If you have an English language YouTube channel and are thinking about uploading a foreign language video to it, should you do so?
THE MULTIPLE-LANGUAGE YOUTUBE PROBLEM
I would recommend that you not do this – it’s basically a bad practice. But if you’ve already done this, I’ll also tell you how you can improve the situation.
Why are you considering uploading videos in multiple languages in the first place? Well, you’re clearly trying to reach an international audience for some reason. Most likely, your business is growing internationally, and you’re really not sure how to approach that using YouTube.
MULTIPLE LANGUAGES BAD FOR YOUTUBE ALGORITHM
Well, the problem with YouTube is that the platform doesn’t really help you if your videos are in multiple languages – in fact, it can can significantly hurt your organic views. This is basically because of how the algorithm works. The YouTube algorithm is the mathematical formula that governs what videos get shown to viewers who might want to look at your videos.
The relevant part of the algorithm to consider here is this: If you have subscribers (or unsubscribed-yet-regular viewers), they are interested in your channel for some reason. But for every video you upload that that viewer chooses to not click on, or watches but not for very long, the algorithm will show your future videos to that viewer incrementally less and less, until they are shown no videos at all unless they go directly to your channel.
[NOTE: Although we have less data about how using multiple languages affects videos on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn, we can logically assume their platforms are similar: If you do videos on primarily English-speaking channels in foreign languages, they will hurt those videos, and potentially your future posts, in the algorithm. If, for instance, your company has started new Twitter accounts for each of the primary languages you operate in, then you’re already familiar with this challenge.]
YOUTUBE ALGORITHM IS LIKE A GPA
Think of it like a grade point average in school. You want your GPA to be all A’s, right? But for each video a viewer doesn’t want to watch, or watch for a short time, some of those videos will get C’s, D’s or F’s. This is not an exact analogy – because if you start getting straight A’s again, those bad grades will be less and less important, but you get the point.
Importantly, if your channel is mostly doing English videos and then you put on a Spanish or Italian or German video, your English-speaking viewers are not going to want to watch that video, so they won’t watch it as much. Since the viewer in our example doesn’t speak Spanish or Italian or German, they won’t click on the video. Or they’ll only watch a few seconds.
KEEP NEGATIVE SIGNALS AWAY
Both of these avoidance actions send very negative signals to the YouTube algorithm. The viewer’s action tells the algorithm, essentially, that people who watch one of the videos on this YouTube channel don’t want to watch another.
This is based on the evidence of past behavior. You showed the viewer a German video, but English speakers said “I’m not interested in watching it.” They didn’t say this verbally or in the comments, but indicated this by not watching it or only watching for a few seconds.
So what this says to the algorithm is: For people who subscribe or who have watched videos on this channel, show them fewer videos from this channel. If last week the algorithm showed that viewer 20 videos, this week show them only 18 videos. If the channel keeps posting foreign-language videos for English viewers, then only show them 16 videos next week.
SUGGESTED VIDEO PROBLEMS
This shows the viewer fewer and fewer of your vides in the Suggested Videos (in the right column on computer browsers, or below the videos on mobile). Suggested Videos is where most views come from on YouTube, so this can be really bad for your channel.
Thus, in the same way you don’t want to have irrelevant videos off topic, you also don’t want to have them off language.
BUT WHAT IF YOU MUST USE A FOREIGN LANGUAGE VIDEO?
But what if you absolutely have to post a foreign-language YouTube video. What are your options? What can you do? Here are some choices:
1) Post the video somewhere other than YouTube.
There are a lot of places you can post a video that won’t hurt your YouTube channel. You can instead upload it to an account on Vimeo, Wistia, Vidyar, or Facebook. Then you can embed it on your website or email a link to the people who should see it. Or you can run ads that point to the video.
2) Upload it to YouTube but keep it Unlisted.
The Unlisted option means that a YouTube video is not viewable by the public unless they have a link to it or it’s embedded somewhere. So if this is a video that needs only be a pre-roll ad (aka a YouTube TrueView In-Stream ad), it doesn’t need to be public on your channel. It can be Unlisted, which means only people who see it as a pre-roll will be able to see it at all. They won’t see it on your channel.
Also, if you just want to embed this in a foreign language website, that also can be done as Unlisted without hurting your channel in the YouTube algorithm.
3) Do nothing, mostly.
One other option is to do nothing, mostly. You just leave it on the channel. If this foreign-language video has been on your channel for a while and it’s not getting any new views, just leave it. It won’t do any more harm than it’s already done. So, why worry about it?
4) Start a new-foreign language YouTube channel for your brand.
If the foreign language video has gotten a lot of organic views and continues to get views, this is an indication that you might be ready to do a lot more videos in this other language. Clearly there’s an audience for it. Why not start a parallel YouTube channel for your brand in this language?
But it’s important to remember that while starting a new channel is free, it is going to take considerably more time maintaining and growing it.
5) Start a new YouTube channel for every country you do business in.
If you’re doing business in a lot of countries, you could certainly create a separate channel for every country you do business on, but this is really overdoing it for anyone but the largest of companies. A number of automotive companies have 40-plus channels, but the maintenance is significant – this means that each video must be made with the local audience in mind, then you have to do maintenance and channel optimization on each channel, etc.
6) Make a foreign-language video Private or Unlisted.
If the video that’s been sitting on your channel never got many views to begin with, and has outlived its usefulness, you may consider just making it Unlisted so people generally cannot see it anymore (unless it’s embedded somewhere).
Or you can make it Private, which removes it from viewership by anyone but you.
I will caution you that if the video has a lot of views, don’t make it private or unlisted because this could lower your channel’s overall rating.
So these are best options if you’re dealing with YouTube videos in multiple languages.
Dane Golden is CEO of HEY.com, a video content marketing agency. His mission is to help brands get viewers to come back to their videos again and again through use of helpful how-to content, driving loyalty, conversion and ROI. Please connect with Dane on social media using the links below: