How to Use YouTube Annotations

In my first YouTube optimization article, 5 Steps for Optimizing YouTube Videos, I focused on:

  1. YouTube LogoFile name of your YouTube videos
  2. Search engine friendly video titles
  3. Keyword optimization and link building opportunities of video descriptions
  4. Best practices for adding tags and categories to videos
  5. Categorizing videos into playlists

As promised,  I want to discuss other ways to optimize your videos for greater viewer engagement. In this article I will focus specifically on annotations, interactive elements that can be added to your video after it is uploaded. At this time, there are six types of annotations that you can add to your videos.

Types of YouTube Annotations

Speech Bubble

Types of YouTube Annotations
The Speech bubble annotation is an on-screen overly that appears on your video at a designated time, and remains on the video for set time. You can control the size and text in the speech bubble, as well as choose from a set of colors to make it stand out. You can use a speech bubble to call out information or link to another video, playlist, or channel.


Notes are similar to speech bubbles, you can control the size, color, location, and duration of appearance on the video. When adding a note, make sure that the text is legible against the video colors. Notes are good for linking to similar videos, a playlist, or your channel. Notes can also be used as a “Subscribe to My Channel” call-to-action button.


The title annotation can be used if you were not able to add an opening frame with the title to the video before uploading. Unlike speech bubbles and notes, title annotations are not linkable.


Spotlights are interactive transparent boxes with a frame that appear over an area of the video that you want to call out. When the viewer hovers over a spotlight annotation with their mouse, related custom text appears outside of the frame. Spotlights are linkable to other videos, playlists, or channels.


The label annotation is similar to the spotlight annotation. The difference between the two is that when a viewer hovers over a label annotation the text appears within the frame, instead of outside the frame. Just like spotlight annotations, label annotations are linkable to other videos, playlists, or channels.


This annotation allows you to pause your video for a chosen duration of time. Pauses are useful when added in conjunction with another annotation, such as a note annotation. It allows you to pause the video while the viewer reads the custom text in the note. When adding a pause annotation to your video, make sure that you do not set the time duration for too long. Viewers are fickle and are only a click away from choosing a different video!

Below is a great step-by-step tutorial on how to add annotations to your YouTube videos

Benefits of Adding Annotations to Your Videos

Annotations can serve many purposes and offer several benefits to your videos, including:

  • Annotations can turn a video into an interactive experience for the viewer.  
  • By adding linkable annotations to your videos, you can drive traffic between videos on your channel. For example,  if you had a weekly series you could use an annotation to link back to the previous week’s episode.
  • For long videos, annotations can help break up the content and allows users to skip to the section that interests them the most.
  • Annotations can be used to increase channel subscriptions.
  • By including annotations that have a call-to-action asking viewers to follow your channel or like and comment on your video, you can increase the overall engagement of your video. Videos with a higher levels of engagement often appear higher and more frequently in YouTube search results.

There is no one way to incorporate annotations into your videos. The best way is to test out different annotations, and adjust them as you see necessary. Also, do not add an annotation to a video and forget about it. Rather, make sure that annotations are always relevant and update them as you add new content!

By Brianna Smith

3 thoughts on “How to Use YouTube Annotations

  1. Ryan says:

    Okay, great… So what about the glitch with the Spotlight annotation? No one seems to address this at all. Happens in Firefox, Chrome, and Internet Explorer:

    1. When I create a single Spotlight annotation, TWO boxes appear. Not one. TWO. Why???? I can move and resize both of them, but… I… don’t… get… it… ???????

    2. Once I’ve awkwardly created the Spotlight annotation (as per the above), it doesn’t appear in the right location on my video. I’ve very careful to place both boxes around my “Subscribe” button (part of my video), but the subscribe link is somewhere else entirely on my video. Again, why????????

    So, great video, but doesn’t address the reality of the YouTube annotations system. Simply put, IT DOES NOT WORK!!!!!!

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