Content Marketing, Guest Posts

Why YouTube Annotations Can Make the Difference Between Viral and Lame

Guest post by Andy Harvard, a Marketing Executive at Skeleton Productions, a UK based Internet video production company.

YouTube Annotations have always been a hard tool to grasp for both user and viewer. In the early days,  YouTube users sometimes used Annotation to spam their viewers.

These Annotations were never ‘cool’ or user friendly, they were always gaudy, uninviting and looked very unprofessional, so you can imagine my surprise when YouTube Annotations suddenly became useful.

Why We Used To Hate Annotations

It wasn’t just the look of Annotations that made viewers want to run as far away Internet video as possible, it was the general practicality of Annotations. YouTube Annotations no matter how honest or professional they were, never looked trustworthy. They always looked out of place and made viewers felt a tad uncomfortable that their viewing experience was being rudely interrupted.

YouTube has always been a site full of great ways to gain quick SEO value by using Tags, Descriptions, Titles and Closed Captions. Therefore many users had hoped Annotations would only add to the SEO value YouTube offers, but unfortunately Annotations never carried any SEO value at all. You couldn’t even include a clickable URL to help increase traffic to your website. You could only include video URLs, which may be handy, but that would only keep viewers on YouTube longer and keep them off your actual website.

The biggest problem with Annotations was that no one had come up with a clever way of using them, no one had thought of a way to make them look professional or make them useful to users and viewers alike, until now.

Why The ‘New’ Look Rocks

YouTube hasn’t issued any changes to their Annotations, in fact their look and use is still the same. However, YouTube users have smartened up and changed the Annotations game for themselves.

Many users have taken to using the clickable video URL YouTube allows, to make their videos look slick, professional and a great way to showing off more of their impressive content.

Here’s a look at what I’m talking about:

Forward to 1:25 (you’re welcome Scott Monty)

Or this one: (Fast forward to 1:51)

Companies of all sizes are incorporating this new YouTube convention into their videos. This technique is a simple case of putting other video content into another video in the editing stage (before YouTube upload), then making use of the video URL hyperlink to enclose it (once uploaded to YouTube). It’s a very simple and effective way to make your video content look sharp to your viewing audience.

Annotations Make Video Interactive

This new video convention hasn’t just stopped at making Internet videos ‘look’ better. It’s created perhaps the most engaging style of video ever made – interactive video.

This impressive way of using the video URL hyperlink has paved the way for a broad new spectrum of Internet video, in particular two key genres; interactive videos and video games.

Let’s take a look at an interactive video:

The user experience an interactive video provides is unlike any other. Getting viewers to actively interact with your content and enjoy the material on display can be a fantastic way to build brand awareness. It certainly helps to make your video content stand out from the crowd.

Annotations Can Turn Video Into ‘Video Games’

You’ve all heard of video games, but perhaps not quite like this. The engagement an interactive video provides is great, so you can imagine how much better creating an interactive video game could be. The World Wide Web is full of users playing games online, and now there’s a way you can get users interacting with your video content in a similarly engaging way.

If you thought Sesame Street was a blast from the best, take a peek at this:

Hopefully you’ll have come back to this article, but I can’t blame you for getting lost in the video game magic (in a way if you have got sidetracked it proves my point). By now you will have definitely seen the power YouTube users are generating from their content by taking this innovative direction on YouTube Annotations.

Ironically, in some of those video examples you will have seen the pesky issues of the old Annotations creeping in (some users just can’t leave well enough alone), but it’s undeniable that YouTube users are creating cool, effective and furthermore innovative video content, by using the basic uses of video Annotations.

What Does This All Mean?

Depending if you’re an everyday YouTube user, a marketing executive, a blogger, an advertising agent, or a small business owner etc, you may have different views on this brave new world of YouTube Annotations. There are definitely some amazing new ways to use Annotations.

How can your company use YouTube Annotations to make a difference? Best idea wins a copy of The NOW Revolution!

Facebook Comments


  1. MNieweglowski says

    I also recommend to check out this highly acclaimed social campaign – Choose A Different Ending – which was carried out 2 years ago by UK’s Metropolitan Police. It was really interactive project possessing a educational spirit

  2. DianeBrogan says

    @AskAaronLee Good day sir. The sun is shining on my side of the world. It’s going to be a great day.

  3. philsimon says

    Interesting post…

    Google has to monetize the different planks of its platform. I have little doubt that annotations annoy many people. Perhaps it will roll out a paid “non-annotation” service for free in the future–or sell companies a service that lets them insert their own.

    We’re not finished by any stretch seeing tweaks to YouTube.

  4. phylliskhare says

    Hey – great article – but you missed two of the best uses of annotations — Truth or Fail is a classic on YouTube by the vlogbrothers and Mystery Guitar Man is a master of annotation.

  5. amymstewart says

    I wish there was like…a bar above the actual video for this stuff so it doesn’t interfere with the actual content. I hate having to x out of a bunch of little windows in order to see the full video (e.g. any video by Tobuscus), but other than that, I think it very useful and applicable. The Focus Doug video was a great example b/c that campaign is amusing, but only if you’ve been following it the entire time. Nice idea to have the wth link.

  6. says

    I use YouTube annotations to increase subscribers to my channel. But I must confess, I still find them annoying when I watch other YouTuber’s vids. Adding the call to action overlay has worked for me in the past as well. Thanks for the ideas.

  7. KeithDobie says

    @intersection1 Interesting article, thx. I notice that ReelSEO uses that technique for their YouTube posts, wasn’t sure how they did it.

  8. Christine Loughead says

    the first video is now marked private , and the sesame street videos interactive link isnt working anymore

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *