YouTube Under the Hood: Getting Free YouTube Views

Warning: This Is Not a Content Tutorial

Before I get started on this article let me make say one thing, I am not here to show you how to make a high quality video that will get lots of views. If you do not have the ability or charisma to create a Youtube video that the audience will love, I can't help you. Unless you're willing to pay for the extra years of college and a fortune in funding to research how to change your mental structure.

What I am going to do is show you the technical side of Youtube and show you how to get your already good video noticed by the people!

Short Answer: A lot of gears and cogs
Short Answer: A lot of gears and cogs

What's It Like Under YouTube's Hood?

A lot. No seriously, A LOT. Under this organized database of videos and social networking lies mountains of cogs and gears. YouTube is not something to be taken lightly or half-assed, to master the technical side of it and make it work in your favor you need to master the art of patience and serenity...or at least be patient enough to wait more than five minutes at a time.

Lacking this just hit yourself with a book for five minutes.

Do Not Buy Views

The major source of YouTube's revenue is from advertisements supported by Google. Buying views can jeopardize your channel in a number of ways. It can lead to your video being taken down, your revenue being seized, or your channel itself being expunged from YouTube. In extreme cases your IP address itself could be blacklisted.

The Basic Flow of the Youtube Search Engine

So as we all know YouTube has that little search bar at the top of the page that people use to find the videos they want, or at least the category of videos they want. So when someone pops in and types "Music" into the search bar, what does it do? Well it pops up a bunch of videos about music obviously, but what happens under the hood?

Category Filter

First thing that YouTube does in this situation is filter, it takes a look at all the video categories in its database and filters out anything that isn't in the Music category. So even if your video has the tag "Music" it won't do anything if your video isn't in the proper category.

Title Filter

Next thing that YouTube does is...filter again. It takes all videos with the word Music in the title, tags, and description in the music category and pulls them out...then ditches the other videos. So now you're left with videos in the music category with the word music in the title, tag, or description, if your video didn't have this...bye bye.

Ranking Filter

Third thing that YouTube does is process the video's rankings. "One of these videos has over 10 million views and hundreds of thousands of likes and favorites? Hot damn that's going in slot number 1. Oh these two are tied on views, but this other video has more favorites and likes, well that's going in slot number 2, guess the other one can take number 3. Ah here's another pair of tied videos, but I like this one better cause the word "music" is in the file name and it's in the description a lot, guess I'll give it number 4...". You're probably thinking what the hell I was doing there, well what you just read was the search engine's thinking process put into words. That's what's going through the search engine's mind whilst sorting through all these videos.

Final Video List

Finally, YouTube provides a list after nitpicking through these videos. It probably ditched at least a thousand, no maybe even a hundred thousand, videos that were relevant to the searcher, but since those videos weren't submitted to the right category or didn't have the proper data, they didn't even get a chance. What's worse is that the ones that did have a chance were overshadowed by views, likes, favorites, description, and file name.

With this kind of flow you can see that it's very hard for videos to reach the first page in YouTube's Search Engine, unless you're searching for some sorta obscure niche like "how to raise farm animals in a purple sink" which will probably pull up some very disturbing videos, even with good content. However, hope isn't lost as there are ways for newcomers to break the ice, even if only a little. YouTube hasn't abandoned new users just yet (give it eleven minutes).

Know the flow and go with it
Know the flow and go with it

The Basic Tools of Youtube Videos

There are a few basic tools that all YouTube channel owners should know by heart. These tools help YouTube uploaders maximize their views, as long as their content is good. These valuable tools are as follows:

  • File Name
  • Group
  • Title
  • Tags
  • Description
  • Upload Date

If you know how to use these tools efficiently already then you've already set yourself up to have at least 2-3 thousand views on your video.

Don't ignore the tools that Google gives for free!
Don't ignore the tools that Google gives for free!

Optimizing Your Tools Properly

So now you know all about the tools, time to make those YouTube gears turn in your favor, my readers! By utilizing all the tools that YouTube openly and unwittingly gives you access to you'll be dancing through their search engine like a pro.

