10 minute read

Research & Innovation videos - 11 tips to boost the number of YouTube views

Are your videos getting watched only by your mom and the person sitting next to you in the office? If so, keep on reading...

1. Engagement is king

More than two decades ago, Bill Gates coined the phrase “Content is king”. Nowadays, with the immense abundance of content on YouTube, we need to put a twist on that phrase to make it “Engaging content is king”.

Everyone has its own view on what the right length of a YouTube video should be, some based on mere perception and some based on statistics they might have seen here or there. But there is one factor we all know holds true: the more engaging the content, the longer you are going to keep on watching.

Research & Innovation videos are no exception. Some of the factors that determine the engagement potential of Research & Innovation videos are pretty obvious: visual quality, storytelling effectiveness, relevance to your field of work... but there is one factor which is almost always underestimated: impact potential.

But what exactly is impact potential in this context? According to the European Commission, it is the envisaged value the results of a project can bring to society (it's so important that they even have an award for this). Therefore, whether for a small subset of society or for society as a whole, whatever potential impact your project can bring to the table, it has to shine through in your video.

You can breathe life into your impact figures by using quantitative values (rather than simply qualitative statements) which can then be put into perspective (to ensure their indicated magnitudes can really be grasped by the target audience). You can find a great example of this in the video of the EC-funded project MefCO2. At 2:06 of this video the foreseen results of the project are explained: “We envisage the daily production of 1,000 Kg of methanol through a conversion of approximately 1.5 tons of CO2 per day”. But what does this really mean? These numbers are put into perspective by adding “which is equivalent to the emissions per passenger of a commercial flight between Europe and the US”, maximizing this way the impact of the video and optimising its engagement potential.

2. Nail the thumbnail

You see thumbnails like these ones below and aren’t you going to click them? Really? You know you are gonna.

The thumbnail is the window to your video, and people are only going to click on it if it catches their attention. The main aim here should be to build anticipation while accurately representing what’s in your video.

When viewers click on the video and keep on watching, YouTube acknowledges that the viewer is enjoying your content. However, if your thumbnail doesn’t deliver on its promise of what’s in the video, viewers will usually leave almost immediately, and this will limit your discoverability on YouTube. This also works the other way round: the longer viewers watch your video, the higher the chance of it getting surfaced.

Also take into account that 90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails. When you customize your thumbnail, be sure you’ve got an exciting image that looks great large and small. Remember, thumbnails show up in different sizes across YouTube and external sites that embed YouTube videos, so check that your thumbnail looks good on mobile and desktop. It should have a resolution of 1280x720 (with a minimum width of 640 pixels).

3. Striking a striking title

Your title should be a worthy partner of your eye-catching thumbnail. They need to work together to tell a compelling story all on their own. A well-written title can be the difference between someone watching and sharing your video, or scrolling right past it. You can do this by sparking curiosity with a creative title or teasing what’s in the content.

Here's a good example (from the project Laser Lightning Rod):

Remember though that it is pretty vital to accurately describe your video so that viewers not only click but watch the video throughout. If viewers don’t stick around because the video didn’t match their expectations, you’ll see a drop in your audience retention, which can result in your video being less likely to be recommended on YouTube.

4. Keywords are the key

Find the right keywords and put them into your video’s title, description and tags. And how do I find the right keywords I hear you ask? There are plenty of alternatives, but in our opinion, the best one is Google Ads Keyword Planner. For a start, it’s free. And with it you’ll not only discover what the right keywords are for your video, but also how each of these might perform. Another good alternative is Google Trends. Here are some quick tips to find a mighty fine keyword list:

Think like your target audience when you create your list

Write down the main categories of your Research/Innovation project, and then write down the terms or phrases that might fall under each of those categories. Include terms or phrases your target audience would use to describe your project.

Here's an example: CoSTREAM is a project about finding the link between stroke and Alzheimer’s. We can start off with some basic categories that the target audience of this video might use, like "Alzheimer’s". We can then also add "Alzheimer’s disease" and "Alzheimer’s dementia" if we find out these are commonly used terms for the project. One pretty straightforward way to do this is to type "Alzheimer’s" in the search bar of Google or YouTube and we’ll find the most popular terms staring us in the face.

Select specific keywords to target specific audiences

Select more specific keywords depending upon the technical knowledge of your different types of audiences. But keep in mind that if these are too specific, they might end up proving worthless.

For example, if your objective is to reach your peers, you might choose specific keywords like "Alzheimer’s biomarkers". Once you’ve come up with your ideal keywords, use them in your title, description and tags.

Title: the closer you place your main keyword(s) towards the beginning of the title, the more weight YouTube will put on them (i.e. “Stroke and Alzheimer’s: partners in crime” will rank better than “Understanding the co-occurrence of stroke and Alzheimer’s”).

Description: this part of your video is more important than it might seem. Use the first few lines of text to explain what the video is about using your search-friendly keywords and natural language. Then use the rest of the text (what shows up once you click “Show more”) for additional information, including your project’s website.

Tags: while these are slightly less important than the title and the description, they are still useful in terms of search engine optimisation ranking. As for the above, include the main keyword(s) as the first tags and then the rest. A very important point to note is not to add too many keywords or irrelevant keywords, as YouTube might penalize you for it.

