YouTube SEO: 11 Tips to Rank Your YouTube Videos

The act of posting your videos and remaining engaged with them are the two first steps to driving traffic to your YouTube channel. Without videos, there’s nothing for people to watch, and without your interaction, they won’t stick around or keep coming back.

After a few months, you should start seeing more views on your channel. Keep putting out regular content and stay active with your viewers. Additionally, there are a few more things you can do to boost traffic to your channel.

Remember, YouTube is the second-largest search engine globally. This means that people are likely to find your videos through searches on traditional search engines or directly on YouTube.

That means that you need to make sure your videos come up higher in the search results than similar videos posted by other people. It is a competition and you need to win. You need to elevate your videos and make them stand out because even if you have the best video in the world but it doesn’t come up in search results then no one will watch it.

In this article, we will show you exactly how you can best optimize your videos for the highest search rankings. You’ll learn all the steps you need to take from uploading your videos to publishing and boosting your video. You’ll also learn all the YouTube ranking factors that affect your rankings.

What is YouTube SEO?

The purpose of video search engine optimization (video SEO) is to inform YouTube about your video. For traditional web SEO, search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo! would analyze your site’s content, determine what was important, and then offer your content to relevant searchers. Links, sharing, and clicks were factored in to determine how popular a particular piece of content ended up being over time.

YouTube differs from web search because it can’t (yet) watch your video to determine what it’s about. In its place, it relies on your metadata and how the community reacts by watching the video, sharing it via social media, and including embedded links on external sites.

How does search engine optimization work? Optimization involves intelligently and systematically constructing an appropriate description of your video so that

  • YouTube understands what your video is about so it can serve it to the most relevant audiences
  • Google, Bing, and Yahoo! understand your content, so they are able to add your videos to search results pages along with web content
  • Viewers are more likely to click on your content compared to other search results

These are the goals you want to achieve.

YouTube Video Ranking Factors

1. Title, Tags, Description

These are the “on-page” SEO factors or the text that goes with the video that gives context and allows YouTube to determine what the video is about.

Along with this are the video filename, captions (aka closed captions or cc), annotations, outgoing links, and content uniqueness (text that is unique and not copy-pasted from elsewhere).

2. Number of Views

YouTube looks at the number of views on both your video, your channel, and overall views across all of your videos. It also takes into account the source of the views, how many initial views the video gets within the first 24-48 hours, and very importantly, the view retention. View retention means how long out of the total length of the video the viewer watch.

There are two types of view retention:

  • Relative retention
  • Absolute retention

Relative retention is when YouTube compares the retention rate to similar length videos.

Absolute retention is how long you keep your viewers engaged on your specific video and whether there are any points in the video that keep them engaged longer than normal.

Read more: How to Get More Views on YouTube

3. Keywords

This factor includes the length of the description, using the exact match of the keyword phrase, the keyword in the title, description, and tags, and also having some secondary similar keywords sprinkled in there.

4. Channel

The channel name, number of subscribers, total number of videos, age of the channel, and the SEO in the channel description and tags all play a role in how well your video ranks.

5. Backlinks

These are links from other sites that point toward your video or channel. Important elements include the anchor text (text of the link), the number of backlinks, the quality of the backlinks (Trust Flow, Domain Authority), and the number of videos embedded.

6. Sharing 

Social signals are very important and give an indication of how interesting and engaging a video is. This includes shares on various social media platforms, especially Google+, Facebook, Blogger, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Likes, favorites, pluses, and retweets are all counted toward this factor.

7. Interaction

YouTube wants its users to stay on its platform and engage with the content and community. Therefore, interaction plays a huge part in gauging how relevant a video is.

Elements like how many playlists a video is added to, the number of comments on the video if any relevant keywords are in the comments, and the number of likes and dislikes.

11 Best YouTube SEO Tips

1. YouTube Video Filename

Before you upload your video you YouTube, you want to make sure the video filename has your main keyword in it. What you need to do is set the name of the video and thumbnail image file with the keyword phrase. This will give YouTube a clearer idea about what your video is about.

Then, depending on the operating system you’re using, you can edit the video file properties and add meta tags. I add the main keyword in there as well, both for the video and the thumbnail.

