write VIRAL YouTube video titles – COMPLETE GUIDE

write VIRAL YouTube video titles – COMPLETE GUIDE
Written by: Dexxter Clark, 29-05-2020
A good compelling title will make or break your video.
But what makes a good YouTube video title that gets the click?
I’m answering that question and give you the best some video title tips on the planet!

I also dive into video title length, because even good titles will be truncated if they are too long.
Everyone seems to be under the impression that video titles need to be less than 70 characters to prevent truncation.
It couldn’t be farther from the truth!!!
For this article I’ve researched 107 youtube video titles, all of them were truncated WAY BELOW 70 characters!
The answer you’ll get in a convenient table.

To top this article of, I’ll show you how to compose a title and make a good out of a bad title.
I also show 16 examples of real YouTube video titles with feedback on how to improve them.

What is a video title?

A video title is a piece of textual information that describes the YouTube video.
Writing a good video title has multiple purposes
to let the viewer click on your video
to get found in the suggested and search algorithm of YouTube and Google.

YouTube allows 100 characters of information for your video title.
My recommendation is, to make it shorter than that to prevent truncation.

YouTube video title tips

Crafting a good video title can be a challenge, in fact I struggled with it myself (and sometimes still do).
I noticed that you will get better over time.

A good video title:
  • communicates the content of the video
  • and good thumbnail work together
  • is short
  • has search keywords in the title
  • triggers curiosity, so people want to click on it
  • has no episode numbers
  • uses numbers in the right way
Let’s take a look at these rules:

1. Communicates the content of the video

The most important factor of a title: A good title tells a story about the video: “What is the video about?”.
Luckily on YouTube you have also the thumbnail to do that.

A viewer must know exactly what he (or she) is getting into to determine if they want to watch the right video.
This will increase the watch time of the video and average view duration (most important ranking factors on YouTube).
Clickbait will only hurt you and YouTube will bury the video immediately.
More about clickbait and the clickbait grey area in my article.

Live up to the promise you make in the title and thumbnail, preferably as soon as possible in the video.

2. Uses search keywords in the title

For some content, like informational how-to content (“how to feed your dog”), you need to focus heavily on search.
So if people search for information (in Google or YouTube search) on a certain topic, your content can surface.

If you focus on search, make sure that your main target keywords are in the title.
The title is one of the key metrics that the algorithm looks at to get a sense of the content of the video.
The title is even more important than the description and the thumbnail in that regard.
Also a lot of videos in the recommended-videos section are based on relevant content that the viewer is currently watching now.

But be aware, small channels generally don`t put enough “weight” in the scale to rank (multiple) videos in the suggested algorithm.

Focus on long-tail keywords

If you have a small channel you can focus on long-tail keywords to get a foot in the door, because in a small niche is less competition.
Use YouTube and Google auto suggest to get long-tail keyword ideas.

A very easy way to use long-tail keywords is to add the year to the title.
"DJing for beginners" may be competitive, but "Djing for beginners 2020" is less competitive.
Do a search in November in YouTube Studio for the videos that have the current year in the title and replace the year with next year.

Don`t skip the keyword research phase!
A common pitfall for me is to get excited when you thought of a new video idea.
But I noticed when I can`t translate content into searchable keywords, making a video is a waste of time because nobody will watch it.
If that is the case you need to go the curiosity route to get the click.

Mix and match

Target multiple search terms by mashing them up.

When I made a video about 5 sound cards, I used "top 5 best sound cards".
This is a concatenation of the search keywords "top 5 sound cards" and "best sound cards".

Computers from a certain fruit brand are very popular amongst music producers.
I wanted to make a video about that.
I wanted to invoke curiosity, but at the same time use a target keywords I have great success with: "best computer for music production" and "best laptop for music production".

I crafted the title: "Why [brand] are NOT the best laptop computers for music production".
When you search for "best computer for music production" (or laptop) the video shows up.

With the same technique I crafted "Top 5 best [brand] computers for music production", again with great results.
The title was a combination of "best computer for music production" and "best [brand] for music production".

Although YouTube is smart enough to figure out the link between the brand and the term "computers", I gave the algorithm a push in the right direction to increase the likelihood of being found.

When you apply this technique, make sure you craft human readable titles.
After all, people need to click the video (not the algorithm).
The algorithm reacts to human behavior, so humans first, algorithm second.

Keywords and context

There was a joke going around in the early 2000`s that stated: "2 SEO experts walked into a pub bar cafe and ordered a beer lager pint".
To be found, you needed to feed Google the synonyms to be found.
A lot has changed since then.

