Optimising Your Youtube Video Descriptions: Everything important should be in the first 65-70 characters

This post follows on from Using SEO and SEM Basics to Optimise Your Youtube Videos and Optimising Your Youtube Video Titles: Everything important should be in the first 29-46 characters.

In this post, I will be looking at how much of the content in the description field of your YouTube video is displayed in search engines (again looking at Google, Bing and Yahoo) and also in Youtube (search results and the watch page), so we can see what we need to take into account when writing copy for Youtube Video descriptions.

Although you have 5000 characters worth of space for your description, this description is truncated on the watch page and in search results.

With that in mind, what goes at the head of your description becomes pretty important as this will be the information served up to users on the watch page and when your videos are retrieved in search results (in YouTube or in a search engine). It may mean the difference between someone watching your video…or not.

Youtube

The Watch Page:

The Watch page default is to hide the bulk of your description with a show more information/less information:

YouTube: Watch Page showing truncated description

The description is truncated at ~200-219 characters or 3-4 lines in cases where you are using line breaks in your text:

Youtube: Watch Page showing truncated description with line breaks

YouTube Search Results

The YouTube Search Results Page truncates descriptions at~143-145 characters, taking the last full word:

Youtube: Search Resu;ts

Search Engines

I am only looking a the top 3 search engines in Australia from May 2011-2012, identified in Optimising Your Youtube Video Titles for Display in Search Engine Results.

Google

Google general search results:

Google: Video results in a google general search

Truncates the descriptions field for YouTube videos at ~99 – 103 however the content presented is not necessarily only the content at the head of your description.

Google appears to treat descriptions with line breaks in them differently, serving up segements of content from paragraphs within the description. The segments of content are separated by ellipses ( … ).

It is difficult to identify the display logic for the instances I am finding, but I have outlined some observations for two examples below:

Example One:

Example One: The second outlined description in the SERP above

Things to note:

  • Serves up two segments of content in the description
  • With the description, the content is separated by double line breaks
  • Does not serve up content from Paragraph 2 in the description
  • Only serves up content at the head of Paragraphs 1 and 3
  • Serves up 64 characters  Segment 1 (Paragraph 1)
  • Serves up 34 characters in Segment 2 (Paragraph 3)
Example Two:

Example Two: The second outlined description in the SERP above

Things to note:

  •  Does not display content in lead paragraph
  • Only displays content from Paragraph 3 (which is where the uploader has added keyword gumph)
  • Paragraph 2 is the actual synopis
  • Paragraph 1 is corporate info and includes links
  • The second segment is not content from the description, it is content from the comments underneath the video).
  • Serves up 70 characters  Segment 1 (Paragraph 3)
  • Serves up 10 characters Segement 2 (Comments)
What to think?

This method of display does need to be investigated further – I have so many questions that need to be tested by looking at more search results for YouTube videos with long descriptions (and line breaks in them).

Some of the questions I already have are:

  • Does it the segemented presentation ignore Paragraph 2 in every instance found and tested? (If so, do we need to focus on getting the important content in the description into the head of Paragraphs 1 and 3?)
  • Does the segmented presentation always skip paragraphs with links in them? (If so, do we need to put link content into Paragraph 2 or after the first 65 characters of text in Paragraph 1?)
  • What does it serve up for descriptions with single line breaks?

Including links at the head of the video description is following recommended SEO practice, with most SEO professional suggesting you include a link at the head of your content, exemplified in The Social Robots post How to Create Effective YouTube SEO, so recommending that the link does not go at the head (or if it does, it should go 65 characters in) is a significant change in direction from accepted wisdom.

I will investigate this further, I need to identify YouTube videos with long descriptions, double line breaks and various permutations of content and document how they are displayed – if you have any suggestions for topics/videos, comment below and I will add them to my list.

Google Video Search Results:

Google: Truncated descriptions in a google video search

Truncates at ~99-108 characters, takes the last full word.

Bing

General search results:

Bing: SERP with YouTube video descriptions highlighted

Truncates at 168 -176, takes last full word.

Video search results:

Bing’s video search results only include the title, not the description. So it’s important you write your titles to optimise them for display in the sparseness of Bing’s video search.

Yahoo

General Search results:

Yahoo: SERP with YouTube video descriptions highlighted

Truncates at ~150-161 characters, takes last full word.

Video search results:

Yahoo’s video search results only include the title, not the description. So it’s important you write your titles to optimise them for display in the sparseness of Yahoo’s video search.

Conclusions

Although you have  5000 characters to play with in the description field for YouTube videos, you need to consider what content will make it through to searchers locating video content on a search engine.

Obviously your description content is a double act with your video title – so it’s important to be canny and coordinated when copy writing both of them.

In terms of setting a format for writing your descriptions:

  • Put the primary reason for watching (synopsis) within the first 65-70 characters of the description (up to ~100 -150 characters if you really must), to account for how Google, Bing and Yahoo search results abbreviate the descriptions
  • Anything you want people to see when they watch your videos on YouTube should be in the first 200 characters
  • Be careful with double line breaks (paragraphs) in your descriptions, Google may display head content from two paragraphs in the SERPs (segments) rather than the leading characters in the first paragraph
  • Be careful with where you place the link content in your description, Google may not display that paragraph in its segemented presentation of description content in SERPs

What’s next: I’ll continue investigating instances of segemented description presentation to see if I can identify variables that may drive/affect this method of presentation ;)

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