2. YouTube Video Title

The video title is the most important on-page SEO element of your video. You’ll need to include the main keyword in here, as close as you can to the front. Then I recommend including a secondary YouTube keyword as well, separated by a pipe | symbol or hyphen.

For example, if your keyword is “how to make money on YouTube” and your secondary keyword is “how I make money on YouTube fast”, then it would look like this:

How To Make Money On YouTube – How I Make Money On YouTube Fast!

Tip: In addition to adding your keyword, it helps to craft an attention-grabbing headline around it for maximum attention-grabbing potential.

For example, I could transform the above into:

How To Make Money On YouTube – Watch How I Make Money on YouTube Fast in 24 Hours | With PROOF!

Now it reads more powerful and makes searchers want to click on the headline.

Alternatively, if you just want to go for a viral headline, go to BuzzSumo.com and enter your keyword. Look at the top trending article headlines for this topic and model one of them. If possible, try to include your keyword in the headline you write, otherwise, you wouldn’t be optimizing your video for ranking.

3. YouTube Video Tags

The video tags are a very important element that helps YouTube and Google understand what your video is about. This is how to create your tags:

Let’s say the keyword is again, “how to make money on YouTube”. I would create my tags like this:

How to make money on YouTube, how to make money, make money on YouTube, how to, make money, YouTube

In other words, I would include my main keyword, then chunk it down smaller and smaller.

Then, I would go on YouTube and search for my main keyword. I would then click on the first ranked video and grab the tags in that video.

Now, here’s a ninja secret not many people know – normally, YouTube hides tags from the public, BUT if you’re using Google Chrome Browser, or a browser that allows you to view the Html, you can right-click on the page and then select “view source”. Then type ctrl+f (PC) or cmd+f (Mac), and type in “tags”. There should be a list of tags that you can copy and paste at the end of your own list.

Why are we doing this? Because of this keyword, YouTube has determined it is the most relevant, so by mirroring the tags, YouTube will see your video as closely related and will rank it higher in the search results.

4. YouTube Video Description

The description is also a very important element that cannot be underestimated. The first three lines are the most important for two reasons: firstly because it’s the only part that’s visible by default until you click on the link to expand it. Secondly, YouTube values the first lines the most in terms of looking for relevant keywords and understanding the meaning.

What you need to do is put your main keyword in the first line, as close as you can to the front. If possible, copy and paste your title in the first line instead of including something else. The first three lines is also where you would put your main call to action link that you want people to visit.

For the rest of the description, you’ll need at least 300 words of content relating to the video keyword. Ideally, it would be 800-1,000 words so YouTube has more context to work with, but 300 is fine. You can either write the content or paste the transcript in there.

Make sure the main keyword is in there at least once somewhere in the middle, and at least once near the end. Sprinkle some related keywords and some of the tags in there as well, but do it naturally, you don’t want to “keyword stuff”, which could have negative consequences.

Add a few links into your description back to YouTube to give yourself some backlinks. Include a link back to the same video, a link to your channel, and also a link to a video that is ranking in the top 3 positions for your keyword.

You should also link out to an authority blog post about that topic that gives YouTube and Google some more context to work with to understand your video better.

5. YouTube Video Closed Captions

By default, YouTube uses machine transcription to turn any speech into text for the closed captions or subtitles. Naturally, it’s not perfect and can make errors, so it’s best to edit and fix them.

Alternatively, you can get your video professionally transcribed and then upload the new subtitles and set them as default.

The slow and painful (but free) way to transcribe your audio would be to do it yourself, however, it’s not fun, and can take up a lot of time you could use to focus on more content instead.

Tools & Resources: I would recommend using a really good service called Rev.com where you can get videos transcribed and turned into closed captions for only $1 a minute.

If you want to reach a larger audience, you can also get your closed captions translated into another language, but it’s not necessary.

6. Thumbnail Images

In order to get people to watch your videos, you need to make sure they have good Search Engine Optimization or SEO. In addition, you need to have a good thumbnail image that shows people exactly what the video is about. 

