YouTube SEO is a wonderful, highly underrated marketing tactic and a great traffic driver when utilized correctly. While we have touched upon video SEO in a previous post, and some aspects of YouTube SEO, we haven’t discussed the what and the why behind YouTube SEO, and optimizing your videos to get the most out of YouTube.
How would you describe your video marketing strategy? Is it focused on creating high quality content or does it include other tactics such as video marketing and social media promotion?
Video marketing has become a powerful tool for businesses looking to reach their target audience. In fact, according to Statista, nearly half (49%) of U.S. adults watch at least one hour of video per day on average. This means that video marketing is no longer optional for companies hoping to connect with customers.
Semrush performed a study that looked at some of the statistics involved in attaining higher video rankings. The following list presents their findings.
How YouTube SEO Helps to Rank Videos
- “More than half of the videos that ranked at the first position have more than 50 words in the description.
- 52 percent of videos ranking for “how-to” keywords have more than 100 words in the descriptions, while for the general sample, it’s only 31 percent.
- 52 percent of videos ranking for “how-to” keywords are longer than 5 minutes, while for the general sample, it’s only 33 percent.
- Only 8 percent of videos with timestamps rank at the first position.
- 55 percent of videos have a match ratio between title and keyword equal to 1.
- Title similarity with keyword ratio, number of views, and video duration are the most important parameters, according to the Machine Learning model we used for this research.”
Creating videos is only half the battle, however. You also have to optimize your videos, and make sure that they are YouTube-friendly from an SEO perspective.
But, the best part is: you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to create great videos. There are plenty of free tools out there that allow you to easily create professional-looking videos without having to hire expensive professionals.
And, with a sure-fire process in place for optimizing your videos, you too can rank on YouTube relatively easily compared to the competition.
YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Your YouTube Videos
You can optimize your YouTube videos using a relatively straightforward process:
- Perform YouTube Keyword Research
- Create and Publish a High Quality, High-Retaining Video
- Optimize Your Videos in Accordance with YouTube SEO Best Practices
- Create an Optimized YouTube Title
- Create an Optimized YouTube Meta Description
- Use Tags in Your Videos Judiciously
- Include a High-Converting Offer in Your Videos
- Provide Features and Benefits about Your Offer in the YouTube Description
- Promote Your YouTube Video Everywhere Online
Perform YouTube Keyword Research
The first step in optimizing your YouTube channel is to do some YouTube keyword research. This is where we start finding out what people are searching for online. You want to know what terms people are typing into the search bar when they’re looking for specific topics related to your niche. But, doing keyword research on YouTube is a little bit different when compared to doing keyword research for Google.
The reason why is because YouTube is a much different playground. When you’re doing keyword research for Google, you are doing research for a different type of search and mindset. For example, different people might search for the same terms on YouTube, which would inform your strategy a little bit differently. And this does depend on your niche as well.
Once you are logged into the YouTube TubeBuddy extension, type in whatever topic you’d like to learn about. For example, if you wanted to optimize your channel for the term “how to do SEO,” enter it into the search box. Clicking on the explore button will take you to a page that has many graphs and data that will help inform your optimizations. From there, select “how to do SEO” and hit “Explore.”
You will then see a new screen that shows many different metrics. You will see the overall score, which is part of TubeBuddy’s proprietary metrics for whether a keyword is “good” to target or not. This score is general in nature, taking into consideration a keyword’s search volume and its competition.
Then, repeat the process for all the search terms that you want to use. This way, by the end of the process, you will have a nice list of 100 keywords that you can target with new videos that will help drive healthy search volume to your site.
Create and Publish a High Quality, High-Retaining Video
If you want your videos to be seen, it’s important to understand how long people are actually watching them. This is called audience retention, and it’s a metric that YouTube uses to determine where your videos will show up in search results.
There is a difference between a great quality video and a poor quality video. Let’s take a look at both before we go further into audience retention.
Pre-production is the first step to obtaining a high quality video. Without pre-production and planning ahead of time, your videos will not be of great quality.
The following video is an example of a poor quality YouTube video. The execution is poor, the concept is poor, and overall it’s not a good example of what an engaging video would look like in YouTube’s eyes.
If a concept is poorly executed, the overall recommendation is to trash the video and move on, because the video is doomed to fail. It’s usually best to create a new concept instead.
This one is a much better quality video, with a better concept and execution overall. And, of course, it’s from Brian Dean of Backlinko:
People tend to view video clips for about three minutes, but some people will watch longer. So what does YouTube say about audience retention? They say it’s one of the most important factors.
