As mentioned in our channel growth guide, YouTube SEO deserves its own guide due to containing multiple elements (YouTube is the largest search engine after Google, after all). While it may seem overwhelming to consider SEO on top of everything you’re already doing to create great content, making sure you take it into account is crucial if you want the best visibility possible. YouTube is all about SEO (search engine optimization), and knowing how to tackle it can mean the difference between getting a few views and a few hundred (or thousands). Keep reading to learn some ways to help your video rank.
Always Start with Keyword Research
Researching and compiling a list of appropriate keywords is probably the most essential part of nailing SEO on YouTube. Simply put, ranking for topics or keywords people aren’t searching for won’t get you any views. In the long run, keyword research will help you save time and rank on YouTube simply because you’re answering questions and providing information that folks are looking for. Of course, you want to create content you love, but you need to ensure a sizable audience for it.
When searching for keywords, make sure you target keywords with low competition, meaning that there’s an audience out there looking for content matching that keyword but not as much competition to rank. When you’re a smaller YouTuber who doesn’t have a ton of subscribers, your content will likely get buried by the big guys when targeting medium to highly competitive terms.
Ways to Research Keywords for YouTube
There are many ways to find the right keywords to target on YouTube to help your videos rank. Below are a few of our suggestions.
Search Directly on YouTube
The native YouTube search bar is a goldmine for finding keywords to target. After all, this is where people are typing in their search inquiries in hopes of being matched to the right content. To get keyword suggestions from YouTube, type a keyword in the search bar and take a look at the recommended keywords below. These additional keywords are other inquiries that people are searching for on YouTube and are related to the initial keyword you typed in for your niche.
Another good way to find keywords directly on YouTube is to check out videos from other creators in your niche. See what kind of content they’re posting but, more importantly, what they’re ranking for. Go to their channel and check out their most popular uploads. While you don’t want to copy their content, scoping out the competition can give you an idea of what to target and what to create (in your own style, of course) for your audience.
Use a YouTube Extension
While searching on YouTube gives you an excellent foundation for building a list of keywords, using a YouTube extension can help you dive a little deeper. For example, TubeBuddy’s keyword explorer allows you to type in a keyword to analyze, leaving you with information such as search volume, competition, and even related searches on YouTube and Google. Below are a few other YouTube extensions with similar capabilities.
Search on Google
As you may already be aware, Google owns YouTube and has a dedicated search results page for videos. Similarly to searching for keywords and getting suggestions on YouTube, you can try the same method on Google. Remember, Google often puts video search results at the top of page 1 so long as they determine that the video is an excellent match to the search inquiry.
YouTube Channel Analytics Research Tool
YouTube recently launched a new “Research” option within Channel Analytics. You can see what your viewers are searching as well as type in content ideas, and even sort by content that specifically has a lack of videos by filtering to “Content gaps only”.
Optimize Your Title, Descriptions, and Video Tags
Speaking of keywords, once you’ve narrowed your search down to a few, focused keywords, it’s crucial to optimize your video to include the keywords you wish to target. You should include a keyword in your video title, the description (two times at least, if possible), and video tags. This way, YouTube can better understand the context of your video and push it out to suitable viewers. The most important thing to remember when incorporating your keywords into these elements is to make sure they flow naturally. Making it seem forced may work against you and could actually bring you down in rankings.
Pro-Tip: In addition to optimizing your title, description, and tags with your keywords, make sure to say your keyword in the video. YouTube analyzes speech for auto-captions, so this may work in your favor regarding rankings. Additionally, some recommend titling the file of your videos (before uploading) with the appropriate keywords.
Choose an Appropriate Video Category
Many people may overlook choosing the correct categories for their YouTube videos, but you should try your best to avoid doing so. Taking care to choose the appropriate categories can help people find your videos organically. Sometimes viewers do advanced searches on YouTube to narrow down inquiries based on categories. Assigning the wrong category to your videos may eliminate your video from coming up in these search results entirely.
Create Engaging Thumbnails
One way to make your YouTube videos stand out is by creating engaging thumbnails. Your thumbnail should tell your potential viewers what the video is about but shouldn’t be too busy and overwhelming. In addition to having a captivating photo or still from your video, your thumbnail should include legible text that provides new information (i.e., info that hasn’t been written in the title or description) about the video. Essentially, your thumbnails need to reel viewers in. We suggest taking out the time to learn how to make a click-worthy thumbnail sooner than later (more details available in our YouTube thumbnail and title guide up next).
Promote Your YouTube Videos
As with SEO on Google, promoting your YouTube videos can be a game changer for getting new viewers and climbing the ranks of YouTube. For starters, promoting your YouTube content to your followers on social media can encourage them to watch your videos and subscribe to your channel if they haven’t already. Furthermore, sharing links to your content in various places (in a non-spammy way) tells Google and YouTube that your content is essential and more people need to see it. You’re doing yourself a huge disservice by keeping your content an open secret.
Encourage Viewers to Engage
When was the last time you watched a YouTube video and didn’t hear the YouTuber enthusiastically ask you to like, subscribe, and comment? It was likely so long ago that you don’t remember. YouTubers are so adamant about asking viewers to complete these tasks because it helps with their rankings on YouTube. You are the star of the show, so never be too shy to ask viewers to help you out by indirectly telling YouTube that they found your content helpful. It’s the only way to keep the show going and more episodes coming.
Optimize Your Channel
Newsflash—your YouTube channel (not just your videos) can turn up in search when optimized with the right keywords. By ensuring you’ve completed things like your channel description, you can increase your chances of showing at the top of search results, getting more views on your videos, and ranking. It’s worth checking out this article on setting up your YouTube page if you want more in-depth information about optimizing your YouTube page.
Optimize Your Videos for Watch Time
YouTube prefers to surface videos with a lot of accumulated Watch Time. This doesn’t mean that you should try to make your videos as long as possible, but what it does mean is you should check your video analytics for points in your videos where viewers drop off. If you can pinpoint what content elements cause them to leave your videos and adjust, you can increase the average watch time per viewer and help your videos surface more regularly in searches.
As you can see, there are quite a few ways to help your videos rank on YouTube. While it may feel a bit overwhelming initially, it’ll feel second nature with more practice. You’ll also have the rankings and views to show for your hard work.