentum due to the outstanding growth that we saw in SEO and changing focus. And when the opportunity came last year to kind of jump back into YouTube, I really kind of said hey, we’re going to take all the things that we’ve learned over the last 10 years and we’re going to really go at it and take all the learnings that we had over the last 10 years and put that into practice and see how we do.

Ben:                            So, obviously, in YouTube and video is a different level of fidelity than pure text-based content. Talk to me about how you think about content production. What resonates on YouTube? What makes a great video? SEOs are thinking about their content development strategy, what do they need to know?

David:                           So, when you’re optimizing for text, right, you want to make sure you got your keyword bucket, and you’ve got all the keywords that you want to get into on a landing page. And then really kind of thinking about how can I mold this that it’s great for a user, it’s great for someone who’s reading it and get my keywords in that I need you to make sure that I can show up on the queries that I want to?

David:                           With YouTube, it’s kind of similar, where if you think it’s conversational, right, so when you’re writing a script it’s very similar to how you’re molding and crafting your paragraph or your landing page of the words and how you want to portray yourself. But it’s more conversational like you’re having a conversation with the audience. So really kind of taking that approach can really kind of amplify your script writing because it’s very, very similar.

Ben:                           It’s interesting that you’re talking about script writing because when I think of YouTube influencers and a lot of the content that’s happening now, I think of YouTube being very much a user-generated content.

Ben:                           Tell me a little bit about Fanatics’ strategy. Are you creating UGC? Are you writing scripts? Is it highly produced? What’s working for you?

David:                            So with Fanatics, previously, we had some UGC where a few years ago we had a marketing campaign called Love Never Loses. And-

Ben:                           Unless you’re a Cleveland Indians fan. Sorry, Cleveland. I’m sorry. Couldn’t help it.

David:                           We were playing on the passion in sports really. Like, if someone scores a walk-off Grand Slam, we were really showing how the individuals or UGC, the content, how they reacted to those moments in sports. And it was really great. We had a couple hundred thousand views on a guy who was doing a rap on the Carolina Panthers. Just straight up was free-styling his rap. He recorded it, he submitted for UGC and we posted on our channel with a commercial and it blew up.

David:                           We had a child who was probably about three or four years old, who could name all the teams by their helmets. I could do that three years old, but this kid was doing that. And that went viral too. So we’re able to capture some of that passion that fans have and we’re able to portray that on video.

Ben:                           Okay, so, user-generated is one powerful tool that you can basically harvest and collect videos that are being created by your community. Sports being specifically passionate communities. I understand how you can collect all those videos and then repost them as your own content.

Ben:                            What are some of the other content formats that are out there that you’ve seen? Obviously, there is some very scripted, highly produced content is, are there shades of gray in between?

David:                           Sure. We have our long-form content where we are working on series where the one in particular that we’re using right now is our Anything Me Anything series. And long form really is just like, we’re trying to put together a recurring series that videos around are around four to five minutes. We’re bringing athletes as they’re signing memorabilia for us. And we’re asking them, through our Reddit, ask me anything. So those have been rather successful for us.

David:                            And there’s other forms of content too that we have out there with our sponsored content, where we may have a particular vendor or particular company that we might be interested in working with. And we’ll come up with a concept idea and try and pitch it to them, and see if we can work collaboratively and sponsor a particular video series. So there’s always that sponsored content video that’s out there.

David:                            And then we have our own in house video stuff that we’re doing, where purely from a SEO standpoint, we were kind of coming across it as, like, hey, there’s some opportunity to rank in Google search, there’s an opportunity to capture some of the search volume or capture some of the audience than YouTube. How do we marry the two, and make it so that we can take up… have Google feature us in the video snippet that’s been predominantly showing up lately?

David:                            And what we’ve seen Google take a more approach of… maybe five or six years ago Google said they were taking thumbnails away from the search results. So where video would show up, but thumbnails weren’t there, so they were… CTR went down and it wasn’t really a good time.