Google (and also YouTube) understands synonyms and context nowadays.
They can understand that 2 words mean the same things.
The word "course" has the same meaning as "tutorial".
The word "automobile" has the same meaning as "car".

Keyword repetition is considered bad practice, because it reeks of keyword stuffing, which is seen as spam.
Try to use natural language, and don`t use the exact keyword every single time.
This goes for websites, YouTube descriptions but also titles.

Some target keywords are more competitive than others.
If some keywords are too competitive, try to replace it with a word that has the same meaning.

3. Thumbnail is extension of the title

You have two opportunities to tell your viewer what your video is about: the title and thumbnail.
The two complement each other.

It can be hard to describe the content of your video in just a few characters.
The thumbnail can help you.
The thumbnail is the extension of your title.

The strongest thumbnails just have a few words or no text all all in them.
In my book, you are a champion if you can tell a story in a thumbnail without using text.
If you struggle to get the message across in your title, use the thumbnail for the rest.
Use your target keywords in your title (better to be found in YouTube and Google search) and all the emotional triggers/reasons in the thumbnail.
I’ll talk about triggers in a minute.

For example:
Title: “Best software for music production” (keywords that people search for)
Thumbnail: “Ultimate guide” (trigger in the thumbnail).

YouTube algorithms “read” the text in your thumbnail, but they don’t weigh as heavily as the title and the video description.

With a good title and thumbnail viewers know beforehand exactly what they are getting into, they tend to watch your content for longer.
This leads to better Average View Duration and more Watch Time, so better promotion.


4. A good video title is short

Multiple studies showed that a good video title is short, although most YouTubers apparently didn’t get the notes.
This is your opportunity.
A short title conveys a strong message to the viewer.
If the title is truncated, users can’t see what the video is about.

Title truncation happens very quickly on mobile.
I’ll talk about truncation later in this article.

Creator name in the title
Some creators want to add their names to the title.
That is totally unnecessary!
It only needs to truncation and will do nothing for your search results.

If viewer searches or sees you video in suggested he will see your channel name.
Only name a name if you have a guest and viewers might be interested in that person.

Episode number in the title
Some creator feel the need to include the episode number in the title.
This is absolutely not necessary.

Why do you want to include it in the first place?
So people can watch episodes in consecutive order?
There are other ways to do that:
  • Make an official playlist
  • Put the episode number in the first line of your description
  • Put the link to your next episode in the video description
  • Put the number in the thumbnail
But I don’t think that viewer thinks: “i’ve watched #2578, let’s watch #2579”.

For “part 2” it is different.
Because a big portion of the title is similar to to part 1.
YouTube will figure out that there is a correlation between the same titles, one named “part 1” and the other named “part 2”.
This is good for the suggested algorithm.

I’ve made a video “EMD hit song structure part 1” and part 2 of course.
You don’t want to make a separate playlist for 2 or 3 videos.

Long titles look spammy and clickbaity
For this article I looked at hundreds of titles to decide which one to include in my character-count-study.

It also get’s annoying after a while when titles are truncated, because you can`t see the title completely.
Especially on mobile, that happens a lot.
It doesn`t convey a clear message to the viewer what the video is about.

I noticed that a lot of YouTube creators stuff a lot of keywords into the title.
My thoughts looking through all these titles were:
  • "What is this video actually about?"
  • "what are you trying to say?"
  • "make up your mind"
  • "it looks messy"
  • "if the title is messy, why would the video be any better?"
  • "it looks spammy"
  • “it looks clickbaity”
In other words: truncated titles (especially with keyword stuffing) hurts my viewing experience.

I get that you want to add your keywords.
But pick your most important keyword phrase for the title.
Craft a killer video description with more human readable keyword phrases in the first 3 lines of your description and put the rest at the bottom of your video description (below all the other information).

5. Curiosity triggers / emotional trigger/ reason to click


Try to find out what viewers in your niche triggers.
“How to do X” and “The best” are getting old.
But the “Secrets” and “myths” are still doing their magic.

When I search for a topic on YouTube I see so many videos.
But I don’t know on which to click.
They have all the same title, because everyone goes after the same keywords.
I have 10 recipes for traditional Austrian pancakes, they all claim to have the best video.
Why would I click on one and not the other about exactly the same topic?

When we turn that around for the YouTube creator:
Give the viewer a reason to click on your video.

For example:
The trigger: “The DEFINITIVE guide”.
The title: “Best rowing machine – DEFINITIVE GUIDE”
The viewer knows this video is a one-stop-shop for rowing machines, and doesn’t need to watch all the rest of the videos.

