Road to a Million Views

Road to a Million Views: Tips for naming your YouTube video

As I’ve discovered over the last three years or so, the difference between naming your video poorly or well can have a significant impact on the number of views it receives.

Welcome to the fifth article in our Road to a Million Views series. Stark Insider TV is closing in on 1 million YouTube views (we estimate it will happen this spring) and we’re celebrating by publishing a weekly piece on our experience — good and bad — with video on the web.

Stark Insider YouTube Channel Views: 918,047

Weekly Change: +6,484 views, -2 subscribers

Year/Year Growth: 68%

Christopher Titus: A great interviewee, and Stark Insider's most viewed video. The title is short, basic, and increases likelihood of his fans clicking through.

Christopher Titus: A great interviewee, and Stark Insider’s most viewed video. The title is short, basic, and increases likelihood of his fans clicking through.

It took me a while to realize “Stark Insider” doesn’t really matter to anyone. Yes, it hurts my ego, but the reality is no one (typically) would use the term when searching YouTube.

Instead, some of the best performing titles are things like “How to…” or “Unboxing” or  “Tips” or simply an actor’s, director’s or singer’s name. Music videos and movie clips with backing from major studios do well, of course, too and are almost always named as you’d expect.

As I’ve discovered over the last three years or so, the difference between naming your video poorly or well can have a significant impact on the number of views it receives. You’re still going to need something entertaining, informative, or – sad to say – shocking. The title can’t do everything on its own, but it can help a lot.

For example, I went from this:

“Stark Insider TV: Christopher Titus – Neverlution”

To this:

“Christopher Titus – Neverlution”

Fans of his will search for “Titus,” or “Neverlution” – not Stark Insider.

So by shortening the title to the pertinent information, the important keywords (Titus, Neverlution) are more likely to grab the attention of people searching YouTube (and Google). Hence, the opportunity for a view increases. Done properly over hundreds of videos, and the titles you use can ultimately have a significant impact on your channel’s earning potential.

Here’s the titles of the 10 videos that have received the highest number of views on the Stark Insider YouTube Channel:

Stark Insider TV Videos with the Most Views

1. Christopher Titus – Neverlution
2. DIY tips: Caulking baseboards
3. Uriah Shelton at the Napa Valley Film Festival
4. James Franco – 127 Hours
5. Christopher Titus – Neverlution Part 2
6. Inside Cirque du Soleil OVO: Episode #2 Rock Wall Training
7. James Cameron on Avatar 2 and 3 sequels
8. La Cage aux Folles backstage – man to woman!
9. Shrek Unmasked
10. Inside Cirque du Soleil OVO – Wardrobe

Reviewing these I realized that the most effective titles were the ones that were short and sweet, with no fancy jargon and no extra frills. I also asked myself: what the heck are we doing publishing a DIY home improvement video about baseboards? (answer: it was an excuse many years ago to play around with some new video gear. Hey Loni, get in front of the camera and start talking!)

Though I did use an exclamation mark in one of them, I’d generally advise against it – there’s nothing that screams spam, or sensationalism, or crap ahead, quite like the overuse of excitement!!!

Video Distribution

I should note that for Stark Insider, YouTube is regarded as a distribution channel for content. Hands down, it’s the best way for our videos to get discovered. And it by far outranks any other platform. Without it, we’d need to invest significantly in marketing and generating awareness, likely beyond our means at this point.

However, if I factor in Vimeo and Facebook (and to a lesser degree Dailymotion and Viddler where we also syndicate a subset of videos) we’ve far surpassed 1M views.

On Vimeo we get anywhere from 20K-50K views/month (it floats higher when we use Vimeo to feature certain video segments on the SI home page) which is decent given initial growth had been slow there when we started in 2009.

On Facebook we get tens of thousands of views, and do very well with interviews in particular. But for the sake of this series, I thought it would be most interesting to focus solely on YouTube since everyone knows it, and Google has big plans for it over the coming years (i.e. the death of television).

Another thing to think about something is I’ll something I’ll call drafting off the marketing budgets of others.

We cover a lot of San Francisco events, including theater, wine-related things up in Napa, and film as well. High profile events – such as Star Chefs Gala (for Meals on Wheels), Premiere Napa Valley, Mill Valley Film Festival – generally have sizable marketing budgets to match. By naming your video after these events, you can benefit from a draft effect. This means the more resources a company uses to pump into building awareness of the event, the more likely it is to attract viewers to your videos. Over the years, this has helped some of our foodie videos generate significant numbers of views. On our own, we could not afford, nor have the influence to generate the same results.

Christopher Titus – Neverlution

Here’s the interview we shot in San Francisco with Titus.

That’s not to say you should just be thinking about just views when you title your videos. I think a better strategy is to think about what’s important to the viewer, and what title best reflects the content. The last thing you want to do is lead the viewer astray by providing an inaccurate or disingenuous title. Ultimately, that wastes their time, and reflects poorly on your channel (and brand).

To summarize what I’ve learned about naming YouTube videos:

– Keep it short

– When possible use keywords that draw interest (how-to, diy, tips)

– Don’t get fancy

– Draft off other marketing budgets by using recognized event names, places, people

– Be forthcoming and don’t mislead

Others with more experience than me who run channels with far more views will no doubt be able to add to this list.

Naming your video should not be an afterthought, something that you scramble to do at the last minute after uploading your video. Give it some thought. See what others are doing on YouTube, and look for successful examples. The extra effort should be worth it.

The Road to a Million Views continues. See you next Wednesday.

Road to a Million Views

1. Road to a Million Views: The Journey Begins

2. You love Cirque

3. What’s the ideal length for a YouTube video?

4. Get in, get out

5. Name your YouTube video right

Dare to live a little. Follow Stark Insider on Twitter and Facebook. Join our 7,000 subscribers who read SI on tablets and smartphones on the Google Newsstand. Prefer video? Subscribe to Stark Insider TV on YouTube, the largest arts & entertainment and food/wine channel in San Francisco.
Clinton Stark
Clint is based in Silicon Valley and co-founded Stark Insider. A new media venture, the goal was to fill the increasing gap in arts and food & wine coverage. This site has consumed his every fiber. Yet, he still has time to talk Android, praise Pebble, and shoot videos. More: Clint's story...