David:                           Now, they’ve actually got that carousel, where it could be predominantly showing up in a mobile search query, it could just be showing up on a desktop search query. And as long as you’ve got to get thumbnail linking, you can attract a click. So, taking that strategy of like, hey, thinking from an SEO standpoint, thinking it from what our fans, or what our customers might be interested in, and really kind of marrying those two into our own internal, sort of SEO, or not SEO, YouTube team, where we’ve kind of created content based off of that.

David:                           So, we’re saying, what do our fans, or what do our customers really want? What are some of the things that we can do to better portray our product to our customers? And then how do we take that and then make it entertaining.

Ben:                            So essentially, you’re reverse engineering what YouTube content you are creating by looking at where there is a gap in Google for videos, seeing where you can create a video that ranks and then producing that content for YouTube, right? And so you’re still doing an SEO, search optimization strategy, but you’re using your video asset and trying to drive people to your YouTube channel instead of creating page for it.

David:                           Correct. So, we’re kind of using SEO as a tool for us to generate video on YouTube.

Ben:                            Talk to me about when you have a video. What you’re doing to optimize it for rankings in YouTube search engine?

David:                           Sure. So there’s a lot that goes into when you’re setting up YouTube video. For us, we’ve been taking a look at search volume on our titles and we’re really kind of trying to craft the perfect title. But what we’ve noticed is that a lot of times if you’re going in and creating the best SEO sort of page title, it’s not the, or sorry, YouTube title. It’s not particularly going to get our attractive click like it would on YouTube. So it works a little bit differently.

David:                           We’ve been kind of taking taglines off in creating more click-friendly or click-baitey sort of click titles, where if it’s an AMA, we might include something like, for Blake Bortles, it was, the question was, “What did you do for your first NFL paycheck?” And I think, “He paid his brother’s college off,” was the answer. So we put that in the title. When we were like, Blake Bortles paid his brother’s college tuition off with his first paycheck. And we are putting things like that in the title, which seemed to respond with a better.

David:                          When you have these really crafted SEO titles they don’t really do as well. I know, from an SEO standpoint, it’s like, I have to have the keyword in there, so. You do. But, also it relies on the content that you’re putting. So putting a really good description or putting time marks on there as well, so if we’re doing a listicle type format video, what we’re saying, okay, if you want to skip to this particular one, you can click on that in the description.

David:                            And from an SEO standpoint, it’s really making sure that you’re, you’ve got a really good description, you’ve got a great title that is click-worthy. Mainly just putting something interesting in your title to get a click. And what a lot of people don’t know is that not only are you getting clicks from Google, or, or whatnot, but a large portion of your clicks are also coming from Google recommended or YouTube recommended.

David:                          So when you’re finished watching a video it’s recommending you what’s next. So, as long as you’re optimizing for that particular keyword or that topic, you’ll have a good chance of showing up in that suggested video or recommended video, at the end of your user’s. So, a lot of clicks come from that.

Ben:                           So what I’m hearing is that you in terms of title, you’re not necessarily just keyword stuffing for your titles, you’re trying to do something that’s a little bit more engaging, a little bit of a… you said click baitey type headline. Something that’s going to be attention grabbing.

Ben:                            In terms of the copy and some of the other options you have: meta tags descriptions, are there any other tools that you’re thinking about in terms of driving visibility? How do you categorize your content? What else are you doing to optimize it to make sure that it ranks and performs?

David:                           Great. Another thing is that you want to pay attention to how your videos are performing in YouTube itself. So what is your audience retention? How long do they watch your videos? And really kind of get better at that point. We’ve noticed that the longer the videos are, the least amount of people get there. So maybe at the end of our video, if it’s five minutes, 10% of the people will actually make it that far. So retention is huge. And those are some metrics that you can kind of gauge yourself with success as well.