Some triggers are:
  • Secrets
  • myths
  • what they don’t tell you / X doesn’t tell you about
  • nobody talks about
  • [or anything related to Fear Of Missing Out]
  • definitive / extended / ultimate guide
  • hacks
  • perfect: “the perfect solution to…”
  • (complete) list: “complete list of YouTube channel ideas”
  • (complete) step by step tutorial
  • [anything related to saving time or money]
  • need to know guide
  • the right way
  • with examples: “how long should your YouTube video be – with examples”
  • my experiments: “How often should I upload to youtube - my experiments”
  • +[something unique]: “The best time to publish a YouTube video in 2020 (+timetables)”
  • award winning: “award winning master chef Trevor Smith”
  • the year: “best software 2020”
  • #1 …: “#1 technique to get more views 2020”
  • that actually work: “YouTube video title ideas that actually work”
  • X ways to destroy Y
  • easy to do/make at home
  • in X minutes
Some product triggers:
  • Overnight shipping / within 24 hrs
  • Free shipping
  • Deals
  • Guarantee / 30 day money back garantee
  • X% off (30% off)
  • Sale
  • Cheap
  • Only today / 24 hrs
  • Buying guide
  • Review / preview
  • Unboxing
  • … that saves you money
Coming up with great video titles can be a challenge.
Here are some good ones for inspiration:
  • "What happened after THIS"
  • "Which one performed better?" (two products for example)
  • "I tested and compared 10 headphones - the honest results"
  • "Why I declined THIS sponsorship request"
  • "5 Tips Big Music Producers NEVER Share!"
  • "10 Keys For Creating Viral Blog Posts"
  • "How to rank #1 in YouTube search results 2020"
  • "Top 5 best sound cards" (and the thumbnail read: "I asked 15,024 producers")
More click worthy titles with triggers you can find in my article.
Or in the video title generator on this site.

6. Use numbers in the right way

The use of numbers is optional, but very common in titles
It is one of the ways to make a title more appealing and tangible.

Readability
For the sake of readability use digits instead of spelling the number: use “3” instead of “three”.

Be exact
If you use numbers, be exact.
Instead of using 1000, say 1022.
This number is much more believable.
Anyone can make up 1000, but you wouldn’t make up 1022, it’s too exact to make up.

Number as trigger
Adding a number can be your trigger.
For example:
  • “How to make pasta in 11 minutes”
  • “11 games to play on the road in your car”
  • “How to sell your car – with 11 examples”.

7. IS USING VIDEO TITLES IN ALL CAPS WRONG??

Yes, don’t use all caps for your titles.
Todd from YouTube Search and Discovery says that you won’t maximize your reach.
Some viewers might get the feeling that you shout at them when you use all caps.

In this internal YouTube video, Todd from search explains that YouTube won’t serve certain videos to people if videos (or titles) put them off.

I’ve tested all-caps vs none-caps with 8 titles, but it didn’t seem to make a statistically significant difference to draw any definitive conclusions.
I could draw one conclusion: the videos with all caps didn’t tank.

There are some big YouTubers using all caps titles all the time and it doesn’t seem to hurt them.
In other words: you won’t run intro trouble if you use all caps.
But why would you want to do it when it could hurt your potential growth and ad revenue?

You could use caps to emphasize important words.
For example: “COMPLETE Rekordbox tutorial”.
This way you emphasize the trigger of the video to stand out against the competition.
In fact, I use the same tactic for this blog to stand out in Google.

8. “hoard` good video titles

A super tip is: collect good video titles (and thumbnails), it helped me out a ton over the years.
I have a special directory on my computer where I "hoard" good video and thumbnail ideas.
Every time when I am on YouTube and encounter a video where I would like to click on (or that sticks out) I make a screenshot.

When I`m stuck crafting a title or thumbnail, I look in my collection of good titles to get new ideas.
This way I will never run out of good video title ideas!

In the download section of this site you can find a part of my thumbnail hoarding efforts for free: a batch with over 100 free thumbnail examples.

9. evaluate and reuse

If a video does well, it is partially because of a high click through rate.
It still might be an indication that a title (and thumbnail) worked well in the past on your audience.
In other words, a goldmine to base new titles (but also video ideas) on.

In YouTube Analytics you can find CTR (Click Through Rates) and performance data.
The CTR percentage is a bit misleading, because you need to consider the amount of impressions too.
More impressions have generally a lower CTR because the audience is larger and less targeted.

