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Use YouTube Video Calls-to-Action for Better Results

YouTube Video CTAs-megaphone

You have developed a great video strategy, but are you using calls-to-action (CTAs) in them like you do elsewhere? Adding CTAs to YouTube is a easy process than can yield great benefits, including conversions, subscriptions, likes and shares.

While we would all like to think people will take action on their own, the reality is people need to be told what to do next and preferably why. (Collective sigh.) Luckily, YouTube provides multiple easy ways to do it along with standard production ones you may use.

Before jumping into calls-to-action, you need to do two steps first. First, you need to determine the goal of the specific video and how the CTA can help support that goal. What are you trying to accomplish? If you want more subscribers, does the CTA encourage it? Do you want someone to make a purchase? Does the CTA allow them to click through to make the purchase? Presumably you know the first part since you have a video strategy, but you need to make sure the second part ties into it.

Next, with so many possible types of CTAs available, decide on the style and type(s) that will best support your goal. You want the style of your CTAs to complement your video. Otherwise, it is a jarring experience for the viewer who will quickly exit the video and not take any action. You also want a call-to-action that will bring the desired action and have it placed appropriately in the video. An exaggerated example would be to make a subscription request when you want viewers to purchase a product or service.

Now, let’s discuss some possible calls-to-action to use in your YouTube videos:


Annotations are pop-up messages, not ads, which appear in the video. People can immediately interact with them. Unfortunately, they often cause people to leave the video and can only be linked to other YouTube content. Therefore, do not place them during a vital part of the video. Waiting to use them in an end card may be a better option. However, you must weigh that placement with people’s short attention span. One-third don’t get past the first 30 seconds. YouTube provides more information on creating different annotations and best practices.

Most annotations are self-explanatory, but the spotlight one is a bit different. Spotlight annotations allow you to create subtle clickable areas within a video. The text appears when a viewer hovers over the it but only a light outline appears otherwise.

Call-to-Action Overlay

With an AdWords for TrueView ad, you can create CTA overlays. The overlay appears at the bottom of the player when the video starts and can be closed by the viewer. Share information about the video; promote other videos and websites, etc. When viewers click on the overlay, they are directed to the designated website. The overlays remain on the video until you remove them. They are, however, subject to review via the Google AdWords program.


Descriptions allow you to provide more information about the video and include CTA links. People will not be distracted from the video and naturally want to read more about the video’s content. However, be  very careful with the first couple lines of the description. Keep the YouTube SEO intact because that is what shows up in a YouTube search. YouTube is the second largest search engine so you don’t want to mess that up. For example, you can link to a related blog post, YouTube channel, email subscription. 

End Cards

For the end of the video, create an end card with a call-to-action. You can do something as simple as a screen with a text message or make it interactive with annotations. Use a template to maintain consistent branding. As mentioned earlier, some viewers will have already stopped viewing the video. However, those remaining are more likely to be willing to act on your CTA.

Host / Narrator Mentions

The host or speaker talks directly to the camera to request a specific action. Voiceover can also be done. The downside for this method is you need to stick with one action and the cost of changing it is high. Therefore, choose your CTA carefully.

In-video graphics

You can also include other graphics at key points in the video. For example, have a graphic with a URL landing page URL after your standard opening and then have it appear later.

The types and combinations of YouTube video calls-to-action are numerous. You will need to experiment and test to see what types of CTAs resonate with your audience. Get creative. Make it interactive. Check out brands that are known for great videos for inspiration. Use whatever combination of tactics that will help you further reach your goal but no more. Goals for engagement, subscriptions, purchases, etc. will be reached once you find the find the right combination and balance.


photo credit: floeschie via photopincc

About Jennifer Nash

Jennifer Nash is the owner and president of Living Business, a consulting business that focuses on the intersection of strategy, marketing and operations.