Optimizing Your Videos: 11 YouTube SEO Tips You Should Follow (and Why)


Many people believe YouTube is a social media platform, but it’s actually a search engine. And what you may not know is that it’s easier to rank on YouTube than it is on Google—at least if you take the right approach and apply proven YouTube SEO tips. 

Why You Absolutely CANNOT Disregard YouTube

A number of small businesses don’t think the use of YouTube is an effective marketing tactic, but this just isn’t true. In fact, failing to take advantage of YouTube means missing out on a major opportunity to connect with and educate your audience. And there’s ample evidence to prove it.

Each day, people watch 1 billion hours of video on YouTube. That’s a huge number, and it just further demonstrates that video is one of the most loved ways to digest information. More importantly, it serves as a way for you to deliver highly engaging content to your audience. 

Take “How-To” searches, for example. Such videos are extremely popular because they provide viewers with an easy way to learn how to do something. On the creator side, they give businesses a chance to demonstrate their knowledge and authority. 

Moreover, videos are a type of visual storytelling that simply can’t be made any other way. And by uploading videos to YouTube, you increase the likelihood of prospects listening to your story. 

The problem is that increasing your visibility on YouTube takes time and effort. It’s not as easy as creating some videos, posting them on YouTube, and watching your ROI go through the roof. There’s a fair amount of work involved in optimizing your videos. But that’s where the following YouTube SEO tips come into play… 

11 YouTube SEO Tips to Help Your Videos Rank Higher

We’ve put together some of the most important YouTube SEO tips to help you optimize your videos so that they rank well from the moment you post them. This isn’t an extensive list, but it’s a great starting point, especially if you’re just now beginning to create and upload videos. 

1) Perform Keyword Research

First things first, it’s crucial that you perform keyword research before you optimize your videos. If you’re guessing when it comes to keywords, you’re sure to get it wrong more often than not. 

Here are 3 methods for doing YouTube keyword research (two are free and one is inexpensive):

  1. YouTube Search Box – Just type a keyword into YouTube’s search box and use the auto-complete suggestions that come up to choose keywords.
  2. Google Trends – Most people don’t know that Google Trends has a YouTube search feature that tells you search volume data for YouTube. It’s under the “Explore” section and then in the “Web Search” drop-down menu.
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  1. TubeBuddy – This is probably the best way to go about YouTube keyword research since it resides right within your YouTube account. It’s not free, but it is inexpensive ($9 per month). This YouTube plugin makes video SEO incredibly easy, and there are tons of features you can take advantage of.

2) Increase Your Video Views & Watch Time

When your video is up against competing videos on the same topic, it’s the ones that get the most views and longer average watch time per view that will rank higher.

This is probably the most critical aspect of YouTube SEO to get a handle on because YouTube itself sees it as extremely important.

If your video tends to get watched for only 1 minute, while your competitors’ videos are viewed for 10 minutes on average, YouTube isn’t going to rank yours above the others.

Therefore, you need to improve your watch time by doing the following:

To see what your watch time is, look at your watch time report, which is located in YouTube’s Creator Studio > Analytics > Watch Time.

3) Make Video Titles Short & Include Your Main Keyword

Of all the YouTube SEO tips on this list, this one is the easiest to apply. 

The keywords you use in your video title should match the search query people are typing in to find a video like yours. And when we say match, we mean exact match—not a variation of the keyword.

This is even more important in YouTube than it is in Google since YouTube’s algorithm goes by exact match. YouTube likes short titles as well, so keep them under 50 characters.

BONUS TIP: Search the keyword you are trying to rank for on YouTube and make your title better than the competing videos.

4) Write Detailed, Keyword-Rich Descriptions

Next, you’ll need to make sure the keywords you want to rank for are in your video description. In this case, you have much more room to play with, so you can include numerous keywords. 

Here’s a good rule to follow: Aim to make your descriptions around 200-350 words.

Video descriptions on YouTube can be extremely rich, and the richer you make them, the better. Include the following:

5) Create Epic Thumbnail Images

Although your thumbnail image isn’t really part of the YouTube algorithm, making it eye-catching is actually one of the most important YouTube SEO tips we can give you. After all, if your video ranks well but no one clicks on it, your ranking will drop like a lead weight.

