referral traffic from youtube annotations

YouTube Marketing with Associated Website Annotations

youtube logo and youtube marketingWhen YouTube released annotations that allow you to link to an associated website, I thought they’d be covered to death across various marketing blogs. Instead, they’ve sort of stayed under the radar.

I think they are a game changer for marketing on YouTube.

Benefits of Associated Website Link Annotations

The two biggest benefits from the associated website annotations are as follows.

  1. Drive increased traffic to your website
  2. Easily make your videos more interactive

Getting closer to a year since their release date, these newer annotations are still barely used. Most channels are not utilizing them at all or perhaps haven’t properly set up their channel to use them. I’ve been playing around with them on one channel I administer for a few months now and have seen promising results.

Website Referral Traffic from YouTube has done this:

referral traffic from youtube annotations

It might not look dramatic, but it’s the first way we’ve found to really move the needle beyond more video views, and it also required relatively little work. Video Views randomly jumped up quite a bit for the month of July, but I certainly think having annotations in place helped funnel them to our website.

This post is not going to get into the Hosted Video vs YouTube debate. This is just a post with some information for people using YouTube as a social channel.


Driving Traffic to Your Website from YouTube

Previously, YouTube would only allow you to put a link to your website in the video description. Simply put the full URL in the description and you get a nice nofollowed link that sends some good traffic your way. The CT rate is quite low and this didn’t help send any traffic your way when the video was viewed on another website via embed or on a social network.

Bust into Competitive SERPs

We all know there are certain queries that always seem to return a YouTube video in the #3 or 4 spot. ‘SEO Company’ is one of them.

SEO Company SERPs

Previously, a high ranking video would basically only be good for brand exposure. The traffic would go to YouTube and very little would make it all the way to your website. Now, you get to use YouTube’s domain strength to help rank for that competitive term and you can actually get a respectable percentage of viewers to visit your website. I’ve seen annotations have a 5%+ CT rate.

Let’s see if this video is using annotations properly to drive maximum traffic. It’s been spammed to the top and will only live there for a short while. Their goal should be to capitalize maximum referral traffic.

SEO Company Video Annotation Fail


Let’s see how Matt Cutts and the Google Webmaster Team are Doing

google youtube referral traffic


Associated Website Linking Best Practices

When create an annotation on your video, it shows up on all platforms that are not mobile. The key here is to realize that it does show up on embedded videos. This means that when you create a link within the video, you need to make sure it makes sense as a destination for people viewing it on all pages.

Example: Product Videos or Demos

Let’s say you create a video for a product on your website. It might seem natural within YouTube to create an annotation that links directly to that product, right? We do want to drive traffic to our product page.

This is not a good idea if you also embed the video on your product page. You don’t want to create a link to the page you are already on. This will be the cause of a bad user experience.

Instead, focus on linking to the relevant category page, brand page or perhaps a similar product but different model/color/size.


If the video is just for YouTube and other social channels, feel free to link your annotations anywhere. If the video is going to be embedded on your own site – think twice about the annotation link.


Using YouTube Annotations Creatively

As I mentioned earlier, this is a relatively underutilized marketing feature and I’ve yet to see many websites or brands utilize it at all. How could a company use these YouTube annotations creatively?

Create a video guide that helps people shop on your website.

On your website, you could create short informative videos that are placed on the landing page. At the end of each video, you could have a few options that helps take the shopper to the next landing page.

Previous annotations allowed viewers to go from video to video. Now we are going from page to page on your own website. I that putting links on top of videos can and has been done. I’m just excited by the fact that it’s now extremely accessible to the average small business owner on the most popular platform in the world.

Create an Annotation for a Specific Audience

reddit logo small alienIf you realize that your video just get embedded on a popular blog or hit the front page of Reddit, be sure to capitalize on that. Create a new annotation that will speak directly to them.

Write a headline and link to content that you know that audience enjoys. Take advantage of the opportunity.


Suggestions For Getting Started with YouTube Annotations

Go into YouTube analytics and add video annotations to your most popular videos first. These videos have the most eyeballs and will deliver the most potential traffic to your website.

youtube analytics most popular

If the views are already coming on your website, perhaps the annotation will help you get another pageview where they will consume another piece of your content or be pushed one step further down your marketing funnel and closer to purchase.


YouTube Annotations Editor

The annotations editor is quite clunky. It’s unfortunate that an obvious feature like copy and paste from one video to the next is not available for annotations.

The good news is YouTube does give you some nice annotation CT data. It’s easy to test copy/color/placement for each annotation.

youtube annotation editor


Timing YouTube Annotations

Annotations are pretty annoying when misused. Make sure they are useful. A useful YouTube annotation… is that possible? I think it is.

Place annotations where they are needed. Look at analytics for your video. If a high percentage of people stop watching your video after 50 seconds, hit them up with a good annotation at the 40 second mark.

when to use youtube annotationsIf your video has nice engagement statistics, I recommend putting your annotations closer to the end of the video. I believe (can’t verify, but have read) that YouTube rewards videos with positive engagement with better placement within the site (search and related videos). It only makes sense. There is no point in them showcasing videos that people only watch for 12 seconds vs a similar video that people watch for the full 3 minutes.


Plan Your Annotations Before Creating Future Videos

You have to create videos with annotations in mind. If you plan it before hand, you can edit in amazing images as opposed to relying on an unappealing (and less effective) text annotation created in YouTube’s editor.

What looks better?


Click to play this YouTube classic.


youtube annotations are ugly

Where on the Screen Should Annotations Go?

Almost anywhere is fine. Don’t put your annotation at the bottom of the screen. Even big brands like Zappos can get it wrong. Try to click it. I dare you.

Zappos messed up twice on this one. They should have edited in a better image or text and they should have had way better placement.

How to Set Up External Linking Annotations to Associated Websites

There are already a few good resources out there. I suggest you find one of these websites if you are looking for a step by step demonstration.


If you like to do things on your own and have a grasp of YouTube, here is the short version of it all.

  1. Verify your Account (with code texted to your phone)
  2. Link Associated Website
  3. Go to Town

Here’s the official link from YouTube help:

That’s it. It’s really easy. It’s free. It makes YouTube video marketing a lot more interesting.


Have you used associated website annotations? Do you know of any brands or channels using them effectively?