YouTube is just like any other search engine in that its rankings are based on a complex algorithm. However, you can spend hours upon hours getting lost in the complexities of every detail that goes into its decision-making process.
It’s best to remember why algorithms and websites like YouTube exist in the first place—to give audiences and customers tremendous viewing experiences. YouTube wants to keep visitors on its platform for as long as possible; therefore, it makes sense that the best way to trigger its algorithm is to make content that keeps viewers engaged and matches what they are looking for.
That being said, there are several factors that you should focus on that can help you rank higher on YouTube.
Keywords, Keywords, Keywords
SEO on YouTube is no different than SEO on other platforms and search engines; it’s all about understanding which keywords rank better than others and optimizing for them appropriately.
It’s always better to go into your keyword planning with help from a trusted resource such as AHREFS, SEMrush, or KeywordTool.io.
With one of these tools, you’ll be able to determine which of your targeted keywords ranks best with your chosen audience. You can also begin to dig deeper into analytics tools and contrast metrics such as volume, cost per click, and overall competition.
After all, it doesn’t make sense to go after a term that everyone else is targeting unless you have the muscle power to outmaneuver the competition.
Keywords also give you great ideas for types of videos that you can produce in the future. For instance, if you are in the yoga niche, doing research into yoga keywords can elicit a ton of potential topics such as “yoga gear,” “yoga poses for beginners,” “yoga while traveling,” and more.
Optimize Your Video Titles
Now that you’ve landed on the best keywords for your content, it’s time to begin optimizing your video for ranking.
With so many videos being uploaded every day, it’s imperative that you do everything you can to entice your audience to watch your particular video above all others. A fantastic way to do this is to make sure they know what your video is about. If your video is a how-to video, tell your audience in the title what your video will explain to them. If your video is a travel video, explain where your video takes place.
Also, don’t be afraid to get a little creative and over-the-top with your titles. After all, you are trying to sell your video to your audience. Go big! Use powerful language and exclamation marks to drive your content home.
Optimize Your Video Description
Now that you understand what keywords you are targeting, you can optimize the descriptions of your videos. While the title of your videos were meant to primarily catch your viewers’ attention and attract them directly to your content, the description allows you to go into more detail.
YouTube displays the first 125 characters of your description, however, you should always aim to write around double that for each entry. It’s always a best practice to put the most important keywords based on your strategy towards the beginning of your description.
Remember, you are not creating your channel for an algorithm but for a living, breathing, human being. Therefore, write your description for your target audience and make sure they flow well.
Use Tags Wisely
YouTube uses tags to help understand the meaning behind your content. Nobody else sees these tags and it’s debated how much these actually count toward the algorithm’s weight of your content. However, every little bit helps, so be sure to spend time setting them up correctly.
Your tags should not only align with the descriptions of your actual content, but also with your overall keyword strategy. If you need help in deciding which tags to use, there are a wide variety of extensions and apps available such as VidIQ and Tube Buddy.
The Longer the Better
YouTube is becoming known as a long-form video platform. After all, the longer you are on the platform, the more ads you can be shown (it makes sense when you really think about it, right?).
It’s actually rumored that one of YouTube’s biggest ranking factors is total view duration. Therefore, aim to make content as long as possible while staying within the boundaries of what is good and entertaining. Refrain from dragging out your content just to benefit the algorithm; your audience will most likely abandon your video, wrecking your total watch duration metric.
Always have your north star be to service your audience but, whenever possible, err on the side of having YouTube be your platform for longer-form content.
Engage With Your Audience
Much like every other platform out there, YouTube loves content that generates engagement and discussion amongst commenters and creators. Therefore, do everything that you can to kickstart discussion within the comments.
Ask questions in your videos that can lead to discussions from your viewers. Always check the comments on your videos and join the discussions, and never let questions or comments directed at you go unanswered. Pinning comments to the top of your videos are also great ways to begin discussions and encourage engagement.
Organize Your Channel
Think of your YouTube channel as your own media network. Ideally, you will have a ton of content uploaded and visitors will want to spend time going through your archives and past videos. Organize your content by creating playlists that curate your videos into specific categories.
By generating playlists, you can also benefit your SEO since playlists also automatically play from one video to another. Therefore, one viewer might not watch just one of your videos and move onto another content creator, but, instead, watch three or four of yours!
Don’t Forget the Captions
Closed captions are certainly great for those that are hearing impaired. However, they’re also fantastic for SEO because it’s like providing a written script to YouTube’s algorithm detailing exactly what your video is about: word-for-word.
There are a ton of services out there that can generate time-coded captions of your video content and then can export an SRV file for upload to YouTube. It’s probably a good idea to give the script a pass for spelling and grammar errors since most AI isn’t one-hundred percent perfect yet.
Create Chapters for Your Video
Once your video is uploaded, YouTube loves it when you go through and break it up into snackable sections and chapters that are named and called out. Not only is this great for your viewing audience, but this allows Google to index your videos for the chapters that it can serve up as Google Search Engine Results.
For example, let’s say you are uploading a how-to video on baking a cake. By creating a chapter on how to “whisk your eggs”, Google can index that chapter and make it available to someone who just Googled, “How to Whisk an Egg” . Pretty Nifty!
Optimize Your Thumbnails
Next to your titles, the thumbnails are the most important piece of branding that you can create to ensure the success of your videos. Your thumbnails will be the thing that your target viewers will first see that determines whether or not they click your video or your competitors’.
In order to stand above the competition, you need an image that grabs attention and demands that people click.
We encourage you to visit YouTube and their Top Trending page to study all of the thumbnails. Look at all of the images and see what they have in common.
Every thumbnail created on that page went through many iterations to ensure it was optimized for its audience’s approval. Take notes and determine what you can use when you create your own for your channel.
YouTube is one of the best ways to share your content and build a long term, engaged audience. While overnight success is not guaranteed, there has never been a better time to get started building your library of content using these tried and tested SEO best practices.