The File Can be Crawled

The first thing to consider is the video's "file name" or the name it has on your computer (usually saved as video1.avi or vid.wmv). Now you "can" upload it to Youtube as video1.avi and change the title to what you want, but you'd be missing out on a few extra drops of juice. You're competing with millions of videos here, an extra drop of Youtube Search Engine Juice is probably worth giving up your arm for.

Name your file based on what keywords you want the video to be known for. If your video is a review on the video game, Katherine, then name it something like "Katherine-Video-Game-Review.avi" remembering to replace the spaces in your video file name with dashes (search engines read dashes as spaces and spaces as nothing). Now your video will be ranked better for the terms "Katherine", "Video Game", and "Review", which is exactly what you want.

Note: Google and many SEO experts have claimed that this actually has no point. However, there isn't any harm in doing it and it can help organize your videos before upload. Whether it's actually a good tool or not may be up for debate but if it doesn't hurt and could help then why not?

Put Your Video in the Right Category

Next you should focus on your video's "Group". This can be less clear than the other tools but YouTube has various groups that you can submit your video to such as "Gaming", "People & Blogs", and "Society".

When choosing which category or "Group" your video is put in, think carefully what your audience will be searching for. Taking the Katherine example again will your audience be searching for people named Katherine or a blog/vlog about a girl (or very creepy boy) named Katherine? No! They want to know about the game, Katherine. So make sure that your video is submitted to the Gaming category. Otherwise you'll have a very frustrated audience if you have one at all.

This is especially true with the emergence of YouTube Gaming where you can not only specify the Gaming category for your video but also specify what type of game the video is about!

Make sure your title contains your keywords
Make sure your title contains your keywords

Write a Compelling but Descriptive Title

Third thing to consider would be the Video's "Title". This is fairly easy to find as it's right there when you upload the video but it's an important aspect nonetheless, but you already know that if you remember how the search engine thinks. Unlike the file name, the Title adds a lot more to your video than just a bit of extra juice. The search engine will always look at your video's title FIRST when considering where on the results page you should go. If your title is relevant or nearly an exact match to the search terms it's almost guaranteed to make the first page (unless there are hundreds out there with the same title).

When giving your video a title you have to consider a lot of things. What will the search engine think and what will your audience think. Just because the search engine is in love with your title doesn't mean that the audience will care, they want to see something eyecatching before they click. The best possible thing would be to make your video eye candy for both YouTube Search and your YouTube Audience, but since you can probably only have one at a time in love with your video I recommend trying to find a middle ground. Make the title eye catching but also relevant, better to be accepted by both than loved by one.

The Video Tags

Fourth thing you should focus on are the "Tags". Now these seem pretty obvious and straight forward (and fairly easy to find, right under the description)...but don't be fooled. Tags are the hidden dagger of YouTube. If your video has hundreds of tags about many different things or have tags of a sexual nature (you know XXX, Porn, Pron, etc.) then you're stabbing yourself up the butt with a large, spiked object that I won't go into detail about so that this hub doesn't get removed. Moral of the graphic analogy: a dozen or so relevant tags are worth more than a hundred or so random ones.

When filling out your tags there are a few things you should include. Make sure that every word of your video's file name and title are in your tags, as it makes the search engine read over your video and note that the tags are relevant to the video. Also make sure that you have spinoff words in your tags. For example, you have the words "Video" and "Games" in your tags...well don't forget to also put "Video Games" in there (in quotes so YouTube will treat it as a single tag). Remember to include words in your tags that are similar to your video as well, if you have Xbox in your tags make sure you include Microsoft (or for a better analogy if you have Politicians in your tags make sure you include Dishonest as well). Finally make sure that your first three tags are your most relevant, you'll learn why in a few seconds.

Write a Solid Description!

