Everybody knows that people would rather watch a video than read a big long blog post (I know, I should have done this as a video too—maybe one day). In fact, 59% of executives say they would rather watch a video than read text. That’s a lot of people. Which means that video SEO can have countless benefits: increased watch time, broader brand awareness, and more sales and leads.
Search engines like YouTube and Google use the same fundamentals in their algorithms for website and video ranking. The focus is on providing the user with the very best experience possible, and YouTube video search results have now been combined with Google search results to simplify how people search.
In this blog, I’m going walk you through exactly how you can drive traffic to your YouTube videos using some simple SEO tips.
8 simple YouTube SEO tips to rank higher in search
You can combine your SEO and video strategy to help supercharge your marketing in a pretty straightforward and simple way. Doing this will not only improve your video watch time, but also get your customers’ attention, and help you further down the line with things like YouTube remarketing. Here are eight steps to improve your YouTube SEO to drive more traffic and video views.
1. Pick your keywords wisely
SERPs are getting more competitive every month. New competitors, new products, new services—everyone is fighting for the top spots. So, finding ways to diversify yourself and your offering is crucial. Do your keyword research, and unless you can compete with really competitive terms, pick keywords that can get you volume, but are less competitive.
You can use the same keyword research tools you’d use for PPC or SEO, like
- WordStream’s Free Keyword Tool
- Google Keyword Planner.
- Moz or Semrush.
- Google search—search suggest, people also ask, related searches, and more!
2. Use keywords in your video title
Understanding the search intent of your audience is the first step. We know that the most common types of search intent include informational, commercial, navigational, and transactional. So, matching what your video is about with the intent of your customer is going to be really important for getting your video visible in search results.
Secondly, make sure, you understand WHY you want to create a YouTube video and who the primary audience is. For instance, if you are looking to showcase a product review, then use the product name in the video title and description. It sounds really simple, but there are so many YouTube channels that miss this step and their videos show up low on Google and YouTube search results.
Below is an example of how competitive the term ‘dell computer review’ is. This term is something that someone may be searching for when they are considering a product. These videos are pulling through from YouTube, but also from other websites and blogs around the web.
3. Include the keyword in your video file
Super simple, but YouTube may use this as one of the ranking factors when it comes to showing your video in search results. If the file name you are uploading has the target keyword in it, your video will have a much better chance of being ranked—and a much better chance of gaining more search volume.
When uploading a new video, you can see the filename. YouTube uses this to make sure the video is relevant, so ensure your file name is updated before you upload it!
4. Optimize your YouTube video description
One of the most important ranking factors for YouTube SEO is making sure you have a solid, optimized video description. Whenever you change or update any YouTube video element—which includes video descriptions, subtitles and closed captions, and video thumbnails—YouTube will reevaluate the video. This can be good or bad… so it’s important you get it right the first time!
YouTube recommends that you put your most important keywords in the first couple of sentences of your description – and that your description should be no longer than 200 words. Broadly speaking—make your description useful. If it doesn’t help a user—delete it.
You can see below, that the keyword I have typed into Google is in bold in the descriptions of the videos that have shown up. This is YouTube’s way of telling me the videos are relevant from the video descriptions.
Youtube has some great resources on the Youtube Creator Studio which is a resource that is always updated with current information. It has a handy list that guides you through the steps to a successful video description:
- Include an overview of your video using natural language—not just a stream of keywords.
- Insert the most important keywords at the beginning of your description.
- Pick 1–2 main words that describe your video and feature them prominently in both your description and title.
- Use keyword tools such as Google Trends and the Google Ads Keyword Planner to identify popular keywords and their synonyms. Including these terms can help you to maximize traffic from search.
- Omit irrelevant words in your description because it creates a poor viewing experience and may violate Google’s policies.
5. Use video hashtags to drive YouTube search results
Across social media, hashtags (#) are now used to help users find content that answers their questions across a range of platforms. You can use related hashtags (#) in video descriptions to help viewers find your video when they search for a specific hashtag.
Tags specifically help drive search as they make key trends more visible. Once you add a hashtag to the video description, it will be shown above the title of the video and then become hyperlinked.
It’s also important to remember where you include video hashtags here. If you add in a hashtag in the video title, hashtags from descriptions won’t get displayed about the video title.
6. Select a video category
If users are searching for a particular video with advanced options, they can select the search to show videos from selected categories. When uploading your video, it’s important you contextualize your video with categories so you will have a better chance of getting found by a user.
YouTube has a variety of category options to pick from, so you should be able to find a category that suits your YouTube videos. You can select the category options when uploading your video.
7. Customize your thumbnail image
Thumbnails can help or hinder your YouTube videos. They are the first thing that grabs people’s attention when they look at YouTube search results. A strong thumbnail can lead to a higher watch time, which can have a big influence on YouTube ranking. Create something that grabs people’s attention and stands out from the crowd so that your video gets noticed. For example, these thumbnails are just taken from the video itself and are probably not the most relevant for grabbing the user’s attention.
Creating a custom thumbnail is the best way to see results—showing people what your video is about and how it will benefit them is the real key to success.
A great example of a customized thumbnail:
8. Add subtitles and closed captions
Using subtitles and closed captions is the final tip for success on YouTube search.
While video subtitles are designed to communicate video dialogue for viewers who can’t understand the video language, closed captions are for viewers who can’t hear the audio.
Both subtitles and closed-caption files contain the text of what is said in the video, like a transcript. The file will also contain time codes for when each bit of text should be displayed through the video, so it can match up with speech or another visual element. See what file formats YouTube supports here.
The other benefit of having a transcript for your video is that it can be picked up by broad search engines, just as a blog would.
On the video upload screen, you can select your file and video language. There are a lot of really good guides out there for how to create an SRT file for your video. Here is one I use often!
Achieve higher ranking with these YouTube SEO tips
If you are looking to promote your business on YouTube, use these YouTube SEO tips to help improve your video traffic and watch time:
- Choose your keywords wisely
- Include keywords in the title of the video
- Include keywords in the video file
- Optimize your description
- Use video hashtags
- Select a video category
- Use eye-catching thumbnails
- Add subtitles and closed captions
And finally, do your research as you would with any other piece of content. Focus on creating evergreen videos that you can build upon to strengthen your content portfolio. The more helpful content you offer users, the more search volume you will get to your business and YouTube channel!
About the author
Ellie Buckle is Head of Digital and Strategy at Purpose Media where she helps drive impact and return on investment for clients across the agency. You can read more of her work on the Purpose Media Blog.