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[New Study] Which Keywords Drive Most YouTube Views?

Pew Research's YouTube Deep Dive Shows Power of Power Keywords

YouTube is perhaps the best-kept secret in modern digital marketing.

Outside of television, in its various forms, YouTube rules the roost for online video consumption.

Globally, YouTube is responsible for 11.4% of total internet data consumption, second only to Netflix, which hoovers up 15% of the web.

However, despite this, YouTube is maybe the one social channel which most marketers both:

  1. Understand the least
  2. Get the most underwhelming results on

Millions of businesses, brands and agencies drive OK results across Facebook, Insta, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. while YouTube, which probably dominates all combined for video consumption, remains somewhat of an enigma.

YouTube is an environment where ‘amateurs’ dominate ‘professional’ marketers most days of the week.

However, a new in-depth research paper from the Pew Research Centre may go some way to helping marketers readdress the balance on YouTube.

Unlocking some of YouTube’s secret sauce, in terms of popular topics, themes and even keyword analysis, both broadly and by vertical.

Learning From YouTube’s Big Hitters

Pew Research Centre analysed every video on YouTube created by high-subscriber channels in the first week of 2019.

For this study, a high-subscriber channel is defined as one with at least 250,000 subscribers. There are around 45,000 channels with that many subscribers.

In all, this totalled 48,486 hours of YouTube content that were viewed over 14.2 billion times in total during the first seven days in which they were posted.

According to the Economist, habit-forming plays a large part in successful content marketing, and YouTube is no exception.

Pew discovered that 70% of the videos posted in the study window came from just 10% of channels.

Rather than hoping for runaway viral success, the most successful channels turn out YouTube video content on a regular schedule.

Something which YouTube generally tends to reward, since, like Facebook, it favours loyalty.

Whether on YouTube or Facebook, internal algorithms favour video producers who create video that people proactively seek out, by using Search or going directly to a channel or page. Likewise, repeat viewership matters.

Unlike Facebook, YouTube skews to favour long-form video, with the average video from high performing channels being about 12 minutes long. 

Facebook recently updated its video rankings in May to favour longer-form video, of three minutes plus, but it still lags YouTube by some distance on this front.

Successful Video Keywords, Topics & Themes

Specific video title keywords were associated with increased view counts. 

An analysis of the titles of English-language videos finds that certain keywords were associated with much higher view counts relative to other videos, over the course of the study period.

Some of these point to the platform’s orientation toward entertainment, but some are also vertical-specific.

For instance, videos mentioning words like “Fortnite,” “prank” or “worst” received more than five times as many views at the median as videos not mentioning those words.

Others were more substantive in nature.

For example, the use of the word “Trump” in video titles was associated with a significant increase in median views among videos about American current events or politics.

Likewise, in areas like creativity, skills or learning, keywords such as “Easy”, “DIY” or “Kid” were associated with increased median views.

Pew Research Center narrowed down a list of 20 keywords in YouTube video titles that are associated with the most significant increase in median views.

Here are the top 20 keywords in order:

  1. Fortnite
  2. ASMR
  3. Slime
  4. Rainbow
  5. Prank
  6. Worst
  7. NFL
  8. Makeup
  9. Moment
  10. Wrong
  11. Eating
  12. PubG
  13. NBA
  14. Ultimate
  15. Hack
  16. FIFA
  17. Player
  18. Mystery
  19. Insane
  20. Roblox

A lot of good marketing videos never see the light of day on YouTube because many labour under the false impression that good content is enough.

It’s not.

There is too much content on the platform nowadays, with 82.2 years of new video apparently added daily.

Amplifying videos, or brand, well on YouTube, without resorting to ads, tends to be a fusion of search engine optimisation (SEO), content marketing and community management.

And, just like with SEO, keyword research and smart copywriting also play their part, as Pew’s data clearly demonstrates.

Check out the complete report now.


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