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How to Optimize Youtube Videos

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How to Optimize Youtube Videos

We’ve covered why optimizing your YouTube videos for search is so important. Now it’s time to get into how to optimize YouTube videos for SEO and search rankings. More views—and comments, subscriptions, and shares—mean more engagement and potentially more conversions and sales. But first, you need viewers to find your videos.

In part, YouTube tracks your videos’ performance via their click-through-rate, or CTR. The CTR is a percentage of people who click on a result, which in this case, is your video. The higher your CTR, the more people who are clicking on your video. Conversely, your rankings will drop if people are skipping over your videos.

But YouTube tracks other metrics, such as watch time and keywords. If you want to know how to increase your YouTube views, your goals include:

  • Getting higher search rankings.
  • Getting people to watch videos.
  • Motivating them to stick around a while.
  • Increasing your number of subscribers.
  • Prompting customer reactions such as likes, shares, or comments.

How Do I Optimize YouTube Videos for SEO?

YouTube has a slightly different algorithm than Google when it comes to SEO (the inner workings of YouTube’s SEO was discussed in our previous article. But if your videos rank well on YouTube, they will do so on Google. By now, you may be obsessed with how to get your YouTube video to rank high—that’s fine; just realize you need to start somewhere.

And, here is where you should begin:

Keyword Research 

On YouTube, keywords are used in different ways, which we’ll get into soon. Video keyword research can help you name YouTube videos to get more views and optimize them for search. It is a process that can proceed as follows:

  • Build a List: A list of possible keywords enables you to pick the best ones for your video. YouTube even provides search suggestions. Just type in a word/phrase related to your topic or brand, and a list of related keywords will automatically appear.


Why should you trust these suggestions? YouTube generates them based on what terms people are using. To help build your keyword list, you can also track keywords popular videos in your niche use. To do this:

  • Visit a channel that is similar to yours.
  • In the “Sort By” dropdown menu, click “Most popular”.
  • Select a video from the list that appears.
  • Pay careful attention to its title, description, and tags.

Video tags are highly effective at revealing important keywords. The vidIQ Chrome extension makes it even easier, as it displays the tags of any video directly. Keywords can also be found in the YouTube “Traffic Source: YouTube search” report; some you may have already used and know about, but you might come across others you never thought of.

  • Choose Your Keyword: You probably don’t need every keyword. If you’re building your subscriber base, aim for low-competition keywords; otherwise, your video will be outranked by so many others. Due to YouTube taking away the function of being able to see the competitiveness of a keyword by looking at the “About # results” it has become more of a challenge to know which keyword to use. Luckily, there are third party sites, (SeoStack, Hypersuggest, SeoChat Keyword Suggest Tool) which are chrome extensions and can help you see such results. Remember, the bigger the number, the more competitive a keyword is.


There’s no baseline as to how low the number should be. For example, if you’re primary keyword yields millions of results, aim for a variant that may have just a couple hundred thousand.

Then, search Google using the desired keyword. If it brings up videos similar to your niche, your chances of favorable rankings are good. How do you get YouTube videos to rank on the first page of Google? The best types of keywords are related to how-to, review, tutorial, fitness/sports, and humorous videos. With these in mind, you can generate YouTube and Google traffic.

  • Determine Search Volume: Search volume is important because you need a keyword users are searching for. Google’s Keyword Planner shows how many searches there are each month for a target keyword. If people are searching a high-volume keyword and your video ranks well, people will likely click on it.


How to Add Keywords to Your YouTube Video

Keyword usage is crucial to these next important steps:

Name Your Video File

Place your preferred keyword in the video file before you upload it. While YouTube’s algorithm doesn’t watch the video, it can read the file name (a good example is replacing seo_data_01.MP4 with something like YouTube_SEO_Optimization_Tips.MP4). Also, more recent updates allow the system to transcribe your video and identify keywords.

