YouTube is the 2nd largest search engine on the internet in 2021. It receives more than 1 billion unique visitors each month with hundreds of hours of video being uploaded every minute.
With such a densely populated platform, getting your videos to appear high in the search results can seem like an impossible task. However, this doesn’t have to be the case. In this article I’ll be sharing our top YouTube SEO tips that will get your videos the rankings they deserve.
Produce Quality Content
Firstly, you need to be producing quality content. Quality content is the cornerstone of good SEO practice across all channels. YouTube in particular highly prioritises the viewers’ experience, so you have to create content with them in mind.
Viewers are unlikely to watch a video that has poor camera and sound quality so invest in production equipment. This doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s great if you have a big budget but it isn’t always necessary. In fact, you may not even need to have a camera, as most smartphones are capable of recording reasonable quality video.
However, some items that you should consider investing in are:
- A tripod for your phone or camera for stabilisation
- A plain backdrop
- Lamps or studio lighting (depending on your budget)
- A microphone
Now that you have the gear, it’s important to have the substance to back it up. The best YouTube channels and videos are unique. As I briefly mentioned, hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every hour. Whilst this makes it impossible for your videos to be completely original, it is a good idea to pick a niche and then try to make your videos as useful/ interesting/ entertaining as possible within that sector.
Carry Out Keyword Research
Now that you’ve established your niche and ordered your equipment, you need to decide the individual videos you’re going to make. To do that, you’ll first need to do some keyword research.
You can use YouTube’s search bar to do this. Begin by typing one or two words that describe the video you want to create. YouTube will then autogenerate key word suggestions. This is a great free tactic that shouldn’t be overlooked, as the results are guaranteed to reflect what YouTube users specifically are searching for.
However, there are also a number of great keyword research tools that you can use to build on these results such as Google Trends and Keyword Planner or Uber Suggest. When carrying out this research, you should aim to find long-tail keywords (3 or more words), as these will generally be much less competitive.
Optimise your Video Title
Optimising your video title in accordance with your keyword research is hugely important for showing up in YouTube’s search engine results. SEO experts at Moz claim that keyword matching is potentially the biggest factor affecting YouTube’s video ranking algorithm.
A study found that video titles that specifically matched the user’s search query outperformed those that matched it synonymously. Therefore, if you can match your video title to the autogenerated results provided by YouTube during your research, you have a higher chance of showing up in YouTube’s search results.
One of the easiest ways to achieve keyword matching is through creating videos that aim to solve a problem. That is why you will see a lot of videos on YouTube that start with ‘how to’. However, if this is not relevant to the style of videos you wish to create, try to front-load your video title with your chosen keywords – whilst still ensuring that your title is readable. A great way to do this is through the use of colons and hyphens.
Lastly, it is considered best practice to make your title less than 50 characters.
Optimise your Video Description
Similarly to the title, your description should be relevant to the video and include your select keywords. Try to include your keywords near the start of the description, as this will make it easier for YouTube to find and decipher them.
Likewise to the title, do not stuff your description full of keywords at the expensive of legibility. Remember, YouTube prioritises the user experience and so they will respond negatively to this. If you are accurately describing the contents of your video they should occur naturally.
It is also considered best practice to front-load the description with Call to Actions such as ‘Discover’, ‘Find out more’ etc. Whilst there is roughly a 1,000-character limit on video descriptions, YouTube will only display the first 2/3 lines. Therefore, you need to entice the viewer to click ‘show more’.
Don’t Disregard Tags
Whilst tags are close to dying a death on other social media platforms, they’re still thriving on YouTube.
Tags help YouTube to better understand what your video is about. The more YouTube understands what your video is about, the higher it will place it in the search results.
The tags are where you can use the additional keywords you may have uncovered during your research. It is considered best practice to include 10-12 tags, including phrases that aim to keyword match, as well as synonyms.
Include Subtitles/ Closed Captions
Optimising closed captions is one of the best YouTube optimisation tactics, yet it is often overlooked.
If you haven’t garnered from the article so far, keywords are very important in YouTube SEO. The more places you can find to include them the better. Whilst YouTube can’t read your video to see if it includes keywords that match the viewer’s query, it can read the subtitles.
YouTube supports automatic captioning, but they are not always accurate. Therefore, taking the time to write and upload your own could make the difference in pushing your video’s ranking above your competitors.
Increase your Watch Time
Whilst it may be fairly obvious that YouTube will give a higher ranking to videos with higher views, it may not be obvious that they will also review and reward the quality of those views.
Watch time is a big ranking factor on YouTube. This is because the longer a video is watched, the more likely viewers are to have enjoyed it. Remember, YouTube will always prioritise videos in accordance to the viewer.
You can check a video’s watch time report in YouTube Analytics. If viewers drop off at a particular point it could be due to the length. Videos that are 10-16 minutes in length typically perform will in the rankings.
If it is not the length, it may also be the way your video presents information. Try to keep your viewers engaged by posing a question at the start and then exploring it throughout the video.
Garner Subscribers and Channel Authority
User engagement is an integral part of YouTube’s algorithm. Once again, this is because YouTube values the user’s experience and their engagement is one of the easiest ways to measure this.
Likes and comments are important, but subscribers arguably carry more weight. While likes and comments are one-time actions, subscribers tell YouTube the number of users that are committed to engaging with your channel’s content on a regular basis. As a result, YouTube views your channel as valuable to their users.
Ask your viewers to subscribe at the end of your video. However, don’t do this at the same time as asking them to like or comment, as they are likely only to do one.
Of course, this is not to say that you need millions of subscribers to show up in the search results. Although it certainly won’t hurt.
Build Your Back-Link Profile
Another way that YouTube determines authority is through a video and channel’s back-link profile. When viewers share your videos, it indicates to YouTube that they have liked and engaged with it – so much so that they want others to do the same.
This goes back to ensuring that you are producing quality content. However, sharing your video and channel across other social media platforms and embedding them in blog posts is a great way to create back-links yourself.
Hopefully these tips will have helped you realise that it is possible to garner results on YouTube. Whilst some of the figures listed at the start of this article may have seemed overwhelming, these guidelines should help you break down those initial barriers.
Have your tried any of the tips mentioned in this article? Let us know about your YouTube experience!
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Photo credit: Sara KurfeB