With YouTube SEO, you can optimize YouTube videos and channels to tell YouTube’s algorithms about your videos, rank them based on relevant keywords, and recommend them to users who enjoy the content. YouTube offers its users the relevant content they want to see. The metrics like testimonials, keywords, and past engagement data are how YouTube handles user responses to their queries, making it an attractive alternative search engine for growth.
A successful YouTube channel does more than optimize its SEO; it can certainly make a drastic difference in the growth rate you can achieve for your YouTube video views. With YouTube SEO, anyone on the platform can start increasing their views by engaging their audience, resulting in higher rankings.
While keywords are essential in Youtube SEO, engagement is what comes first. Compared to SEO on e-commerce SEO sites, YouTube emphasizes engagement. For example, using keywords will get you your first audience, and you will be more successful by creating engaging content and keeping them coming back.
When in doubt: address your audience more decisively. Content quality, consistency, and relevance will make your YouTube success sustainable and have the desired impact. YouTube SEO is all about building a channel over the long term. While you can achieve viral hits, consistency will help you get more viewers and subscribers over a more extended period.
This guide is not short: save it for later and take some time to improve your YouTube workflow.
Youtube SEO checklist
- Keyword research
- Complete the following with keywords and a call to action
- Video tag
- Channel page and its description
- Closed captions and translations
- YouTube cards and end screens
- Increase engagement and watch time
- Build links and connections
- Create a playlist
- Share and promote any video
- Interact with your audience
- Follow YouTube’s instructions and avoid demonetization
- Data analysis with YouTube analytics
- Keep improving the content
What is YouTube’s SEO strategy?
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an ever-changing practice of designing web content to rank highly on search engine results pages (SERPs). Search is often the gatekeeper of your content, so optimizing your search content is necessary to drive traffic and grow a following. Unlike Google, which uses feedback and other ranking factors, YouTube SEO involves optimizing your channel, playlists, metadata, description, and videos. You can optimize your videos for searches on and off YouTube.
You may know SEO basics for YouTube videos, including keywords in the title, meta description, and tags. However, you can do more about YouTube SEO by accessing videos. Since search engine bots can’t watch videos, they rely on the accompanying text data to index them appropriately. A key component of YouTube’s SEO strategy is harnessing the power of your video captions in the form of transcripts, captions, and subtitles, which can positively impact your user experience, engagement, watch time, views, and SEO.
Here are a few tips for maximizing views and improving SEO on YouTube.
Step #1 – Choose good keywords
Before improving your SEO, you must choose the keywords or phrases for your video. Keywords often appear in video titles and metadata, and when spoken in audio, they appear in subtitles and transcripts, which is advantageous for SEO. Keywords and critical phrases must match a) anything that accurately describes your video and b) words and phrases that users type into search engines to find content like yours.
You need to do keyword research to find out what phrases and keywords people use when searching. A simple strategy for finding keywords for your videos is to use YouTube search suggestions. Enter a word or phrase that fits your industry into the search bar and see what suggestions YouTube has to offer. You can also find keywords from the YouTube search report. Search YouTube and see how many “results” it generates to see if you have a good keyword. Ideally, you want to find a variety of keywords with high search volume but less competition to stand out from the rest.
Choosing the best keywords is easier said than done, but many tools can help. Some of the tools include:
- Moz Keyword Explorer
- AdWords keyword planning tool
- VidIQ’s Vision
You can use this tool to check other resources such as keyword volume, the number of searches a keyword receives per month on Google, and cost per click, the average cost per click for a term in Google Ads. Once you’ve identified good keywords, please include them in your video file name so YouTube knows the subject of your video. For example, your file name could be “Makeup-Tutorial-for-the-Hulk,” followed by the file type of your video.
Pro tip: For individual videos, try to follow more specific long queue keywords. For example, “Hulk makeup lessons” would be a more focused keyword phrase than simply “makeup lessons.”
Step #2 – Include accurate subtitles
YouTube automatically copies your videos to provide automatic subtitles. However, YouTube’s automatic subtitles are only 70% accurate, making them incomprehensible and often confusing. Google rewards helpful search results and penalizes spam. Part of the definition of spam is “auto-generated nonsense,” which is an adequate description for most auto-closed captions. You risk being classified as spam and losing search rankings for your YouTube channel using the wrong subtitles. To combat the harmful effects of automatic subtitles on YouTube’s SEO strategy, you should add accurate subtitles to your YouTube videos via SRT files.
