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Did We Clickbait YouTube? [An Unintentional Case Study]
One of the videos on our VidIQ YouTube channel recently cracked 2.5M views, and usually, that would be a huge cause for a celebration, but on this occasion, I'm not so sure. There are two fundamental questions that are wrestling with my conscience. Did I clickbait the YouTube community? And if I did, why is YouTube rewarding me for this? Allow me to explain.
Welcome to VidIQ, the YouTube tool, channel and blog that educates you on your YouTube journey. Of course, as video creators ourselves, we are also learning with every single video that we publish, and this particular one raised some very interesting moral questions.
It was never my intention to clickbait people into watching the video that now has over 2.5M views, but the general response and reaction to the video seems to be just that. Just to be clear, we never profit from any of our videos on YouTube. We don't monetize content here at VidIQ so there was never a financial aspect involved in everything that I'm about to tell you.
Clickbaiting YouTube? The Back Story
Let me explain. Say hello to the new YouTube Creator Studio, the video management and analytics suite we will all be using in 2020 whether we like it or not. The classic Creator Studio's days are very much numbered.
Now, when you think about this, it is a monumental shift for millions of video creators on YouTube. They've all been used to working with YouTube in a certain way for almost a decade, and now all of that is changing, and that creates a unique and lucrative opportunity for YouTube growth channels such as ourselves. We've capitalized on that with videos about how to delete a YouTube video, how to add subtitles to your videos, how to create a playlist, how to hide your subscriber count, etc.
Thanks to the new Creator Studio, the way you do a lot of things you’ve always done on YouTube has completely changed, and throughout 2019 we systematically worked our way through a big list of beginner's guides for the new YouTube Creator Studio, and you can see the results. VidIQ's tutorials on these topics have positioned themselves at the very top of the search rankings on the platform.
Now as of time of recording, both the classic Creator Studio and new Creator Studio can be accessed by video creators, but when YouTube turn off access to the Creator Studio, all of those old tutorials on the classic studio will be obsolete, leaving our new studio tutorials ready to clean up.
We've already made the content, and we're well-positioned on YouTube so when it turns off the old studio, we hope to do even better, and we're hoping that YouTube is going keep this studio for years to come which means that our videos on these topics could stay at the top of the search rankings for years. That’s classic evergreen content, and this is a very rare and unique opportunity for us because how often does evergreen content suddenly become obsolete?
How often do you have the opportunity to create dozens of evergreen pieces of video to replace what was there before? We've done a detailed video on this topic and our success which you can check out here.
The Video That Went Unintentionally Viral on YouTube
One of those videos in that series was this:
Now, the video itself goes on for a couple of minutes about some fairly innocuous stuff about video formats, but it’s a single letter in the title of that video that has caused all of this success and commotion.
This video is titled ‘How to Download a YouTube video 2019: New Method’ because it shows you how to download a video from your YouTube channel and also explains how you can download any video from YouTube to watch offline on the YouTube mobile app.
However, and I think we can all agree on this, when people search for ‘how to download a YouTube video’, they don't really want to know how to do either of those things I taught in that tutorial. They want to know how to download a video from YouTube to use however they want, which is all well and good, except it's against YouTube's terms of service. Section 5B of the YouTube terms of service states the following:
Content is provided to you as is. You may access content for your information and personal use solely as intended through the provided functionality of the service and as permitted under these terms of service. You shall not download any content unless you see a download or similar link displayed by YouTube on the service for that content.
So unless you're using the download link in the YouTube Creator Studio or the download link from the YouTube premium service on the YouTube mobile app, you're trying to download YouTube videos in a way you're not supposed to do. And yet you're still searching for that solution on YouTube……
So what we have here is a disconnect between the value that's promised in the title of the video and the expectation of the viewer, and boy has this video paid for it in the comments. The video has over 700 comments now that mostly accuse us of clickbait, misleading the viewer into thinking we would show them how to download any video from the YouTube platform for free to use as they please.
That's the expectation, but we already know that expectation is against the terms of service, and it could be argued that it's also against YouTube community guidelines as well. Effectively, instructional theft.
But when you think about it from a certain point of view, we're doing YouTube a favor. We're showing people how to use YouTube's tools to legitimately download videos off YouTube. It's nothing illicit, illegal, or against terms of service. We are helping both viewers and YouTube, right? All of which brings us back to this single letter that in the context of downloading YouTube videos commonly refers to doing it the wrong way, whereas our video educates people on how to download a YouTube video the right way.
How the Video Title Got us into Trouble With YouTube
Now, it's not our fault that the majority of people searching for how to download a YouTube video are doing it with these ulterior motives in mind. That search term, that title shouldn't be forbidden, especially if we're doing it for the right reasons. I mean, if anything we're reclaiming this title for the benefit of YouTube.
