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Do you ever wonder how does YouTube SEO work and what steps it takes to optimize your YouTube videos? The answers to these questions are simpler than you might think. While it might seem difficult to get any exposure on YouTube, you can implement certain strategies to ensure that the YouTube algorithm favors you in the search results. In this post, we’ll go over proven YouTube SEO tips that have worked and that will work for you, regardless of your channel size. Let’s get started!

1. How to Rank Videos on YouTube

To get videos to rank on YouTube, we must first understand the YouTube algorithm and YouTube’s ranking factors. Just like any search engine, YouTube wants to deliver content that answers the searcher’s specific query. For instance, if someone searches for “how to tie a tie,” YouTube won’t deliver a video titled “how to tie your shoelaces.” Instead, it will serve search results that answer that specific query. So, as you try your hand at YouTube SEO, think about how you can incorporate terms and phrases that are used by your target audience.

You’ll also need to think about YouTube Analytics and engagement. When it ranks videos, YouTube cares about a metric called “watch time” — in other words, how long viewers stay on your video. A long watch time means that you’re delivering valuable content; a short watch time means that your content should likely not rank. If you want your videos to rank, try to create content that is optimized for longer watch times. You can, for instance, prompt users to stay until the end of the video by promising a surprise or a giveaway.

2. Is it Worth Optimizing Videos on YouTube

Trying to rank videos on YouTube might seem like a lost effort. Only the most well-known influencers and content creators seem to have any luck on the platform. However, that is definitely not the case. As a business, you can enjoy views, comments, and likes on your videos — so long as you find the right audience for your content. In fact, finding and targeting the right audience is even more important than creating a “beautiful” video. If you’re actively solving your prospective customers’ problems with your YouTube videos, then you’ve done 90% of the YouTube optimization work.

In addition, ranking videos on YouTube is a key element of your inbound marketing strategy, even if it might not seem that way. As recently as a decade ago, inbound video marketing was a brand-new idea. Marketers were learning that they couldn’t just publish a high volume of content — it also had to be high-quality and optimized in ways that made it as discoverable as possible through search engines.

That content was once largely limited to the written word, but today that’s no longer the case. Instead, a comprehensive content strategy includes written work like blogs and e-books, as well as media like podcasts, visual assets, and videos. With the rise of other content formats comes the need to optimize them for search and one increasingly important place to do that is on YouTube.

YouTube SEO combines basic SEO practices with YouTube-specific optimization techniques. If you’re new to search engine optimization, check out this complete SEO guide.

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3. YouTube Strategy

To be successful on YouTube, you’ll need a clear strategy. This strategy has two parts. First, you need to understand how YouTube SEO works. Then, you’ll want to use that knowledge as you choose a target audience, develop a plan for your channel, and set goals for growth. YouTube is part of Google and it uses similar search algorithms to show users the videos that best match their search queries. This algorithm uses different elements in each video post to decide how that video will rank for specific search terms. The algorithm also considers the past activity of the person who is searching. This helps search results feel more personalized to that user. When combined, these signals tell the algorithm how relevant, popular, or engaging your video post is for a user’s query.

4. Choose a Target Audience

For many content creators, audience growth starts with picking a topic and then optimizing YouTube videos, but with growth comes competition. It was once simple to create a YouTube channel for a broad topic like product reviews or tech, but today new YouTube channels need a more specific focus. As you narrow your target audience, think about who you want to engage yourself with.

Creating a content plan can seem simple if your YouTube channel centers on a topic you love. If you want to optimize YouTube for SEO, content planning isn’t just about what videos you’re making and when to post them. It’s a process to figure out what resources you need to improve traffic, conversion, and engagement with your video content.

Building professional skills or a team with expertise in editing, sound, and animation can also boost the quality of your videos; if those resources are not readily available to you, you may need a plan to create great videos without them.

5. Set Goals for Growth

YouTube offers many helpful metrics that can help you assess whether you are meeting your strategic goals. Broad metrics can be helpful to track consistency and big shifts in performance, like algorithm changes.

It is also a good idea to choose focused metrics that align with your goal, e.g., if you want to increase your audience, track your subscriber count, impressions, and audience retention. If engagement is your goal, look at likes, comments, shares, and watch time. If you want to drive traffic, add links to your video descriptions and annotations and then track those sources on your website. Tracking the metrics that align with your goals will help you learn how you’re growing your audience. You can use that knowledge to create more effective videos for your users and SEO.

6. Rename your video file using a target keyword

Just like you would when optimizing written content, you’ll use an SEO tool to first identify keywords you’d like your video to focus on. With a keyword identified, the first place to put it is your video file before you even upload it to YouTube. YouTube can’t actually watch your video to see how relevant it is to your target keyword, and there are only so many places you can safely insert this keyword on your video’s viewing page once it’s published. YouTube can read your video’s file name and all the code that comes with it when it’s uploaded.

7. Insert Your Keyword Naturally in the Video Title

When you search for videos, one of the first things that your eyes are drawn to is the title. That’s often what decides whether you’ll click to watch your video, so the title should not only be compelling, but also clear and concise.

Although your keyword plays a big part in your video title, it also helps if the title closely matches what the viewer is searching for.

It’s a good idea to optimize your title for keywords so long as the keyword fits naturally into a title that tells viewers exactly what they’re about to see.

