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YouTube in the Age of Content

It has been 17 years since Bill Gates proclaimed, “content is king.” Though some first cast doubt on its claim to the throne, and many have since been unable to articulate what the ubiquitous phrase means, quality content is now the most powerful tool for engaging audiences and sharing ideas. For proof, look no further than YouTube’s recent update to its search algorithm.

Last year, YouTube announced it was altering the method used to rank videos. The better a video’s rank, the more likely it will appear as a search result. YouTube’s previous algorithm favored videos with the most clicks. The new algorithm ranks videos based on the amount of time users spend watching them. In short, the new algorithm favors content that keeps users on YouTube for longer periods of time.

This information caused a minor stir among content creators who felt YouTube was putting a higher priority on its advertisers than its users. Increased time spent on YouTube means increased exposure to ads. Advertisers will certainly benefit, but ultimately I think the changes are a move towards a better Internet.

The original algorithm was easy to game and users were often bombarded with irrelevant, sometimes offensive, content. All one needed was a provocative thumbnail, often referred to as a “cleavage thumbnail” and the clicks would roll in. The new method takes a step closer to evaluating videos on the quality and relevancy of the content.

Content creators and syndicators who have relied on search engine optimization (SEO) tricks will likely see a drop in the number of views their videos receive. YouTube views in general have dropped 28% since the change, but time spent watching videos has increased 57%*. In other words, viewers are spending more time with good content and are encountering fewer videos that do not relate to their search queries.

None of this diminishes YouTube’s role in a robust digital strategy. With more than 4 billion videos viewed per day**, YouTube is the world’s second most popular website and it’s the second most used search engine, behind Google, which acquired YouTube in 2006. Incorporating YouTube into your strategy requires putting an emphasis on engaging content.

Here are a few suggestions to get you on your way:

1. Search for your brand and take note of how the results are connected. These connections may provide valuable insights into your customer base and the content they’re looking for.

2. Repeat step 1, but this time insert your competitor’s brand.

3. Find new ideas for videos in your current content. Which blog posts were the most popular? Which tweets were retweeted? How can that content be turned into your next video?

4. SEO is still an important factor. YouTube should not be thought of as a repository of video content. YouTube’s high ranking as a search engine rests largely on the fact that in addition to hosting videos, it connects users to relative content and information throughout the web. Research the keywords people use to find your brand and tag your videos accordingly. Include links in your description and engage with your fans.

Lastly, be a force for raising the quality of the Internet and your content will find viewers. Don’t post videos you wouldn’t be proud to see go viral and always use the best resources you can afford. Make it funny, informative or off-the-wall, but make sure it’s engaging. There is too much Internet to spend time on boring content.

*Ad Age, “YouTube’s Video Views Are Falling — By Design May”, 14, 2012

**YouTube Blog, “Holy Nyans! 60 hours per minute and 4 billion views a day on YouTube”, January 23, 2012

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