YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search

Get answers to all the questions you have about YouTube SEO with this detailed guide on how to optimize videos for YouTube search. Follow some of these smart hacks and skyrocket the engagement of your content to the next level.

Oct 6, 2021
YouTube SEO: How to Optimize Videos for YouTube Search

Optimizing your content on the world's second-largest search engine is something that everyone would love to achieve. When you consider that there are approximately 500 hours of new videos being uploaded on YouTube every minute, you get an idea about the competition that you will be facing. That's why we have you covered with answers to all the questions you had on YouTube SEO and how to optimize videos for YouTube search.

Due to the constantly evolving nature of the YouTube algorithm, it is important to keep track of YouTube SEO to improve your video rankings on the platform. However, following some of the basic steps we cover will help in getting your videos to rank better on YouTube Search Results Page (SERP).

How exactly does SEO work on YouTube?

SEO for YouTube

When it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Google is probably one of the first things that pop up on your mind, and for good reasons too. However, SEO for YouTube is entirely different from the SEO we are used to on Google. Yes, YouTube is owned by Google, but the purpose and usage of YouTube and Google are not exactly the same. The only thing that's common for Google and YouTube as search engines is that you want to get your videos high up on YouTube's Search Engine Results Page (SERP), just like you want to get your site high up on the SERPs to improve the chances of discoverability. If you are new to YouTube, here is a beginner's guide on how to start a YouTube channel.

The main difference between the two search engines is that while Google uses backlinks and similar factors to decide where your content will rank, YouTube SEO requires you to optimize your videos for search within and outside of YouTube. You will need to optimize everything from your channel to playlists, metadata, descriptions and videos to improve your YouTube SERP rankings. Utilizing the power of video's text in the form of transcripts, closed captions, and subtitles is also a great strategy to help improve user experience, viewership and engagement of your channel.

Importance of using the right keywords

Importance of using the right keywords
Image Courtesy: Ahrefs

Very Important! More and more creators are joining in on the platform with every passing minute. With the increase in popularity only improving by the day, there are also more competitors, more products, more services, and of course more business opportunities. As a result, YouTube SERP is now competitive like never before and getting your videos high up can instantly reel in success for your channel like never before in the form of views and engagement. It is essential that you use the right keywords and attract traffic to stand out and bring in a consistent amount of views.

Spend time for your keyword research and use competitive terms that can help you get your content high up on the YouTube SERP. If you are struggling to stay in the top part with competitive terms, consider picking out keywords that can get you volume, but are less competitive. You can still use the same keyword research tools like Semrush, Moz, Google Keyword Planner, and also use YouTube SEO extensions like Vidiq and TubeBuddy to get your video ranked with the right keywords.

Implement keywords on YouTube video titles

Implement keywords on YouTube video titles
Image Courtesy: YouTube

Before we proceed to what the different ways are to implement keywords in your YouTube video's title, it is important that we figure out the search intent of your audience first. Click-bait titles are always a gamble and can backfire at times, so it is highly recommended to not go for click-bait titles until you have a good subscriber base. Always match the title with what your video is all about so that viewers won't feel cheated or waste their time on content they do not wish to see.

If you are a travel vlogger from the United States, exploring the middle east, and have a good chunk of subscribers from North America, it is important that you come up with a title that North Americans who love travelling or wants to know more about middle east connects to. A good example would be "One Day in the Middle East", "Exploring the Middle East", Top Places to Visit in the Middle East or Visiting <city name>" which are all things a user interested in these topics would search on YouTube.

Best ways to optimize YouTube video description

optimizing YouTube video description
Image Courtesy: Backlinko

Leaving your video description blank is the worst thing you can do when it comes to getting views and engagement. Having a solid optimized video description that is SEO friendly and has all the right keywords is important to get your video ranked on YouTube SERP. What's more important is that you need to add this description at the moment of publishing this video for the first time itself. Why? because YouTube will evaluate and review your video after every change or update on any of the video elements including video description. If your video is already ranking, it can change the ranking for good or bad, and therefore, it is always best to get the description right at the first instance itself.

Try using the primary keyword or central topic of your video in both the description and title. It's also best to include related keywords that you can find from keyword research websites and tools. Having extensions like Vidiq installed on your browser will also help you get keyword suggestions and possible ranking approximations you will get on the YouTube SERP for their usage. Try to use at least 3 - 5 keywords in your video description. The maximum word limit for YouTube video descriptions is 1000 characters.

Utilizing hashtags to improve viewership and engagement

Utilizing hashtags to improve viewership and engagement
Image Courtesy: YouTube

Hashtags are not just for Twitter and Instagram only, you can use them across any (well almost) social media platforms out there to improve your engagement and viewership. YouTube however makes it a lot more complicated than how you would use it across other platforms. The main difference is that you can only use three clickable hashtags on YouTube videos. Regardless, this does help you increase your reach and engagement by bringing in more traffic. The first three hashtags, based on the order you add them to the video will be shown above the title of the video and will become hyperlinked. These will be featured right above your video's title.

