Brand Glossary Guide: YouTube Annotations

YouTube Annotations Definitions Examples

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How Brands Can Best Use YouTube Annotations

As part of our ongoing YouTube Brand Glossary Series (see last week’s post on “YouTube End Cards“), we’re taking an in-depth look at YouTube’s Annotation feature. YouTube annotations are a powerful way to increase a video’s value to the viewer and, when used properly, can help increase engagement, boost video views, and provide a consistent lead funnel through clickable links embedded in the YouTube video content. By integrating additional information into videos and creating an interactive experience, annotations also encourage viewers to watch each YouTube video longer and/or drive viewer traffic towards external landing pages. 

What Are YouTube Annotations?

YouTube Annotations tutorial

Google’s Creator’s Academy describes YouTube Annotations as “clickable images and text you can add to each of your videos that encourage viewers to take an action at specific time points in your video.” In practice, they appear as text boxes, images, or video previews that pop up while a YouTube video is playing – in some cases, these text boxes or images contain clickable links to videos or to other websites. Unlike YouTube End Cards, YouTube Annotations are visible to viewers on desktop only.

Types of YouTube Annotations

There are several different types of YouTube Annotations that YouTubers and content creators can add to videos. Identifying which annotation style is most effective will help keep audiences engaged for longer and/or drive conversions towards a brand’s landing page or site.

  • Speech Bubble – Speech bubble annotations, which appear, cartoon-like, at the top of each YouTube video, are useful for conveying unspoken information or the thoughts of the YouTuber. Like other annotations, speech bubbles can be linked directly to adjoining YouTube content.
  • Note – A basic way to add information or include a call-to-action (CTA) in YouTube videos, note annotations appear as basic black or white text over a colored background. The message, size, color, placement, and duration of the note can be changed, and notes are linkable to other YouTube videos and pages.
  • Title – Though not linkable to other YouTube content, title annotations can be a useful branding tool and can give viewers an idea about a video’s content. Title options are limited, however, and many experienced YouTubers elect to create a custom title card using graphic design software.
  • Spotlight – Spotlight annotations show a custom message when the viewer scrolls their mouse over a defined area, and YouTube content creators typically use spotlight annotations to create interactive end cards that link to other videos or websites.
  • Label – Much like spotlight annotations, labels show a custom text when the viewer hovers over a defined area; unlike spotlight annotations, label annotations appear below the defined frame and have slightly different configurations.
  • Pause – Less an annotation and more of a playback feature, pause annotations temporarily stop videos for however long the creator chooses. This allows viewers to spend extra time digesting a particular frame or reading an annotated note or speech bubble.

Why YouTubers & Brands Use YouTube Annotations

YouTube Annotations Example

Top YouTuber Channel The Slow Mo Guys partners with brand Tide. Watch to see how Tide leverages YouTube Annotations to promote additional YouTuber content. 

YouTube Annotations are often implemented to increase engagement, either by encouraging viewers to watch related videos, providing additional information for them to explore, and/or including links to the sponsoring brand’s website, merchandise, or other sponsored content that users might enjoy. For brands partnering with YouTube Influencers, YouTube Annotations are valuable opportunities to share brand messaging and/or include a succinct call-to-action (CTA) within sponsored videos.

Annotations are notably effective at integrating CTAs into YouTube videos. By including an eye-catching annotation at the right time, YouTube content creators can increase the likelihood that viewers will “Explore More,” “Buy This Product,” “See Related Videos,” or “Subscribe.” For brands, a strategically placed annotation can earn qualified leads and guarantee increased brand exposure.

Finally, because watch time is an important metric in determining how YouTubes measures (and ranks) a video’s value, creating more ways for viewers to interact with videos can keep people watching longer. Many top YouTubers have developed creative ways to keep audiences engaged with annotations, and YouTube rewards lengthy watch times with higher rankings.

Best Practices For Optimizing YouTube Annotations

Annotations can be used in an endless number of ways. Here are a few top Google tips on how to best use these powerful YouTube video additions.

  • Annotations have the highest click-through-rate (CTR) when they appear at the end of a YouTube video. YouTubers often use spotlight annotations to encourage viewers to see more videos or visit sponsors during the last 15-20 seconds of a video.
  • Creators should avoid placing annotations in the lower third or along the top of the video. These annotations risk being obscured by advertising banners or cropped out when the video is shared on other platforms.
  • Annotations should be strategically placed to avoid obstructing actual video content. The purpose of annotations is to add value to a YouTube video, not detract from the viewer’s experience.
  • To ensure that viewers have time to read annotations and take appropriate actions, video creators should make annotations visible for 10-20 seconds.
  • Overusing annotations can detract from the content and make the video feel spammy. When using annotations, focus on quality over quantity.
  • Annotations that occur at the beginning of a video should open in a new window (to ensure that each video plays long enough to be counted as a “view”) while annotations at the end of a video should open in the same window.
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