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February 24, 2012

We’ve yet to see this phenomenon analyzed anywhere in the media, so let’s give this a signal boost: The secret to becoming popular on YouTube is to build heat. Sometimes you create something so great it goes viral on its own. Sometimes you know the right people and the right places. Sometimes, though, you’re good with the timing and keywords. That is actually an effective way to get popular on YouTube — this Pomplamoose clip, for example, was a very well-timed attempt to bank its success on a popular song at the height of its notoriety. But what if you take that philosophy to the extreme? The answer is that you end up with TheReplyGirl. Let’s explain how this works:

  • The concept A woman who claims to go by the name Alejandra Gaitan, above, has been on YouTube since August, and her main routine is to reply to popular videos, load her responses with ads, and wear something revealing, with the goal of enticing a click. She’s not alone — a woman who calls herself Megan Lee Heart, for example, posted a well-tagged video after Whitney Houston died and got 100,000 views. And hundreds of dislikes on the clip.
  • The precedent Gaitan, Heart and others are essentially pulling off an elaborate search engine optimization scheme on YouTube. Their videos show up high on YouTube search results because of strong tagging and they get clicks because of the eye-grabbing visuals. The result is that the videos themselves are extremely low-quality (Gaitan’s clips can be hard to follow at times), but it doesn’t matter, because the goal is to build up ad impressions.
  • Here’s the thing … TheReplyGirl is interesting because it’s a new twist on a relatively old idea — the production of low-quality content that shows up high in search results, which has the side effect of diluting searches. Minus the human being talking, this was basically Demand Media’s business model. The question is, though, will Google step in? They took on Demand, forcing the company to change its model. Will they do the same on YouTube?

Edit: Reworded part of this for clarification.

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23:08 // 2 years ago