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Google’s suggested clips are featured snippets containing the thumbnail, title and link to a YouTube video that answers the user’s question, as well as a timestamp to the section of the video that answers the user’s question.

In case you haven’t seen one yet, here’s what it looks like in Google search results:

Suggested clip for how to fix bike tire

Clicking the title or link of the suggested clip sends users to the video’s YouTube page. Clicking the video thumbnail opens the video in the search results page.

Here’s the video when you click on the thumbnail:

Suggested clip video playing in SERP

If you look at the time in the bottom left, you’ll see that Google automatically starts the video at the time suggested in the featured snippet:

Suggested clip timestamp on video in SERP

One thing worth noting here is while the start time is correct, the grey bar representing the suggested clip doesn’t really match up to the length of the relevant clip.

Here are few more queries that result in suggested clip featured snippets in Google:

"How to fix a leaky sink":

How to fix a leaky sink suggested clip

"How to do paper swan":

How to do paper swan suggested clip

It’s interesting to note that when we searched for "how to make paper swan" and “how to make origami swan”, we saw traditional text featured snippets. Even though the query exactly matches the title of the YouTube video.

How to make paper swan featured snippet text

As you’ve probably noticed, suggested clips seem to be triggered by "how to" queries.

What Factors Determine Suggested Clips?

Since suggested clips are a type of featured snippet, we’re not 100% sure how Google decides what query deserves a featured clip and what video it picks. But by looking at the queries, SERPs and videos from the suggested clips from above we’ve come up with some theories.

It seems that there are 3 parts that go into choosing a suggested clip:

  1. Video relevance: Does this video answer the query?
  2. Quality and/or authoritativeness of the video: Can the information in this video be trusted?
  3. Choosing where the answer starts: Where does the good stuff start?

As you can see, this is very similar to what goes into choosing a normal text-based featured snippet. Which makes sense, since Google considers suggested clips as the same type of feature. They are also factors that go into a video’s ranking in Google search results.

If you check out the SERPs for our 3 queries, in fact, you’ll see these videos all rank at the top.

Since these snippets take up such a huge amount of real estate at the top of the SERPs, optimizing your YouTube videos for these snippets can be a huge boon for your brand.

How to Optimize YouTube Videos for Suggested Clips

Even though we don’t know exactly how Google decides when to award a video a suggested clip snippet, there are some optimizations that will make them more likely.

These optimizations happen in 2 places:

  • The video itself
  • The video’s YouTube page

Creating a video for suggested clips

The key to claiming a suggested clip is to create a video that answers a user’s "how to" question.

Start with some targeted research just as you would when creating a written article for featured snippets. If you don’t have a list of specific "how to" keyword to target, use a long tail keyword tool such as Answer the Public or Keywordtool.io. These tools will find questions based on your topics.

Make your video content hyper-focused to a single topic or question.

To take our examples above, "How to Remove and Install a Bike Tire & Tube" is much better than a longer video like “The Complete Guide to Maintaining Your Bike”. Or “How to Fix a Leaky Sink” instead of “A Roundup of Home Plumbing Basics”.

Then, just like a written article, get right into the answer.

Minimize opening and title sequences — just a short animated logo is good enough — and move any messages (reminders to like/subscribe, sponsor mentions, channel updates, etc.) to the end. Most of your viewers couldn’t care less about these messages, so you’ll see fewer people drop off at the start of your video.

Once you’ve picked the right subject for your video, don’t forget to optimize your script.

YouTube (and Google) now automatically transcribes your videos. So it knows what words you’re using in them.

Speak your question and answer out loud early — in the first 10 seconds of the video.

If you actually say your target keywords early in your video, speak the "how to" question you’re optimizing for, and then recite the answer, Google will “hear” all of that content. YouTube and Google will better understand that your video answers the search query.

In our bicycle tire example, the video opens with "In this video, we’re going to show you how to remove and replace the inner tube on a bicycle wheel." Our leaky sink video starts with the phrase “How to fix a leaking sink.”

In our paper swan video, Rob (the YouTuber who made the video) starts with "Today I’m going to show you how to make the origami swan."

Optimize the video’s YouTube page

Once you’ve created the best video that provides a comprehensive answer to your question in an engaging way, it’s time to optimize the actual YouTube page that the video will appear on. This is a much more traditional form of SEO, and a lot of this part you’ll likely be very familiar with.

Since there’s not really much content you control on YouTube, the 3 things you do control become really important:

  1. Video title: This is like a page title or <h1> tag on one of your pages. They’re a major ranking factor in both YouTube search and Google search results. What’s really important with suggested clips is that pretty much every snippet we’ve encountered has used the question as a video title. Some people recommend using a "Keyword: Question Modifier" structure like “Bike Tires: How to Change a Bike Tire”. That doesn’t appear to be a good idea for suggested clips.

  2. Video description: Each of our 3 example videos have vastly different types of descriptions. One has a full video transcript, one provides a table of contents with links to different parts of the video and the third has just a basic 3-sentence overview. However, all 3 of them explain exactly what question they are answering and how they will answer it.

  3. Video file name: Even though Google can read its auto-generated transcript of your video, it still relies on the video file name to understand what’s going on. Use your keyword phrase as the title, using hyphens as word separators (of course).

What Factors Don’t Impact Suggested Clips

Again, we can’t know for sure, but some investigation has revealed that Google doesn’t rely on some surprising metrics when it comes to choose suggested clips.

First, the number of views doesn’t have much to do with it.

If you search YouTube for our target queries ("how to change a bike tire", “how to fix a leaky faucet” and “how to do paper swan”) you’ll see that none of our suggested clips have more views than other videos in their results.

Our origami video has 4.7 million views, but there’s another video in those results that has 8.4 million.

Our plumbing video has 25,000 views, which is actually the fewest among the top YouTube results.

The bike repair video has 483,000 views, but the video right below it has 1.4 million.

Second, YouTube search rank doesn’t appear to mean much.

True, the videos about changing bike tires and making origami swans rank at the top of YouTube search results for their queries. However, the video about fixing leaky sinks isn’t even in the top 10 YouTube results for its query.

Obviously, the video has to rank above a certain floor, but it doesn’t have to be the top 10 on YouTube.

Third, subscribers is not a deciding factor.

Just like with the number of views for a video, the number of subscribers a channel has relative to other options doesn’t seem to be a deciding factor in choosing suggested clips. While all three suggest clip channels have tens or hundreds of thousands of subscribers, there are other channels with similar videos that have more.

So, apparently, there is something else at play here.

Things Are Always Changing

We first noticed Google showing suggest clip featured snippets around a year ago. But they were rare and hard to trigger. However, over the last year we’ve started seeing them more and more frequently.

Which is what inspired this piece.

And it seems Google is still ironing out the details of how exactly they want these suggested clips to work.

You can see this in action by changing verbs, articles or prepositions in your queries. Adding or dropping a "the" here or an “a” there will change the video appearing in the snippet, or cause Google to drop the suggested clip altogether.

However, the basics of optimizing for informational user intent by answering questions in an informative and engaging way likely won’t change.

And with these suggested videos taking up so much space in SERPs, optimizing your YouTube videos to capture these snippets can offer huge benefits to your brand.