How to Craft Compelling YouTube Titles

When I quit my big media job in April of 2020, I needed to build a new channel and I needed to build it as fast as possible. I\'d built my previous, company-owned channel to 170K subscribers in 2 years. I ended up building the new indie one to over 200K in 9 months. Here\'s what I learned about titles — most recently from Clubhouse.

  • Like YouTube videos, YouTube titles should be as short as they can possibly be but no shorter. Try to keep them from truncating if you can.
  • Keep titles glanceable and incredibly easy to ‘read’ even if someone is scrolling or just glancing across the page.
  • Test your titles with
  • Look away, look back, see how long it takes you parse your title.
  • Make titles share-able. Think how someone would tell a friend about your video. That phrasing could be the best title. “Did you see MrBeast gave away 100 Elon Musk posters?” -> “I gave away 100 Elon Musk Posters”
  • Go into YouTube search, type in the topic of your video. Go into Google search, type in the topic of your video. See what’s ranking. Use that to make your title better.
  • Front-load the keywords if possible (put them first/early) not for SEO (YouTube SEO isn\'t really a thing...) but so that people’s eyes latch on to them. It’s like having a crisp, distinct images in a thumbnail. “Minecraft, but with only one heart.”
  • If the keywords themselves aren’t attention-getting, you can preface them with an exclamation. “Gross! Don’t make this pie!”
  • Titles need to help the thumbnail generate curiosity if they’re going to get the click.
  • Questions work if the answer isn’t simple, obvious, or conventional. “Are you getting too much sleep?”
  • So does hinting at information most people might not know. “Why everyone is wrong about donuts”, “The truth about economy class tickets”
  • You can also introduce doubt, but it can stress people so be careful. “Ford vs. Toyota — Don’t make a mistake!”
  • Plus out your title to stand out. “Canon C70 review” -> “Canon C70 review — 3 weeks on-location!”
  • “— Real XYZ reacts” or just “— XYZ reacts” can entice people to see how someone with presumed expertise views something they care about. “My Cousin Vinny — Real lawyer reacts!”
  • Classics are classics for a reason, especially if you’re targeting YouTube and Google search, and you niche down and over-deliver: “Best iPhone accessories for photographers” “Top 5 Mac accessories for podcasters”
  • If a title isn’t working (you can see real time CTR or lower than average views in real-time, or notice views tanking after bell-notifications wear off) don’t be afraid to change it. You can come up with 3-5 solid variants before you post the video and have them ready to test after the first hour, first 3-6 hours, 6-12 hours. (In combination with cycling thumbnails as well.) Even if it’s just to tweak from initial core audience service to more broad browse/suggested appeal.
  • Like with everything -> Test, iterate, learn, improve, repeat.