Search engines can crawl text but not see videos. Your subtitles will be filled with relevant keywords that show what your video is about, allowing Google to crawl your content and rank it accordingly. There are many options for adding subtitles to YouTube videos, and some content creators use automatic transcription as a starting point and correct errors manually. Other DIY transcription options are inexpensive but time-consuming and tedious. The simplest solution is to send your video to a professional video transcription service. Professional high-quality video transcription with fast lead times. Apart from improving SEO, the captions have the following benefits:
- Higher search rank: According to a study conducted by Digital Discovery Networks, captions on YouTube videos boost search engine rankings. They saw an increase in views by 13.48% in the first two weeks using captions and 7.32% overall. This keyword phrase was found only in the captions of their videos, not in the titles, descriptions, tags, or metadata. Captioned videos ranked highly for the words because search engines could crawl the caption text.
- Better user experience and engagement: Closed captions increase viewership because they keep viewers engaged regardless of their access to audio. Mobile users who may not have audio access may significantly benefit from closed captions. Since more than 70% of YouTube watch time comes from mobile devices, it’s imperative to have accurate captions. YouTube videos with closed captions increase user engagement, earning more likes, shares, and comments than videos without captions. In turn, higher engagement boosts video search ranking factors, which results in more views. As a result of higher engagement, watch time increases, determining a video’s search rank. Videos with long watch times are ranked higher in search results.
- Video accessibility: In addition to increasing SEO, closed captions make your YouTube videos accessible to deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers. You can also use captions to allow people with hearing loss to watch your video in a quiet library or train while the sound is muted. Adding captions to your video makes it easier for more people to view, understand, and enjoy it.
Step #3 – Add a transcript to your video description
Video descriptions are a great way to showcase your transcript on YouTube. The description field is 5,000 characters, which is usually enough to record a transcript for a 10-minute-long video full of dialogue. You can include a shortened version with a link to a complete understanding on a separate web page if the transcript does not match or you wish to have other important information in the description, e.g., a call to action.
While the Backlinko study found no relationship between descriptions and keyword-optimized rankings, keyword-rich descriptions are still the best method because they can help your videos rank for related terms and look like “recommended videos.” Transcripts can also increase engagement by scanning content quickly.
💡 Pro tip: make video transcription your shortcut to content marketing
Many brands make great video ads, but retailers often don’t realize that transcription can do so much more. Video can be a starting point for content creation and targeted inbound marketing efforts through video transcripts and derivative content.
Consider using video transcription to improve SEO by creating valuable and shareable content. Some of the uses of video transcripts include:
- Fact sheets
- Website copy
Step #4 – Offer subtitles in multiple languages
Just as English subtitles make your videos more accessible to more viewers, subtitles further expand your audience and improve SEO on YouTube. YouTube’s global reach is enormous. Only 16.4% of YouTube traffic comes from the United States, and more than 2 billion users worldwide watch YouTube every month.
Foreign subtitles allow both foreign and non-English viewers to enjoy your videos. The search engine will also index your subtitled file and include your video in search results in that language. This can be huge for a YouTube SEO strategy as you stand a better chance of ranking higher for non-English keywords due to less competition. Remember always to check the accuracy of your translations and consider using a provider with guaranteed high-quality subtitles.
Step #5 – Write keyword-optimized titles, descriptions, and tags
Once you have good keywords, you need to ensure that the text associated with your videos is optimized for keywords. For example, if you’re posting a makeup tutorial video, optimize the title, description, and tags for the phrase “makeup tutorial.”
Keep in mind: Search engines are entering more and more keywords; practice keyword overuse and keyword variations to hack the system. Please do not do it. Write about people, not robots, or you might get penalized. Of course, after researching and selecting your keywords, put them in the following fields:
- Title: Fits 100 characters but is truncated to 70 characters, meaning your most important information and keywords should come first. Use catchy language to drive clicks: “How to,” “Suggestions,” “Tips,” or a numbered list can help. For example: “7 tips to increase your video subscriptions”.
- Meta Description: It matches 5,000 characters but truncates to around 120 characters depending on the device. It is essential for e-commerce websites to include links to your products because more than half of users are influenced by product videos. Make sure you have HTTP://, or it won’t be clickable.
- Tags: In addition to keywords, your videos should also have youtube tags – research which tags are the most effective. For example, instead of tagging your videos as “makeup” and “tutorials,” tag them as “makeup tutorials.” Think like a user and always add essential tags.
