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RIGHT HERE WITH YOU: Improving Search Results For Youtube Videos
Polarbrrr asked if there was a way to improve the visibility of Cook's recent performance of the SSB for those looking at performances of it by other artists. While fans don't have magic wands that will automatically put any good Cook performance in the sidebar of a prominent video, there are techniques to use on live performance videos that will improve search results. Many online marketers already use them.
Naturally, it's not necessary, or even desirable, that every fan videographer apply these practices. Targeting casual audiences requires using messaging techniques that may be different from how a given videographer enjoys communicating with fellow Cook fans. But if promoting Cook through his live performances is something you want to do, here is information on techniques that have been found effective.
What should fans do to improve search results?
Content creators should focus on optimization techniques to attract casual but potentially interested viewers.
A content creator is anyone who uploads their own recording to Youtube (generally meaning live performances, but occasionally feeds of televised performances). Fans who aren't content creators can still participate; skip to the "commenter" section below.
1) Use a clear, succinct, and noncontroversial name for the Youtube account.
One of the most popular U2 fan accounts for Youtube videos is "ToneNoir." Only eight easy letters. EvrovizijaMisija also has some popular videos, but which one is a casual fan more likely to remember if trying to view an entire channel? And anything on the order of xxxxU2rawksme9999 is asking for typos when trying to search.
Obviously, names that are slurs will be likely to turn casual fans off. "CookRocks" is a sweet statement of support. "CooksSupremeSlut" is going to raise eyebrows. And yes, for many people, "cougar" is a slur. In promoting videos beyond the fandom, avoiding potentially offensive names is wise.
Unfortunately, Youtube makes it well-nigh impossible to change the name on an account without deleting and reloading all the relevant videos. With an established account identity that uses a couple of extra numbers, it's probably worth continuing with the following techniques. If using a controversial/potentially offensive account name, I'd suggest promoting videos only within the fan circle or starting over with a new identity, whichever is less frustrating.
2) Use the title and description fields to attract attention.
The title is the first piece of information a viewer will see. Titles should be succinct while still naming the artist, song title, and often the platform (venue, TV show, or performance group) where the performance was featured. For example:
The Last Goodbye-David Cook & PS22 chorus
The description field should be informative and use the most keywords possible without inhibiting clarity. Those include basic information like titles, locations/venues, and dates (if relevant) but also cowriters (if relevant) and possibly more general descriptors. (American Idol is an indelible part of Cook's history, so that keyword is also important.) A strong description field is succinct and factual, so that key terms don't get lost.
For example, for Cook's recent SSB performance, I suggested the following:
American Idol winner and recording artist David Cook performs the Star Spangled Banner at the Kansas City Chiefs home opener on 9/11/11.
It answers all "5 Ws" of journalism (except possibly the "why," but presumably the video itself is a good enough performance to make the answer self-evident). It includes search terms that casual fans might use, including "american idol" "star spangled banner" "chiefs" and "9/11."
For a tour performance such as Austin's Fade Into Me, this description field is close to perfect:
David Cook performs Fade Into Me in Austin, TX at ACL Live on Oct 30, 2011.
Again, it answers the Ws clearly and succinctly.
3) Also use the tag field to attract attention.
The description field can and should be supplemented with tags to capture search terms that may not exactly match the description field.
In the case of the SSB performance, recommended tags include:
"american idol" "david cook" "star spangled banner" "kansas city chiefs" "9/11/11"
"national anthem" "9/11 memorial" "arrowhead stadium" "nfl"
None of those were captured in the description above, but presumably people searching on those terms might be interested in that performance.
Similarly, with the FIM performance, recommended tags include:
"american idol" "david cook" "austin city limits" "acl live" "acoustic" "kevin griffin"
Noting Kevin Griffin in the tags might attract BTE fans or fans of some of his other cowrites. Similarly, many songs from TLM should be tagged with "David Hodges" which would provide connections to videos from Christina Perri, Arrows to Athens, and even Evanescence.
Where prominent enough (say, Circadian or Mr. Sensitive), a tag like "guitar riff' could help improve the links to other videos, though it probably won't get high page views on its own. Use discretion with more general tags like these, as they become useless if applied too widely.
And of course, any time Cook performs a cover on tour, make sure to credit the original artist in both the description and the tags.
David Cook and his band performing a cover of Muse's Stockholm Syndrome live from his tour with Gavin DeGraw at Humphrey's Concerts By the Bay in San Diego, CA on October 24, 2011.
4) Carefully promote videos to potentially wider audiences.
The easiest thing way to promote a video is to your own network via tweets, tumblogs, and FB postings. To move beyond that, it helps to look at broader audiences.
