The Official SEO Guide for YouTube Creators:
How to Grow, Promote, and Increase Your YouTube Video Channel Rankings by 10x.
So how can you optimize your YouTube videos (and channel) to start ranking higher? Why does SEO (Search Engine Optimization) matter for YouTube videos…? This official guide on YouTube SEO will answer every question you have about how you can grow and promote your YouTube channel, while increasing your channel’s subscriber count. By optimizing and growing your YouTube channel, your business will start to grow with more leads and a higher volume of website traffic.
That’s why it is important to do “SEO for YouTube.”
YouTube is one of the web’s most popular destinations. It’s the second most popular search engine, behind only Google.
YouTube is the perfect platform for content marketers, creatives, and hobbyists to reach of audience of millions of users, and to grow that audience organically. The site’s massive audience continues grow. According to a recent report from Tubular Insights:
500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute.
Or 1250 days of video every hour.
That means one thing for creators: more competition. Lots and lots of competition. And that’s why SEO for YouTube is a must for any content creator, from corporate marketers, to students launching a gaming channel from their dorm room.
Without video search engine optimization, your videos blend into the crowd.
The best video SEO practices help your videos with the following:
Rank #1 in YouTube search results.
Earn the highly coveted, “Suggested Video” positions.
As a bonus, get ranked in standard Google search so that you can increase your video views by 10x or more.
If you’ve ever wondered: “How can I get more views on YouTube?” Video optimization and SEO are the fastest and most proven ways. Optimizing your videos will help people who will love your content find your videos. It will drive organic traffic to your videos, and it will give you a leg up on competitors. And these days, that’s all really important to being successful on YouTube.
So, which video SEO strategies are most effective? This comprehensive guide highlights the most effective YouTube SEO strategies to get more views for your videos.
Here is what we will cover in this article on how to best grow, promote, and improve your YouTube videos subscribers and rankings:
Top YouTube Ranking Signals:
How YouTube’s Search Engine Works to Rank Videos
YouTube is a search engine. Unlike Google, which helps you find primarily webpages, YouTube is designed to surface videos. And it’s more popular than Bing or Yahoo.
Ranking highly in YouTube search can supercharge your video marketing efforts. In fact, the majority of video producers receive about 25% of their views from search alone, and increasing views is one of the most effective strategies for growing subscribers.
Therefore, if you focus on improving the optimization of your videos, you can expect to see lots more views.
So, how can you get your videos to rank higher on YouTube?
Let’s do a quick YouTube search to illustrate.
We’ll search for the term “stand up paddle board”:
The top result doesn’t have the most views; in fact, it has nearly 750,000 fewer views.
So why does it earn that top ranking?
Beyond view count, YouTube utilizes a variety of “ranking signals” to determine which videos get the top billing.
Videos that optimize for these specific ranking signals typically perform better in organic results. And that’s part of what’s going on here. The first-ranked video outperforms the second in a few key areas (which we’ll get into a bit more later in the guide).
In other words, optimizing videos around ranking signals forms the basis of video SEO. But which ranking signals matter most?
Here’s a list of the most important ranking factors on YouTube:
Keyword Optimization, Click-Through Rate, Watch Time, Metadata, Video Quality, and more…
1. Keyword Optimization –
Keywords matter… they matter a lot. Before you produce a video, you should be conducting keyword research to determine the most valuable keywords in your niche. Then, you can create content and optimize your videos around high-volume keywords.
2. Click-Through Rate (“CTR”) –
Videos that get more clicks rank higher. A well-written title, an attention-grabbing description, and an enticing thumbnail all help drive clicks in YouTube search.
3. Video Watch Time –
This is the total number of minutes that a video is watched over time. And it’s a significant ranking signal. Videos that earn consistent watch time growth will have much more reliable rankings. Conversely, if your video goes viral, and then views drop off, so too will your rankings.
4. YouTube Video Metadata –
Metadata helps YouTube understand what your video is about and who it would be most useful for. By incorporating keywords into your title and description and adding video tags, you can outperform your competitors.
5. Video Engagement –
Great videos are engaging. And today, engagement is the top factor in video SEO on YouTube. If your video engages viewers – e.g. lots of likes, lots of shares and comments – your videos will rank higher. It’s that simple.
6. YouTube Video Quality –
High-quality videos rank higher. Video length, audience retention and HD quality are all quality indicators. In fact, a recent study by Vail Networks found that, on average, Page 1 videos were about 15 minutes long and the majority were HD quality. In other words, creating in-depth videos with great production quality can help you rank higher.
Of course, YouTube’s algorithm is a bit more complex than this. But if you focus the majority of your video marketing efforts in these five areas, you will see a lift in traffic. Guaranteed.
We’ll take a look at each of these categories now, and provide some examples for how to do each one.
