YouTube’s SEO primary goals are to get its users to:
- Watch more videos
- Engage with those videos
- Stick around on YouTube as long as possible
The more videos that are watched on YouTube, the more advertising
revenue YouTube earns
But what you may not realize is that YouTube’s search and recommendation algorithms are designed to achieve those same objectives. That means it’s in your best interest to align your video strategy with YouTube’s SEO goals.
Getting your content to rank in YouTube search results is a two-step process. First, YouTube needs to know what your video is about. YouTube then determines if your content is worthy of ranking for that keyword
YouTube SEO: Video Titles
If you want your videos to perform well on YouTube, invest time writing a
- Great titles serve two essential functions:
- They tell YouTube/Google what your video is about
- They entice potential viewers to click and watch your video
- Let’s examine each of these functions one at a time.
Titling Your Videos For SEO
Creating titles for YouTube videos is similar to writing headlines for articles on your website. Below you’ll learn about the essential elements you should take into consideration when writing a title for your next video project.
Relevance is the most important element when deciding on a title for your video. If your title isn’t relevant, you may get lots of low-quality views, which sends a signal to YouTube that your video doesn’t deserve to rank.
This is related to relevance, but it’s also helpful from a keyword perspective. Whenever possible, include in your title the exact phrase that your ideal viewer would type into Google or YouTube’s search field. While this isn’t always possible, it is a powerful way to rank highly for your selected key phrase.
Semantic search is relatively new, but it’s fast becoming an important
factor in YouTube SEO. Basically, YouTube and Google are becoming better
at understanding what your audience is actually looking for when they
type in a search query. For that reason, using synonyms can be very effective, even if you’re not targeting that exact keyword, provided that it makes your title more clickable.
YouTube SEO: Keywords
All else being equal, a title with the keyword/phrase in the beginning will
perform better than a title where the keyword is in the middle or end of
For example, consider the two titles below:
- How to Get More YouTube Traffic
- Get More YouTube Traffic: How To Boost Viewership
While both titles are reasonably good, if all else were equal, the second title would rank more highly for the key phrase “Get more YouTube traffic.” However if the first title has a higher clickthrough rate (CTR), then it
would likely rank higher than the second. Although this is a best practice,
you should be comfortable using your best judgment and break this rule when it makes sense to do so.
Click-Through Rate: This lesser-known factor affects your video’s rankings on YouTube. Here’s why it’s important: Say your video ranks #9 for the key phrase “Get more YouTube traffic.” With a great title, your video may get more click-throughs than the 8th ranked video — a strong indicator to YouTube that your video deserves higher rank (all else being equal).
Video Keywords Ranking Strategy
Proven Headline Formulas That Get Clicked
One of the most difficult things about writing great titles is that most
people don’t know what they look like . . . until they see one.
So to help get you started, here are a few proven headline formulas you
can use to write click-worthy titles for your videos.
Formula 1: List Headlines
[Number] + [Adjective] + [Target Keyword] + [Promise]
Example: “7 Simple YouTube Hacks That Will Generate More Subscribers”
Formula 2: How-To Headlines
[How to] + [Target Keyword]
Example: “How to Write Great Video Titles”
Formula 3: Little Known Ways to… Headlines
[Number] + [Little Known Ways to] + [Target Keyword]
Example: “3 Little Known Ways To Get More YouTube Subscribers”
For more great headline formulas, just search Google for “headline
formulas.” Several great copywriters have already compiled large lists of
proven headline formulas you can start using right away.
One final word on titling: Video Keywords.
Certain “special” video keywords will help your video rank on Google, in addition to YouTube. Although this should not be your primary focus, keep in mind that Google favors YouTube videos that include the following words:
• “How to” keywords (“How to Write a Killer YouTube Title”)
• Tutorial keywords (“Tutorial: Writing Great YouTube Titles”)
• Review keywords (“TrueView Advertising Reviews”)
• Funny keywords (“Epic YouTube Fails,” or “Funny Cat Videos”)
• Video keywords (Video: How to Write Killer YouTube Titles)
To confirm that your selected keyword has video results, type it into Google.
If you see YouTube videos in the results, it’s a keyword that could get you onto Google’s first page. While these special video keywords can help you rank your content on Google, it’s still no guarantee. Your videos must have value independent of your Google SEO strategy. Remember, even though Google is the top search engine, YouTube is #2. Keep these special words in mind when writing to get added exposure. Just don’t break your title to do so.
YouTube SEO: Video Descriptions
Aside from the video’s title, your description is YouTube’s best clue about which search terms you want to rank for. Contrary to popular belief, using YouTube does not mean you can get out of writing. In fact, YouTube still relies heavily on the words you use to determine what your video is about.
And just like website content, the more words you use to describe your
video, the better search engines like Google and YouTube can index it.
