YouTube is an attractive platform for video marketers. It has a massive built-in audience and it's designed to help viewers discover content. However, the allure of the platform is hampered by the fact that ultimately YouTube is designed to keep viewers watching any video, not just your videos.

So if you want to use organic YouTube videos for marketing, it helps to use whatever tools you can to help keep your audience engaged with the content you want them to see. An important tool for this was Annotations, clickable links that added interactivity to videos. This was an awesome feature, but had some flaws (like not working on mobile) so YouTube killed them last spring.

Google has now fully replaced Annotations with two lesser known tools: Cards and End Screens. These tools go way beyond their predecessor's functionality and finally work on mobile. You can use these tools to add interactive elements to your video and build clear pathways to action for your viewers.

YouTube Cards and End Screens are pretty easy to use, but it can be tricky to connect the dots between their functionality and where they fit into your content marketing strategy. Let's go over both features and talk about how they work and what they do.

YouTube Cards

Cards live in a sidebar on the right of your video and you can decide when they show up. Like we said earlier, they show up on mobile and they even appear on TrueView ads if you want. You build cards by heading to the YouTube Video Manager and clicking edit on your video.

From there, you can add up to five cards per video and YouTube has five different types of cards you can use. (You can use a card type more than once.)


Keep viewers engaged wih a Video or Playlist card

What it is:
Send people to a specific video or playlist using this card. You can choose content from your channel, or any other channel via a url.

Why it's useful:
If your video is an introduction or teaser for a longer series or category you can easily let your audience jump to that content. It can also function as a way to keep your audience on your channel instead of letting YouTube direct your audience to "related" content that isn't your own.


Promote connected accounts with a Channel Card

What it is:
A direct link to a specific channel (yours or someone else's).

Why it's useful:
For larger campaigns or series, it can be helpful to set up a dedicated sub-channel to host your content. You can use this card to connect relevant content on your main channel to other accounts you manage.


Fundraise using a Donation Card

What it is:
Feature any YouTube approved nonprofit organization to gather donations.

Why it's useful:
If you're making content for an approved organization (most major 501 (c)3 nonprofits are included) you can gather donations right from your video. Even if you're not directly affiliated with a charity this is a great tool to directly connect your brand to a relevant organization and reinforce your company's values.


Take a short survey with a Poll Card

What it is:
Add a simple poll to your video to engage directly with your audience.

Why it's useful:
Polls are a great way to add interactivity to pre-recorded video. Polls can be a part of your community management strategy and encourage discussions in the comments or influence future content to keep your audience excited for your next video.


Send viewers to your site with a Link Card

What it is:
Add a link to an associated website, an approved crowdfunding site, or an approved merchandise retailer.

Why it's useful:
This is the most powerful card of the 5. You can link directly to content on your website like a blog post, form, or even a downloadable. The caveat is that your channel must be part of the YouTube Partner Program in order to get access to this card. YouTube just updated their eligibility requirements, click here for more information.

To see how your cards are performing, YouTube has a dedicated Cards Report in their channel analytics tools. Learn more here.

End Screens

Besides Cards, you can also add interactivity to your content with End Screens. End Screens have similar functionality to cards, but are specifically designed to fit (as you'd expect) at the end of your videos. They show up during that last 5 to 20 seconds of a video and are only enabled on videos that are longer than 25 seconds.

The basics:
An end screen can have up to four elements. Elements are thumbnails or icons that expand to show more information. The four kinds of end screens are Video or Playlist, Subscribe, Link to Approved Website, and Channel. Like with cards, your channel must be a YouTube partner to make use of the link element.


Each element looks and behaves similarly to their card counterparts. In the editor, YouTube provides a selection of preset templates with different combinations of elements. You can also create your own layout.

Why they're useful:
End Screens are preferable to Cards in some situations because they're at the end of your content and don't risk distracting your viewers like a Card might. However, this benefit requires that your audience gets all the way to the end. There are also some circumstances where End Screens won't show up (i.e. playing in background mode, displayed on a very small screen). For these reasons, you should avoid putting critical information in an End Screen and use a Card instead.

Wrap up

YouTube is designed to keep people engaged on the platform, but not necessarily your content.

Use these tools to hold your audience's attention and lead them towards relevant content from your brand (even your own website).

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