10 Communicate a result

To increase the likelihood of getting the click is an achievable result: "When you do X, you will get Y".
For example: "get 1 million subscribers in 28 days".

Did you notice that there are more than one tip of this article in this example?
  • it has achievable result
  • it has as specific number
  • it invokes curiosity
  • it is short, clear and concise

11. rewrite titles

Go over your worst performing videos and see if you can come up with a more enticing title (or thumbnail).
Note your daily view count over the last week, current title and current date in a spreadsheet and change the video title.
After a month or so (you need at least a sample base of 1000 views, preferably more, otherwise it is statistically insignificant) and see if your view count has gone up or down since the date you changed the title.

If the views have gone up, great! A win!
If the views have gone down, change the title back (duh).

This way you can get more views on existing videos without making new videos.

In the download section on this site, you can find a free A/B-test spreadsheet to help you out with the data.

Youtube video title length

I researched 107 YouTube video titles in different algorithms on YouTube.
I looked at character lengths on YouTube:
  • homepage
  • channel homepage
  • search
  • suggested
  • notifications
I summarize the results of my study here:

Algorithm
Platform
< = safe
(#chars)

> = truncated
(#chars)
YouTube homepage
Desktop
55
65
YouTube homepage
Mobile app
50
60
Channel homepage
Desktop
45
55
Channel homepage
Mobile app
40
45
YouTube search
Desktop
No limit
No limit
YouTube search
Mobile app
45
55
YouTube suggested
Desktop
55
60
YouTube suggested
Mobile app
65
70
Notifications
Desktop
No limit
No limit
Notifications
Mobile app
No limit
No limit

For hard data, check the study that is shown below the Character Counter on this site.

If you want to check if your title is being truncated by YouTube, you can also use the Character Counter.
It will give you are report on which part of YouTube your title is being truncated.

What is the YouTube video title character limit (allowed max length)

After the extensive research I did, a character length between below 50 has a low chance of truncation.
So try to keep your YouTube video title below 50 characters, preferably even 45 if you want to play it safe
Titles with more than 60 characters will almost always be truncated.

Visual truncation

Counting characters is not fool proof I noticed.
I noticed different results with the same amount of characters.
I see 3 reasons for that:

1. YouTube uses a non-proportional font.
This means that not every character takes up the same amount of space.
Three exclamation marks (!!!) (=3 characters) can take up the same space as the letter "m" (=1 character).

2. Screen size does matter
The YouTube desktop site has a responsive design.
Meaning that the site scales according to the available screen size.

I noticed that truncation on my Android phone was far more enthusiastic than my iPhone.

3. Font size does matter
I also noticed that the font size in different browsers not the same is when the browsers say it’s 100% zoomed in.
Font size could have an impact on truncation.
(It is hard to compare since search doesn’t truncate on desktop and home and suggested are unique).

In order of the biggest font size:
  • Safari*
  • Chrome
  • Firefox
* Safari is pretty secretive about the level of zoom, but Chrome and Firefox aren’t.

How to make a good video title - EXAMPLE

I saw a title:
"Chef Rudolf Hansen shows you how to make a classic Austrian dessert: Sacher Torte" (of course I replaced the names of the chef and the dish).
This was truncated on mobile to:
"Chef Rudolf Hansen shows you how to make ...".

That is such a waste!
The most important keywords "Austrian dessert” and “Sacher Torte" are TRUNCATED!
Let’s move some words around.
A better title would have been:
"Sacher Torte, a classic Austrian dessert - by chef Rudolf Hansen".

You see, I saved 17 characters.
If the title is truncated, you still can see what the video is about.
The keywords are in the front (better for the algorithm too), and it took me 10 seconds!

Let’s check it in the Character Counter.
It’s 64 characters, it is truncated almost everywhere on YouTube.

That is way too long and I still miss the trigger (“why should somebody click on this video and not others about the same topic?”)
We can add the trigger in the thumbnail if we have to.
I’m thinking about triggers like: “award winning master chef” or “delicious” or “easy to make at home” or “in 60 minutes”.

Assuming that Rudolf Hansen is a guest on the show, I can’t take his name off.
I made this title: “Austrian Sacher Torte dessert – chef Rudolf Hansen” (50 characters).

For the thumbnail: make a GOOD photo of the Sacher Torte, that will make you hungry.
Use that photo as background.
On top of that photo you add the face of Rudolf Hansen WITH CHEFS HAT (displays authority).
Add the emotional trigger “delicious” or “chef Rudolf Hansen” as text in the thumbnail (depending on which is more important: the chef or the recipe of the cake).

