If you think simply posting your video to YouTube is the best way to get views and catapult to the top of YouTube’s search ranking, think again. Competition on YouTube is fierce with 400 hours of new video uploaded every minute. An SEO strategy is essential to your video’s success, just as it is to websites, blogs and online initiatives—it is how you give YouTube’s algorithm crawlers and potential viewers as many signals as possible about your video’s theme and content.
Whether you’re about to begin filming or have already uploaded a series of masterpieces, these YouTube SEO tips will help you optimize your video for search to ultimately improve your organic ranking, so more people find you when they search topics relevant to your content.
YouTube SEO Tips to Consider Before You Begin Filming
Limit Your Video to 2–15 Minutes: Views are soooo 2012. Since then, YouTube has put greater emphasis on how much watch time a video generates toward its overall YouTube ranking. While social media videos should be counted in seconds, YouTube videos should be in minutes. Aim for 2–15 minutes, depending on your topic and execution. For example, a cooking video could be done Tasty style, quickly whisking you step-by-step through the cooking process, or it could be personality driven, leading to a longer narrative like the videos from the loved-and-loathed Gordon Ramsay.
That being said, don’t stretch the length of your video just to inflate your watch time. According to YouTube, a 20-second view of a 20-second video is given more weight by YouTube than a 20-second view of a 10-minute video. Video completions count, so work to find the happy balance between relevant content and watch time.
Shoot in High Definition & Upload High Resolution Videos: Although YouTube hasn’t confirmed that it ranks HD videos higher than SD videos, a study by Backlinko found that HD videos tend to appear more frequently on the first page of YouTube search results. This may speak less to YouTube’s search algorithm and more to viewers’ preference for higher quality videos.
As best practice, always shoot in HD or check out YouTube’s recommended resolutions and aspect ratios for the optimal way to format and export your videos.
YouTube SEO Tips for Uploading Your Video Content
Add Relevant Keywords to Your Title When you’re writing your title, think of exactly what phrase or terms people will be searching for to find your video. Videos with titles that match the exact keywords rank higher on the results page. For example, if your video is titled “How to Optimize Your Video’s SEO,” it is more likely to show up when someone completes a search with that exact phrase.
When writing your title, consider the language a prospective viewer might use in their search, putting relevant keywords closer to the front of the title. If you have access to a keyword tool such as Keyword Planner or MOZ, use it!
It’s best to focus on one to two keywords with the overall character count of 60 characters or fewer. This will prevent your title from being cut off if it appears in the “Recently Uploaded” or “Recommended Videos for You” sections of the YouTube homepage.
Make the Most of Your YouTube Description: Much like your title, YouTube looks for cues in your video description to determine what it’s about. When crafting this, it’s best to consider your description as two parts: the description preview and the full description.
The description preview is the text that appears beneath your video in search results and under your video on the video page itself. The full description is the brief blog-post-like summary of what your video is about below the description preview (without giving away all the details)—encouraging viewers to watch your video, but also providing an opportunity for secondary keywords you want to rank for.
YouTube recommends putting your most important keywords (one to two) at the front of your description, writing it in natural language (“Want to improve your YouTube video’s SEO?”) rather than just a stream of keywords (“YouTube SEO Search Video Ranking Results”). Aim for 125 characters for the first part of your description, knowing that viewers won’t be able to see the rest unless they click “show more.”
Hashtag some of the most important keywords as well. This will help you rank higher when folks search for those hashtags.
The description is also a great place for links to your social channels, website or other videos and playlists. Plus, you have the ability to include time stamps, helping people jump to the portion of the video that’s most relevant to them instead of bouncing out of your video.
Add Multiple Variations of Your YouTube Tags: Tags allow you to explicitly and discreetly communicate what your video is about to YouTube. A good practice to follow is to type multiple variations of your tag, so you’re covered no matter which keywords are being used (e.g., “hamburger” and “burger”). Also, it’s wise to include one to two industry tags that your target may be searching for more generally (e.g., “restaurant,” “fast food”).
Looking for tagging inspiration?
Begin typing your keyword into YouTube search and see what YouTube suggests autocompleting it with. You should also do this for your titles.
Design a Custom Thumbnail Image: Your thumbnail image is a visual representation of your video content. Because people are drawn to visuals more than words, chances are your thumbnail will play a critical role in whether someone chooses to watch your video.
Instead of selecting one of the three random key frames YouTube offers once you upload your video, design a custom thumbnail—which is what 90 percent of the top-performing videos do.
A visual template for your thumbnails not only helps with branding, but also helps your videos stand out when paired with more of your videos in YouTube’s “Up Next” video column. Our brains are wired to look for patterns and will be drawn to the collection of similarly styled thumbnails.
While inserting keywords in your thumbnail image won’t boost your search ranking, it will be read by viewers weighing whether or not to check out your video. Keep in mind that thumbnails can appear very small on mobile, so keep the character count WAY down (35 or less). You should also use a more legible font with either a drop shadow or a contrasting color background to make it easier to read.
Add Video Captions: When it comes to your audio, watch what you say. One case study from Discovery Digital Networks found that YouTube now factors the dialogue from your video into its rankings. But what if you haven’t added captions? Well, YouTube will simply auto-caption your video for you and factor that transcription into your video’s ranking.
Unfortunately, YouTube’s auto-captioning can be spotty at best, so it’s worth uploading an accurate transcription yourself so YouTube doesn’t associate it with any incorrect keywords. Short on time? Check out rev.com or speechpad.com, which caption videos starting at $1/minute.
And in case you needed more motivation, tests have shown that captioning videos also leads to greater watch time.
Drive Viewers to Watch More Videos: Not only does YouTube want viewers to watch your whole video, it wants them to watch even more videos after that. If your channel drives viewers to watch more videos, your channel will receive credit from those cumulative minutes, even if they’re not your videos.
To nudge viewers to the videos you’ve created, tuck in a YouTube card near the end of your video that leads to another one of your videos or playlists. The more relevant of a video you can steer them toward, the better. After all, the viewer who found your video had a specific intent in mind, so try to match it. You can also pepper your video description with links to your other YouTube videos to keep the views rolling.
YouTube SEO Tips and Tricks From Here
There’s plenty you can do to rise above the flood of video competition, from production to thumbnail design to description copywriting. For those who make the effort, the search rank rewards can be remarkable.
Having trouble getting video production, writing and design that make an impact? Connect with Ted Jun at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn how Hiebing can help you create videos that resonate with your target and get the attention they deserve.