Can I change the title of my YouTube video?

Can I change the title of my YouTube video? play video
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Written by: Dexxter Clark, 23-03-2021
Yes, you can change your YouTube title and thumbnail without being punished by the YouTube algorithm.
That doesn’t mean that changing your YouTube thumbnail can’t hurt you, because it can.
The opposite is also true: you can gain views, if you do it correctly.


It all has to do with meta-data. To understand why, and to determine if changing a title or thumbnail makes sense for a video, let’s first look at what happens when you release a video.

When you upload a video, YouTube attaches meta-data to your video.
For example: “puppy”, “tail”, “tail waggle”, “dog food”, “dog food container”.
This is how the algorithm knows what your video is about.

Where does the algorithm get this data?
The algorithms looks at:
  • title
  • description
  • YouTube tags before 2015
  • text and objects in a thumbnail
  • text and objects in every frame of your video
  • spoken language (transcript)

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For example:
I ranked for “bald head” for one of my videos.
I didn’t say it, it wasn’t in the title, description, anywhere…
It had to come from identifying objects in the video.

This meta-data determines to which initial audience to which it suggests your video to.
So, be clear in your title, description and thumbnail about the contents of your video.
I still see creators not filling out their video description, a missed SEO opportunity.
In my article on the YouTube video description I give you some pointers on what a perfect SEO optimized video description looks like.

Your title, description and thumbnail at the time of release is what YouTube uses as a starting point for the discovery process, but after that the algorithm doesn’t look at it anymore.

Your initial title, description and “freeze” for the algorithm.
So you can change your title, thumbnail and description all you want, but the algorithm won’t change its mind anymore about the contents of your video.

But that doesn’t mean that changing your title or thumbnail can’t hurt you.

YouTube gathers data of viewers

Once you release your video, you get that famous initial boost from YouTube.
YouTube does this, so they can test your video on a first audience.
This initial audience is the group of people that watch your videos on a regular basis.
This does not necessarily have to be your subscribers.
(I said many times, the number of subscribers is a vanity metric).

When you release the video, YouTube starts to test the meta-data.
How do viewers react to the search terms (=meta data) that YouTube found?
How is your Click Through Rate, Average View Duration and Average Percentage Viewed?

For example, if video is about dog food, the meta-data search terms could be:
  • “dog food container”: high average view duration → continue promotion for this term
  • “puppy”: low average view duration→ stop promotion for this term
  • “tail waggle” : low average view duration → stop promotion
  • “dog food”: high average view duration → continue promotion.
Once the YouTube algorightm knows what a video is about (again, be super clear in title description and thumbnail), it can determine related search terms.
Then YouTube starts to do tests with related search terms and search terms that people use that also watch your videos.

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This why you can sometimes rank for other search terms you didn’t even use in your video.
And sometimes these are super unrelated search terms.
Right after the release of a video I ranked for crypto currency search terms, while the video was about YouTube growth strategies.
The audience didn`t react to those search terms, so YouTube killed promotion for these search terms.

When your channel is larger, your initial boost is higher and YouTube has more data to learn from.
So, YouTube is much more likely to get the video in front of the right audience quicker.

Why can videos pop after weeks or months?

YouTube keeps testing search terms and related suggested videos to see if the audience responds well. All of a sudden the algorithm has its “aha” moment and finds more and more and more viewers that are responding well.
This is how a video goes viral.

This testing happens constantly on every video on your channel.
You can see that when you look at the graphs in your YouTube Analytics.
On a small channel, after 2/3 months you start to gain traction if YouTube can find the right audience.
If it can’t find the right audience, your video is dead.

Dead videos are really hard to resurrect, because the algorithm made up his mind: “people don’t respond, kill the video”.
Changing a title or thumbnail on a dead video will almost never work.
If your videos have some traction (even if it is not much), you can try to change title and thumbnail.

But still, it is very hard to resurrect a video with only a couple a views a day, simply because the test audience isn`t large enough to get statistically significant data.

Can you change title and thumbnail?

Yes you can, and you should if a video is not performing well and isn’t dead.
No, if your video is doing amazing, you can only make it worse.
But when you change your title and thumbnail, you don’t change the meta-data of your video.

Like I said earlier, the meta-data is “frozen”.

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Does changing YouTube video title affect views?

Yes it can. It depends entirely on how your potential viewers behave differently to your existing “frozen” meta-data by changing title or thumbnail.
If your new title or thumbnail leads to a higher (or lower) Click Through Rate and your Average View Duration goes up goes up (or down), then YouTube adjusts its promotion.

For example:
Your video has a boring video title, like: “I like this dog food container”.
You change the title to “best dog food container under $20,-”.
People that search for “dog food container” are more likely to click on your video.
So, your views will go up.

But if you change the title
“I like this dog food container” to “I like this cat food container”.
You can’t rank for “cat food container”, because it wasn’t in the initial meta-data.
And second, if the cat-loving audience won’t respond well to your video, YouTube will bury the video.

So, if you want to rank for “cat food container” too, you should include it in description before you release the video.
And preferably show a cat in the video and say “cat food container” in the video.

Why do Youtubers change video titles?

Big YouTubers constantly change titles and thumbnails because they are testing if their audience reacts differently.
Because they want to find the optimal combination that gets them the most views (and therefore ad revenue).
If changing your title and thumbnail wouldn’t have any effect, YouTubers wouldn’t do it.

Are your YouTube views going down?
A new title and thumbnail can help, but check out my article on declining views, there might be more going on than you realize.


Want free YouTube tips and tricks?
Check out the YouTube channel for this website. (opens YouTube in new tab)

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Dexxter Clark
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