The YouTube Creator Academy includes the following tips for writing searchable descriptions:
- Give your video an outline in natural language, not just a stream of keywords.
- Put the most important keywords at the beginning of your description.
- Identify 1-2 keywords that describe your video and display them clearly in both the description and title.
- Use Google Trends and the Google Ads Keyword Planner to identify popular keywords and their synonyms. Including these terms can help you maximize search traffic.
- Avoid using inappropriate words in your description, creating a bad viewing experience, and violating YouTube policies.
- If you plan to publish your video on some domain other than YouTube, consider changing your keyword phrase. You don’t want to compete with yourself on different sites.
Lastly, use simple and precise terms. Covering up topical issues that are not relevant to your video content will only lead to negative results later.
Step #6 – Mention your target keyword in your video
If you don’t mention target keywords in your videos, they won’t appear in your subtitles or transcripts, two critical components of a successful YouTube SEO strategy. Try to include your keywords carefully and naturally in your videos, so you don’t overload your transcript. If it’s helpful, plan the script ahead of time and include your keywords at the beginning of the video to appear at the beginning of the transcript.
Step #7 – Use attractive thumbnails
The choice of a video thumbnail has a profound impact on the CTR. You must use high-quality, high-contrast video thumbnails with an aspect ratio of 16:9. Close-ups of faces work best. Creators can choose which frames to display as video thumbnails. YouTube offers three screenshots to choose from, but you can also select a frame from elsewhere in the video or upload your image. Try a site like Canva with thumbnail templates for YouTube videos if you need image ideas.
Note that YouTube covers the length of the video in the lower corner of the thumbnail; Make sure it doesn’t interfere with anything important in your thumbnail. Also, remember that Google automatically uses image recognition to filter specific images, e.g., the YouTube logo. Ideally, you want an image that is an excellent visual representation of your target keyword. By doing so, you expand your presence in relevant results.
Step #8 – Add YouTube cards and credits
YouTube cards are pre-formatted notifications that encourage people to take the desired action during your video. Once set up, the card will appear in the top right corner of your video for users to click on and browse through. Since YouTube aims to keep people on YouTube, cards are a great way to increase your rankings. You can add up to five cards to a video. Cards can contain a variety of CTAs, such as redirecting viewers to other channels, donations from nonprofits, or group funding. The end screen is displayed after the video ends and tells the viewer what to do next. Both cards and credits can enhance the viewer’s experience, prompting them to watch another video or take additional action upon completion.
Credits can direct viewers to the following elements:
- Watch videos, playlists, or other YouTube channels.
- Subscribe to your channel.
- Search your website, merchandise, or crowdfunding campaign.
Step #9 – Track your analytics
Tracking your analytics is the only way to see if your YouTube SEO strategy is effective. Metrics can help you understand where your videos perform well and where some adjustments may be needed. YouTube offers several analytical reports that you can use to track your performance. There is a lot of analytics to track, but these are the metrics every content creator should know:
- Watch time: Watch time is the total number of minutes viewers spend watching your video. This metric is important because YouTube boosts videos and channels with longer view times in search results, as view time is a good indicator of engagement.
- Impression click-through rate: Impression CTR measures how people watch your video after viewing it on your homepage, Featured section, or Trends section. Impression CTR often increases after you play a video and decreases later, but it’s still a vital tracking metric because it can help you filter thumbnails.
- Card Click Frequency: A card is a pre-formatted notification that prompts people to take action while watching your video. Analyzing your card CTR can help you optimize your card’s CTA, time, duration, and location.
- Unique Audiences: Unique Audiences is the approximate number of people who have viewed your video over a certain period. These metrics help you figure out the size of your audience and can help you evaluate your engagement.
- Traffic Sources: In the Traffic Sources report, you can see how viewers found your videos and which sources drew them. Utilizing this data, you can further determine where to share your video content to optimize your video advertising strategy.
- Subscriber Growth: The YouTube Subscribers Report shows you which videos, locations, and periods gain and lose subscribers. Using this data, you can find out what topics interest your customers and where to target new customers.
By monitoring these metrics over time, you can see which videos get the most engagement and what factors contribute to their success. Take a look at what sets these videos apart from those that don’t. You may see patterns in the subject, video type, duration, or release schedule.
Here, we covered YouTube SEO so you can begin your quest to rank higher on YouTube. With these tips and methods, you can effectively grow your YouTube channel and increase the views of your videos.