Video Descriptions are the long-form written content that accompanies your video and it’s metadata. Both YouTube and Vimeo support long video descriptions up to 5,000 characters in length.
Most videos uploaded to YouTube don’t even come close to this limit. Just because you have 5,000 characters doesn’t mean you should stuff your descriptions full of keywords but instead, you should allocate your available character count to equal parts: video SEO and adding value to the viewing experience. Keep reading and we’ll show you how to do this.
Why is the YouTube Description important?
Like Video Titles, Video Descriptions play a dual role of enabling Video SEO through relevant keywords AND providing viewers with descriptive text about the video. The Video Description can also provide natural pathways to other chapters in the video, links to your website, links to social media, links to other videos or further reading/resources.
Unless you are an approved Partner in YouTube’s Partner Program, (minimum 1,000 subscribers) you won’t be able to add clickable “Call-to-action” (CTA) link annotations that drive to your website directly from your video. So the only other way to add links directly in the Video Descriptions.
What should you write in a YouTube Description?
Video descriptions by default truncate to the first 3 lines (roughly 280 characters) on YouTube when a video is initially loaded. Vimeo’s video description truncation is much more generous at 750 characters. But given YouTube’s dominance with online video, you should ensure you front-load your description with the most important words in the first 3 lines.
It’s worth noting that truncated video descriptions only appear for desktop users. Mobile users don’t see any the Video Description by default and must choose to expand them
Make sure you experiment to see where the truncation point is. This example from SEOptimer is perfect as it ends just in time with the call to action to visit their website:
YouTube's Creator Academy published 7 top tips for effective YouTube Descriptions and the number #1 tip was “write searchable descriptions”:
Using your target keyword or keyphrase throughout your Video Description is best practice for increasing relevance and helping to elevate your video in search results for your target keywords.
Adding value to the viewing experience
When it comes to helping your viewers understand more about your video and who you are, we suggest splitting your Video Description up into 7 main sections:
1. About the Video (approx 500-1,000 chars): Remember, the first 3 lines are the most important so make sure your target keywords appear here and that you describe the video in a way that aligns to how people are likely to be searching for your topic/subject. After that, feel free to elaborate on additional secondary information or details about what the video covers. Don’t forget to put your Video HashTags at the bottom:
2. Timestamps (approx 500 chars): This is a useful navigational option you use whereby you paste links to the video’s timecode that align to different parts of your video. Say for example, your video has 5 distinct “chapters”. You can link to each one here so the viewer can quickly jump to the part of the video of most interest to them.
But how do you create the actual links? You don’t need to! By simply typing a number in minutes:seconds format, YouTube will automatically hyperlink the text and make it clickable - too easy!
PLUS by adding these timestamps in the Video Description, YouTube automatically puts your timestamp descriptions into the bottom of the video in the play bar:
3. About the Channel (approx 500-1,000 chars): This should be a general description of your channel and what kind of content you publish and how often you publish it.
4. Other Recommended Videos / Playlists: (approx 250 chars) Promote some of your other videos or playlists by linking directly to them here and providing a few 1 liners on each to encourage viewers to click-through!
It may make sense to link to videos which you haven’t yet published! This is fine, just leave it out but remember to come back and update this section with the new video links once you’ve published them.
5. About your Products & Company (approx 500 - 1,000 chars): Explain what your organization does and your products/services.
6. Website Link (approx 50 chars):Don’t forget to link to your website!
7. Contact & Social Links (approx 100-500 chars): Finally link out to some of your other social media pages and profiles like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.
How does the Video Description Generator work?
The Video Description Maker is a handy tool for helping you structure and generate perfect SEO-optimized and viewer-friendly Video Descriptions. It helps you focus on creating 7 separate sections which you can fine-tune individually and then copy as a complete string and paste into the Video Description box on YouTube or Vimeo.
Start at the top and work your way through each section. If you don’t want a particular section simply un-tick it. Underneath section 7 are three keyword fields called “Keywords to Target”
Enter up to three keywords here which you are targeting in order to check the keyword occurrence across your whole video description. If your keyword is mentioned 5 times or more the count will be colored in green indicating an ideal number of occurrences for SEO purposes, otherwise it will be colored in red and you should include it more times in the description. Click “Generate Description” to refresh your keyword usage stats:
When you’re finished simply hit ‘Copy to Clipboard’, then you’re ready to paste your new Video Description into YouTube!
Updating Video Descriptions on existing Videos
As with editing Video Titles, Tags or HashTags, you can make edits to Video Descriptions on your existing videos without any issue. But remember, when you do this YouTube re-evaluates your video and may update its position in search results depending on a mixture of the changes you’ve made and the previous watch time data achieved.
This can be good or bad: if you had a video that wasn't very optimized and wasn't getting a lot of searches, updating the video description might help its search ranking. However, if you have a video that was getting consistent views, changing the video description could disturb that.