How To Give Your Video A Title That Attracts Viewers AND The Search Engines

Today I received the latest newsletter from Marcus Sheridan aka The Sales Lion.  In his latest newsletter Marcus talks about bloggers who are struggling to get traffic to their articles – and a common problems that Marcus finds is people who are writing credible content with poor headlines.

And this ties in really nicely – and with a large dollop of synchronicity – with some Video Consulting I’m doing at the moment with a friend of mine.

Here’s the skinny: my friend Mark has started a website called Learn How To Garden.  Mark is (a) not computer literate and (b) dyslexic. So written posts are not his forte.

And he’s embraced video in a way that’s surprised and delighted me – in 5 months he’s managed to get over 60 videos uploaded to his YouTube channel and embedded on his website.

So he’s done really well – mostly.  I did an audit of his YouTube channel/Website last week and there’s one big problem with his videos that if he fixes I’m pretty sure will result in a massive improvement in terms of traffic, subscribers, etc.

You probably won’t be surprised when I tell you that his video titles are letting his video marketing efforts down – his titles are poor and too generic.

So What’s Wrong With Generic Titles?

The problem with generic titles is two fold:

  1. A generic title doesn’t tell the search engines what the video is about
  2. A generic title doesn’t tell a potential viewer what the video is about.

Let me give you an example from Mark’s site:

This video is called: Ten Minute Gadener – Winter Greens – How To Plant and Grow Fantastic Broccoli And…”

Now YouTube has a display limit…so the last word is cut off (it’s actually Cauliflower).  So that doesn’t help if any potential viewers interested in Cauliflower can’t actually see the keyword in the headline.

Plus the title doesn’t perform the two functions that every video title should perform.

What Are The Two Functions That Every Video Title Must Perform?

The two functions that every video title should perform are:

  1. Have a keyword goal in them
  2. Attract viewers

And that’s it.  It’s relatively simple and definitely not rocket science.  And if you get it right, you’ll find you’re getting more views on your videos.

Let’s take a closer look.

Function #1 – Keyword Goal

You can read more about Keyword Goals over at Marcus’s blog:

To summarize a post that should be essential reading, a ‘keyword goal’ is an SEO Phrase that you incorporate into your title.

This phrase helps tell YouTube, Google and the other search engines what your video is about.  And helps it get returned in searches by potential viewers who are looking for the kind of information that your video is providing.

There are many ‘goo-roos’ who tell that a good way to find keywords for your keyword goals is by using keyword tools (like Google’s AdWord Keyword Tool).  Personally I prefer to find out exactly what my target audience are interested in by asking them directly (a target profile interview), or by monitoring their conversations (twitter and/or forums).

Always try and use the language that your target audience uses when they go to the search engines to find out information.  That way your relevant video will be attached to a title that includes relevant keywords.

(As you’ll see in a moment you can also ‘layer’ in keywords and have more than one keyword goal with a title).

Function #2 – Attract Viewers

When people are searching for information in the search engines, they’ll get a string of results.  What they will click on first will often depend on the title.

Now writing headlines/titles is beyond the scope of this post but I’ll link to some good headline resources that can be adapted to video titles.  But the best way (IMO) to create a title that attracts viewers and clicks is to give it either a ‘how to’ quotient or a ‘why’ quotient.

So for my bass guitar website I use tutorial marketing – and all my videos are detailed song tutorials.  So a typical title will be something like: How To Play Bass Guitar To (insert song title/band).

So if someone is searching for a tutorial on how to play a specific song on bass, and they come across a video of mine with that title plus their song choice they will have a good idea what to expect from the video.  And there’s a good chance they’ll click on my video.

(Just as an aside, if you examine that title for keywords you’ll find the following: ‘how to play bass;’ ‘bass guitar;’ ‘song name;’ ‘band name;’ and sometimes I get the phrase Beginners Lesson or Beginners Bass Lesson in there too!)

Let’s Apply This To Mark’s Video

Let’s go back to Mark’s video and see if we can retitle it.  Here’s the current title again:


Now the important facts here are that the video is aimed at folks who want to learn more about gardening, and that the keywords we currently have are: ‘winter greens;’ ‘broccoli’ and ‘cauliflower.’

So a title that IMO does a better job of communicating the keyword goals and being more attractive to potential visitors is:

“How To Grow Winter Greens – Broccoli and Cauliflower.”

There’s another 60 videos for Mark to look at and change – it will be interesting checking out his analytics on his YouTube channel to see what difference this makes to his metrics.


A great resource on helping you write headlines and titles is Sean D’Souza’s “Why Do Headlines Fail?” report.  You’ll have to opt-in to get it – but it’s well worth it.

You can do so here:

Your Shout?

If you’ve got any thoughts on titles for videos, please don’t hesitate to share them in the comments below.

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