How to Select the Best Keywords for YouTube Videos:
Guide to Choosing YouTube Keywords for Your Marketing Campaigns
Great YouTube SEO strategy starts with the right keywords. Every video you produce should have a target keyword in mind.
Typically, you’ll choose one primary keyword and two or three variations.
So, how can you go about finding keywords for your YouTube videos?
One of the best tools is YouTube, itself. Or rather the YouTube Suggest function in the search bar.
These suggestions offer great insights into what people are looking for on the platform. And they can help to inform where you’ll find the largest potential audiences online.
Here’s an example for the keyword “stand up paddle board”:
First note, that we have added one of our favorite SEO tools to help us in our assessment of value of each keyword term.
You see some broad terms with great volume. Stand up paddle board yoga and paddle board reviews are two high-volume niches you could target. (The Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension provides those integrated search volumes.)
From there, you can take your research one step further. Use a keyword research tool that we have recommended for you. This SEO tool produces long lists of keywords using the YouTube Suggest feature. And you’ll find tons and tons of great words to target.
Here’s a sample from a YouTube search for “stand up paddle board”:
These are some valuable ideas that would make great videos. They are highly targeted, so-called “long-tail” search terms, and that means these terms have built-in audiences. When someone types in one of these words, they’re looking for a video to answer a very specific question.
And that’s it. Before you ever hit record on your camera, you should start with researching keywords. You’ll identify the search terms that have the greatest traffic, and that can give you a leg up on increasing YouTube views.
➔ Pro SEO Tip: Keywords phrases that include “how to,” “tutorial,” and “review” are perfect to target on YouTube.
How to Optimize YouTube Videos with Keywords:
What every YouTube creator, marketer, and publisher needs to know.
So, now you have selected keywords for your next YouTube video. Now what do you do with them?
Video optimization is all about integrating those keywords into the metadata and helping YouTube’s algorithm understand what information is included in your video.
You don’t want to overdo it; in fact, that’s something YouTube says you should avoid.
But by incorporating keywords strategically, you’ll help YouTube and viewers understand who your target audience is and what value your video will provide. Without keyword-rich titles and descriptions, YouTube and potential viewers won’t have any reason to click.
Here are areas on your YouTube video where you should optimize:
● Video Title –
Use your primary keyword in the title and make the title compelling! Revising titles on old views can help you boost views for your older videos. This means that if you want to be fully-optimized and start seeing higher rankings on YouTube, then you should tweak your video titles at least once every six months.
● Video Description –
Videos have a short 125-character description that shows in search; but these descriptions can be as long as 5,000 characters. Writing longer, more descriptive and keyword-rich descriptions can help your videos rank better. Make your first line 125 characters or less; then add a full 250-word description for best results.
● Audio Transcripts –
YouTube always auto-generates captions for your videos. But you can upload your own.
Adding transcripts makes your videos more accessible for hearing-impaired viewers, as well as for viewers watching on mute. And they’re also a great place to add keywords (just remember to say the keyword in your video!).
Here’s an example from the first result in our “stand up paddle board” search:
As you will see, some of the most important keywords that we decided to optimize will appear because of YouTube’s auto-caption generator.
On the one hand, this YouTube technology can help your video be noticed (meaning: higher rankings), but on the other hand, our team here at Vail Networks recommends that you upload a complete and accurate audio transcript so that your video’s contents are accurately captured.
Pro SEO Tip: Always upload an accurate version of your video’s transcript. By ensuring the audio and text from your video are correct, you increase your chances of appearing higher in YouTube’s search results.
● YouTube Video Tags –
Video tags are keyword phrases you choose that describe what your video is within search. These don’t actually appear on the page, but instead, provide YouTube with a look at what your video is about.
Here’s an example from the top video in our example search:
In the above example, these are suggested YouTube video tags. Be careful.
Make sure you target YouTube keywords that will help your audience find you. In this example, we recommend hyper-targeting your keywords to the ones highlighted in red. The other suggested keywords that appear, e.g. health, fitness, and even “sup,” are just not relevant and can cause confusion for both your audience and YouTube’s search engine.
➔ Pro SEO Tip: Title is one of the top YouTube ranking factors. Make sure you’re using a keyword in it and make it jump out at users.
How to Increase Click-Through Rate (“CTR”) on YouTube Videos:
Users only click on Search Results that stand above the crowd.
YouTube’s goal is to provide content that jumps out at you. Stuff you just can’t help but click.
And they measure the click-worthiness of your videos by “click-through rate.” This is the percentage of times that a viewer sees your video within YouTube search and clicks through to watch it.
Videos with a higher CTR rank better.
If you’re looking for a quick fix for under-performing videos, start by optimizing for CTR:
● Video Short Description –
You have 125 characters to grab attention. Make them count. Use a keyword in there, and briefly describe what they can expect from your video.