8. Optimize Your Video Description

According to Google, the official character limit for YouTube video descriptions is 1,000 characters. And while it’s okay to use all that space, remember that your viewer most likely came here to watch a video and not to read an essay.

If you do choose to write a longer description, keep in mind that YouTube only displays the first two or three lines of text — that amounts to about 100 characters. After that point, viewers have to click “show more” to see the full description. That’s why we suggest front-loading the description with the most important information, like CTAs or crucial links.

As for optimizing the video itself, it’s smart to add a transcript of the video, especially for those who have to watch it without volume. An optimized description can also help you show up in the suggested videos sidebar, which can be a great source of views.

If you need a high-performing video description, try one of these proven YouTube description templates.

9. Tag Your Video with Popular Keywords that Relate to Your Topic

YouTube suggests using tags to let viewers know what your video is about. But you’re not just informing your viewers — you’re also informing YouTube itself. YouTube uses tags to understand the content and context of your video.

That way, YouTube figures out how to associate your video with similar videos, which can broaden your content’s reach. But choose your tags wisely. Don’t use an irrelevant tag because you think it’ll get you more views and Google might penalize you for that. Lead with the most important keywords, including a good mix of those that are common and more long tail.

10. Categorize Your Video

Once you upload a video, you can categorize it under advanced settings. Choosing a category is another way to group your video with similar content on YouTube so it winds up in different playlists and gains exposure to more viewers who identify with your audience. In fact, it’s important to go through a comprehensive process to find which category each video belongs in.

11. Upload a Custom Thumbnail Image for Your Video’s Result Link

Your video thumbnail is the main image viewers see when scrolling through a list of video results. Along with the video’s title, that thumbnail sends a signal to the viewer about the video’s content, so it can impact the number of clicks and views your video receives. While you can always pick one of the thumbnail options auto-generated by YouTube, we highly recommend uploading a custom thumbnail. It’s important to note that your YouTube account has to be verified to upload a custom thumbnail image.

12. Add Cards

Adding cards on YouTube is a simple and effective way to engage your audience and drive more traffic to your content. To add a card to your video, start by navigating to the YouTube Studio and selecting the video you want to enhance. Click on the “Cards” tab and choose the type of card you wish to add, such as a video or playlist card, channel card, or even a poll card. Customize the card’s title, image, and call-to-action to make it visually appealing and compelling. You can place the card at a specific timestamp in the video to ensure it appears at the right moment. Once you’ve set up your card, save the changes, and it will now appear as a subtle but powerful interactive element within your video, encouraging viewers to explore more of your content and stay engaged with your channel.

13. Add Hashtags to Increase Reach

Hashtags are a part of the YouTube user interface that allow you to add related terms to your content, just as you would on LinkedIn or Instagram. Hashtags show up right above your video title for easy clicking and discoverability.

We also recommend using hashtags in your YouTube description, but don’t go overboard; the YouTube algorithm constantly checks for spam. Overly hashtagging may get you inadvertently flagged. Instead of using every hashtag you can think of, choose 2-3 that you feel most accurately describe your video.

14. Add a Call-to-Action (CTA) in Your Video and Video Description

Calls-to-action are a powerful way to foster engagement. A CTA that offers value not only encourages likes, subscribes, and shares, it can also improve viewer engagement metrics. This can boost your video’s visibility in search results and suggested video features.

For maximum effectiveness, vary your CTAs. On one video you might do a verbal CTA asking viewers to like, subscribe, or share. For another video, ask your audience to bookmark your video or click shared links in your description.

You’ll also want to ask your viewers to share comments and feedback. These actions aren’t just valuable for user experience. They also give signals to YouTube that your video is engaging and offering value to your viewers. Check out these call-to-action examples for inspiration. All of those tips can be carried out through YouTube alone.

15. Start Optimizing YouTube Videos

Video marketing is crucial for businesses and creators. No matter what SEO tip or tool you start with, a successful YouTube channel begins with good content. Make sure your viewers have something high-quality and relevant to watch when they find you.

Optimizing your YouTube videos can help attract more views and build community and lead to more conversions and sales. So, start today and watch your YouTube channel grow.

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Mastering the art of optimizing videos for YouTube search is vital for achieving success and standing out in the competitive world of online video content. By conducting thorough keyword research and strategically incorporating relevant keywords into titles, descriptions, and tags, you can improve your video’s discoverability and ranking in search results. Creating eye-catching thumbnails and engaging video content will entice viewers to click and watch, further signaling to YouTube’s algorithm that your content is valuable.

Additionally, utilizing end screens and cards to promote related videos and encourage viewer interaction can lead to longer watch times and increased user engagement. Building a strong and interactive community around your videos will foster loyalty and create a positive feedback loop that encourages more views, likes, comments, and shares.

Remember, YouTube SEO is an ongoing journey, and there are no shortcuts to success. It requires dedication, creativity, and continuous learning. By implementing these proven optimization strategies and staying committed to producing valuable and relevant content, you can elevate your YouTube channel, connect with a wider audience, and achieve your goals as a content creator.

Ready to take your YouTube channel to new heights? 🚀 Unlock the power of YouTube SEO and watch your views and subscribers soar! 📈 Don’t wait – start optimizing your videos today for maximum impact!


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Mary Anne LaJoie
Mary Anne LaJoie

It has been a longtime passion of mine to learn all about internet marketing and become as proficient as I can to eventually help others pursue this path.

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