YouTube Video Optimization (why it drives me crazy)

YouTube video optimization is a nasty beast. Sometimes, when I work sincerely hard on something, it goes nowhere. See: getting my shit together. Other times, I completely slack and somehow knock it out of the park. I’m left baffled and confused. That happened with yesterday’s video. Imagine my delight.

YouTube Video Optimization (and why it drives me crazy) / Michael Noker / A look at one of my best-performing YouTube videos to date, why it performed particularly well, why I absolutely hated it, why this might drive me insane, and what other comedy channels can learn about YouTube video optimization from it.

It started with a stand-up routine

For those of you who don’t know, I perform stand-up comedy sometimes. Meaning I performed at an open mic like three times last year and haven’t done it since.

But it was time to change that! It was time to get more social and meet some new people in El Paso!

Extrovert! Yay!

So I planned on attending an open mic on Tuesday.

Now, of course, I didn’t actually go, because I can’t follow through with anything that I start (you should see how many times over the course of writing this post that I walked away mid sen

But I did jot down some notes for a routine. I still have a weird draft text message to myself that says, “egg in crossroads, getting a ride home, I’m gay.”


Then I needed a video

I know you’re surprised by this plot twist.

Basically, one of my jokes was along the lines of being not-actually-talented, but being super-inspired by one of your hyper-talented friends.

You know: the kind of person who’s so good at what they do that you’re not sure if you want to marry them, be them, or kill and eat them.

So you do what any normal person would do and try to pick their brains for little nuggets of knowledge that will somehow inspire you to greatness.

Where do you find your inspiration? How do you handle your SEO? What does your editing process look like? Which foods are you allergic to and where are your phone lines located?

(Hi, youth of America. Phone lines were what existed before 2004 and were the set-up of literally every horror movie ever.)

Let’s put it in video form!

The concept is hilarious, but it was better suited to stand-up. To fit it to YouTube, I made it like an interview.

Why am I explaining this?

A video is worth a million words:


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What do you think? Did you like it? If you did, then you’re in opposition with me. But you’re in agreement with damn near everybody else.

(I say damn near because one person helpfully pointed out that I was awkward and shy.)

I honestly gave up halfway through editing this video. While I could have made it better, editing two of me means editing twice the level of appalling stupidity and I didn’t have all day.

But it worked. It’s gotten several tweets, a couple Facebook shares, lots of likes, and (of course) views despite me making almost no promotional efforts.

For some reason, it works. And that pisses me off because it was half-assed.

Why it worked (kind of)

Someone on Reddit very helpfully boiled down why it did well. So I guess here’s the secret to making a good video:

This video NAILS the “intentionally bad”/”so awkward it’s good” vibe. It’s not just the sound; it’s not just the color grading; it’s not just all of that…it’s the cadence of the interview itself (like the interruption…just genius…the awkwardness of the questions…the “reveal” at the end of you actually being the same person [and not just acting like two separate people]).

For a video like this, I think that having the videography and audio being better would possibly have detracted from the overall effect.

the only thing i hate about this is how effectively you reverse psychology’d me into checking out the rest of the channel and subscribing, haha


So there’s a creator secret revealed for you: sometimes, you will work on a video for 18 hours and watch it flop. Other times, you’re going to give up on a video that you hate, say fuck it, post it online, and watch it bring in three new subscribers.

And no, it’s never going to get less infuriating.

But it does give us some insights into YouTube video optimization: namely, the things that help a video perform well, even when it’s subpar.

YouTube Video Optimization: How to promote a comedy video

First, let’s look at everything outside the actual content of this video.

It has a relatively intriguing thumbnail and title. “How to be a successful YouTuber” is a strong title. It has appeal and generates curiosity. Both creators and viewers want this information. So it’ll get clicks. Plus, that thumbnail though.

Clicks are, of course, important. It’s why clickbait titles exist and why every big YouTuber keeps making ridiculous fucking faces in their thumbnails. Not only is it helpful, but also it’s taught specifically as a skill in every creator boot camp ever.

Wrap your mind around that.

The title is also fairly good for SEO. People search for the information I promised.


The tags and description were fairly standard. I tried to tag it with relevant keywords (from YouTube’s search recommendations) and work the keywords into the description accordingly, as always. Further, I transcribed it, since I like my deaf viewers to be able to watch and enjoy my content without having to read my lips.


But YouTube video optimization doesn’t end here. YouTube video optimization means making the content worth sharing and promoting.

Of course, the content itself is bad, but it’s so bad it’s good. Cool.

Finally, this video has some other advantages that should help keep it ranked in search:

First, I blogged about it here. YouTube video optimization includes things that happen outside YouTube, like embeds. I also posted it on my Tumblr page, where I generally post and tag all my videos. Further, I put it on Niume and pinned it on Pinterest because I’m a social media addict.

Want it in bullet form?

  • Tag, title, and thumbnail appropriately
  • Work tags into your description
  • Transcribe your video
  • Share it everywhere that’s relevant
  • Get it embedded on a blog (or at least Tumblr)
  • Make it good or so bad it’s good

And that’s it. That’s how you optimize a YouTube video.

You’re welcome.

Want more? Make sure you also check out my guide for starting a social media career

3 comments on “YouTube Video Optimization (why it drives me crazy)”

  1. Patrick Cleary Reply

    Oh, this is 100% everything about my channel. I can put up literally anything about my hair and it will gain 10X the views of anything I put effort into. I really think that at least 1/3 of the reason I keep my hair long is that my channel would stop getting subscribers if I had it short. Sad.

    • Michael Noker Reply

      Sometimes I wonder if this situation stops happening as you become a better creator. Like, is there a level you reach as a creator after which something completely off-brand and terrible doesn’t knock your typical content out of the park anymore?

  2. Patrick Cleary Reply

    I’m sure there is that threshold…but I suspect it’s a law of averages. Instead of one thing getting a big rise in views, it’s just that everything is so well-viewed that it all washes out in the end.

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