● Video Thumbnail –
Capture a screen grab from your video to be the featured image. Look for the most interesting, most beautiful, or most surprising part of the video to feature.
● Video title –
Titles matter. But beyond adding keywords, be sure you’re also focusing on making them descriptive and compelling.
Here’s the top example from our YouTube optimization testing.
It does a great job with the title and headline, but the description is a little wonky…
Do’s: Be Informative, Captivating, and Draw Your Viewers Into Your YouTube Channel.
Don’ts: Avoid Misleading or “Clickbait” Headlines and Overuse of CAPS Lock.
Best Ways How to Increase YouTube Video View Time:
Make YouTube Videos People Want to Watch!
Maybe we didn’t need to say that. But it’s true. If your videos are dull, or boring, or the sound quality sucks, people won’t stick around. And that’s something that YouTube notices.
“Audience retention” is a measure of how much of your video viewers watch. For example, 100-percent retention would mean that every viewer watches from start to finish. If you had a 2-minute video, and viewers watched an average of one minute, you’d have 50-percent retention.
And here’s why that matters: YouTube rewards videos that keep people watching with better rankings.
So how do you improve audience retention on YouTube? Start with focusing on video quality.
Studies have shown that quality videos perform much better on retention. People stick around, when they feel like they’re watching quality content.
Here are the best audience retention tips to increase your video view time:
● Improve Production Quality –
Focus on sound, lighting and cinematography. You might only have an iPhone to shoot video with. But use a tripod. If you do lots of speaking, buy a microphone. And there’s plenty of low-cost lighting rigs you can set up that will make your videos look better.
● Increase Video Length –
Make your videos more informative. Provide greater detail, go more in-depth in your unboxing videos and reviews, or try editing together multiple videos. This is one way to optimize for total watch time. Why? Well, if you have a consistent retention rate across all videos, longer videos will produce more total watch time. It’s that simple.
Quick YouTube SEO Tip: Although longer videos tend to perform better, this isn’t a requirement. If retention drops when you shoot for longer videos, script your videos in a way that will make people want to stick around.
● Remember Your YouTube Thumbnail –
The thumbnail you select can be a powerful tool in encouraging viewers to stick around. Pick a thumbnail that viewers will spend a minute or two longer waiting to see. Pick moments of excitement, visually beautiful moments, or the most interesting moments for the best results.
● Open with a Bang –
YouTube viewers will give you about 15 seconds to sell them. That means you have to start strong. Open your video with something that will draw viewers in and keep them hooked.
● Use Production Tricks –
Video is a visual medium, and people get bored easily, if you don’t give them a reason to watch. One solution: Use pattern interrupts in your videos. These are quick, surprising twists that break the pattern of a video. And they’re effective at keeping people tuned in.
➔ Pro Tip: Create longer content to maximize total watch time, and use the power of surprise to increase audience retention.
How to Improve YouTube Video User Engagement:
Higher User Engagement = Better YouTube Rankings for Your Videos
Search engines like to show users content that has word-of-mouth buzz. In Google search results that means backlinks, reviews and social media engagement. A webpage that performs well in those three categories is probably something people want to see.
On YouTube, the same is true. When people are engaging with content, that’s a pretty strong indicator that it’s a video that people want to watch.
In other words, optimizing for engagement can help your YouTube videos rank better.
Here are the most important user engagement stats on YouTube include:
● YouTube Channel Subscribers –
Increase subscribers by adding a “subscribe” button to your video. This will help grow your YouTube subscribers and will also accelerate the number of video views you receive each time you publish a new video on YouTube.
Also, ask viewers at the end of each video to subscribe. It works.
● Video Likes –
The thumbs up button on YouTube is a strong ranking indicator. More popular videos receive better rankings. Ask people to like videos at the beginning, and you can also add like interstitials within each video.
● YouTube Video Comments –
A quick trick for encouraging comments is to respond to every comment within 24 hours. Viewers will want to share their opinions; make sure they know that matters to you. YouTube’s search algorithm will rank your video higher, depending on how much and to what extent you are engage and respond to viewer comments.
Pro SEO Tip: Always respond to your YouTube video comments within 24 hours or less. YouTube ranks videos higher when it sees greater engagement with the community.
Why YouTube Video engagement is so important for your channel:
More interaction on your YouTube Channel = Higher rankings for your videos.
Engagement is one metric that can help you leap-frog competitors in YouTube rankings. The reason is simple. YouTube values videos that get people interested and connected with the platform.
So, the more engagement you can show, the better your videos will perform. It’s really that simple. The hard part is earning that engagement through outreach.
Want some proof?
Here’s a quick analysis of the top 2 pages from our sample search results. The first result hits it out of the park in terms of engagement: It has more likes, social media shares, and comments… and consequently it’s ranked higher.
Quick Summary: Improving engagement is an effective strategy for enhancing the value of your videos in YouTube’s eyes.
