Organic optimisation

April 2018

Apply organic levers—metadata, thumbnails, interactivity, and playlists—to ensure that your videos can be found through search. Create thumbnails to attract new viewers. Make your ads interactive to drive specific advertising goals. Increase watch time with playlists.


Metadata is information that tells viewers what to expect from your video: the title, tags, and description. Since YouTube is the world’s second most used search engine, it’s important to optimise your metadata to make your video easier for people to find—even if they’re not looking for it specifically. Well written descriptions with the right keywords can boost views and watch time by helping your video show up in search results.


  • A catchy headline can help hook viewers. Try to write titles that build curiosity and set expectations for your video.
  • Titles should offer context, not be a stream of keywords. Use natural language that happens to contain keywords.
  • Search for popular keywords by typing something related to your video into YouTube’s search box to see what autocomplete suggests.
  • Compare the popularity of potential keywords using Google Trends.
  • Consider questions, top lists, exclamations, and other techniques to grab people’s attention.
  • Put the most important video information up front, like what your video is about.
  • Check how your titles appear in search results, suggested video placements, and on mobile devices to make sure key information is visible. Keep the length of your title to about 60 characters so important information doesn’t get cut off.


  • Create a set of standard tags for your channel that can be applied to any video you publish.
  • Include a mix of both general and specific tags.
  • Use enough tags to thoroughly and accurately describe the video.
  • Update your tags when new search trends emerge.
  • Include keywords from your title in your tags.
  • List tags in order of relevance to the video and try to use the whole 270-character limit.


  • Accurately describe your video in one or two concise sentences. Use natural language, not just a stream of keywords.
  • Identify one or two main words that describe your video and feature them prominently at the beginning of your description.
  • Use Google Trends to identify popular keywords and their synonyms.
  • Avoid irrelevant words in your description because it creates a poor viewing experience and may violate YouTube policies.
  • Use what shows up when a user clicks “Show more” for extra information like what your channel’s about, social links, etc.
  • Drive viewers to subscribe and include a subscribe link.
  • Include your channel's release schedule.


  1. Use natural language and one or two keywords up front to create accurate descriptions of your videos.
  2. Title your videos in a way that sets proper expectations and builds curiosity.
  3. Create tags using keywords from your title and words that accurately describe your video.


Ninety per cent of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails.1 Creating visually interesting thumbnails of your own can help attract more viewers and increase watch time. A good question to ask yourself is, “would I click on this thumbnail if it wasn’t my own video?”.

  • Create a thumbnail that lets viewers know, honestly, what they can expect if they click on your video.
  • Use distinct thumbnails for each video to help viewers decide what to watch next.
  • When filming, take shots that will make great thumbnails later on. Use close-ups of important visual elements.
  • Use the “rule of thirds” to compose interesting and dynamic images.
  • Consider adding your branding and/or some descriptive text to the image.
  • Make sure your thumbnail and title tell a cohesive and compelling story about your video.
  • Captivate viewers by adding an element of intrigue, empathy, or other emotion.
  • Upload high-resolution files so images display clearly at all sizes and on all screens.
  • Do some competitor research to see if your thumbnail stands out from images on similar videos.

Thumbnail Examples


  1. Create custom thumbnails to attract more viewers and increase watch time.
  2. When filming, capture elements that will lend themselves to great thumbnails.

Interactive Features

Studies show that clear calls to action are associated with higher brand awareness lift.2 Giving viewers the ability to visit your website, buy your products, install an app, or perform other relevant actions right from the video screen can help you better achieve your advertising goals. This section explores four key ways to make your videos interactive: cards, end screens, CTA overlays, and shopping cards.


Cards are created in YouTube and show on a per-video basis, on both desktops and mobile devices. You can provide a final URL from a list of eligible sites and, depending on the card type, customise an image, title, and call-to-action text.

  • Showcase the features of a product or service within a video.
  • Promote other videos or playlists to generate follow-on engagement for your channel.
  • Drive viewers to your other videos, playlists and channel.
  • Drive viewers to your website to check out product information.
  • When appropriate, set cards to open a new window when clicked. Don't take viewers away from a video too soon.

End Screens

You can manually create an end screen in your YouTube account to encourage further engagement with your video ad or brand.

  • Point viewers to other videos, playlists, or channels on YouTube.
  • Invite viewers to subscribe to your channel.
  • Promote your website or products.

CTA Overlays

If you have a YouTube channel linked to your AdWords account, you can create CTA overlays. The overlay will appear as soon as the video begins and can be closed by the viewer. When viewers click the overlay, they'll be redirected to your external site as specified in the overlay's final URL.

  • Show an overlay to drive clicks to your site.
  • Note that only one overlay may appear per video at a time.
  • Keep overlays on your videos for as long as you want, even if the video is no longer being promoted.

Shopping Cards

Shopping cards are created in AdWords. They make video ads interactive by linking viewers directly to products they’ve already viewed or to products related to the video they’re watching.

  • Show listings with product details from your linked Merchant Centre account.
  • Connect people to products they’ve already viewed or products that are related to the video they’re watching.


  1. Add cards to promote your other videos or playlists. This keeps your viewers engaged with your brand.
  2. Use end screens to promote your website or products.
  3. Show CTA overlays to drive clicks to your website.
  4. Add shopping cards to link viewers directly to your products.


A YouTube playlist is a collection of videos that can be viewed, shared, and embedded like an individual video. Your playlist will appear in YouTube search results and the thumbnails that make up Suggested Videos, keeping viewers engaged with your advertising and increasing watch time. You can build a playlist around a big cultural event, or create a “best of” playlist to highlight your most-watched videos. Here are some things to remember when creating them:

  • Group a set of videos that you want viewers to watch in a single session or in a particular order.
  • Organise videos around a theme or a current event.
  • Combine your most-viewed videos with new uploads.
  • Curate good brand-advocating videos such as reviews and testimonials created by your community.
  • Choose a strong thumbnail for your playlist.
  • Embed playlists on your website or in your emails if you want to drive traffic directly to them.
  • Make your metadata work for you. A strong title, tags, and description will help people find your playlist.
  • Use in-video messaging, cards, end cards, and links to send viewers to a playlist.


  1. Playlists appear in YouTube search results and Suggested Videos, keeping your brand visible to your audience.
  2. Build playlists around themes or current events, or create a “best of” playlist to showcase your most-watched videos.
Partnering with creators on YouTube