We are not quite there yet.
Maybe even better is to name the chef in the first sentence of the video description.
Then I have some more room to communicate what this video about: is the video a history lesson about Sacher Torte? Are we making the cake? Is it an interview with the chef?
“mouthwatering Austrian Sacher Torte dessert – recipe” (52 chars) or:
“making mouthwatering Austrian Sacher Torte dessert” (50 chars) or even better:
“making delicious Austrian Sacher Torte dessert” (46 chars).
The first 2 are in the truncation danger zone, but communicate a better message about the video content than before.
I still would ad an extra trigger in the thumbnail: “easy to make at home”, “done within 90 mins” or the name of the chef if he is famous.


More examples on how to make a good youtube video title

I saw some great and horrible titles during the title length study.
I’ll share them in this chapter and give some feedback, to get your creative juices flowing:


Title
#chars
Watch
Feedback
Satisfying Water Illusion Tricks w/ Zach King
45
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOnk7Nbqkhs


The name Zach King is unnecessary because it is Zach King’s channel.
In this case: with 45 chars, no need to shorten it
Furniture Optical Illusions - Zach King Magic
45
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FHJ3CMWnVxY


Ditch the name of the channel
STRANDED ON TREASURE ISLAND - Magical Short Film w/ Zach King
61
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4V16xkpb9NE


Without Zach’s name 48 chars.
Resi Oma kocht - Palatschinken
30
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7zQOz6xDjg
“Resi grandmother cooks – Austrian crepes”
Austrian Bacon Dumplings: original recipe
41
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WklbzJNFeHE&t=8s
Communicates clearly what the video is about, but I’m missing the trigger
Yummy cooking traditional Khmer food recipe - Cooking skill
59
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_D_9ihidiLk


Without “- Cooking skill”: 43 chars.
It ticks all the boxes
10 Things You Didn’t Know About HTK - 1 Million Subs Special!
61
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OwwPkB59Og


“HTK” is the channel name.
It would have been perfect without " - 1 million subs special”: 37 chars!
Great FOMO trigger
BEST Crispy Waffles I`ve Ever Had! - Pai’s Lockdown Kitchen
59
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVzpbmS_jfI


Great trigger!
Without “Pai’s “ 53 chars.
Cashew Chicken Thai Recipe - How To Cook Thai Food
50
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DOwMXovr7E


I’m missing a powerful trigger
How to build your swimmming pool - Step by step
47
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8v4XTKVaAHI


Clear and concise, describes the content perfectly.
The trigger could be more clickable.
Build your own swimming pool under $ 5,000 - costs and materials
64
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOPvbyuelm0
Better trigger, but I would place “costs and materials” in the thumbnail
Build a swimming pool for under $3000, not impossible
53
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2MYUSAwmVo
Great title!
Even better trigger than the previous ones.
You have to click on that!
You could make the title shorter by replacing “under” with the less-than character (49 chars).
#397: Hijskraan Chaos op 50 meter [OPDRACHT]
44
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rKr1FrIYXI


“crane chaos at 50 meters [ASSIGNMENT]”
I’m not a fan of the number in the title.
It is a perfect trigger for a vlog
Online olifanten kijken op een speciale safari
46
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O7THVNzBbTY


“Watching elephants online on special safari”.
Title masters at work.
Not surprisingly, it’s a news channel.
The trigger could be stronger, but it invokes curiosity nonetheless.
Building the Perfect Squirrel Proof Bird Feeder
47
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFZFjoX2cGg


I clicked it and watched the whole thing and subscribed.
Is that a good title or not?
Former President George W. Bush Picks Jay Up In A 2013 Ford F150 King Ranch | Jay Leno`s Garage
95
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xwE-n0wpaBw


We can do better.
How about: “George W. Bush drives Jay in 2013 Ford F150 King Ranch” (54 chars).
It’s still long, but beats 95 chars.
I don’t know much about cars, but maybe you can remove some characters from the car model.

Want more video title ideas?
Read my article with video title templates or take a look at the video title generator.
Writing a proper video description is probably the most underutilized SEO technique, I will talk about all the “dirty” tricks in my definitive article about YouTube video descriptions.


If you are serious about YouTube and want to take it to the next level, take a look at my YouTube e-book.
The book takes you step-by-step through the process of starting a YouTube channel.
How to get more views, subscribers, make money with YouTube, go viral ... and much more.
Click here for more information about my YouTube e-book: "What Big Tubers Don't tell you"

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Dexxter Clark
Content creator / YouTuber
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