Start with responding to comments – that’s easy enough – and be sure to ask for likes and subscribers at the end of each video. A subscribe button is a must, as well.
YouTube Traffic Sources:
From Where Video Views Come?
OK, so the majority of the strategies we’ve mentioned are all about improving your video’s rankings in YouTube search. Video SEO helps you drive organic traffic to your videos. And this accounts for an average of about 25 percent of traffic on the platform.
But on YouTube, creators receive traffic from a variety of sources. And beyond organic search, there are many opportunities to maximize the visibility of your videos and increase views.
Learning the following information will also help you get more views on your YouTube videos…
Here’s a list of the most significant sources of views and traffic on YouTube:
● External Sites –
These are views that come from websites or apps that have your video embedded within a webpage. A great way to increase external traffic is through outreach. Touch base with blogs and content creators in your niche, and let them know you’ve produced a video that they might like to share.
● Suggested (“Recommended”) YouTube Videos –
At the end of every video, Google will include a list of suggested videos in the right-hand column. How do you earn these coveted spots?
Really, it starts with good video SEO. YouTube makes these connections using a variety of criteria, including total watch time, the video length, how closely related the subject matter is, and audience retention. It’s also based on the user’s past viewing history and other factors. If you’re optimizing your videos – with great titles, descriptions, and tags – that can help you land in these lists.
● Browse Features –
This refers to any traffic that comes from YouTube’s homepage, as well as subscriber feeds. Grow your community on YouTube and encourage people to subscribe. Your videos will start to show up on the homepages of your subscribers, which can turn into a significant traffic source over time.
● Notifications –
Notifications are sent to subscribers when you publish new videos. Stay connected and grow your subscriber base. This can start to produce an instant uptick in views on the day you publish. Again, ask for subscribers in your videos and be sure to embed a subscribe button!
● Channel Pages –
When another channel or YouTube user likes a video, or shares it to their own pages, you can start to earn traffic from this source. A key way to get more channel page traffic is outreach. Connect with other pages that you like, comment on their videos, and share their stuff. Being a good neighbor is a great way to generate traffic.
● Direct –
Direct traffic is any traffic that comes directly from bookmarks, links, and other sources. Use social media to generate some positive direct traffic, and traditional outreach campaigns like email marketing can provide a boost.
How to Increase Video Views from Search Engine Traffic.
More Traffic = More Video Views for Your YouTube Videos
In standard Google search results, you’ve likely seen video results. In the past, Google used thumbnails and embedded them directly in the results. Earlier this year, though, Google started integrating video carousels into search results.
Here’s how YouTube videos appear on search engines such as Google:
These on-page results can be a powerful marketing tool for your videos.
Yet, a lot of YouTube creators don’t fully understand how to earn them. These are the most important factors for getting videos into Google search:
● Search Intent:
Ultimately, Google tries to figure out if video results are the right fit based on the user’s search term. That’s why carousels are most likely to appear in “how to” and “tutorial” type searches; lots of people would rather watch a video than read an article. Bottom line, if the platform thinks you might like video, no matter the keyword, they’ll add video to the results page.
Quick SEO Tip: Conduct some searches within Google in your niche to see which queries add video results. The search terms that include results are often great keywords to optimize around in your videos.
● YouTube SEO:
All the metrics we’ve mentioned previously can help. Optimized and high-quality videos are much more likely to appear in Google results for related terms. But YouTube SEO isn’t as easy as optimizing and uploading, it also involves doing the best keyword research as we discussed above in the section on “How to Conduct Keyword Research for YouTube Videos.”
● Google SEO:
Finally, it’s important to look into basic SEO techniques. Google treats videos much like it does standard web pages, especially for results in its video tab. Make sure your videos are being optimized just like you’d optimize a standard webpage with interesting content and the proper balance of keywords. If you can do that, you’ll be on your way to ranking.
Quick Summary: Ranking your videos in Google is a lot like ranking a webpage. You’ll need to focus on traditional SEO techniques.
How to Start Getting More Views for Your Videos:
Yes, you can become one of YouTube’s most popular, most-subscribed channels too.
These days, competition is fierce on YouTube. Remember: 1,000+ days of video are uploaded every hour.
Video SEO gives you a leg up.
It gives your videos a fighting chance to be seen and to draw in viewers.
So, start with these simple SEO strategies: add new content or refresh your old videos. If you start integrating these YouTube SEO best practices, you’ll be on your way to growing a solid audience on platform.
Two last things for you…
We recommend you read these articles to help you on your quest to understand “What is SEO” and How Does it Work?.
If your business wants to become top-ranked on YouTube (increase viewership and subscribers by 10x), contact Vail Networks so we can help you achieve your goals.
No matter what industry you are in, or whatever type of business you have, Vail Networks can optimize, grow, and promote your YouTube videos to help drive new leads and website traffic to your business.