Create a Keyword Based Title

Your keyword should fit naturally into the title. Any title should be clear and concise; it’s what gets a viewer to watch it in the first place. And naturally, it should closely match what the viewer is searching for. Should your title have an exact keyword match? If it fits, do so. But exact keyword-title matches don’t always mean stronger rankings, as this chart based on Backlino research reveals.


Optimize Your YouTube Video Description

Your video description should be just that—a full explanation of what your video is about. Many people upload a simple introduction of a few sentences. Instead, treat your description like a blog post. In several hundred words, you can elaborate on a few key points and add keywords. YouTube’s algorithm can then decipher what you’re trying to do.

These video description hints represent some useful YouTube best practices:

  • Use keyword variants, long tail keywords, and descriptive details that cover what the video addresses.
  • Fill your 1,000-character limit, and include the most important details in the first 100 characters, or 2-3 lines of text.
  • Include your primary keyword within the first 25 words.

Use Keyword-Based Tags

Keyword tags are important when it comes to YouTube rankings. Definitely include your primary keyword when selecting tags. Add any variations you can think of or that come up in search, or that reflect topics related to your video and brand.

Optimize Your Transcript

Transcripts provide an extra means for viewers to get value out of your video. They also provide keyword opportunities. Your transcript is also used for a video’s subtitles or closed captions if you use them. If a viewer is watching with the sound off, they can still understand what it’s about and get keyword-rich information about your brand.

  • To add subtitles, you can enter the transcript text directly via an SRT file. Or, using the video edit feature in the “Video Manager”, you can select the video you want to add text to and use “Subtitles/CC to select how it will appear in the video. Closed captions can also be added via a text transcript or timed subtitles file.

Add a Strong Call to Action

A call to action encourages viewers to learn more about your brand. It not only makes for a more effective video, but also reduces the likelihood viewers will click away to another video, which may have nothing to do with your product or service. Your call to action doesn’t need to be too salesy—this might distract the viewer. Just encourage the viewer there’s something to gain by visiting your YouTube channel or website…and don’t forget to include the link.

Saying your target keyword in the video is also useful. YouTube’s algorithm has advanced to the point it can transcribe audio and detect the keyword the video is optimized around.

How Else Do I Optimize My YouTube Channel?

YouTube video optimization isn’t only reliant on keywords. Additional steps can enable you to increase the rankings of your video content. To leverage these:

Choose a Category

YouTube’s “Advanced Settings” feature lets you categorize a video. By selecting a category, you can increase the exposure of a video because it gets grouped with similar content. Once it’s on different playlists, additional audiences can see it. This process can take a little research though. To get the most out of categorizing a video, look at the top video creators in that category, audience behavior in channels from that category, and whether videos in a given category are of a similar length, format, and production quality.


Upload a Thumbnail Image

The video thumbnail is often what viewers see first. It appears on the list of video results, providing a viewer with information about what the video is about. Therefore, both the title and image inform the viewer.

Thumbnail options are automatically generated by YouTube. However, you can upload a custom thumbnail—the best format is 1280 x 720 pixels, or a 16:9 ratio. Use .gif, .png, .bmp, or .jpg files that are 2MB or smaller so the image is visible across multiple platforms.

Use Cards and End Screens

Other tools you can use include Cards and End Screens. A Card appears as a small circular icon with an “i”, located in the corner of a video. Cards can be used to:

  • Direct viewers to another channel
  • Encourage donations for nonprofit fundraising
  • Ask viewers to help fund your content creation
  • Direct viewers to an external website
  • Poll viewers or let them respond with a vote
  • Link to similar YouTube videos or playlists.
  • Link to the video in your email signature.

End Screens function in a similar manner. The main difference is they appear after the video ends. More visually detailed, they can include various types of content and link to other videos to enhance the viewer’s experience.