The next thing to consider as far as these basic tools go is the video's "Description". This is supposed to be a summary or main idea of your video where you discuss things, make amendments to parts of it, post links to websites outside of Youtube, etc. Under the hood, however, it's a vital part of your video's rank. When deciding what rank your video is, the cogs and gears of Youtube Search will normally take the first 3-5 tags of your video and compare them to your video's description. If you have a lot of tags then they'll compare more of them to the description. The formula used is very simple, "number of times a certain tag is used divided by the number of total words in the description" in other words the percent of your description that has each of those keywords (otherwise known as Keyword Density). A good number to aim for is about 5% or a maximum of 8%.

So what should you write for your description? Well I'd say you should outline the purpose of your video or what your video is about. Post any special thanks or credits here as well as updates about your video or a short message to your audience if you want. Don't make your description too long or you'll have to spam your tags to keep up a good keyword density. On the other hand don't make it too short or you won't have enough room to fit in your keywords and be able to say what you need to. 400 or 500 words is probably at the maximum you want for your description while 200 words is probably at the lower end of what you want. There are exceptions such as if you're doing a video tutorial and want to put the steps in, but this will take some work to make it count so before you start doing video tutorials make sure you already know how to manage a good density.

Selecting a consistent upload time and date can be your most powerful tool yet!
Selecting a consistent upload time and date can be your most powerful tool yet!

Get the Date Right! Consistency is Key

The final thing to be considered is the upload date of your video/videos. YouTube is a monetized video watching platform, they make money off of advertisement revenue, and because of this they tend to grant more juice and prestige to people who follow an upload schedule that maximizes ad revenue. Put simply, this means you have to keep a regular schedule and you have to upload videos in a spaced manner. Don't upload 12 videos a day sporadically (or ever), upload 1-3 videos per week at a given time and keep that schedule for a long period of time. You won't see a drastic change in your rankings but as you keep it up, YouTube's crawler will take note. This could give you more coverage on related video tabs and even better search rankings as a whole!

Don't let YouTube guess the transcript of your video, it never ends well
Don't let YouTube guess the transcript of your video, it never ends well

Closed Captions

If you've uploaded even one video and done some poking around in the more advanced settings you'll know that YouTube has a little habit of automatically creating a closed captions transcript for your video. You'll also know that it's usually awful and probably should be removed as a feature considering how bad it is. I mean just look at what they did to poor Legolas!

However, this tool serves a grave purpose. You see my dear readers, Google cannot decipher .flv files. This means that when you upload a video Google has absolutely no clue what's in the video, what it's about, or anything like that. This closed caption automation system is an attempt by Google to glean some understanding of what your video is about so it can match the video up with search phrases and keywords. Do you see where I'm going with this tool yet?

Instead of relying on YouTube's shoddy automated system, upload your own subtitles file. When Google sends the bots to scan your video it'll read your closed captions instead of the automated one. This means Google will have a better idea of what your video is about and send more relevant traffic your way. Some people say that this can boost search rankings but I haven't really seen anything to support that. I can confirm that it leads to traffic from searches you may not have planned for.

YouTube annotations are an extra tool you can use to optimize your videos!
YouTube annotations are an extra tool you can use to optimize your videos!

Annotations

This tool can be used for both user engagement purposes and to enhance your video's search-friendly gears. I'll break this up in how to use both parts.

User Engagement

Using annotations like notes you can place subscribe buttons directly in your video at key points. Timing this properly can drastically increase your subscriber count if your video becomes popular or your content is solid. Make sure you put such an important annotation at a point that has the highest score for attentiveness.

You can also use annotations to trickle views from one video to others. Including annotations at appropriate places in the video where you talk about another subject that you covered, you can lead people to watch your other videos along with your current one. Interlinking related videos together through annotations are important for a growing YouTube channel.

Video SEO

Annotations also serve a similar purpose to the video transcript. As I stated before, Google and other search engines simply don't have ears. This means that when they look at a video it just looks like gibberish to them. So on top of a transcript you can add speech bubbles, notes, and other annotations to let the search engines know what specific points in the video is about.

