Using and Optimizing YouTube Video Annotations

In our previous post in this series we took a closer look at  Thumbnail Optimization. Now let's take a closer look at a YouTube unique feature: Video Annotations.


Strategy Overview

  • Use annotations on your videos to increase viewership, engagement and subscribers.

Why It Works

  • Annotations are unique to YouTube they can drive viewers to more content, increase community actions on your videos, and attract new subscribers.

How To Do It

  • Add relevant and helpful annotations to all your videos after upload. Use annotations on archive videos to direct traffic to new initiatives or content.


  • Annotation CTR, Subscribers, Engagement, Views.

Strategy Details

Annotations are clickable text overlays on YouTube videos. Annotations are used to boost engagement, give more information, and aid in navigation. Be inventive! Producers are consistently finding new, creative uses for annotations. 

Common Uses

  • Ask viewers to like, favorite or share a video.Annotation Optimization
  • Ask a specific question to enhance viewer engagement.
  • Make it easy for viewers to subscribe right from your videos.
  • Create a table of contents for long-form videos.
  • Link to related videos or content you reference in the video.
  • Link to other videos in the series.
  • Link to other videos, playlists, channels or full versions of shorter video clips.
  • Make areas of your video clickable and interactive.
  • Highlight your dot com or merchandise store.
  • Link to your social media presence.
  • Direct viewers of older videos to newly uploaded content.
  • Place hidden “Easter eggs” or interactive games in your videos.
  • Add text clarification to a specific part of the video.

Controlling the text, placement, timing and link URLs are all in your hands. Get creative and optimize for the highest engagement!

Best Practices

  • Avoid annotations in the lower third of the video; the advertisement overlay can obscure them.
  • Also avoid annotations along the very top of the frame.
  • Don’t obstruct the actual content. Make sure annotations add value and do not get in the way of the viewing experience.
  • Don’t bombard the viewer. This can feel “spammy” and may have an adverse effect.
  • When appropriate, set annotations to open a new window when clicked. Be careful! Don’t take viewers away from a video too soon.
  • Repeat “subscribe” solicitations and other CTAs at the end of the episode.
  • Annotations at the end of a video should open in the same window.
  • Use your best judgment (and Analytics) to determine the timing, placement, style and number of annotations included in your videos.

Be creative! The annotation is a flexible feature that’s unique to YouTube – and there are still many uses yet to be discovered.

Spotlight Annotations

Most annotation types are self-explanatory. Spotlight annotations stand out because they allow creators to subtly create clickable areas within a video. The text only appears when a viewer hovers over it with the mouse; a light outline shows when the viewer’s not hovering. This is a great way to include unobtrusive but clickable annotations.

When linking to a video that you want to play within its playlist add “&list=playlist ID HERE” to the end of the URL.

InVideo Programming Annotations

Unlike regular annotations, InVideo Programming allows you to promote both your channel or any video on YouTube across all your uploads. Also, InVideo Programming annotations are the only type that currently work on mobile devices. How InVideo Programming works:

  • When promoting videos, pulls in the thumbnail as the annotation and title as text. Videos with optimized thumbnails and metadata perform better.
  • Add a custom message to give better context when promoting a video.
  • Ability to upload a custom, transparent square image to promote your channel. Unsubscribed viewers who hover over the channel image have the ability to subscribe to your channel without interrupting the video.
  • You can promote your channel at the end, a custom time in the middle, or throughout every video.
  • You can promote a video at the end or a custom time in the middle of every video.
  • Only available to channels that are verified and in good standing.

For more information on where to edit InVideo Programming visit the YouTube Help Center.

Example Uses:

  • Promote your most recent upload
  • Promote a tentpole event or collaboration video
  • Promote the first episode in a series
  • Promote your channel with a custom image

In our next post we'll take a closer look at YouTube Channel Optimization.


Post Script: This content originally appeared on the YouTube Playbook - We have included it here as part of this series because we believe it is relevant and adds value to this series, and this series adds value to the playbook. It is not intended to indicate that we are the original author of this specific part of the Video SEO Playbook.... So, yeah, Google please don't sue me. That'd be swell! Thanks.





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