And this is where I'm really wrestling with my conscience, is the video title misleading, is it clickbait? Yes, absolutely I agree that you could argue that the title of this video should be how to download your YouTube video, but that's why I included that little snippet of information that you can download any YouTube video if you have the YouTube premium service, and who hasn't done that in their own videos to allow them to be a little more broad and creative with their titles?
But on the flip side of the argument, viewers know what they're searching for when they want to download a YouTube video, and I know what I'm doing when I put a title like that. I'm trying to reach a much wider audience than the target audience my video might be intended for.
I keep having this argument in my head, and then I go back to the fundamental content of the video which does tell you how to download a video from YouTube. In hindsight, what I should've done to justify the title ‘how to download a YouTube video’ is explain the terms of service which only allow you to download a YouTube video with these tools from YouTube, but as you all know, hindsight is a wonderful thing for a video creator.
I have tried to fix this in the video by including more details in the video description and confirming in a pinned comment that the terms of service do not allow you to download any video you want in the way you're trying to do it because you've used the search term.
I had no idea how successful this video would end up being. As with all of the new Creator Studio beginner's guide tutorials we've made in this series, the video started off modestly, but momentum began to build and build some more and continue to build more so than any other video in the beginner guide series.
This is evergreen content in action and at its finest, and now incredibly, six months after the video was published it gets more than 10,000 views per day. I think it's important to reiterate at this point, clickbait or not, we have not monetized the content to profit from it, but I know that none of what I've just told you right now has really sunk in, has it?
All you're interested in is what happened here and here. Well, I'll tell you exactly what happened. YouTube took the video down. Yep, for many of you who believe our video is clickbait, here is your vindication. The video was removed because it violated YouTube's ‘Harmful and Dangerous’ policy, and the vidIQ channel was issued with a community guideline warning. What that basically means is that if you do something like this again, the channel receives an official community guideline strike and is restricted from posting content for a period of time.
Now, we can only assume that one of the 8,400 people who dislike this video reported it to YouTube which is well within their right, but you know what's also within our rights? To appeal that decision and we won.
So at this point, I am thinking we have vindication from YouTube that the video isn't clickbait since we won an appeal, and then the video got taken down again. The second time this happened, it seemed pretty obvious that YouTube had done a mass purge on this topic to get rid of all of the videos that were instructing users on how to break terms of service because the videos that are left in this search term suffer from the same problem as us.
All with very high dislike ratios, likely because the content educates viewers on what exactly they are allowed to do as opposed to showing viewers what they want to do, which by now we all know is against the terms of service.
__Oh, and of course we appealed the decision and won again. __
Do Clickbait Videos Attract More Views on YouTube?
All right, let's shift the focus a little bit now and let's say for argument's sake that this is deemed a clickbait video. My question now to YouTube and all of you is why is this video so successful? And does it support the notion that clickbait gets you more views on videos?
Let's take a look at the metrics. As you've already seen, the momentum of this video has been phenomenal, and that is caused by an impressive click-through rate of 13.3%. YouTube says that their typical click-through rate is between 2 and 10% so we're punching above our weight there.
However, we are already aware of the poor likes to dislikes ratio, and that would seem to suggest that it does not matter what type of engagement you get, just so long as you get some. It would also suggest that likes and dislikes metrics have little to no influence on the success of a video.
Then there is audience retention and average view duration. At 34% and 47 seconds respectively, these are numbers that defy the notion that more Watch Time and higher audience retention are key to a successful video.
I did have a very intentional strategy with this video and all of the beginner's guides that we do, and that is to frontload all of the valuable information because people are essentially searching for an answer to a question and I want to give it to them as soon as possible without all the fluff. The details come afterward, and although that does buck the trend of trying to keep people watching as much of your content as long as possible, for educational content, that does seem to work.
But of course, like a lot of things on YouTube, it all depends on what your audience wants, and for many types of video content, they want to watch a story. ‘How to download a YouTube video’ isn't necessarily a story that needs 20 minutes to be told.
So in summary, the majority of the viewers hate the video, and on average they watch it for just 47 seconds, and yet YouTube continues to pump more and more impressions into the video, driving it up to the top of the search rankings where it gets most of its traffic. Is clickbait the key to YouTube success? Is this the only metric that really matters on YouTube? I think you're expecting an answer here, and to be honest, I haven't got one. I'm still trying to work out if this video's actually clickbait or not.
Our mission here at VidIQ is to educate you on your YouTube journey, and whilst doing that, we also educate ourselves with the wonderful explorations into how YouTube works, and this video in particular certainly piqued my interest, and I hope this little story interested you.
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