Video Promotion

The last stage in optimizing your video is to promote it. The best ways to do this include:

  • Promoting it on LinkedIn, Google+, and other social media accounts.
  • Embedding or linking to it on your website or blog.
  • Encouraging viewers to comment on and share your videos.
  • Setting up a playlist with videos of a common topic or theme.

Videos can also be optimized based on what viewers previously watched. That means you can pick up traffic from recommendations by:

  • Encouraging viewers to watch your other video content.
  • Responding to another video in video format.
  • Including keywords that relate to another video.
  • Uploading videos targeting a specific YouTube user.
  • Publishing a video on a platform likely to draw traffic.
  • Mentioning it on a forum or Q&A site, such as Quora.

Use an SEO Tool

Various SEO tools can help if you want to know how to optimize YouTube videos efficiently and effectively. From choosing keywords to providing metrics that can help gain more visibility and traffic, these software tools include:

1. Ahrefs Keyword Explorer

A complete keyword research tool, Ahrefs has a massive database of keywords to generate suggestions from. It estimates potential organic traffic by using a specific keyword and can also monitor your site’s ranking. A keyword difficulty score considers top-ranking pages to estimate how tough ranking for a chosen keyword might be. The Keywords Explorer feature provides various metrics (based on your search engine of choice) including a keyword’s monthly search volume and clicks received by videos that rank for it.


2. Keyword Density Checker

As you optimize your YouTube videos, your target keyword should be in the title, video description, and other places mentioned earlier. Overusing keywords can hurt your rankings. With Keyword Density Checker, you can ensure you haven’t over-optimized your video. Even get a visual depiction (with more frequently used keywords in larger fonts) using Keyword Cloud. To get started, just submit your URL for analysis.


3. Canva

Canva lets you create business cards, logos, photos, brochures, and more, but its Thumbnail Creator comes in very handy for optihubspotmizing your thumbnail images. It lets you create a YouTube video thumbnail at the proper resolution using a template. You can therefore meet the 1280 x 720 pixel requirement and set the image format. The free graphic design tool lets you create custom thumbnails for each individual video you upload.


4. HubSpot Content Strategy

HubSpot’s tool can help you find popular keywords. Once you know these, you can create content around them and sort content into topic clusters to measure impact on website traffic, lead generation, and conversions. You can then see how different pieces of content are related, in addition to the popularity of keywords in Google searches. The software also helps with content planning to see what you already have and what you need.


5. Cyfe

Cyfe lets you monitor your YouTube channel’s views, engagement, traffic sources, and other performance metrics. A web analytics platform is only one part of this large software suite, which also displays popular keywords and one’s you’re ranking for. Built-in data from Google Analytics helps in this area. Intuitive dashboards let you can track the performance of your YouTube channel, social media page, website, or sales or marketing campaign.


6. TubeBuddy

With TubeBuddy, manage the production, optimization, and promotion of all your videos. In addition to a keyword explorer and tag suggestions, it includes an automatic language translator so you can rank for keywords in other languages. You can also track video rankings or create embed codes to add a video or playlist to your site.


7. vidIQ Vision

If you use Google Chrome, this extension provides various analytical metrics to understand how and why your videos perform like they do. View tags, average watch time, and trends in traffic over time. An SEO score provided by vidIQ helps compare results on YouTube as you refine your strategy.


8. DrumUp

Add Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media accounts and DrumUp will schedule when your videos will be distributed. The tool helps target different audiences. It also provides previews, so you know what your promotional posts will look like when they are uploaded. DrumUp is also useful for managing your overall social media and content marketing strategy. Best of all, the app is free.


These steps provide a roadmap of YouTube best practices and how you can optimize your video, drive viewers to interact with it and take action, and promote your videos, while using various tools to simplify the process. But to rank well, any video must have quality content that’s relevant and relatable. To a significant extent, getting your videos to rank on the first page of Google requires being marketing savvy. In addition to these tips, consider leveraging the services of a digital marketing team to boost your videos’ performance.

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