When using this tool remember not to stuff in keywords. Keep your notes relevant to the topic but don't make them look fake.

That was a lot of tools, how many have you been using?

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A subscribe button, is it worth as much as you thought?
A subscribe button, is it worth as much as you thought?

Subscribers Explained

So a lot of people will advertise Sub4Sub groups and brag about how many subscribers they have. Many people will rush and set their goal at 20,000 subscribers instead of 200,000 views. So subscribers must be a wonderful thing right? Well...not really.

All it means when you have a lot of subscribers is that a lot of people are able to open YouTube and on their home page they'll see your videos after clicking through to a few places. Sometimes they won't even see your videos. Sometimes they subscribed to a hundred or more people and their homepage is flooded with "those" videos, not yours. All having a subscriber means is that your video has a slightly greater chance of being viewed when it first comes out. Not bad but not the best.

This is why sub4sub groups are worthless. If you subscribe to a dietary regimen channel and you run a video game channel are you really going to click on any of their videos? Whether it's on your homepage or not you'll ignore it! All sub4sub does is make it look like you have a few people watching you and even then not as much as you'd think (YouTube's new channel records your actual total video views now too). Don't get mixed up in this sub4sub crap. However, if you're able to work it so that you have subscribers but aren't subscribing, "then" it'll look a whole lot better. Not much...but it's better than having 20,000 subs and subscribing to 50,000 people.

Do You Focus More on Subscribers or Views?

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The Newcomer's Aide

Yeah it has no official name and a lot of people don't even know that it exists, but it's there. The Newcomer's Aide, or more accurately YouTube's way of letting new videos get a chance at the limelight.

For the first week of your video's upload, YouTube will look very very very very closely at your ranking. Any positive things that occur on your video such as favorites, likes, views, and comments will net your video a huge boost. One view will be worth 4 or 5, a favorite may be worth 2, likes could be worth ten, comments worth 3, etc. etc. etc. But what's even better is that these are permanent. So if your video gets 10 likes in the first week of its upload but never gets another like again, (all other things remaining the same) it will be worth more than another video that got 10 likes after the newcomer's aide period was up. Well this is ignoring a lot of other factors but you get the general idea.

So what should you do? Take advantage of it of course! Make sure that YouTube knows your video's there and is watching it. Within the first week try to have it so that every one of your friends both online and in real life have seen and liked your video (and commented). Have your parents and family watch them as well. Every person counts.

Hopefully your video will fire farther than this cannon fired metal!
Hopefully your video will fire farther than this cannon fired metal!

Getting A Cannonball Boost

So now that you've optimized your basic tools let's get into ways to really take advantage of all your resources. Youtube's Under the Hood framework has given you a 7 day window of opportunity to make your video rank incredibly high. So let's take that little boost and turn it into a video cannon. If 1 view will be worth 10, what would 1,000 views be worth?

Social Networking

Okay this one seems obvious but a lot of people don't bother using it. Well USE SOCIAL NETWORKING. You have a facebook, twitter, myspace, foursquared, linkedin, "and" a Blog? What the heck are you waiting for, post it there on the first day of the upload! These things are great to get some initial views and they only get better the more active you are with it. Here are some basic social networking sites to share your video to:

  • Facebook
  • Myspace (it's vintage but it's social)
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Badoo
  • Friendster (more popular in Asia now)
  • Google+ (built into YouTube, kinda annoying)
  • QZone (China only)
  • ReverbNation (if you upload music)
  • Windows Live Spaces
  • Blogger
  • Wordpress

Even if you don't have tons of followers, friends, or whatever, there are still people who randomly browse profiles and posts. If you have your youtube channel link in your profile and some of your youtube videos in your post these people may see it. These browsers will often share the videos they like with their own friends, and from then on it's trickle down.

