When talking about SEO, most people only think about ranking in Google Searches – and that’s okay! However, it’s becoming increasingly important to start thinking about YouTube SEO as well.
Yes, YouTube SEO optimization is a real thing. Since YouTube is a video search engine, YouTube SEO involves optimizing your videos, playlists, channel, and video metadata (such as the title, description, and tag) in order to increase visibility and organic rankings.
This is important, because you can not only optimize videos for organic search results, or as suggested content within YouTube (the 2nd largest search engine in the world with an average of 34.6 billion monthly visits), but also outside the platform on Google’s search results as well. What’s best of all is that you don’t need to have a massive channel with millions of subscribers to rank high with these optimization tactics in place!
Curious? Here are some tips on how to optimize your YouTube videos for SEO.
How to Optimize Your YouTube Channel for SEO
To ensure that YouTube continues to provide the best experience for its users (primarily by serving video content that best matches their searches), YouTube’s engineers are constantly updating the algorithm that influences video rankings. This is why it’s important to stay up-to-date with the algorithmic changes and have a strong foundation on the following basic optimization tactics.
1. Do YouTube Keyword Research
Like any SEO process, everything begins with keyword research. Unfortunately, YouTube doesn’t provide an official keyword research tool like Google does.
Instead, make use of YouTube’s search predictions (also known as “YouTube Suggest”), which simply involves typing your target keyword in YouTube’s search bar and making note of the results that are listed as suggested results. This approach gives you an idea of the popular queries that are being searched for in relation to your target keyword, as well as titles of existing videos right from the source.
In addition to looking up target keywords directly on YouTube, you’ll also want to do the same search on Google. This often results in finding a video carousel, or other video SERP features, that show relevant YouTube videos related to your target keyword. The titles of the featured videos can give you an idea of what qualities can help your video rank as well.
2. Create Consistent and Engaging Content
As all creators know, engagement is key! Since YouTube’s algorithm rewards engaging videos that keep viewers watching, it’s important to plan out your video content to be interesting and appealing enough to have longer view times. Likewise, if the video content matches the intent of the specific search query, you will achieve higher audience retention and attract viewers who are more likely to Like, Subscribe, and leave a Comment.
YouTube is a fast-paced and competitive environment for all video creators. So, although you might want to cater your content to the keywords people are looking for, or follow the same format as other well-ranking videos, you should still be original. That means having your own signature flair, publishing regular videos about your niche, and providing quality content that makes you stand out from the billions of other videos out there.
3. Optimize Your Videos
In traditional Search Engine Optimization, metadata is crucial to attracting users to click on your link. Similarly, when it comes to YouTube optimization, your video title, description, tags, and thumbnail image can influence your Click Through Rate.
Here are some specific areas to pay attention to when optimizing your videos.
Title of the Video
You should almost always include your target keyword phrase in the title of your video to help with ranking, and it is best practice to formulate clear and concise video titles of under 60 characters. Of course, as with any social media platform, you’ll want to make the title catchy and attractive to grab the attention of any user who might want to click on your video and watch it in full.
This is where your keyword research really comes in handy – and, particularly, paying attention to what your successful competitors have done in the past: their video titles can provide you with inspiration for your own titles. You may find that many high ranking competitor videos include phrases like “How To,” “Reviews,” “Top #,” and “Tutorial” in the title because they are derived from users’ search intent when looking up the topic. This intent is what will drive users to watch your videos.
Similar to having a video title that draws viewers in, you want to use an eye-catching thumbnail image for all your videos. That little image next to or under your video title can have more of an influence on whether a user wants to click to watch your video than you might think. Original thumbnails that are unique, interesting, and specific to the channel’s branding are great, but stock photos from places like Shutterstock also work well – just make sure you customize them with text overlay that features the video’s title, or a related catchphrase.
The description section is the block of text featured below each video. According to YouTube Creator Academy, “Descriptions can convey valuable information that helps viewers find your videos in search results and understand what they’ll be watching. Well-written descriptions with the right keywords can boost views and watch time because they help your video show up in search results.”
With that said, you’ll not only want your target keyword in the description, but other closely-related keywords that are on-topic as well. This is your chance to expand on the information in the video, and to provide both YouTube and Google’s crawling tools a better context of your video.
Don’t hesitate to write a lengthy description – in fact, it’s good practice to make the description at least 250 words in length. You can include many things such as a call to action, links to the timed cuts of your video, and more. An additional tip is to use #hashtags! Using related hashtags can help viewers find your video, which is especially great for trending topics. However, don’t go overboard with hashtags: if you use more than 15, YouTube will ignore them all. When it comes to hashtags, a little goes a long way.
Just as you would on any other social media platform, you’ll want to provide URL links in the description box below your videos. The idea here is to easily direct interested viewers to your other videos, website, Landing Page, or social media channels to drive traffic – and hopefully conversions.
Tags, again? Yes and no. Meta tags are not hashtags: they are video tags that can be 2-3 word phrases (ex. YouTube SEO tips, YouTube video optimization) that provide the platform context about your video. Not only do you want to use your exact target keyword phrase as a tag, but you should also add in a mix of broad and focused (keyword variations) tags to provide more context to your video. However, make sure to limit them to no more than 20 tags at most, and ideally 5-8 effective tags.
There are many elements that can help your YouTube videos rank higher, and the tactics mentioned above are only the basics of YouTube SEO. There are even more ways to optimize your videos, like by using Closed Captions and Translations. That being said, those options may not be viable for all creators because they are time-consuming and/or require the understanding of multiple languages to provide accurate content.
It’s crucial to note that you shouldn’t only be working on the SEO of your new video releases, but also going back and optimizing older videos as well, since many still likely contain relevant content. As most creators don’t refresh older content with an updated version it’s good to get ahead of the pack and optimize already-uploaded videos. If you ensure that you put in the work for proper keyword research, and carefully optimize your (engaging!) videos’ titles, metadata, and thumbnails, you’ll be sure to start seeing higher YouTube rankings than before.
Always keep in mind that the longer and more frequently you are able to keep viewers watching your YouTube videos, the more the platform will rank your video high in results – after all, YouTube’s overall goal is to have viewers stay on the platform in order to click on ads!