The image is what is going to entice people to click on your video, so it should never just be a boring still shot from the video. Use these tips instead:

6) Include Multiple Video Tags

Video tags are a form of meta data in YouTube, and they serve as one of the most important ranking factors. Although they’ll help somewhat with your video ranking in YouTube, they really come into play with recommended videos.

Recommended videos are the videos that show up under the video you are watching on mobile or to the right of the video on desktop. These are also the videos that play after the video you are watching concludes.

Many articles about YouTube SEO tips will tell you not to go overboard on video tags and to keep them to 5-10, but the YouTube SEO Ranking Factor Study by Justin Briggs suggests otherwise. His findings showed that 31-40 tags per video work best.

Tags can be added under “More Options.” Make your first tag your keyword, and then add related keywords.

7) Choose the Right Video Length

Choosing a suitable length for your video is another one of the most crucial YouTube SEO tips to keep in mind. 

According to the previously mentioned study, 10-16 minutes is the best practice when it comes to rankings, while 4-6 minutes tends to get the most views. 

So, it depends on what you want to optimize for: rankings or views. 

For example, if you are putting out a video that promotes a short-term opportunity, you might consider optimizing it for the most views. A video that is evergreen, however, would be best optimized for rank.

No matter what you do, don’t post really short videos (under 2 minutes) on YouTube. They might do well on other channels, but they don’t perform well on YouTube.

7) Use Video Transcripts & Translations

One of the most underused YouTube SEO tips is the adoption of transcripts and translations. 

This is a surefire way to have not only YouTube but also Google find your videos. By including more text with your videos, the bots are able to read them and understand what your video is all about.

Transcripts, otherwise known as closed captions, are the subtitles that show up at the bottom of a video. They are time-stamped so the words that show up match what is happening in the video. 

Translations, on the other hand, are used so that people who speak different languages can watch your video.

YouTube does have an automated transcription feature that is convenient and free, but if you are going to use it, you will need to edit it since it’s focused more on convenience than accuracy.

BONUS TIP: Add a short version of the transcript to the video description to increase your keyword density. You can include up to 4,850 characters, which is about 10 minutes of a video.

9) Optimize from the Get-Go

The first 48 hours after your video is published is the most important time in the life of your video; therefore, you should have all of your optimizations ready to go before you publish your video.

New YouTube videos get an initial boost in the rankings, and the only way to take advantage of that is to make a strong exit out of the gate. That initial boost typically lasts 2-6 weeks and is the strongest for the first two weeks.

If you’re not doing this, you’re disregarding one of YouTube’s biggest advantages, and honestly, it’s pretty hard to recover from it.

Don’t get us wrong, we do still suggest going back and optimizing videos that you didn’t optimize right away. Just don’t make that mistake again!

10) Include End Screens & Cards

When you use end screens and cards, you improve engagement and increase the time that a person spends on your channel, which works favorably for your video’s SEO.

End screens are a way of displaying your related videos at the end of your video. You can also ask your viewers to subscribe with an end screen, which can help with your SEO as well.

Cards are notifications that pop up at any point in the video that you choose. You can mention a similar video, promote a related channel you own, and even poll viewers.

11) Get Embeds & Links

When you look at YouTube SEO tips, this one is a little more elusive. It’s hard to tell if embeds and links have a direct correlation to better rankings, but what we can be sure of is that they increase the visibility of your videos, and that makes an impact for sure.

Embeds are when someone embeds your video on their website. If you are putting out high-quality content and you have a lot of subscribers and viewers, embeds are likely to follow.

When we talk about links, we are referring to getting links to your videos as well as your channel. It’s just like link building for off-page SEO through Google. 

Here are some of the best ways to get links to your videos/channel:

Final Thoughts about YouTube SEO Tips

Fortunately, ranking in YouTube is a lot less intimidating and more easily achievable than it is with Google. By applying the YouTube SEO tips above, you’ll be able to optimize your videos properly. As a result, you can generate more business with engaging, high-quality content.


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Filed Under: Tools & Technology

About Jon Maday

Jon recently graduated from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh with a degree in marketing and economics. He grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and loves his Chicago sports teams. Jon found his passion for marketing while in college and decided to pursue a career in the digital side of marketing. He is an eager learner and started with Viral Solutions as an intern before accepting a position upon graduation. Outside of work, Jon enjoys hanging out with friends and watching sporting events.