You put your blood, sweat, and tears into creating the best videos you can.
But whether your video gets picked up by the YouTube algorithm is down to luck, right?
Not at all.
There’s definitely some luck involved – or else we’d all have a viral video to our name – but you can stack the deck in your favor using YouTube SEO.
Instead of hitting publish then crossing your fingers, you can follow a handful of simple steps to give your content the best chances of success.
In this article, we’ll show you exactly how to use YouTube SEO to make sure your videos get as many views as possible.
What is YouTube SEO?
New YouTubers make a lot of mistakes.
But the biggest by far is not understanding that YouTube is a search engine.
So if you want to get as many views on your videos as possible, you’d be well advised to study search engine optimization (SEO).
SEO is the practice of making a website appear at the top of the search results on Google – the world’s most popular search engine (and the company that owns YouTube).
It’s what has helped FreshBooks beat out its competition to sit at the top of search results for a term as popular as ‘what is an invoice’:
It’s how Tipalti comes out on top in the battle for the term ‘what is e billing’:
And it’s also how Tasty appears at the top of the YouTube search results for most cooking-related terms you can think of:
Want these kinds of results for your YouTube videos?
You need to start leveraging YouTube SEO.
Why you need YouTube SEO
If you want to be heard among all that noise, then it’s clear you need to have a strategy for getting your videos found.
This is especially important if you’re planning on monetizing your YouTube channel, as your livelihood is going to depend on how well you can appeal to YouTube’s algorithm.
Whether you’re just starting out on your YouTube journey, you’re not happy with the results you’ve had so far, or you can sense there’s some room for improvement, then you need YouTube SEO.
How to Use YouTube SEO to get More Views
Keyword research is the foundation of SEO, both on Google and YouTube.
It’s how you find out what people are searching the internet for. And when you know that, you can create content around the topics that you already know people are interested in, massively improving your chances of success.
If you’re completely new to keyword research, then start by reading Moz’s beginner’s guide to keyword research, which is an excellent primer on the topic.
One important thing to know when you’re starting out with keyword research is that not all keywords are created equal.
In fact, keywords come in two forms: short-tail keywords and long-tail keywords.
Short-tail keywords are short terms that receive a lot of search, like ‘dogs’, ‘New York’, and ‘pizza’.
Your chances of ranking for terms like this on YouTube are incredibly slim if you’re just starting out, as those are the keywords everyone else is targeting as well, so competition is incredibly high.
Long-tail keywords, on the other hand, are much longer and more specific search terms. ‘When do dogs stop growing’, ‘how big is New York’ , and ‘what is Brooklyn-style pizza’ are all long-tail you could rank for on YouTube – as well as the video panels that appear in the Google search results.
Long-tail keywords receive plenty of searches but are much less competitive, and therefore make good keywords to tackle with your YouTube videos.
Not sure how to find long-tail keywords? Simply follow Loganix’s guide to finding long-tail keywords.
Not many YouTubers understand how powerful keyword research is and how to use it to find great long-tail opportunities.
Understand this key aspect of SEO and you’ll have a big advantage when it comes to appealing to YouTube’s algorithm.
Once you’ve picked a long-tail keyword to target it’s time to optimize your video for that term.
And that all starts with your video’s title.
There are two aspects of the perfect YouTube video title.
First, make sure the keyword your targeting is in your video’s title word-for-word.
And for the very best chances of ranking for that term, make the keyword the very start of your video title.
This works extremely effectively on Google, as Best Nursing Schools has utilized to great effect here:
And it works just as well on YouTube, as a search for ‘how to skateboard’ illustrates:
This might feel a bit restrictive.
But by sticking to this formula, you’re effectively putting a big sign on each of your videos that tells YouTube’s algorithm ‘this is the keyword I want to rank for’.
Plus, your videos’ titles can be up to 70 characters long.
Which brings us to the next ingredient of a perfectly optimized title tag: enticing copy.
This is something companies have down to a fine art when it comes to Google SEO, with this title from the site In VPN showcasing a best practice title tag:
Here’s how the top ranking videos for ‘how to play chess’ have used the remaining characters after the keyword they’re targeting to make their titles more enticing:
Stick to this title formula for the best chances of ranking at the top of YouTube for your target keyword: The long-tail keyword you’re targeting (word-for-word) followed by some enticing copy to encourage clicks.
Your video’s description is also really important for YouTube SEO, as it gives you another chance to tell YouTube exactly what your video is about.
The more explicit you are about what keyword you’re targeting, the higher chance you have of appearing at the top of the results when people search that term.
Luckily, optimizing your videos’ descriptions for YouTube SEO isn’t too complicated.
- Include your keyword (word-for-word) in the first 25 words.
- Include your keyword (or close variations) another 2-3 times.
- Make the description at least 250 words long.
Here’s a best practice example from this video on how to dunk a basketball:
And that’s really all there is to optimizing your description box for YouTube SEO.
Tags are a great way to tell YouTube exactly what keyword you’re targeting.
To get the most from them, simply tag your video with your target keyword (‘how to play chess’), a few variations (‘beginner’s chess tutorial’, ‘how to learn chess’), and a few other topics your video covers (‘what are all the chess pieces called’, ‘chess opening moves’, etc.).
It’s really as simple as that when it comes to your tags, so don’t get too bogged down with them.
Grab people’s attention with your thumbnail and your video is more likely to be clicked.
The best YouTube thumbnails include:
- Text that complements or hammers home the topic covered in the title
- Bright colors
- Photographs of people, often with exaggerated expressions (which helps grab people’s attention when they’re scrolling)
Here are a few great examples of effective thumbnails that are ranking at the top of YouTube for ‘yoga mistakes’ for inspiration:
Last but not least, YouTube will rank your videos higher in its results pages and recommend it more regularly in the Suggested Videos sidebar if they receive strong engagement signals.
Engagement signals are simply the metrics YouTube uses to quantify whether viewers enjoy your content.
- How long people watch your video for.
- How many likes, comments, and shares it receives.
- How many people subscribe to your YouTube channel after watching it.
- How many people click on another of your videos after watching it.
You can improve the engagement signals on your YouTube videos by:
- Creating videos that cover their topic in an engaging manner.
- Increasing production quality (improving your video quality and adding music to your videos are two quick wins here).
- Posing a question at the end of your video and asking viewers to share their thoughts in the comments.
- Asking viewers to like the video and subscribe to your channel.
Of course, improving the quality of your videos isn’t as easy of a fix as being smarter with how you use titles, tags, thumbnails and descriptions.
But it’s an essential step if you want to create content worthy of ranking at the top of the YouTube search results and garnering more views and subscriptions.
If you want to get the most views possible on your YouTube videos, then you need to be utilizing YouTube SEO.
Follow the steps we’ve outlined here for the best chances of being favored by YouTube’s algorithm and showing up in the search results and the Suggested Videos sidebar as often as possible.
About the Author
Adam Steele is the Founder and COO at Loganix, an SEO fulfillment partner for agencies and marketers. We build easy to use SEO services that help businesses scale. If you liked this article, please check out our SEO guides and templates on the blog.
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