In fact, in this video, YouTube’s Creator Liaison, Matt Koval, explains that creators must do the following in order to arrive at increasing their audience loyalty:
- “Use a compelling hook,
- Talk fast, and with high energy,
- Vary your visuals for maximum impact,
- Use drama and conflict,
- Have a climactic moment in your video,
- Build your audience’s loyalty: keep them coming back.”
Optimize Your Videos in Accordance with YouTube SEO Best Practices
Although the ability to optimize your videos has nearly always existed, what many people don’t know is that there are three steps to optimize a video for maximum SEO potential.
Say Your Target Keywords in the Video
Your goal here is to make sure that the keywords you use throughout your video match up with the keywords you want to rank for. If you say something like “How to change my tire,” you might wind up getting ranked for “change tires.” Instead, try saying “how to change a flat tire” or “changing a tire.”
Transcribe Your Videos
Now that you’ve got some great keywords, you need to make sure that those words show up in your description box. This is where you start typing into the text area above the player.
Tags are important because they help YouTube categorize your video. They act as little labels that tell YouTube exactly what type of video it is. For example, if you had a cooking tutorial, you’d add tags such as “cooking,” “dinner recipes,” or “recipes for dinner.”
Optimize Your YouTube Video Title
To optimize your video title, you need to create a short and catchy title, but also one that includes your video’s targeted keywords. However, you need to do this without keyword-stuffing.
This is one example from SEO professional Matt Diggity’s Youtube Channel:
Optimize Your Video’s YouTube Description
You also want to make sure that you’re optimizing your video’s description. Summarize the main points in your video here, and use them as a teaser for what your audience might find in your video. Don’t forget to include your main offer, along with a link back to your site’s offer page in this video.
Here is an example of a well-optimized video description on YouTube. Notice how Matt links back to his site, and includes specific encoded chapter links for each video chapter. This helps increase usability and is a nice reference for viewers.
Promote Your Video Everywhere Online
If you want to make money on YouTube, it helps to have lots of views on your videos. And while there are many ways to grow your audience, here are five strategies we recommend.
Get Views On Your Videos
The best way to build up views on your videos is to upload great content. If you’re trying to promote a specific product, you’ll likely want to focus on getting views on that video. You could even try uploading a few different types of videos – e.g., explainer videos, how-to videos, etc. – and see what works.
Focus On Quality Over Quantity
When it comes to growing your audience, quality matters more than quantity. This is especially true on YouTube where people tend to watch shorter clips rather than sit down and watch a full length video. So, if you’ve uploaded several videos, pick out the ones that show off your best work and spend the majority of your efforts promoting those videos.
Make Sure Your Content Is Relevant To People Who Are Viewing Your Videos
You might think that everyone watching your videos is interested in the same things. However, studies suggest that people actually prefer to watch videos related to topics that interest them. For example, if you run a video marketing company, you might find that people are more likely to view your videos about social media marketing. Or, if you produce instructional videos, you might notice that people like to watch videos about photography. By focusing on relevant topics, you increase the chances that people will enjoy your videos and stick around to watch more.
YouTube SEO Tips for Ranking Your Videos
If you’re looking to optimize your YouTube videos for search engines, there are many things you can do. You’ll want to make sure that your video title includes your targeted keyword, and it makes sense within the context of the video itself. Your video description is another great place to include your keyword, especially if people don’t know what your video is about. Tags are another way to help your video show up in searches. Finally, you’ll want to tag your video with keywords related to your topic. This will allow YouTube to display relevant information about your video.
Here are a few YouTube SEO tips that will help you get better traction for your videos:
Pick Your Keywords Wisely
The SERPS are getting more competitive on a monthly basis. This is especially true for the YouTube results as well. If you’re looking to rank highly for specific keywords, it’s important to choose those keywords carefully. In fact, even though there are plenty of great longtail phrases out there, many companies still end up choosing long tail keywords because they’re easier to find. But what happens when you try to rank for a term that gets very little traffic? Well, you’ll probably see some pretty low rankings. And that makes sense. After all, why would anyone want to pay money for something that doesn’t bring in much traffic? This is where higher search volume keywords come in.
So how do you know whether or not a particular keyword phrase is worth targeting? There are several things to consider. First off, make sure that you’ve done your keyword research properly. This means that you’ve looked at both volume and competition data. Once you’ve got that information, you can start thinking about the actual value of each keyword. For example, let’s say you wanted to target “furniture repair.” That might seem like a good idea, right? Furniture repairs are always popular topics. They’re likely to bring in high volumes of traffic, too. But does that mean that people actually go searching for furniture, furniture repair, or furniture accessories? To expand on this search, sometimes additional keyword research is needed beyond the initial search.
