Friday, July 10, 2015

5 Reasons to Use YouTube Cards

Keeping viewers watching your videos on YouTube is imperative, which is why embedded links to your other videos (via annotations) is so important. When YouTube rolled out the new "Card" feature, I was a bit skeptical. Yes, it allowed YouTube link-clicking on mobile devices, but I felt the look and options were a bit restrictive. Was it really any better than the older, more flexible annotation system?

After using YouTube cards for a few months now, I am totally sold. While it does simplify (some may say dumb-down) annotations, there are five huge benefits to this new system that can't be overlooked. Why isn't everyone using them?

1) Cards can be clicked on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. I cannot overstate how important this is. The mobile audience grows daily and if you exclude this ever-expanding portion of your watchers, you will miss out on views. I'm constantly frustrated when I get to the end of someone else's video (on my smartphone) and want to watch more, only to be denied. No amount of mobile device clicking will work on a video annotation. Just add the Card! You don't even have to delete the old annotation, but by neglecting the Card option, clicks to your next video(s) are lost.

2) Cards are super-fast and easy to implement. One thing I've always hated about annotations (and especially end-of-video animated links) was that I had to not only create them in post production, but then go in after the video was live and draw "spotlight" annotations around the video boxes I wanted to link. This takes a lot of time and I really like the speed at which I can implement a Card. Two clicks, select one of your videos and click again. The only thing I wish was all your videos were listed for selection. Right now only a certain number of the most current videos are available and the rest you have to access by pasting a link (why?). Still, it saves a ton of time.

3) Viewers can access all Cards at any time. When you see the encircled lower case "i" in the top right of the screen (just mouse over the video to reveal it), you know there are YouTube Cards to look at. A real plus is you can see all the cards featured in a scrolling list, not just when you set them to pop up as a text suggestion. Listing all links was never an option with annotations and should increase click-throughs, since the viewer may spot something they like, even if they don't watch the whole video. This is doubly important when you realize that typical video annotations occur at the end of your video when most people are gone. Check the audience retention graph in your analytics if you don't know what I'm talking about. 

4) Cards use thumbnails from your videos as picture links. While I admit this is restrictive as to what Cards look like, proper thumbnail creation will help you get clicks inside your video just like they do outside your video. Of course, you need to be a YouTube partner to create custom thumbnails (the only real privilege left to being partner), but it's a worthwhile goal for this very reason.

5) Cards allow easy linking to your website. This is the most custom option of the Card feature, as you can determine what the pop-up text suggestion says, the text under the thumbnail, and the thumbnail itself, which must be uploaded (every time, unfortunately). This a is great way to promote your website or blog and a link of this type should be included in every one of your YouTube videos. Also, be aware that this offsite link must be previously verified in your YouTube settings for it to work (just like it had to be setup for annotations).

I am really surprised when I watch heavily trafficked channels that are ignoring YouTube Cards. Every viewer is important and much of your time as a YouTuber is spent getting people to keep watching. Cards help a lot with this goal, especially on mobile devices where annotations are invisible/useless. Cards are still imperfect (that five Card limit needs to be lifted), but so beneficial, it should be a mandatory part of any YouTuber's endgame.

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