Social Bookmarking

Similar to social networking in dozens of ways, Social Bookmarking is pretty easy to understand. You like a link, you bookmark it, and that link is posted on your profile in said social bookmarking site. Other people also like your link, they also bookmark it, said link is saved to their profile as well. The trickle down effect, you gotta love it. Well here are some good social bookmarking sites to use:

  • Digg
  • Del.icious
  • Reddit
  • Stumbleupon
  • Hi5
  • Pinterest
  • Xanga
  • Faves
  • BonzoBox

Of course the downsides of Social Bookmarking are that if you don't have a lot of followers or friends on these sites nobody will see your link. A good way around this is to get a popular member of the site to view your link and save it on the site.

Do You Regularly Share Your Videos on Social Networks and Bookmarking Sites?

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A blog post a video keeps the traffic with you
A blog post a video keeps the traffic with you

The Blog Companion

Did something funny happen during the recording of one of your videos? Do you have some interesting story behind them that you couldn't really explain in a short 10 minute clip? Don't let that story go to waste! Make a companion blog to your YouTube channel.

This tactic is fairly simple. Set up a blog to go along with your YouTube channel. Each time you either finish a series or make a new video (pick one) write a post that links back to the video and include a funny story or describe a blooper or Easter Egg that exists in the video. This has two effects.

Appealing to a Wider Audience

Not everyone will find your video thanks to YouTube's algorithm and to their own habits of finding new content. However a chunk of these people will surf blog posts that they stumble across. By putting your videos in a blog post along with funny stories and bloopers you expand your target audience by a nice juicy chunk.

Improves Metrics

Search Engine Optimization is important for YouTube videos. Just as much as it is for webpages, blogs, and everything else on the internet. By embedding your video into a blog post and surrounding it with a content rich and very relevant story, you're boosting up those metrics.

Commenting is a powerful form of engagement for videos
Commenting is a powerful form of engagement for videos

Comments

A simple title but an effective one. What kind of impact do comments have on a YouTube video? Well not as much as in normal SEO.

In normal SEO, comments are usually free content updates that you don't have to put time in to get. Comments add new material for the search crawlers to see the next time they take a look at your site, without you having to update or edit your post one tiny bit.

In YouTube SEO, the reality is that comments attract attention. They do have some impact on how well you show up in the searches but for the most part what you're trying to get with comments is a lot of attention directed at your video. You see, commentators have subscribers themselves (sometimes). When someone comments on a video their subscribers see it on their home page (sometimes). Yes I know that's a lot of (sometimes) but it's not a bad deal. Comments won't ensure you getting more views from those commentator's subscribers, but it'll raise the chances that a few of them will see your video, drop a comment themselves, and possibly attract more attention.

Also there's a section of Youtube for the "most discussed" videos of the day. If your video gets a lot of comments it could end up there, which equals quite a number of easy views.

Comment Chains

This is a nifty little trick that takes a while to organize and even longer to get right. Here's an example:

  1. You post a video about how hard college exams are
  2. One of your friends comments agreeing with you that college exams are hard
  3. Another friend replies to the friend in step 2, disagreeing with them
  4. Those two argue for a bit
  5. A third friend comes in and joins the argument
  6. This keeps going depending on how many friends you have
  7. Eventually 3rd parties not in your chain will start replying allowing your friends to slowly step out of the loop

What this 7 step process does is generate interest to your video. If people are commenting then their friends and subscribers will see it on their feed. That equals some views. If people feel they're losing an argument on your video then they will try and get their friends to join in, more views. If people feel they're winning an argument on your video they will share it and brag to their friends, more views. So no matter who wins, you win.

Is it tricking your audience? Yup. will they figure you out? If you repeat the process a lot on your videos then yes, definitely. Does YouTube care? Not even a little.

By uploading your videos unlisted you can secure your cannonball boost!
By uploading your videos unlisted you can secure your cannonball boost!

The Unlisted Video Tactic

If you've uploaded videos at any point to YouTube then you've no doubt seen that option to upload your videos as unlisted. Now what that means is that your video won't show up in search on either Google or YouTube and the only way for a person to view your video is by having access to the link itself.

And that's what we want to happen!