Rename Your Video File Using a Target Keyword
This seems obvious, but I’ve seen countless videos where people forget to do this step. When you’re uploading a video to YouTube, make sure that the filename matches the keyword you want to rank for. This way, YouTube knows what the video is about.
If you don’t already know what your target keyword is, try searching for it in YouTube’s Keyword Planner. You can find out what phrases people are typing into the search bar to find your type of video.
You can also use Google Trends to help determine whether your chosen keyword is gaining traction online. If it’s trending upward, chances are it’s a good choice.
The following shows an example of this principle in action. Although not a targeted keyword, it uses the branded name of the video series:
Insert Your Keyword Naturally in the Video Title
When we search for videos, the first thing that our eyes are drawn towards is the title. That’s often what determines if the viewer will click to view the video, so the title needs to be compelling, clear and concise.
Research conducted by Backlinko revealed that videos with exact match keywords in the title had a slight edge over those without. This makes sense because people tend to trust content that looks like it has what they are looking for more so than content that might only be somewhat of a match.
By including exact match keywords, you do communicate that your content may have exactly what they are searching for compared to other content that might only be a partial match to what they are searching for.
Optimize Your Video Description.
YouTube says that the length of a video description is limited to 1,000 characters. But what happens if you go over that limit? You’ll find yourself staring at a truncated version of your video description.
The good news is that there are ways around this. In fact, Google suggests that you start writing your description as soon as possible. Here is how you can optimize your video description for maximum impact.
First, include a strong call-to-action (CTA) within the first 100 characters. People who watch your video are most likely going to click through after seeing a CTA. So make sure that you have one before you hit the 1,000 character mark.
Next, keep your descriptions short and sweet. Don’t worry about including every single detail about your video. Instead, focus on providing enough information to entice viewers to click through to your site.
Finally, add relevant links to other pages on your website. The more times someone clicks on a link, the higher the chance that they’ll end up on another page on your site.
Tag Your Video With Popular Keywords That Relate to Your Topic
YouTube suggests using tags to let your audience know what your video is all about. You don’t want to confuse people though; make sure you include relevant information like dates, locations, and names. Tags are used to help YouTube understand the content and context behind your video, allowing the platform to better match similar videos together.
But you’re not just informing YouTube — you’re also telling Google about yourself. So keep that in mind when choosing your tags. If you use an irrelevant tag, you could end up hurting your overall performance.
Using the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension, a tags module pops up on YouTube every time you perform a search, showing you the tags that are related to the search you performed, along with the search volumes of these keywords (which is another great way to perform your research):
Use Categories to Further Optimize Your Video
Once you’ve uploaded a video, you’ll want to make sure it gets seen. One way to do that is to choose a category that best describes how people will find it. For example, if you’re uploading a cooking tutorial, you could pick one of the following categories:
- Cooking & Dining
- Food & Drink
You can also choose a category based on where your target audience lives. If your videos are about traveling, you might select something like:
- Vacation spots
Use Annotations to Highlight Key Points
Annotations are little icons that appear next to certain parts of your video. They allow you to provide additional information or draw attention to important elements.
For instance, if you’re talking about a product, you could place an annotation next to a picture of the item. Or if you’re explaining a recipe, you could put an annotation next to a step in the process. Annotations can be helpful because they give viewers a quick summary of what’s happening in your video without having to pause the video.
To do this, navigate to your channel. Then, click on content, and details.
Then, click on the cards button:
This will then allow you to choose the type of card/annotation you want to add such as: Video (add an info card linking to a video), Playlist (add an info card linking to a playlist), or Channel (add an info card linking to a channel).
Upload a Custom Thumbnail Image for Your Video’s Result Link
Your video thumbnail is the main visual element that viewers see when scrolling through videos on YouTube. This is what people will click on first. As such, it can influence how many people watch your video, and even whether they decide to subscribe to your channel.
Along with the video’s title and description, that thumbnail sends a strong signal to viewers about the video’s content. So, while you can always choose one of the auto-generated thumbnails, we strongly suggest picking a custom image.
YouTube suggests using images that are 1280 x 720 pixels — representing a 16 : 9 ratio — that are saved in .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG formats. For best results, make sure your image is no larger than 2 MB.
If you want to avoid having your thumbnail crop out part of your logo or watermark, you’ll have to do some extra work. You’ll have to verify your account before you can upload a custom thumbnail, and you’ll have to resize your logo or watermark accordingly. Once you’ve uploaded your custom thumbnail, you can go ahead and delete the original version.