David:                           Watch time. That’s something else that we’re looking at in terms of how long visitors or viewers are watching our content. And those are signals that YouTube looks at. So if people are engaging with your content, leaving comments, leaving likes, are watching your content for 75% or 80% of that and you’re retaining 80% of your viewers that’s really engaging content or a video that will have more of a chance to be successful in YouTube.

David:                           So those are all the things that you need to shoot for when trying to develop a video. And you can start small. So for guys that don’t have access to a Hollywood studio or have access to talent or whatever, I’ve seen ranking videos where a guy is in his bedroom and he’s just taking out hats and showing them on camera and having success there.

David:                           So don’t feel that it’s not accessible for everybody at different levels. I think it’s something that as long as you are entertaining, and you’re keeping the audience retention pretty high, and you can do things where you can say, hey, I guess you can add a value prop to staying for five minutes, right? So a lot of times if you look at ‘you won’t believe’ when you’re looking at those click gallery things, where they’re saying, “You won’t believe number five’, right? Or whatever.

Ben:                           Mm-hmm.

David:                            At least to get five clicks and then people are there. You can always say, ‘Stay until the end of the video where…’ you know, ‘we’ll have a contest’, right? Or ‘Stay until the end of the video and we’ll present something that you’ve never seen before’. So really kind of presenting, providing that value to try and keep the visitor there, that’s going to help you in the long run of getting your retention up, your minutes up, and your minutes, and ultimately being more successful on YouTube.

Ben:                            One of the things you mentioned, and that we’ve kind of omitted before in terms of types of content, which I think is incredibly prevalent and successful on YouTube, is a lot of it is educational content, right? How do I fix this widget? Or how do I use this program? You might not necessarily be, well, I guess it could be content for Fanatics. So you know, how does Blake Bortles throw a spiral? And he’s walking through and giving examples… or does Blake Bortles throw a spiral? Sorry, Blake?

Ben:                            You know, he’s walking through and showing how he throws the football and how his grip is different, or… and whatever it is. But I do see in terms of content formats, there’s a lot of educational content that brands have made to be successful.

Ben:                           One thing I’m curious about, you mentioned earlier that you’re kind of reverse engineering, you’re seeing where there’s a content gap in Google and then creating YouTube videos to fill that. Do you find that you’re getting data from YouTube, which influences some of your strategies in SEO? Really, what I’m asking is how do Google and Yahoo work together for you?

David:                          So, looking at it together, I haven’t really kind of gotten any of those signals from YouTube yet. Looking at the analytics and looking at all the demographics and things like that, to be honest, I haven’t really seen too much actionable analytics from that. So, anything that I can pull to create another video, for example, or create content based off of the analytics I’m getting have not been there yet.

David:                          But we’ve kind of… our north star has always been kind of like views and subscribers. So that’s kind of what our success metrics are, or how we kind of define the strategy or what’s working, what’s not working. Some of the good things in analytics is it kind of shows you your performance of your channel and all of your videos over the last 30 days, and the videos that you’ve released. And when you launch a video, it shows you in comparison how your video is performing, versus the aggregate, right? So, you’ve got this shadow box that kind of shows your previous performance, based off of all the videos that you’ve launched, and that how this one is kind of trending compared to that.

David:                          So you can gauge performance pretty quickly. And they have real-time analytics, where you can see where your videos are going. And then don’t be afraid to change your title and you think it’s not working, right? So if you’re in there, and you’re seeing that the performance is low, you can kind of go back and tweak a little bit to see if you… maybe you’ll add some more to the description, or maybe a better title. But don’t be afraid to go back in and tweak.

David:                            A lot of times YouTube will go back and re-spider it and it will show up within 12 hours, or so. So, it’s a continual, sort of, for us, it’s continually trying to make sure that we’re gauging ourselves against our older success or videos that are successful, and then saying, okay, let’s course correct and fix those ones.

Ben:                           Any last bits of advice for how SEOs can think about or optimize their video with YouTube content?