If you add hashtags and it does not show up on your video and is instead replaced by video location, you will need to remove the video location. Hashtags will only be available on the description if you add a video location to your content. If you are not a travel vlogger that wishes to feature a particular location on your video, it is always best to skip adding location and use hashtags instead to have more engagement.

Benefits of adding subtitles and closed captions

adding subtitles and closed captions

Even though the option to add subtitles and closed captions is there on YouTube, this is one feature that most creators refuse to make use of. Before we proceed further, it is important to know the difference between these two. Subtitles are translations in a common language like English that is designed to help viewers who do not understand a language, whereas closed captions are a text of what is being spoken (without any translation).

While there are auto-generated subtitles for some of the popular languages, it is not applicable for all languages. However, there is the option to manually add subtitles in languages like English. Spend some time to manually type in and add subtitles to increase the chances of your video getting a higher ranking. Having a transcript for your video will help improve the SEO as search engines will pick out keywords, and have them ranked higher up for their subsequent topics.

Importance of using relevant and related tags
Image Courtesy: YouTube

Another less explored feature when it comes to uploading new videos that can have a significant impact on your video ranking is the usage of video tags. YouTube tags are keywords that you can select for your videos. If you add tags that can be associated with your video, it will help others find your content and thereby improve your SERP rankings. YouTube allows users to add 15 - 20 different tags with a maximum character limit of 400. It is important to make use of this feature and add tags that people would usually search to find your video.

You can again use extensions like Vidiq and TubeBuddy to get high performing keyword suggestions. Both extensions also feature several other SEO tools like SEO ranking, performance analytics, thumbnail editor and much more advanced analytics metrics. You can check out the free versions of both extensions before going into premium or paid versions. Simply download the extension on your browser and reload your YouTube page to get the SEO extensions added to your browser.

Add eye-catching thumbnails to improve click and open rates

Adding eye-catching thumbnails to improve click and open rates
Image Courtesy: YouTube

The faster you increase your view count, the more keywords the video will rank for and help improve your overall SEO rankings. While you can always use default thumbnails generated by YouTube, it is highly advisable to spend time editing and create a custom thumbnail. Videos that have a catchy thumbnail, without giving away the entire content of the videos are found to be pretty effective in increasing the click and open rates and bring consistent views. This will make YouTube think that the video is valuable and they will thereby recommend the same video to more and more viewers. This will help your videos rank for multiple keywords and all increase subscriber count and engagement at the same time.

If you are not comfortable with photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop or Illustrator, you can always go for open editing software like Canva or hire a designer from websites like Upwork or Fiverr.

Track analytics and make similar content to topics that bring in views

Tracking analytics and make similar content to topics that bring in views

Keeping a close eye on the metrics and analytics of your video performances is always a great way to improve your SERP rankings. As the YouTube algorithm is a tough nut to crack, there are always chances for your YouTube video to suddenly pick up views and improve its position on the SERP. There are also chances for the exact opposite to happen when videos from people with more subscribers (more engagement) create videos similar to the topic you have to get their videos published. If you are having trouble with increasing the number of subscribers you have, here are some great tips on how to get more subscribers on YouTube.

Having more than one video on the different aspects of the same thing, can in turn help all your videos to improve their rankings. As weird as it may sound, if multiple videos of the same topic have a good enough engagement rate, YouTube will consider your channel as an authority of the topic, especially if they have positive engagement rates in the form of likes and comments. YouTube will promote your videos by recommending them to users who watch similar content from other creators as well. Therefore it is always great to create similar content to topics that bring a significant number of views.

Don't forget to create playlists, add cards, and end screens

creating playlists, add cards, and end screens
Image Courtesy: YouTube

While this is not something that's necessary to help improve your SEO score, it can help in increasing your total number of subscribers and SERP rankings. It will also definitely increase the engagement rates and watch hours by allowing viewers to watch all related content without hassles. There are also more chances for YouTube to recommend your videos when you have similar content about a particular topic or niche. When they are neatly stacked up one after the other, there are always chances for a simple viewer to instantly become a lifelong subscriber.

The same also applies to the usage of cards and end screens. Both features can help generate more views and help improve your content distribution. If you add cards that have related videos on your channel, it can lead to people spending more time on your content and channel. When it comes to the end screen, you can add up to four elements and a Call To Action (CTA button). If you have related videos, it is always best to add them here, so that a viewer can remain in your channel for a longer duration.

Briefly to conclude...

If the content is king, then SEO is the queen that protects the content from being overcrowded and pulled down. The right SEO can also make sure that the king stays on top and away from the rest. Even though the YouTube algorithm is complex, following the basic tips and tricks that we covered in this guide on YouTube SEO will ensure that you get your content ranked for at least some of the keywords.


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