How to write effective video titles

As I’ve discussed here and here, videos have at most 3 seconds to catch the eye of a potential viewer. So it’s very important to know how to write effective video titles.

Even if you did a great job impressing the YouTube AI (which landed you on the “Recommend” page of a user), you’ll still be competing with many other great videos.

Take a look at the “affiliate marketing” niche, one of the most competitive niches on YouTube:

These content creators are well versed in video SEO. You have to be good at SEO if you intend to compete in affiliate marketing.

By taking a look at these videos, you can already see a consistent pattern in how they approach their video titles.

Let’s break them down so you can start implementing these best practices on writing video titles. Although this short guide will cover YouTube videos, know that these techniques will work on any video platform like IGTV or Facebook.

Tips to create compelling video titles

Include keyword in the title

Let’s go back to the “affiliate marketing” niche.

One common theme in the top videos recommended to me by YouTube is the use of the keyword (“affiliate marketing”) in the video title.

Here’s the next 5 videos:

Again, 4 out of the 5 videos recommended to me contain the “affiliate marketing” keyword. This means that 9 out of the 10 videos have the keyword in the title.

There should always be a purpose for a video – at least if you’re trying to build a serious YouTube channel that can scale.

So in your niche, your potential subscribers are all looking for answers for their questions or they need more information about a topic. This means doing your keyword research and creating an outline for your video content.

Once you’ve done your keyword research, you should have at least 30 keywords to target. I make my clients organize this list on a spreadsheet. Then right next to the keywords they would create titles for each video targeting that one particular keyword.

This is the process we follow to scale content for our clients.

It’s important to include the keyword in the titles of your videos. Its inclusion sends a strong signal to YouTube about the video content. You can clearly see this tactic works for the content creators who are targeting the affiliate marketing keyword.

Thus, an easy and effective way to create a title is to include the keyword.

Use numbers in your titles

There’s 2 ways to include numbers in your titles:

  • Mention sales figures.
  • A ranking of some kind.
  • Include the year of the video.

If you’re in B2B, it’s very effective to use numbers in your sales figures. Your target audience are likely numbers oriented – accountants, analysts or business owners.

So when you include titles like –

  • How to 10x your sales in 3 months
  • I just made $300,000 in a day!
  • How to make $100 a day in affiliate marketing

These titles stick out because business owners think in numbers. They especially like numbers that pop and claim to double or triple or 10x something.

Mentioning a top ten list or anything that’s ranked catches the eye as well. This is particularly effective when your audience is looking for a best list of a particular topic.

Here’s an example:

  • Top 10 cat breeds for homeowners
  • Top 4 places to visit before you die
  • Top 3 pizza places in NYC

The great thing about lists is that you can easily differentiate yourself from the competition. Let’s say you’re targeting “best cat breeds” and the top 5 videos all have the titles “Top 10 cat breeds in the world.”

You can easily do “Top 12 Breeds in the World” or something like “THE Elite 3 Cat breeds you must see.” Just by changing the scope (number of items in the list) – you can easily differentiate your video from your competition.

Finally, you can include the year when the video was made. Searchers always want the latest information about a topic.

Why should I read about the Top 3 Cars in 2013 when we’re already in 2020?

So an easy way to highlight the freshness of your content is to include the year in the video. Most users in 2020 will likely want to watch a 2020 top ten list of something.

There’s an obvious drawback in listing the year in the video title. The title will limit the video’s ability to become evergreen content.

Although the top 10 cars in 2020 will still be relevant in 2021, most users in 2021 will want the latest and greatest top 10 list of cars in 2021.

So if you create a list or ranking video, be cognizant that you’ll need to update the video (even create a brand new one) in the following year.

Pay attention to character count

In general, you want to stay under 40 characters in your titles. If not, you’re title will get cut off on the side bar suggestions:

These sidebar suggestions are visible when you’re watching a video. Notice how the long titles get cutoff. So pay attention to the word count.

Apply the KISS principle.

However, cut off titles may not be all bad if you know how to use it to your advantage.

In the example above, take a look at the user “ODi Productions”. 3 of his videos are listed here and their titles are cutoff. Take a look at the first 2 videos (with truncated titles):

  • Why 99% FAIL with Affiliate Marketing…
  • How LONG to Make $1,000/Month with Affiliate…

The ellipsis at the end is automatically created by YouTube, but notice how it creates a teaser effect with the title.

These 2 truncated titles are setup (perhaps unintentionally) to peak the interest of a viewer. The titles include numbers and employes “power words” (which I’ll get to next). Add the ellipsis…

… And you’ve got a compelling teaser of a title just sitting at the sidebar or video suggestions.

When you’re writing your video titles, be cognizant of the fact it gets cut off at a certain point. Either apply the KISS principle (keep title short) or design it so it’s still a compelling title when YouTube truncates it on the sidebar suggestions.

Use power words

Buffer did a research on what common words appear on viral headlines. This study was based on viral posts on social media, and you can implement some of them in your YouTube titles.

Use of “you and your” was very common theme:

  • What would $1000 buy you in 1980
  • 6 Must Have Items to own in 2020
  • How did you and your family deal with COVID crisis

According to the same Buffer article, 16 percent of all viral headlines included “you”, “your”, or both in the titles.

Titles in the form of a question was also quite popular:

  • What, which and when
  • How to
  • Why

It makes intuitive sense that popular posts are framed in a question. People search the Internet for answers to both questions they know or don’t know.

That’s why Google was built in the first place – to curate the world’s knowledge to answer any and all questions from anyone around the world.

So frame your title in a question (with your keyword) in it. This will send a strong signal to the YouTube AI on what your video is all about.

Finally, pay attention to CAPITALIZED WORDS. In the world of YouTube, capitalizing certain words helps attract attention to your video.

Take a look at the affiliate marketing videos again. The words “FAIL” and “LONG” are capitalized.

Here’s another niche – the “make money at home” keyword:

Look at the words “BEST” and “INSTANT” are all capitalized.

YouTube blew up as a platform in the early 2000s because of click bait titles. A common theme in click bait titles is to take certain words and CAPITALIZE them.

This will certainly help with the CTR of your videos when they hit the Recommend pages of YouTube users.

The next question you’re asking:

What are the best power words to capitalize?

This gets me to my final point…

Check your competition

Take a look at your competitors and how they write their titles. Dig even deeper to see what’s trending by filtering search results by upload date.

What’s trending among the videos posted this year? What’s trending all time?

By studying your competition, you’ll get a feel what power words they’re using, what words they’re capitalizing and if they’re using click bait tactics.

At this point, you can either 2 things:

  • Emulate their process.
  • Differentiate yourself.

Either of these 2 methods can work. The only way to know how is to start making videos and testing what works and what doesn’t.

Final Word

When you upload a video, you’re competing with thousands of other content creators so you need to differentiate yourself.

Half the battle is to get that initial click. No clicks means no views!

By learning how to write effective video titles, you’ll be on the right path of becoming the next great YouTuber! Protection Status