You see, if the video doesn't appear in search that means it's not being ranked, checked, or anything yet. This buys you a little time. Share the link only with people or communities who you know will watch the video all the way through thus boosting up your "initial" view count and audience retention metrics. Then when you finally publish the video in full listed format it'll look a hell of a lot brighter!

A word of warning, I have no idea how long you can keep a video unlisted before YouTube inevitably starts checking it to rank it. With that in mind try and limit your usage of this technique to only one week. That is, do not keep using this technique for more than a week on any one video. Play it safe.

The dreaded jolly roger of the YouTube world
The dreaded jolly roger of the YouTube world

The Infamous Black Hat

The techniques I've mentioned above are the ones that are accepted by Youtube, the community, and me. However that doesn't mean other, more cutthroat techniques don't exist. Just like there's something called Black Hat SEO there are also Black Hat Youtube Techniques. These include buying views.

A Slightly Helpful Content Tip

No I'm not going to teach you how to make excellent content. I already told you that's impossible! However I will teach you what types of videos are "evergreen", constantly popular and always returned to.

  • Tutorial Videos
  • Music
  • Animated Series (custom or commercial)
  • Comedy Routines
  • Any combination of these

These types of videos are always popular with the YouTube Community. No matter what season it is, what events are occurring, and what wars are going on, people will still want to learn, listen to music, laugh, and watch animations. Oh and they'll want to watch people humiliate themselves, that too...always.

© 2012 Michael Ward

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Comments 15 comments

rasta1 profile image

rasta1 5 years ago from Jamaica

Had to facebook it. I was looking for this info some months ago. Now it pops up. Voted up. If I were you, I would try to get this ranked in google.


CWanamaker profile image

CWanamaker 5 years ago from Arizona

Posting negative comments does work, haha. People like controversy.

I haven't had much luck on youtube though. I guess my videos are just too boring. Thanks for the tips. If I ever get around to filming the video series I have in my head, I will come back here for some tips.


Superguy 5 years ago

Ok thanks, I'll give it all a go!


ktrapp profile image

ktrapp 5 years ago from Illinois

This is yet another terrific web resource you've put together. When it comes to video I think so much effort often goes into the video itself, that the title, tags, description, etc. become afterthoughts.


CrescentSkies profile image

CrescentSkies 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thank you I hope to make many more :)


CrescentSkies profile image

CrescentSkies 4 years ago from Texas Author

Hey! Now I want to see that video series...


Tony Dawgz 4 years ago

Great, succinct tutorial. I know more about YouTube now than I thought there even was to know... Thanks.


Gina145 profile image

Gina145 4 years ago from South Africa

I've only got a couple of videos on YouTube and they haven't attracted many views yet. I've tried editing my tags but I'm not sure there's much more I can do to help them. I'll definitely come back and reread this if I ever have any better videos to upload.


Juliet 4 years ago

Best tutorial I've ever read. Not joking. You've helped me a lot- thank you.


CGames 4 years ago

Thanks this helped me get a ton of views! Took a while but worth it.


phildazz profile image

phildazz 4 years ago from Toronto

Great knowledge of YouTube, I'm a fan as well. Don't you think Google should develop YouTube for T.V. They already have everything on site.


Hater 4 years ago

What a dick you are, read the first paragraph and immediately felt compelled to give you this feedback. You are a complete tool. Bye now


CrescentSkies profile image

CrescentSkies 4 years ago from Texas Author

Thanks for your comment Hater, but sadly it's true. Unless you have real talent in one of the popular niches (music, comedy, gaming) you won't succeed in YouTube. Unless you're Justin Beiber.


ContriveIT profile image

ContriveIT 3 years ago from Metairie, LA.

Wow! I feel like I just hit the lottery. Can't thank you enough for this EXTREMELY detailed article. I look forward to following your future incites.


Alexz William profile image

Alexz William 3 years ago from Tokio, Texas

This is extremely helpful for me and everyone here i used "authenticviews" ,com for this purpose now its cool.

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