If you’re spending a lot of time getting caught up in video SEO practices and it’s not working for you, stop and ask yourself: who’s really watching your videos?
While getting your videos found is important, making a human connection so that viewers come back time and time again is a much better long-term approach.
Video Strategist and Founder of VideoCreators.com, Tim Schmoyer, has spent the last 15 years understanding what viewers want from videos and how to make impactful YouTube videos. He explains why creators need to humanize their videos and why you need to optimize for people, not robots.
Tim got started on YouTube in 2006, creating (what we now call) vlogs so his family could see what he was up to at college. When strangers started watching and commenting on his videos, it sparked Tim’s mission to find out why people watch YouTube videos and what he was doing right.
Today, Tim’s agency, VideoCreators.com, provides video strategy and is the premier online community for YouTube creators and entrepreneurs. Tim’s worked with Disney, Warner Brothers, HBO, eBay, Budweiser, Twitch, and even YouTube themselves. Together, Tim’s helped his clients to generate over 18 billion organic YouTube views.
You can watch the video on this topic at the top of this post, to listen to the podcast episode, hit play below, or read on for more…
In this post, you’ll learn:
- The #1 thing all YouTube video creators should know
- How to optimize your YouTube thumbnails
- How to humanize your videos with storytelling
- The challenge for video creators
The #1 thing all YouTube video creators should know
Tim often works with people trying to use their technical SEO knowledge of other platforms to succeed on YouTube. But the practices that get your blog pages ranked on Google may not necessarily work for your videos on YouTube.
He points out that most people ignore how the platforms differ. They might be the two biggest search engines in the world, but they’re not used in the same way. Compare the two homepages, for example. Google’s design needs you to input information to find what you’re looking for, but YouTube encourages you to browse a selection of content.
“What it really comes down to, in order to win on YouTube, is to have a different mentality, a different approach.”
So, what is the secret sauce to SEO success on YouTube?
This is Tim’s key piece of information for any video creator. Forget the algorithms and robots – you should be prioritizing who’s really consuming your content.
Tim’s advice is to focus on the human element of your videos. Titles and thumbnails spark your audience’s curiosity, and you can use these to create tension for the viewer between what they know and what they don’t know. It’s the human way of grabbing attention because you’re effectively telling your audience pieces of a story – but they need to make that click to get the whole picture.
YouTube’s job is then to get your video in front of the right person at the right time. It does the heavy lifting from the technical side, using the signals they get from who’s watching it to decide which viewers to show it to and when. If your title and thumbnail are compelling enough to get clicks, YouTube will suggest it more, and so on.
How to optimize your YouTube thumbnails
Tim’s first tip is to think about how your title and thumbnail work together. Viewers typically see both the title and the thumbnail next to each other, so he recommends creating them to support (not copy) each other.
There’s no value in repeating the title in the thumbnail. Instead, this is an opportunity to create tension. Think about what your title promises the video is about, and then use the thumbnail to highlight something exciting or beneficial for the viewer.
“If the title is something like, ‘How to change the oil in your car’. The text on the thumbnail shouldn’t be like, ‘Changing oil in your car’. Instead, it should be like ‘10 minutes or less’, or ‘The easy way’. Something that complements the title, not just repeats it.”
His other piece of advice is to design a visually strong thumbnail that stops people from scrolling past. You want to make it both eye-catching and “thumb-stopping.” It should also be clear enough to “pass the glance test.” Viewers should be able to absorb the information on a thumbnail very quickly. So, if you’re using text, keep it to a minimum.
Once your thumbnail and title have done their job and got people to click on your video, Tim states that the next thing you need to do is create your video for human connection.
How to humanize your videos with storytelling
If you’re creating screencasts or videos without faces in – don’t panic. You don’t necessarily need to show a person to humanize your videos. The key is storytelling.
“There are channels where you never see the face behind the voiceover itself. These can be very successful because they create a human connection. They tell stories that feel real, that feel authentic, and that people connect with on an emotional level.”
For Tim, this emotional connection could be as simple as helping someone solve their problem. But what’ll keep your audience coming back is how you help them.
Tim shared a story about his recent experience with camera review videos. He said that the most memorable video consisted of the reviewer telling an actual story about his challenges using the camera for his wedding photography business and how he overcame them.
The video was entirely B-roll and voiceover. Yet, it was far more powerful than any of the other reviews, which dived straight into the technical specifications of the camera.
Tim wants all video creators to be aware of this important lesson: your video will create a bigger impact when it speaks to your audience in a way that means something to them.
The challenge for video creators
YouTube is changing all the time. But so is how we watch video. Tim suggests that, like with every platform, the bar for success is constantly shifting. While previous winning video strategies included publishing content every day and creating cinematic video experiences with extremely high-production value, Tim says that now, viewers are craving human connection.
Quality and consistency are still important factors for your videos. However, it’s connection that will set your video apart from the millions of others on YouTube and bring viewers back.
Tim’s advice is to ask yourself seven questions before you hit record:
- Who is the character?
- What do they want?
- Why can’t they have what they want?
- What’s at stake if they don’t get what they want?
- Who comes along and helps the character do what they couldn’t do before?
- Has the character got what they wanted?
- How is the character transformed by this process?
It shouldn’t matter what type of video you’re creating. It could be a screencast, a training video, or something solely for entertainment purposes. These questions can help you see your video from a storytelling angle that can help your audience understand the hows, whats, and whys of this process in a helpful and human way.
“Understanding your audience’s story and then crafting your content in a way that is a story that connects with their story – that is really super powerful.”
According to Tim, video creators who embrace this creation style are seeing enormous success on YouTube and growing extremely rapidly. But not many creators have adopted it yet. Tim notes that some creators are hesitant to bring storytelling into their content type as they don’t think it’ll fit. However, Tim firmly believes that there is no reason why most videos can’t include an element of storytelling to build a human connection.
What was once a quantity game, then a production quality game, is now a connection quality game.
Tim’s final thoughts
Tim acknowledges that for many video creators, adopting a video style that prioritizes connection is a big shift. But he lives by the motto “good work breeds good reward.”
“You can’t do something new and refreshing and different that doesn’t take a lot of additional work.”
Tim has always been at the forefront of what makes great videos. For him, it’s all about being able to adapt when things change and innovate his approach to winning viewers’ attention. With a platform like YouTube, your videos are competing with the world. But, by focusing on connection and the humans behind the screen, you’ll be well on your way to success. If you’re ready to level up your video skills, check out the TechSmith Academy. It’s packed with free courses and resources to teach you everything you need to know about creating powerful, impactful videos that viewers will keep coming back for.