7 Creative Ways to use YouTube Annotations

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YouTube annotations are a great way to achieve a variety of goals within your videos beyond just sending people back to your website. If you want to really ensure that your videos keep viewers hooked, drive traffic to your website, and turn into business leads, here are seven creative ways to use YouTube annotations to do so.

Keep viewers tuned in to your videos.

Statistics have shown that you can expect to lose 20% of your audience within the first 10 seconds of video playback. Drop-off continues at a rate of 33% by 30 seconds and 44% by 60 seconds. Of course, benchmark statistics aren’t applicable to every video. To find out what your drop-off rates are, look at your top video’s audience retention statistics to see how long you are keeping your audience.

YouTube Analytics Viewer Duration

Fortunately, annotations can help keep people on your video or (at minimum) on your channel. Here are a few different ways to use them to keep your viewers tuned in.

1. Let viewers skip ahead.

It’s not always possible to create a 30 second video that encompasses the entirety of your message. But it is possible to let your viewers turn a two-minute video into a much shorter one without leaving.

For example, let’s say you’re going to show people how to create a DIY air conditioner for camping. The video has three parts – how it works, what tools and supplies you’ll need, and how to put it together. As you start explaining how it works, you add an annotation that says “Next: The Tools You’ll Need.” As you start showing the tools and supplies, you add an annotation that says “Next: How to Put It Together.”

By doing this, you give viewers the chance to effectively “scan the headlines” and get to exactly what they want without getting distracted or looking for another video that will more concisely cover the topic. At the same time, people who want to see everything will be able to. You score a win for both audiences!

Here’s a great example of this technique in action…

2. Show viewers related videos throughout.

Have you ever started to watch a video and realized you meant to look for something else? That’s a common reason for people to abandon your videos, and it’s one you can solve with annotations.

For example, let’s say you’re going to teach people how to tie a necktie with the Eldredge knot. But you know that some of your viewers will realize when they see it that they would rather do a Windsor knot. No problem. Shortly after you’ve shown what a Eldredge knot looks like, you add an annotation that says “Looking for a Windsor knot?”

By doing this, you give viewers who might have stumbled onto the wrong video to find the right one on your channel, instead of searching for another from someone else’s channel. This keeps them with your brand!

3. Create your own suggested videos at the end.

Even if you have a few other videos on your YouTube channel, YouTube might not always choose them at the end for the suggested videos grid. While you can share your YouTube video link with a ?rel=0 at the end in an attempt to hide those, or embed your video on your website with suggested videos disabled, viewers will still see them on YouTube itself. So instead, why not create your own suggested videos?

To do this, you’ll need thumbnails from the videos you want to suggest, and you’ll want to place those thumbnails on an image that is the same resolution as your video. Add that image to the end of your video, and then in YouTube, use the spotlight annotation to link each of the thumbnails to the corresponding videos on YouTube.

The result? Custom picked suggested videos at the end of each of your videos that take people to more of your videos. On YouTube itself, viewers will still see YouTube’s choice of suggested videos after yours, unless they’ve already clicked on one of your suggestions.

Create calls to action at the right times.

As mentioned before, you can’t guarantee that your audience will still be watching by the end of your video, which is why you can’t rely on a call to action slide at the very end. Annotations allow you to add the right calls to action at the right times through the video. Here are a few calls to action to try (and when).

4. The “learn more” call to action.

When people are watching a video, they may want to continue learning about your video’s content, but may not have the time to do it through video. Or maybe they would prefer to read more instead. Adding a learn more annotation that links back to your website and the content your video covers could turn a video abandon into new business.

5. The “sign up” call to action.

On the other hand, if someone does make it to the end of your video, they are going to want more. If you don’t have an official opt-in, you can always use this point to ask viewers to subscribe to your YouTube channel. But if you do have an opt-in, getting your viewer back to your website to subscribe or contact you for more information is key. Use an annotation that links to your opt-in or contact form to turn viewers into true leads.

Put viewers in control.

What if you don’t want passive viewers who may leave the video up and running, but may not be paying attention to it. You want active viewers who are going to watch every moment of your video. You can use annotations to give viewers control of their video-watching destiny. Here are few ideas to try.

6. Let your viewers answer questions.

Let’s say that you are creating a product demo. Instead of running through the product’s standard features, start out by asking the viewer what they need the most help with. Put a few answers on a stationary image, and using the spotlight annotation, link each answer to a different section of the video.

If they don’t make a choice, then they get taken through the demo as usual. But if they do, they will get taken to a specific part of the demo that helps with their pain points. At the end of each portion of the demo, allow the viewer to choose another pain point to address, or give them another annotation that allows them to either sign up for a free trial or contact you for more information.

7. Let your viewers choose their own adventure.

Choose your own adventure books are always popular with kids, and they can help your video viewers get excited too. If you can think of a creative way to put people in control of the outcome of the video, then they are that much more likely to finish it. As an added bonus, thinking of different outcomes for your videos is going to help you come up with even more video content ideas!

Here’s a great example of annotations that let viewers choose their own ending for the video…

Annotations in Action

Ready to see some more great annotations in action? Here’s a YouTube Spotlight playlist of how video creators have put annotations to use in a variety of ways, from product demos to fun interactive videos.

Take the above ideas suggested, combine them with the creativity of the annotations in this playlist, and see what kind of viewer engagement you can get with your YouTube videos!

Learn More

Last, but not least, here are some informative YouTube help articles all about annotations and creative ways to use them.

  • YouTube Annotations Playbook – A visual guide to annotations, how to create them, and some useful examples.
  • Create and Edit Annotations – A basic guide to setting up annotations on your videos.
  • Advanced Tips for Annotations – Specific tips on annotations that viewers like (and don’t), usage and formatting, relevancy, link annotations, and text annotations.
  • Associated Website Annotations – If you want to link to your website with annotations, here’s a guide on how to set up your website as an associated website for your YouTube channel.
  • Merch Annotations – Promote licensed merchandise on your videos using annotations from approved retailers listed on this page.
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  • Erik

    Great article but to bad Annotations don’t work in the Viewbix player!