The following shows examples of custom thumbnails for Matt Diggity’s YouTube channel:
Use Video Hashtags to Drive YouTube Search Results
You might think that adding hashtags to your videos isn’t very useful because everyone already knows what hashtags mean. But while it’s true that most people know what hashtags are, there are still some things you can do to leverage them. For example, if you’re trying to promote a new product launch, you could use #productlaunch to draw attention to your campaign. Or if you want to highlight a trending topic, you could use #trending.
But if you want to take advantage of video tags, you’ll have to understand how they work. Video tags are basically keywords that describe your video. They show up next to the title of the video, just like normal text does. When someone searches for a keyword, the tag appears next to the video title. So if you’ve got a video called “How To Make A Tasty Sandwich,” you’d put “how to make a tasty sandwich” into the video title. Then, when someone types those words into YouTube, the video title would come up next to the search results.
Now, you don’t always have to use a single word. You can combine multiple terms together and then separate them with commas. This makes it easier for people to type out exactly what they’re looking for. For instance, if you wanted to search for “how to make a delicious sandwich,” you could write something along the lines of “how to make a sandwich, how to make a delicious one.” In this case, the person searching wouldn’t have to type out each word individually. Instead, they could simply type “make a sandwich, delicious one.”
So, once you’ve added a hashtag to your video title, it’s time to start thinking about how you can use it to improve your search rankings. First, you’ll want to see whether your video is actually getting searched for. Go into your analytics tool and look at the number of times the hashtag has been typed into the search bar. Next, check out the competition. Are there similar videos using the same hashtag? If so, you probably shouldn’t bother using it unless you have something unique to offer.
If no one else is using the hashtag, though, it’s definitely worth including in your video. After all, if you’re promoting a certain product, why not tell people about it? And if you’re talking about a trend, you might as well let others know about it too.
You can add hashtags by adding the pound sign (#) along with the word next to it in your video’s Title or Description fields:
Add Subtitles and Closed Captions
If you want people to find your videos, you’ll need to make sure they’re accessible to everyone. Subtitles and closed captions are great tools to help everyone enjoy your work.
Subtitles are used for those who cannot hear the spoken word. Closed captioning helps deaf and hard-of-hearing people watch TV and movies.
The best way to add subtitles and closed captions to your videos is to use one of the many free online translation software programs. There are several options out there, including Microsoft Translator and Google Translate.
Once you’ve translated your video into English, you’ll need to upload the file onto YouTube. You can do this directly from within the YouTube app or from your computer.
When uploading the file, choose “subtitles and closed captions.” This option appears next to the “video quality” dropdown menu.
You can also select the subtitle format and specify whether you’d like the subtitles to play automatically while watching the video.
If you go to your YouTube video control panel, you can click on the subtitles editor in order to add subtitles and captions to your video:
Focus on User Engagement
Google cares most about how viewers react to your content because that’s what keeps people on their sites. When you post something interesting, chances are viewers will want to interact with it. If you don’t provide a way for them to do so, they’ll go somewhere else. So make sure to keep track of viewer activity, including commenting on posts, liking photos, sharing stories, and subscribing to newsletters.
In addition to monitoring social media platforms, you might also consider creating a YouTube channel where you regularly upload original video content. You could even use tools like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule regular postings. This will help you build up a following over time, which will improve your chances of getting found online.
The more engaged your audience becomes, the better chance you have of being ranked highly in search engines.
YouTube Watch Time
Watch time is one of the most critical factors when it comes to YouTube rankings. As you might imagine, watch time is defined as the amount of time people spend watching your videos. This includes both views and minutes viewed. In fact, watch time is such an important factor that YouTube uses it to determine where your video ranks in the list of recommended videos.
For example, let’s say you upload a video titled “How To Make A Watermelon Slice.” Your goal is to ensure your video gets seen by as many people as possible. So you decide to write up a description that explains what the video does and why someone should care about it. Then you add some keywords to the description that are related to your topic. Finally, you shoot a couple of short clips showing yourself making the watermelon slices.
The next day, you might check your analytics to see how well your video did. Sure enough, there are dozens of views and many many likes. But notice something interesting: the number of likes isn’t nearly as high as the number of views. Why is that? Because lots of people might have seen your video, but only a few actually clicked on the thumbs up button. If you want to improve this, consider asking people within the video to click the like button and subscribe to your video.
If you want your video to perform better in terms of watch time, you want to make sure that people know exactly what they’re getting into. So you might include a short clip at the beginning of your video explaining what makes it unique. After that, you start shooting your video and stop every now and again to explain what you’re doing. By the end of the video, you should have shown the viewer the finished product and included a call to action asking them to subscribe to your channel.