5. The substance of subtitles

Subtitles open up your content to a larger audience, including those who speak languages besides the one spoken in your video, as well as deaf or hard of hearing viewers. Especially if the target audience of your Research/Innovation video is the average citizen (as opposed to a niche audience), subtitles will play a vital role in the viewing experience of a lot of people.

You probably already know that YouTube can automatically transcribe your videos for you and that, while trying its best, there are certain words that it just doesn’t get right, so it’s best to double-check them before publishing your video. Since subtitles allow Google and YouTube to understand 100% of your content, this will increase the organic traffic to your video.

One last thing to note regarding subtitles is that the functionality of forcing these to appear when a video is selected is no longer active. If for whatever reason you need this, the only alternative is to hardcode them into the video, something that you can do with HandBrake:

6. Add interactivity with cards & end screens

You can use cards in your video to include polls, links to other channels, and more. Use them to get more eyeballs on your video. For instance, including a relevant poll will make your video more engaging, and you know what that means: that’s right, better performance of your video in YouTube. Here is an example from the video Colloid thruster:

End screens are similar to cards, except they appear at the end of the video (never would've guessed!). You can use these to prompt your viewer to subscribe to your channel or to watch another video from your channel relating to the topic they just watched, increasing your overall YouTube views (as well as session time, another important metric), or even to someone else’s video if you feel the audience is going to appreciate it, since if they do, this appreciation will make them come back for more of your high-value added videos in the future.

7. Stand up and call to action

Studies show that a call to action is something that practically every viewer wants, whether consciously or subconsciously. Therefore, tell them the steps they need to take to complement the viewing experience of your video. Do you want them to subscribe, comment, like, share? Tell them.

One of the best (and easiest) ways to get more YouTube views is by encouraging your audience to subscribe. And this doesn’t just help with videos, it helps with your whole channel. It also helps to prompt your viewers to comment on your videos. The higher the number of comments, the more recognizable your video becomes to YouTube.

And don’t simply ask them to comment. It pays to specifically ask them what to comment on. Here's a good example: the following video asks viewers explicitly (in the title and description) “Are you applying the 4 basic steps of food safety?”:

And when people comment, it helps to take the time to respond to those comments. It won't take you long. This encourages more people to comment and engage directly with you, building a set of passionate and loyal fans along the way. This also boosts your YouTube rankings.

Finally, you might also want to prompt your viewers to hit the notification button. This way, every time a new video is uploaded, they’ll know.

8. Play around with playlists

Playlists are a fantastic YouTube tool that not enough video creators take advantage of. They save viewers from the chore of hunting down videos one by one and hugely increases YouTube views and session time.

It helps to organize the videos on a specific topic or theme. Though you can create a playlist of unrelated videos too. For instance, you can create a list of random research videos created by your entity.

Playlists help to make your videos more discoverable. Organizing your videos in playlists is vital if you want to give your viewers a better experience. YouTube indexes playlists and this allows others to find the different video content that you have uploaded.

Here is an example from the project FoodIntegrity:

9. Get it suggested

There are two main factors that you’re going to need to manage in order to get your videos recommended and suggested by YouTube: channel authority and video optimization.

Channel authority

YouTube wants to protect its users from spammy videos that pop up on new channels and accounts. They use a channel authority metric to prevent new channels or channels with low authority from getting exposure in their algorithm. By consistently publishing quality videos that get a high percentage of completion viewed and a high number of minutes watched, your channel authority will increase.

Video optimization

YouTube’s algorithm works in a similar way to Google’s algorithm. Generally speaking it's based on keyword phrases. Taking time to do keyword research and to create search optimized titles, descriptions and tags will help you increase the relevance of your video compared to others.

For example, in the video of the project VERNE which is a project about an innovative underwater pipe inspection system, its title is “VERNE - Highly innovative underwater pipe inspection system”, its description includes “VERNE is capable of efficiently screening and scanning tubular steel structures for wall thickness in a subsea environment at depths of up to 3000 meters, locating the smallest of flaws with high precision”, and its tags include “underwater pipe inspection”, “screening" and “scanning”. With all this info, the likelihood increases of this video being suggested when a user is watching another video about this topic.

10. Allow embedding

As you already know, the more success your video has, the more YouTube will recommend it to others and the higher it will appear in search results. Therefore allowing the embedding of your video on other sites (webs, blogs, etc.) is a really great way to achieve this effortlessly. Also, you will increase the chance of more people sharing your video. What more can you ask for?

For all this to happen you first have to make sure you have the "Allow embedding" option checked. You can find this under 'More options' within 'Video details'. Here is a screenshot from the video NESSIE:

11. Analyse your analytics

And last but certainly not least, you should monitor the analytics section of your YouTube channel. It provides you with very valuable information that you can use to optimize your videos. Who is watching and what are they interested in? How engaged is your audience to your videos and channel? Are they sharing and liking it? It gives you detailed answers to all these questions and more.

Knowing what to look at and how to interpret it is not difficult, but it ain’t trivial either. If you want to dive into YouTube analytics we recommend you check out this subject in the YouTube Creator Academy.


Well, that's it! We hope you have found this guide helpful. Happy YouTubing!

Get in touch with us here to get a free consultation on how to apply the above tips to your specific case, and to take advantage of the 20% discount we are currently offering on the price of our explainer videos.

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