The Benefits of Killer YouTube Descriptions
- Encouraging click-throughs from search engine result pages
- Telling search engines what your video is about
- Adding extra value to your viewers
First, include relevant keywords/phrases that you want your video to rank for. Write it like a 300-500 word blog post and include your target keyword, as well as synonyms or supporting keywords you may want to target.Keep in mind that the first 150 characters of your description will appear as your video’s meta description in Google SERPs. To encourage more clickthroughs and improve your search rank, ensure your description starts strong and includes your target keyword.
Finally, descriptions can be used to provide extra value to your viewers. So in addition to discussing the topic, consider linking to related content or a landing page on your website. If you reference anything in the video, be sure to link to the source. This is both a common courtesy, as well as promotion opportunity (if you email the source and mention you linked to them).
The Anatomy of a Killer YouTube Description
Conventional wisdom suggests that your YouTube description be structured
Lines 1-2: Curiosity-invoking description that includes your target keyword
Line 3: Link to landing page on your website (use offers, or “lead magnets,” to collect emails)
Line 4-End: 300-500 words on the subject in the video, with any additional sources included as links.
Use Bullets In Your Description
As with all forms of copywriting, using bullets creates visual space that
makes it easier for your readers (or viewers, in this case) to get the main
ideas. Plus, you may be able to include all your target keywords in a bulleted list, which is really helpful if you don’t have much to write about.
YouTube SEO :TAGS
YouTube’s tags don’t get much love, but they’re more important than their
reputation would suggest.
The reason they’re ignored in the YouTube community is that they don’t
have a significant impact on your search ranking. This makes sense since
YouTube cares more about what your audience thinks of the video than the
specific words you use to describe it.
However, tags do present YouTube creators an opportunity to generate
additional views and even steal audience from your competitors.
The Benefits of YouTube Tags
- Telling YouTube what keywords your video should rank for
- Generating clickthroughs from related videos (including your
Any time you have an opportunity to include relevant keywords/phrases, use it, but don’t get carried away and start keyword stuffing (that’s still a no-no!).However, optimizing for discovery in the related videos section of YouTube is a lesser-known benefit of YouTube tagging. Related videos appear in two places: on the YouTube sidebar and at the very end of YouTube videos.
Interestingly, many brands won’t use YouTube for fear they’ll introduce
their viewers to the competition.
However, this is not as big a deal as you may think. In fact, more often,
the inverse is true; YouTube recommendations can quickly account for a
large percentage of your organic views…if you use tags properly.
What to Include In Your YouTube Tags
Naturally, you’ll want to include your target keyword or key phrase, as
well as any synonyms, in your tags.
You only have around 120 characters for the tags section, but use as many
tags as possible. Usually, this falls somewhere around 10 or so.
In addition to your target keywords, you may also consider choosing
keywords for closely-related topics. The reason is that, if your video and
another video have similar tags, your video is likely to show as a
“recommended” video for their viewers to watch next.
Using Tags To Target Your Competitor’s Audience
If you know that your competitor has some popular videos, consider
creating several videos around the same topic and use your tags
strategically to try and rank as “recommended videos” for their viewers.
Currently, YouTube reserves the top 4 slots in the sidebar for related
content from the creator’s YouTube channel, but you could quickly fill up
the remaining related video slots by creating videos on that topic and
tagging them strategically.One of the biggest mistakes brands make is using only long-tail keywords in their YouTube tags.
The following example illustrates what this means in practice:
Say you’re trying to rank for the key phrase “Advanced YouTube SEO.”
It wouldn’t be wrong to include that key phrase as one of your tags, but
don’t forget to break that key phrase up in your tags too.
In this example, you should include these tags as well:
• “YouTube SEO”
• “Advanced SEO”
• “Video SEO”
• “Advanced video seo”
• “Search Engine Optimization”
Ultimately, this ensures that you rank for closely-related search terms in addition to your target search term. Use synonyms, fragments and other related terms to cover your bases. Also, YouTube’s tags are plural and tense-sensitive.This means the words “video” and “videos” would be treated differently,as would “have” and “had.” Make sure you’re precise and use the right words in your tags.
Using your target keyword multiple times in the videos themselves is
essential.Remember: YouTube wants to ensure your video is relevant for the search terms your targeting. So if your videos don’t include your keywords, it will be more difficult to get a high search rank. Plus, if your keywords aren’t repeated in your videos, transcriptions are of little value anyway.
For that reason, it’s important develop a strategy BEFORE you produce your video so you can include your keyword and any supporting keywords multiple times to build the context needed for YouTube to rank your video. Uploading transcriptions is one of the easiest and most effective things you
can do to improve your video’s search rank.
- Tell YouTube what keywords your video should rank for
- Generate clickthroughs from related videos (including competitor’s)