If you’ve ever tried to create content on YouTube, you have probably heard talk of “the algorithm.” It’s this mystifying formula that content creators have been trying to decipher for years. And in those years, it has changed… a lot.
Its most recent & notable change took place when TikTok ushered in a unique style of short-form video content that became wildly successful, as YouTube introduced its competitor: YouTube Shorts. In a desperate attempt to not get steamrolled by TikTok’s surge in popularity, not only did YouTube strap financial incentives to posting on Shorts… but they geared their algorithm around it.
That said, that doesn’t mean YouTube’s algorithm has become any less perplexing…
Take 20 minutes to scroll through YouTube Shorts, and you will find types of videos that realistically never should’ve seen the light of day with millions of video views. Similar to TikTok, YouTube Shorts is a wild-west of bite-size content.
But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t anything you can do to set yourself up for success…
This article hopes to provide a top-down view of creating effective shorts content for YouTube.
The YouTube analytics dashboard can be incredibly overwhelming… so let’s fix that. The statistic you want to be paying attention to the most is analytics for viewer retention.
A similarity between YouTube & YouTube Shorts centers around this statistic, as it’s the money-maker. The higher the retention rate, the more money that gets generated… and YouTube will subsequently reward you by pushing your video more.
Well, unfortunately… It’s a lot easier on paper than it is in practice.
There are a lot of variables that go into retention – target audience, video topic, and video quality, to name a few.
Picking content types and sticking to them is very important… Do you want to talk about new tech?
Or maybe you want to center around lifestyle content?
Whatever type of content you want to make, you want to get acquainted with the standards and expectations inherent to those types of content.
Looking to others within your niche is never a bad thing… in fact, you should always be looking for future content inspiration. Of course, just make sure you’re not replicating their concepts word for word, bar for bar.
Some niches set the bar a little bit higher for regular video quality and those who fancy themselves to be video editors, while others are as simple as point → shoot → upload. But the one constant among all genres is the need for purpose.
Why are you making this video? What value are you providing a potential viewer?
Once you have a valuable concept in mind, it’s time to execute…
Hooking in an audience
The most essential part of any video is the first 5-10 seconds — especially in the case of short-form content.
With attention spans at an all-time low and competition at an all-time high, you have to make these first few seconds count otherwise, the viewer will just scroll past your bite-sized content. Whether you create it through a unique script, flashy video editing, or a combination of the two…you need to create a level of expectation for the viewer to draw them in.
This ultimately comes down to a lot of trial and error, but luckily, YouTube has a statistic built in to help you better understand what worked and what didn’t.
This statistic can also give you a very good indication of which Shorts videos will perform well and which ones won’t. YouTube tends to send regular videos out more if they hit around 65% and above and will banish you to the shadow realm if it drops below 50/50.
But a good hook isn’t enough.
Retention, retention, retention
A common misconception with short-form content is the viewer will inherently watch more of your video just because it is shorter… when the contrary is actually true.
Again, at any moment throughout your video, a viewer can swipe their finger and immediately be met with a new piece of content. So, not only do you need a good hook, you need to give the viewers a reason to continue watching the video. Average view duration is incredibly important.
Every video format will be different, but an easy way to keep viewers engaged is by switching up the tone of your video. Whether you do that through editing with a different music track, or within the video itself, creating that rollercoaster of emotion keeps viewers on the edge of their seats.
Bonus points if you find a creative way to subvert audience expectations.
With your engaging video well thought out, produced, and ready to go, now all that’s left is the upload. But don’t celebrate just yet: we’re only just getting started. A good video is nothing without an equally sufficient title, along with proper tagging & SEO.
Everything will be relative, but there are specific yes’ and no’s to how it goes, along with strategies that you can deploy during this process to better set yourself up for success.
Let’s start with the most important part, though… tags.
When you upload a YouTube Short, or even a long-form video for that matter, YouTube is going to try and recommend it to people the algorithm thinks will take well to your content. And although YouTube AI tools are really powerful, they’re not perfect.
YouTube needs your help.
And that’s where tags come into play! All it takes are some very simple phrases and things that are related to your video, and YouTube’s algorithm will better be able to serve your content to audiences.
You should aim for around 8-10 tags per video. And if you are having trouble, you can visit RapidTags and submit your title for a list of automatically generated tags that you can pick and choose from.
Speaking of titles…
When it comes to short-form content, there are still many questions circulating around how to create an effective, algorithm-optimized title.
To start, YouTube’s titles work in tandem with tags. Ideally, you want to find a way to have the two corroborate with one another as much as possible. It’s a balancing act, though, as you still want to have a punchy title… not a super long, tag-filled title.
Speaking of which: hashtags – yes or no?
For the title, no. On TikTok, hashtags in the title are super important because they’re TikTok’s equivalent to YouTube’s video tags. But YouTube’s short-form content works differently, and there’s a much better way to use hashtags.
Keep it simple, but remain consistent between your title and tags.
Your description is the second most crucial part of your video, from an algorithmic sense. If you leverage this aspect properly, you can get a significant boost.
Similar to your title, it is all about connecting it to the tags. And you can do this by simply writing out a description that features all of your tags.
Additionally, the description is where you want to put your hashtags. Two hashtags that are most pertinent to your video – along with YouTube’s general hashtag “shorts” (their equivalent to TikTok’s #fyp) – will be effective without being too extra.
Once you’ve done all of this, it’s time to post!
YouTube content strategy takeaways
To grow efficiently and effectively, if possible, you want to be posting daily content. YouTube rewards creators who post a lot of content.
That said, quality > quantity.
Also, keep an eye on the aforementioned video audience analytics metrics, outlined earlier in the article, to track how well your videos are doing and garner a better understanding of what works & what doesn’t… and watch those daily views skyrocket!