David:                           Sure. So I think one is identifying the vision of what you want to do with your channel, right? Come up with a concept, come up with the idea, and really kind of define what you want to do as that sort of vision? What is the set look like? What is the premise? What is… what are you trying to accomplish? How are you trying to do things for your customers that are a little bit different? Or if it’s like the education we talked about before where maybe, I don’t know how to swing it bat correctly? And how does that translate to your customers? And then how does that translate to more subscribers and more views.

David:                           For us, it was taking a look at a lot of questions that our customers have. Pictures can only say so much, right? So when you’re taking photos and you’ve got your standard three quarter shot, you got your top view shot you shot of a product, it doesn’t really go into the nuts and bolts, so part of the strategy could be looking at look at the stitching on this stuff like this is really cool, multicolored stitching, or there certain features that aren’t focused on. Or maybe some of the questions that you’re getting from reviews or questions that you’re getting from customer service.

David:                            Those are all great places to kind of curating content for YouTube. How-to videos, common questions and things from customer service and then looking at… even talking to your buyers, saying, ‘Hey, what are some of the things that you wish we could do with our products on video? And then you might be just surprised that they might be invested with it and say, hey, we got these new tennis rackets in, but they have a special way that you’re strong. And we don’t show that pictures, but you have to take video of it show you like, hey, this is strong a different way, or something.

Ben:                            I think at the end of the day, there’s a different level of fidelity. And I mentioned that earlier, and you could go into more detail. And you could use the visual medium to try to explain products and services and build content and engage with your customers in a totally new way. And it’s hard to be the combination of movements and sound. Right? Video is an incredibly powerful tool. It can be expensive to produce. But it is valuable and engaging. And as you mentioned, YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world that happens to be owned by Google, so let’s marry the two of them together.

Ben:                           The thing that stuck out to me about this conversation was that you were using Google data to influence what your YouTube strategy is, not necessarily using YouTube to influence what your Google strategy, which I thought would be the opposite. And it makes perfect sense. At the end of the day, I think the goal for YouTube channels is very much about creating a subscriber base similar to if you were sending a newsletter, or in our case, developing a podcast.

Ben:                            And one of the keys that I’ve seen to be able to do that is you have to have some sort of consistency in developing your content, right? When somebody sees a video if you’re able to replicate the format of video that you have, whether it’s the same personalities, the same type of content or the same topic, that’s going to give people a reason to subscribe. If they like one video, and they realize that you’re going to produce more and more of them on a specific topic, they’re likely to subscribe in the same way with The Voice of Search podcast, we try to cover everything in similar styles and similar topics. We’ve pretty much only exclusively cover search related content-related topics.

Ben:                           So a lot to think about in terms of mastering YouTube. Obviously, video is a dramatically different medium than text. But Dave, I appreciate you coming on the show and telling us a little bit about your work and how to use the channel.

David:                           Awesome. It was great being on the show.

Ben:                           Okay, that wraps up this episode of The Voices of Search podcast. Thanks for listening to my conversation with Dave Capone, director of SEO and executive producer and for YouTube Fanatics.

Ben:                            We’d love to continue the conversation with you, so if you’re interested in contacting Dave, you can find a link to his LinkedIn profile on our show notes. You can contact him on Twitter where his handle is David Capone or you can visit his company’s website which is fanatics.com.

Ben:                           If you have general marketing questions or if you want to talk to me about this podcast, you can find my contact information in our show notes, or you can send me a tweet at Ben J. Shapiro.

Ben:                           If you’re interested in learning more about how to use search data to boost your organic traffic online visibility or to gain competitive insights, head over to Searchmetrics.com/diagnostic for your complimentary advisory session with our digital strategist team.

Ben:                           And if you like this podcast and you want a regular stream of SEO and content marketing insights your podcast feed, hit the subscribe button in your podcast app and we’ll be back in your feed next week.

Ben:                          Lastly, if you’ve enjoyed the show and you’re feeling generous, we would love for you to leave us a review in the Apple iTunes store or wherever you listen to your podcast.

Ben:                           Okay, that’s it for today. But until next time, remember the answers are always in the data.