Remember, a picture is worth a thousand words and, in this case, a good picture will likely be the difference between receiving views and not receiving them. After all, if there are two videos and one has an interesting thumbnail while the other is a random image of a segment in the video, which one would you choose? 

Despite the saying, people do indeed judge a book by its cover. The same is true with YouTube videos. Therefore, it is essential that you have a good thumbnail image. That means that you are probably going to have to create one yourself and upload a custom thumbnail instead of using the YouTube-generated images. 

Don’t worry; it isn’t very difficult. Often times you can search Google for images to use and then put them together in Photoshop or another photo editing program. It is also a good idea to place some words on your thumbnail so people can instantly see what the video is about. The key phrase here is some words not a lot of words. Try to keep the words to a minimum and make sure they are large enough to read. 

People like images because images represent so much more than words and they are a lot easier to see and remember especially in a thumbnail. Thumbnails are very small so, when creating yours, remember that less is more. Another trick you can do to help people recognize your videos and further brand your channel is to add a banner on each of your thumbnails. 

This will really help when your videos appear on YouTube, like on a search engine or on social media. Adding a banner is pretty simple and can be done in many photo-editing programs. In addition, they make your videos look very professional and significantly help to increase your brand recognition.

7. Channel Details

The final thing you need to do to help your SEO is to make sure you fill out all of your channel details. This includes making sure your channel name is relevant to the type of content you are posting. In addition, make sure to add your channel keywords and other details in the settings area. Fill out your profile and add any appropriate links to your channel page, including all of your social media links. In addition, select a good profile image and a cover image that depicts the nature of your channel. 

It is also important for you to take the time to add some related channels in your sidebar and, if you are able, create a video trailer for your channel. In addition, try to create playlists and video selections for people to browse when on your channel. 

Place these lists and videos on your channel page by adding as many sections as you want below your cover image and trailer. You may have to switch from the default YouTube channel display settings to a custom display so that you will be able to edit this information as you please. 

Another thing that many YouTube channels often overlook is the Google Plus profile. You’ll notice that YouTube uses your Google Plus name for your YouTube channel name unless you specifically tell it not to do so. 

YouTube and Google are intertwined. That means whatever is on your Google Plus profile will work to help your YouTube channel and vice versa. Therefore, make sure you take the time to completely and accurately fill out your Google Plus profile even if you have never used Google Plus.

8. Embed YouTube Video

Embedding your video on external websites is also a signal that YouTube looks for when ranking your video. You should embed your videos on your website and blogs to get more backlinks and external views on your videos, all of which contribute to helping your ranking.

Again, make sure you embed on relevant pages and websites that relate to your video topic.

9. Add YouTube Video To A Playlist

Add your video to a relevant playlist. Playlists are searchable on YouTube, so create a playlist with relevant videos, including your own, and use a similar keyword. This will definitely boost your ranking, even if just a little bit.

Just like with videos, you should include keywords in the title and description of your playlist.

If you optimize your playlist for keywords that people are searching for, it can rank for those terms, leading to more views.

Also, playlists give YouTube insights into the context of each video in that playlist. Let us say you just created a video about speed reading. If you add the video to a playlist titled “Productivity Hacks” and place it next to other related videos, YouTube will gain an even better understanding of your video, which can lead to higher visibility on YouTube.

10. Post Your YouTube Video on Social Media

Social media has become increasingly important, not only as a way to connect and engage with your audience but also for search engines to determine how popular and relevant a website or video is by looking at social signals.

Social signals are any activity on social media platforms that mention or link to your video or channel page. They include engagement signals like shares, likes, favorites, and comments.

Build backlinks to your video by posting it on social media. You will also be able to reach a lot more people and get people to watch and interact with your video. If they share it, you’ll get the added benefit of reaching an even larger network you wouldn’t have been able to otherwise.

Action Step: Post your video on as many of your social media platforms as possible, like Google+, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, and others.

YouTube or Google are smart, but they can’t evaluate whether the video content itself is actually any good. They rely on social signals and the reactions of others to see how interesting a video is.

The idea is, that the more shares, likes, and comments a post has, the more engaging and interesting a video is assumed to be.

