YouTube SEO Tips

Cisco reports that by 2020, video will amount to over 80 percent of online traffic, so it’s no wonder that brands of all sorts are flocking to the largest video site in the world. YouTube is gigantic, ripe for video content marketing, and the go-to place to start a video content campaign, with Facebook as a fairly distant runner-up. But YouTube’s massive size means that you’ll have plenty of competition. On top of a sound marketing and visibility strategy, good SEO will save you a lot of stressful days releasing videos that nobody watches.

By and large, YouTube is a search engine for videos on its platform. Apart from regularly checking on subscribed channels, users generally find videos by searching a term, word, or title rather than through things like the front page and recommendations by email. In this article, we’ll take a look at the most powerful SEO tips for YouTube videos and channels. Whether you’re an SEO pro or are brand new to both search engine optimization and YouTube, these tips are easy to follow and will pay dividends for the time you put into them.

Upload Frequently

If you want to adopt only a single strategy that will set you ahead of much of the competition, earning you more views and subscribers, you have to upload often, as long as you don’t sacrifice quality, of course. One of the critical elements of the YouTube search algorithm is that it wants to show people new videos. This means that you should take every opportunity to upload your content into brief videos, such as 10 to 15 minutes each, rather than the occasional longer one.

For instance, if you upload one short video three times a week, as opposed to releasing one video per week that’s three times as long, YouTube will consider your channel more prolific and a better fit for search engine results, even if you’re technically providing the same amount of content either way. Don’t go crazy and make your content inconveniently broken up into tiny videos, but the best thing you can do is give people a good reason to check your channel regularly once they’ve subscribed, and to show YouTube’s algorithm that you get it.

Three Days to Charge Ahead

Image via Flickr by Anna Sidwell

Imagine YouTube as a constant series of races held among dozens of videos that all get uploaded around the same time. The video that starts well and gets lots of organic traffic in the beginning will most likely win and be rewarded with a horde of views that keep increasing its popularity. Conversely, if your video gets little to no attention in the first 72 hours since being uploaded, that potential is mostly gone, and it’s better to upload another video. The secret to winning this race, however, is planning out the right content and metadata well in advance.

Before you start shooting videos, research some strong keywords that perform well but aren’t too high-competition. This is where you should start forming ideas for what your content will be. Always research keywords around an idea before you commit to a video, and you’ll save yourself the headache of a spur-of-the-moment video idea that bombs. When you have the right keywords, plan ahead and make content that can have such keywords in the title. This also frees you to use good, relevant keywords in the rest of your metadata, including the annotations, description, and tags.

Choosing and Boosting

Keywords form the basis of your SEO campaign’s quality, but how do you choose the best ones? Fortunately, you’ll probably have plenty of competition to study, and all their data is readily available. What sort of keywords do they use in titles, tags, and descriptions of their most popular videos? You can confirm the value of these keywords by searching videos in special analytics tools like vidIQ. If the keyword looks too heavily competitive, try researching the popularity and competition of similar ones.

Also, here’s something you may not hear much, but it makes a real difference: thumbnails. Research the types of thumbnails that work for your competition and think of why they do, so that you can make something similar. Even so, don’t copy another channel’s thumbnails whole-cloth. Create something fairly unique and stay consistent, so that people who have seen your videos before might notice another at a glance in their recommendations, even when they’re not reading the titles or channel names.

Create Great Content

This is the most important tip of all, because you’ll be hard pressed to find success if people don’t like what you make or don’t find it noteworthy enough to share, comment on, or watch again. YouTube weighs watch time heavily into its ranking of a video. If people start watching your 15-minute video and mostly click away in the first 30 seconds, that will show that it’s not appealing and vastly hinder its ranking.

There are many facets to making irresistible videos, but quality and value matter most. Make sure your editing is on point and professional, respect your audience without pandering, and in general find ways to subconsciously encourage your viewer to watch to the end, without skipping. The best content is so appealing to its audience that they watch it again and again, compounding its popularity and the value of each subscriber.

YouTube SEO is one of those concepts you’ll have to tackle if you want to make video or other visual/interactive content. However, the concepts are more or less the same as they are for Google: Make lots of good content and tag it appropriately so that the right people find it. YouTube will do a lot of the work for you if you get this right, but remember that it takes practice.

Keep trying even if your videos don’t do well in the beginning. You’ll still get some attention and begin growing a loyal audience that kicks up the views of each video in those crucial first 72 hours. Eventually, you’ll get more of an encouraging response and reward for the videos you upload, and you’ll have perfected your videos to better satisfy your viewers. That quickly turns into a stream of sales, subscriptions, and other key performance indicators for your business.

About the author

Shane Hall

Shane Hall is an independent fiction author and copywriter with a B.A. in English from the University of South Florida. His experience in the harsh world of fiction developed a focus on personalized marketing strategies for artists and other creatives.