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Hashtags vs conventional tags on YouTube

Twitter and Instagram have been using ‘hashtags’ for many years, but surprisingly few people are using them on YouTube, where they can be just as effective. This is because YouTube pre-dated other services with its own simpler tagging system, and many YouTube publishers only use that traditional system. We should all be using both types.

The idea of traditional YouTube tags (like hashtags) is to allow publishers to add some context to their videos which might not otherwise be in the title and description. For example, we might title a video ‘Top tips for installing blue widgets’ to target that search term, but this wouldn’t help Google know that we’re talking about industrial blue widgets, or that our video contains an on-site demonstration. So we might add – amongst others – tags like ‘industrial blue widgets’ and ‘on-site demonstrations’.

Google uses these traditional tags, but it also hides them from public display. The same does not apply to hashtags, which it has increasingly embraced. If we use these – and I tend to bury them down at the end of the description – they can subsequently appear above the title of the video, quite prominently. Not only that, but viewers can click on the hashtag to explore that topic further.

This is not like Instagram though, where it’s seen as quite acceptable to have dozens of hashtags. Using three seems to be a reasonable idea, and it’s best to stick to keywords and categories. Think: what hashtags might people find elsewhere that they might click on as a search? There’s no point in including your company name or brand, for example, unless we’ve got lots of channels, because clicking on that hashtag will send people to what’s effectively just our own channel.

Don’t forget hashtags are only one word, e.g. #BlueWidgets. And one more top tip – ‘geotagging’ videos (adding in the location) will override the hashtags in the display above the title, giving you something which is probably far less useful …so avoid using the location setting.