How to get more social engagements on your videos

If you want to get more social interaction and engagements on your video posts in social media, try these ideas:

  • Have an eye-catching thumbnail that stops the viewer from scrolling down the feed
  • Add a benefit-based, curiosity-instilling headline
  • Let them know what’s in it for them, what will they learn?
  • Tell them exactly what to do: LIKE, COMMENT, and SHARE!
  • Post at times when most of your audience is active on the platform (use TubeBuddy.com)

11. Backlinks

What is a backlink? A backlink is simply a link that is pointing from another website, video, or social media profile to your page.

Think of each backlink as a vote, and each vote has different levels of authority. Just in the same way that 100 testimonials from people you don’t know will have less influence than 10 testimonials from celebrities or industry leaders.

The more votes a website has, and the higher the authority, the more the website is likely to be trustworthy and relevant in the eyes of Google or YouTube. This means it’s more likely to rank higher for any given relevant search term.

When we talk about “high quality” backlinks, I’m mainly referring to the domain authority (DA) and page authority (PA) score. The higher the domain or page authority, the more ranking “power” it has.

Tools & Resources: Moz.com “Open Site Explorer” tool allows you to check pages’ Domain Authority and Page Authority.

What’s also really important is relevant backlinks. Let’s say your video is about “how to train your parrot to talk”, then you’ll want backlinks from websites, blogs, forums, and other videos and channels that closely relate to the topic. Otherwise, the links would count much less or even change the context of your video topic.

There are two ways you can do it: Do it yourself or outsource them. Both have their pros and cons.

Building your own backlinks can be a lot of work and takes time, but you have more control over it and have full transparency of where you link from. It can also be less expensive if done through guest posts, on your own websites, or other free ways.

Outsourcing backlinks can be a tricky minefield if you don’t know what to look for. The advantage is you save a lot of time.

There are a lot of sellers on the market where backlinks just don’t work or could even harm your video ranking performance. On the other hand, if you find the right providers, you’ll be able to scale up your efforts without extra time.

A good place to look for backlinks is Fiverr.com or SEOClerks.com. The best way to determine whether the backlinks are good is to purchase from top-rated sellers with a lot of 5-star reviews, and finally, just test and track your results using keyword rank tracking software. If they are quality backlinks, your video should start seeing some ranking improvements.

YouTube SEO Tools 

1. Ahrefs Keywords Explorer

The Keywords Explorer is based on 640 million YouTube keywords.

Almost any keyword can be searched to see metrics based on clickstream data, including local and global search volume (for almost any country), clicks, click percentage, and more.

In practice, what does this mean? It lets you see how many people search for a keyword on YouTube each month and how many of those searches result in clicks on search results. Looking at clicks and search volume together can help you uncover more information than just looking at search volume alone.

Therefore, you might be better off teaching people how to make palak paneer than ramen.

SEO metrics can also be viewed for up to 10,000 keywords simultaneously with Keywords Explorer. Just paste or upload the keywords.

2. SEO Clerks – vidtr.in/seoclerks

This is an amazing platform for all services relating to SEO, from buying backlinks, social signals, and much more. Make sure you buy from a trusted provider by looking at the ratings first.

You may have to test many providers before you find the ones that work best. Always make sure they do “whitehat” and Google-friendly practices, so your video or channel won’t get penalized for bad links.

3. Canva

Canva is known for its templates for designing cards, photos, logos, and more. As a matter of fact, this popular product has a Thumbnail Creator specifically for YouTube videos.

In addition to the tips above, thumbnail images are important for promoting your content in YouTube search results and getting people to click on your videos. You can create a preview image in 1280 x 720 pixels using Canva’s Thumbnail Creator – the size YouTube requires for thumbnails.

4. TubeBuddy – vidtr.in/tbud

This Google Chrome plugin is also a must-have for any YouTuber. It has way more features than VidIQ and adds advanced functionality to YouTube such as bulk processing, video SEO, promotion, and data research.

There are too many features to mention here, but in short, it makes things so much easier and faster to use. Definitely download and install it.

Final Words

Combining both On-Page and Off-Page SEO methods is a surefire way to get the best ranking results.

Remember to always test, test, test, and track what you do so you can see what is or isn’t working and repeat the steps at a future date.

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