Obviously some of the AI blogs share information about Cook appearances and shows, particularly MJsBigBlog and AINow. However, they focus on newsworthy and novel items, so simply having the "best performance ever" of LMMFY isn't sufficient criteria for them to feature it. If, however, Cook is performing a new cover, or dressing as a zombie, or performing with another recording artist on stage, then bloggers looking for news may appreciate being tweeted a link. How much prominence they give to a new Cook video will vary: sometimes it may get a separate post, sometimes not. Every little bit helps.
@mjsbigblog Have you seen this acoustic performance of Fade Into Me? Cook is dressed as a zombie!
General interest music blogs and sites are also potentially good audiences, but submitting to them requires supreme discretion. Start with the assumption that communities trust their own familiar members more than strangers. A plausible benchmark for "membership" is posting at least five times about other artists before mentioning David Cook. That said, NPR's All Songs blog occasionally requests reader submissions of "Songs That..." and commenting about those songs (providing links in the comments is. not. done.) may aid in getting links added later, particularly if you've already optimized the tags as shown above.
In addition, some band forums occasionally host threads about good cover versions of said band's songs. Again, forums appreciate updates from familiar members who post regularly (and because forums are more communal, the standard for "regularly" is probably more like "several posts, for at least a month") so this is a technique best reserved for those who already post on other fan forums. Otherwise, it's advisable to let regular forum posters find the links on their own. The tagging that you did above should help make that easier.
Finally, a really good performance could be submitted to DCO's web team itself. Those posts only reach "casual" Cook fans, but a few links from those can improve view counts and make the videos more prominent.
5) Create linkages with registered use of Youtube.
Once videos have been prepared and promoted, there is one additional lane of opportunity to help improve search results. While on Youtube, videographers can watch videos that load in the sidebars of their own videos. Not all videos are created equal, but if a Chris Daughtry, Carrie Underwood, or other celebrity performance of the SSB shows up when looking at your own Cook vid, then clicking through provides another data point to Youtube that these are related.
Similarly, watching videos by the original artists for cover versions (or other covers with large view counts), or videos that credit cowriters, will also improve the linkage between videos.
And finally, encourage all commenters to contribute in ways that make Cook and his fandom look welcoming to newcomers.
Commenters on videos should present themselves as enthusiastic without overwhelming casual viewers.
Again, this is not intended to rob fans of the fun of discussing videos with other fans. Spaces like Twitter and fan forums don't attract the same attention from casual viewers. But when content creators make an effort to present videos following the guidelines shown above, it aids their efforts to consider how comments come across to a broad audience.
1) Like the video.
This should be obvious, but not everyone registers on YT or "likes" videos even if registered. It's a simple click that demonstrates engagement.
But do avoid the trend to call out those who "dislike" videos. People have different opinions, and it's easier to simply click and vote positively than to post comments about other viewers.
2) Know the difference between enthusiasm and squee.
Many friends of other musicians have sent me videos when performances were particularly good, and vice versa. None of us have ever been persuaded to like a song more because the comments were filled with statements about how "sooooo damn hooootttttttttttt!" the musicians on stage were. (And if people are swayed by that, then they're probably more interested in reading fanfiction and so would be more likely to be found in those spaces than on Youtube.) Comments that highlight a feature of the performance that focuses on the music, however, often give a casual fan a reason to focus more on the video while viewing it. "I love the interplay of the guitars." "Kyle Peek is so intense on that drum fill!" Even a simple "Great performance, thank you for posting." sounds like a fannish, not fanatical, response.
3)Remember why the audience is watching.
A casual fan who clicks through to a cover from another artist's video is a desirable thing. That person is open-minded enough to give Cook a chance. If that fan sees several comments saying "Cook just smoked this song! Sooooo much better than the original!", then rather than appreciating the performance, that fan will probably be more defensive about the artist of whom he or she was a fan in the first place. It's advantageous to soften the prose just a little.
"I'm a huge Muse fan, but this is a great performance from Cook!" isn't likely to raise hackles. "OMG I didn't even like this song the way Bellamy sang it and now I love it!" almost certainly invites a comment war that might turn off fans who aren't even that passionate about Muse, simply because fights aren't that entertaining except to the toadstools of the internet.
Similarly, dismissing duet partners, or cowriters, or any of the reasons that fans of another artist might be clicking through isn't really welcoming those who like those artists and who are checking Cook out because of that association.
4)View other videos.
Just like the content creators above, the easiest thing to do to connect Cook videos to those of other artists is to watch videos that YT suggests or that you wish YT would suggest. Places to start include: other national anthems for anthem performances, other performances at a venue if you are in the local area for that venue, or other performances featuring similar songwriters. The more "also viewed" data points that there are for Cook videos, the better it is for visibility.
As I've said before, nothing guarantees that these techniques will work 100 percent of the time. But they are based on best marketing practices for those who wish to promote Cook to a general audience.
Polarbrrr inspired this post. eilonwy provided helpful comments and suggestions. Any remaining errors are my own.