In addition to watch time, another important component of YouTube rankings is likes. Likes help YouTube understand whether people enjoy your content. They also serve as a good indicator of whether your audience cares about your videos. If your audience doesn’t like your videos, it won’t matter how much time they spend watching them. And if your audience doesn’t like the videos, chances are they’ll never return to view them.
Some videos, such as this one from Matt Diggity, offer a call to action to like and subscribe to the channel. He also offers a few positive reinforcements throughout the video after liking his video and subscribing to his channel:
Session Watch Time
YouTube says that it measures the amount of time spent watching a video. This metric helps determine whether a video is worth promoting on the platform. If you want to boost your chances of getting promoted, make sure your video gets watched for longer periods of time.
The average length of a YouTube video is 11.7 minutes. However, there are some exceptions. Videos under five minutes receive fewer views than those over 20 minutes, so long as the 20 minute video added significantly better value. Either in the form of education, entertainment, or anything else.
Although it may seem counterintuitive that videos designed to bring visitors to your website will hurt rather than help your search rankings, YouTube favors videos that keep users engaged. A key factor in determining which videos YouTube might want to show to other users is the number of sessions per day.
This system rewards users for spending more time on YouTube. And since YouTube wants people to spend as much time as possible on its platform, it tends not to favor videos that take viewers to other sites.
YouTube Video User Intent
Analyzing user intent is one of the keys to getting more views on YouTube.
Google has always been pretty good about understanding what people are looking for when searching for information online. But now it seems like even the most basic queries are being answered with some help from Google.
In one particular case, we found an interesting trend where someone had used the keyword “get more views” as part of their YouTube title. So naturally, when they typed that into Google, the search giant showed them a video titled “How To Get More Views On YouTube In 2021 – In 2 Minutes.”
That’s because Google understands that people want to know how to increase their viewership on YouTube. And while the video itself isn’t particularly helpful, it’s still providing value by answering the user’s questions.
So next time you’re trying to figure out how to optimize your YouTube channel, make sure to consider the user’s goal. If you’re writing a title for a video, try to answer the user’s question rather than just using the number 1 search term.
Growing Your YouTube Channel’s Subscriber Base
YouTube is the world’s largest video search engine, coming in a close second behind Google as a search engine. But did you know that growing your YouTube subscriber base can lead to significant earnings down the line due to ad revenue (or other revenue)? According to influencermarketinghub.com, this is quite significant. We used their interactive slider to determine exactly what a YouTuber could make if they only had around 23,743 views per day, and a normal, average engagement rate:
This growth isn’t just because of the amount of views YouTube channels receive over time; rather, it’s because of the way people consume videos. People are watching less hours per day, but they’re consuming more videos. So while each hour spent viewing YouTube videos increases viewership, the total number of hours viewed per day decreases.
As a result, there’s been a shift in how many views YouTube channels receive in the first few weeks. In fact, according to Tubular Insights, the most popular channels reach around 10 million views in the first week. But the median channel doesn’t even hit one million views in the same timeframe.
These numbers show that the first week is critical for growing a YouTube audience. If you want to grow your channel, you’ll need to make sure you’re posting frequently, so your subscribers know what to expect.
YouTube SEO Scaling: How Do You Scale Your Video Production?
YouTube might be a fantastic additional channel to drive traffic, depending on your niche.
Say, for example, that you wanted to post a video per day as well as creating recordings of your articles. You might not have the time to pursue one video per day, but you might have time to auto generate some.
What’s an auto-generated video? This is a video that usually features an auto-generated voice, along with text that is moving along at a nice pace through a video. Plus, if you don’t have the time or the budget to spend on creating stunning in-person videos day after day, this is a good alternative.
Using an application such as Pictory, it’s possible to create several hundred auto-generated videos per day using just your blog posts.
This is an easy shortcut to scaling your videos if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, and can lead to a significant driver of traffic to your site when done right.
YouTube SEO Is Here to Stay
Because of YouTube’s position in the top-ranked sites of today (they are number two behind Google, after all), YouTube isn’t going away any time soon.
In fact, YouTube statistics data shows a significant increase of users from 2017 to 2025, to the tune of nearly doubling their user count from 1,408.43 million to 2,854.14 million.
That’s a lot of users!
Clearly, the desire and consumption of YouTube video content is not going away anytime soon.
To capitalize on the trend, the recommendation here is to set aside some of your marketing budget for YouTube marketing and perhaps TikTok as well.
With attention spans decreasing, you might want to consider creating shorter videos in the form of TikTok shorts and YouTube shorts, which can then lead to your longer content.
However, there is still a desire for longer videos as well, so don’t count them out just yet.
When do you plan on creating your next video for YouTube?