SEO has been around for decades. Shortly after the advent of the very first website in 1991, SEO officially began to take shape around 1997.
SEO is defined as the practice of increasing the quantity or quality of traffic to a website through organic search engine results.
What goes into traditional SEO is both very common and extremely complex. The former could come in the form of things you do every day as a marketer or small business owner; creating a URL, writing a title, penning a meta description for a blog, or adding captions to a set of photos. SEO is the practice of optimizing those tasks (and more) to help Google recognize those pages and rank them through its search engine.
Of course, much of what happens with traditional SEO revolves around the Google algorithm and its ever-changing nature. The very best SEO practitioners keep pace with the algorithm and shift their strategy based on those changes.
The biggest difference between Youtube SEO and traditional SEO is that they adhere to entirely different search engines. Simply put, you will not rank videos on Youtube the same way you would rank pages on Google.
Youtube describes its algorithm and discovery process very simply:
“Videos are ranked based on a variety of factors including how well the title, description, and video content match the viewer’s query. Beyond that, we look at which videos have driven the most engagement for a query, and make sure it’s easy for viewers to find those.”
While these ranking factors are very similar to traditional SEO, they are examined very differently. Those subtle distinctions can be the difference between ranking your videos on Youtube and just simply posting a video that garners little traffic. Like most things, the difference between success and trial & error is in the details.
Now that you know what SEO is and the difference between Youtube and traditional SEO, let’s jump into some best practices.
Choosing the right keywords on Youtube is everything. This is the first and foremost factor to consider when ranking your videos.
You’ll want to start by landing on a keyword that matches the context of your content. It’s critical to make sure that your keyword helps tell the story of your video. That keyword should also be a good fit for your channel. So if you’re a chef your keywords should revolve around “food” or “cooking.” If you’re a designer, maybe use keywords surrounding “design” or “how to design.”
Another factor to consider is your keywords visibility on Youtube. If there’s too much competition for the keyword you’re considering, it may not be the best option. It’s extremely difficult to rank keywords that a hugely popular.
Find keywords that aren’t flooded throughout Youtube. This will help give your video a better chance to rank given the competition to rank that specific keyword isn’t too stiff.
Pro Tip: A great tool to optimize your Youtube keyword research is Ahrefs.
Now that you’ve done the hard part and found the best keyword(s) for your video, it’s time to optimize those keywords by plugging them into the right place.
There are four primary locations where Youtube will discover your keywords - video file name, video title, video description, and tags (you want to make sure that you add your keywords to the video file name before you upload your video).
Make sure your keyword fits naturally into your video title and video description. Youtube allows for 1000 characters in the video description file but it’s not necessary to use them all. Just make sure you provide a clear and concise description of your video.
Try to use one keyword or one key phrase whenever possible. Staggering multiple keywords into each of these four locations could hinder your Youtube discovery.
Pro tip: Think about front-loading your video description with a CTA!
Optimizing your tags on Youtube is a great way to help rank your videos. Tags let viewers know what your video is all about. But they’re not just about informing viewers on the context of your videos, they also help Youtube understand the subject of your content.
Tags help Youtube group your videos with similar ones. Make sure your tags are relevant to your videos. Obscure or irrelevant tags could get your content penalized by Youtube.
Pro Tip: Don’t overuse tags. Ten or fewer tags are completely fine. Anything more than that is a bit extreme.
Any time you upload a video online you should always add closed captions. When considering Youtube SEO, closed captions provide a huge boost in your video ranking.
Closed captions ensure inclusivity for all viewers, especially those who may be hearing impaired. YouTube has an automated feature that adds subtitles to your video if you select a designated language during the upload process.
However, this process isn’t sure proof. This lengthy optimization feature isn’t the most accurate and can cause problems for your viewers reading those captions. We recommend using a text transcription service and then add closed captions to your videos during the upload. Most of these services are inexpensive and charge by the minute.
Pro Tip: Rev is a great option for your text transcription needs.
Youtube wants the incredible videos you’ve made to be categorized and easy for viewers to find. That said, on your Youtube channel, you’ll want to make sure that your content is part of a playlist.
The Youtube algorithm places an emphasis on videos that are categorized on playlists. Your channel should feature multiple playlists with videos aligned by the topic. If you have “how to” series make sure they’re all under the same playlists. If you produce social media best practices videos, make sure they’re all coupled together!
Engagement is one of those metrics that adds value to every platform, and Youtube is no different.
Encourage your viewers to subscribe, like, and add comments to your videos. The more subscribers your channel has the more Youtube will rank your content. Similarly, when your videos have more likes and comments Youtube recognizes and rewards that engagement.
Although it may feel strange asking your viewers to subscribe, this is where you should use your CTA’s!
Pro Tip: Ping a comment on your published video to help encourage viewers to like and comment on your content!
Youtube is different from Google in that it’s a visual search engine. So, when viewers are searching for content, they see your video thumbnails. Making them aesthetically pleasing entices viewers to take a look at your video which will increase your view count.
Here, consistency is key. Make sure your design choices are elevated. It proves that your videos have high production value. Ultimately, good thumbnails mean more clicks which leads to better Youtube SEO.
Fact: Viewers click on videos simply because they like the thumbnails.
Like anything else, sharing your content on social media gives it a much better chance to generate more engagement. Youtube videos are no different. Don’t hesitate to share your videos on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Linkedin.
Moreover, consider sharing your videos in your email marketing and SMS text correspondence. Anywhere you can share a link to your Youtube content, you increase the chances your videos get the kind of engagement you’re hoping for.
Watch time refers to the actual amount of time a viewer spends watching a video. This is a hugely important metric for Youtube, which means your content has to be extremely compelling to hook viewers at the top of the video and keep them dialed in until it concludes.
Watch Time is a symptom of great content. When your videos are original, entertaining, and of course you’ve enhanced them for SEO, the chances of viewers staying longer inherently increase.
Pro Tip: Avoid long introductions without speaking. Hook your viewer right away and think about keeping them engaging for the first 15 seconds, then the first minute, and so on.
Youtube has come a long way since its inception in 2005. Now you can add clickable elements to your videos, and pop-up cards are among the most effective.
You’ve certainly noticed them before. They’re the little card-like graphics in the top right corner of each video. They can say things like “see the blog post here” or “download the app.” It’s a clever CTA that’s interactive that prompts your viewer to dive into more of your content or take an action of some sort. This is an excellent way to cross-promote different products or verticals.
How-To: Simply click on “add cards” during your file upload process to implement pop-up cards!
Making the most of the second largest search engine in the world is essential to generate more engagement for your video content. No matter how great, compelling, and thoughtful your content is, without a great Youtube SEO strategy they won’t reach their full potential.