Before You Post: Your 6-Step Video SEO Checklist

Want to get the most views possible on your videos? Follow this video optimization checklist to help your videos get discovered

YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google (it’s also owned by Google, but that’s another story.) And just like you’d optimize a blog post for SEO, you need to optimize your videos for SEO with keywords that people use commonly in YouTube and Google searches. Using these keywords in the right way means your videos are more likely to top the list of search results when someone goes looking for them.

Nervous your videos will be buried passed the second page of search results? Here’s a checklist you can follow before uploading any video to YouTube to make sure it’s properly optimized.

1. Optimize your video’s title.

Use your video’s title to target your main keyword and maximize its click-through-rate (CTR).

Include your target keyword in your title, ideally close to the beginning.

Make sure the full title reads in an intriguing and attention-grabbing way to help increase CTR. Try using catchy phrases or words along with your main topic – stay away from being too clickbait-y, but keep that eye-catching idea in mind. For instance, here’s a list of words shown to increase CTR:

  • How To
  • Tutorial
  • Free
  • Fast
  • Easy
  • # Tips/Ways/Hacks

You can find additional keywords to use by typing a word or phrase in YouTube’s search bar. These related keywords are great because they help you see what people are actually typing on YouTube.

2. Add a video description.

Aim for longer descriptions. Around 200-300 words will help YouTube get a better understanding of what your video is about. Also, your video will have a better chance of showing up as a suggested video if YouTube can identify its topic.

Include your keyword two to four times in the description. You can also use time codes that include these keywords to help people jump to the section of the video they want to see.

3. Include some video tags.

Video tags might not be as important today as they were in the past, but YouTube still allows them, so they aren’t totally irrelevant.

Aim to include around five tags that are relevant to your video. Make one of those tags your target keyword, and use the suggested keywords related to it for your other tags.

4. Say your target keyword in your video.

Have you noticed how YouTube attempts to automatically caption most videos? They might not get every word right, but impressively, they can understand most of the words used in most videos.

When YouTube recognizes the target keyword in your video, it’s another signal of your video’s relevance, so be sure your keyword is said at least once or twice.

5. Upload subtitles.

You can help YouTube get every word right by uploading a transcript rather than trusting their voice recognition.

Making the transcript yourself is one option, but these days, it’s fast, easy, and inexpensive to get an .SRT transcript file from a service like Rev for your video. The transcript will help YouTube understand what topic your video covers, and help it show up as a suggested recommendation.

6. Optimize for CTR.

If enough people search for a keyword and subsequently click on your video, this high CTR rate positively impacts your video’s ranking. Besides doing everything mentioned above, you’ll want to do everything in your power to make your video’s preview as attractive as possible.

1. Upload an eye-catching thumbnail.

Many YouTube channels make their thumbnails stand out using text, colors, and graphics. That’s because it works! Tons of people actually look at the video thumbnail before reading the title, so work on creating a bright, eye-catching thumbnail.

Pro Tip: Use consistent colors, fonts, and graphics in your thumbnails for brand consistency. People will recognize your channel more easily this way!

2. Grab a viewer’s attention with your description.

We talked about video descriptions before, but we want to mention them again, since the first line (or the first 125 characters) of your video’s description is what will show up in the search results. Make this first line the most compelling and engaging part of your description in order to motivate that click.


Now your videos should be totally YouTube-optimized! If you haven’t optimized your YouTube channels and playlists yet, don’t forget they also have fields for titles, descriptions, and tags. Follow these SEO principles when filling out channel and playlist information as well, and your videos are sure to rank highly!

Want to learn more about SEO? Check out free SEO tools and training at The HOTH.

Written by The HOTH