In previous blog posts, I’ve already covered how to draft attention-grabbing thumbnails and titles. Now that you have a viewer’s attention, the video description kicks in to round up your promise and sway them to watch your video.

What is a Video Description?

Your YouTube video description is metadata of up to 5,000 characters that helps YouTube and viewers understand what your video is about. Around 140 characters of the description display in YouTube search results, and the first three lines are visible when a viewer watches your video, without clicking on the ‘show more’ button.

 

Video description in YouTube search results

Video description in YouTube search results

 

Video Description underneath YouTube video

Video Description underneath YouTube video

 

Why is it important to include a Video Description?

YouTube can’t “read” your thumbnail image, which in turn puts a lot of pressure on a video title that has a 100 character limit. The video description is your chance to add context, along with your video tags. This context can be the difference between ranking well on YouTube search results or not, because if YouTube doesn’t understand your video the chances that it will rank well are low.

How to write great Video Descriptions

  • Before you write a single word, perform thorough keyword research to identify keywords that have a high monthly search volume. Then include those keywords naturally throughout your description.
  • To increase the chances of your video appearing as “suggested video” alongside related videos, I’d recommend also researching highly ranked videos and embedding a few of their focus keywords into your description.
  • Include your target keyword(s) at least 3-5 times throughout the video description. Aim to include it 2-3 times within the first 5 sentences. Keep in mind that there’s a fine line between naturally emphasizing that your video is indeed relevant for the search term you are trying to rank for and “keyword stuffing.” Avoid the latter at all cost or you may face penalization by YouTube.
  • Include related keywords in your description as well. YouTube’s algorithm is very good in understanding semantics and determining what related keywords are relevant to the search term. Including related keywords also allows you to avoid engaging in keyword stuffing while still providing an accurate and helpful description.
  • If you have monetized your channel, consider adding keywords into your description that advertisers might be bidding on. Only do this if these keywords indeed accurately represent your video. This small addition might help you get more relevant ad content featured on your video.
  • Make the first two sentences count. They need to draw a viewer in and entice them to click and watch more. Tell them why they would benefit from watching your video.
  • Place your keywords as early as possible in your description, because YouTube’s algorithm places more emphasis on content and keywords that appear early in your description.
  • Write at least 200 words. If you have done your keyword research and planned out your video well, reaching this threshold will be a piece of cake.
  • Use the 5,000 characters wisely to provide even more value for your readers.
  • If you have additional resources that complement your video content, here’s where you can share those links. Be mindful not to make your description sound spammy, however. There is a fine line that you shouldn’t cross.
  • The description field is where you can include your most important call to action (CTA). Consider asking your viewer to subscribe, like, comment, or visit your website for more information. Don’t miss the opportunity to include it here.
  • If your video is long, consider providing “time stamps here to allow time-pressed users to skip to the most important sections instantly.
  • Don’t forget to credit where credit is due. The description is a great place to acknowledge collaborators, musicians, etc. without whom this video wouldn’t have been possible. YouTube allows you to give a shout-out to co-creators and supporters (e.g. editors).
  • If you wish to include hyperlinks in your video (apart from the “time stamps” mentioned above), make sure to include the http:// prefix to make them clickable.
  • Consider adding up to 15 hashtags to your video description to help viewers find your video. YouTube will, however, ignore all hashtags on a video if it has more than 15.
  • Be sure to make your video descriptions unique for each video. If there are sentences or CTAs that regularly occur you can, however, schedule them via the upload defaults (Channel >> Upload defaults).

 

How to optimize video descriptions of older videos

For older videos that are not ranking well, consider optimizing your video descriptions to breathe new life into these videos. Follow these steps to approach video description optimization the right way.

 

Step 1: Look at your YouTube search report (Traffic Sources > YouTube search report) to identify which keywords viewers are using to find your video. Do you see any keywords in that report that aren’t appearing in your current video description? Is it an important keyword? If so, then you should add it.

 

Step 2: Re-write your video description with the newly identified keywords as per the guidelines above.