How does YouTube SEO work?
Are there proven techniques to rank a YouTube video without being an expert?In this detailed Youtube SEO guide, we’re going to break down a foolproof process on how to rank Youtube videos.
As the UK’s leading SEO agency and Youtube SEO consultant, we have been able to rank Youtube videos for our clients and partners in some of the most competitive keywords out there.
Just take a look at these two videos by AmazonSEOConsultant:
“Amazon SEO” is a very lucrative and highly competitive search term, with Amazon SEO agencies from all around the world trying to muscle in on it.
Getting to the first position is impossible without some serious Youtube optimization.
AmazonSEOConsultant is our sister agency and we’ll be using their videos as examples today in order to protect the privacy of some of our larger clients, but we are able to achieve these results for anybody.
We were able to get these two videos by ASC to the first and third organic spots for “Amazon SEO” in just a few days, and this will continue improving to first and second in just a short time.Before we implemented the exact process shown on this page, these videos were barely ranking at all and had low view counts despite being some of the best videos on the topic and more than worthy of first place position.
We even managed to get ASC’s Helium10 tutorial video to be the only video on YouTube ranking above Helium10 themselves:
“How to get more reviews on Amazon” is another highly competitive term that we have been able to rank a video to the first position in:
Time and time again, we have used our proven YouTube video ranking process to take our partners and client’s videos to first place in competitive keywords, giving them more views, subscriptions, and driving more traffic to both their YouTube channels and websites.If you’d like to achieve the same, you’ll be BLOWN AWAY by this guide as we are the first agency with serious ranking experience behind them to put a proven ranking process into plain English for anybody to understand!
Let me explain:
Table of Contents
We are going to show you every step of our proven, data-driven process in detail, meaning if you follow this post step by step, you will achieve Youtube rankings, views and engagement on levels you never thought possible!
If this sounds good, we’re about to dive right in so keep reading!
By the end of this post, you’ll know all of the steps on how to rank a Youtube video.
A little experience trying out the pointers here will have you mastering Youtube search engine optimization yourself before you know it!
Rather do it yourself?
Not a problem!
Now that you know we really know what we’re talking about when it comes to Youtube SEO optimization, grab a drink, get ready to take some notes, and let us explain the process:
The first stage of the Youtube SEO process (like most other areas of SEO) is keyword research.
There are a variety of different ways to find Youtube keywords, and luckily enough they aren’t too difficult either.
First, you should make a nice big spreadsheet to start collecting your ideas for Youtube SEO keywords.
Cool, now we’re going to show you how to find the best keywords for Youtube.
Our first technique for a Youtube keyword search is handed to you on a platter!
You may have noticed that whenever you begin to type something into Youtube, it tries to predict what you’re looking for:
This is a brilliant way to start out for a few reasons:
We know that keywords are a major ranking factor in Youtube, right?
So we also know that if a video has a ton of views, it probably is targeting some good keywords.We can hijack these and use them for our own Youtube SEO ranking benefits – easy!
First, find another channel within your niche. You don’t need to choose the #1 channel as if they’re well known enough, they may be getting a lot of direct searches of their name and getting a lot of traffic from that as opposed to their keywords you can actually steal.
However, you should still go for a channel that’s doing well, has more views than yourself and appears to be doing Youtube “right” – otherwise, they are unlikely to have too many keywords that can lead to growth for yourself.
For this example we’ll pretend you’re trying to SEO Youtube videos for the fishing niche and take a look at 1Rod1ReelFishing:
First, click Videos, then Sort by > Most Popular
Now you have all of that channel’s videos, listed in order of popularity:Now, simply choose a video (or several videos) from near the top of the list that are based around topics you want to create videos on yourself.
This is already giving us a ton of ideas for Youtube content because we know people in our niche already search for these topics in good numbers.
This is a good example because the #1 video has 13 million views, which is a considerable amount above #2.
One thing we’ve already learned is that fishing fans love to watch videos about how to catch big catfish – we should probably make one of those soon.
But, it’s about to get better:
We can analyse the video’s title, description and tags to see what keywords they’re employing in their Youtube SEO strategy:
As you can see, this video’s title is absolutely packed with keywords, with not a single character wasted.
This is what we want for our own video.
He starts with the primary keywords: How to Catch BIG Catfish.
The rest are directly related, so this video has a good chance of showing up if people type things along the lines of:
Now let’s take a look at the description:
This is also crucial so we’ll talk a bit more on the Youtube SEO best practices regarding retention later, but we still have keywords like:
Once again, great keyword ideas to include in your own video on catching catfish.
Last but not least, we can check the Youtube tags:
They used to be clearly visible underneath every Youtube video until they hid them, but they didn’t hide them well enough for a Youtube SEO expert like you will be after reading this guide!
Yep, just right click on the page and choose View Source or View Page Source depending on your browser.
Press CTRL&F and search for “keywords”.You should find a list of keywords like in the above screenshot. These are the tags the video uploader has applied, and chances are it’s a pretty good list since the channel gets so many views. Steal all that are relevant for your own video!
Now we have a pretty good list of keywords to SEO Youtube videos with thanks to the two above techniques. There’s another good guide on Youtube SEO by Mondovo that’s worth a read.
You’re going to need to select the best out of all of those keywords to use as your main keyword, right at the start of your title (How to Catch Big Catfish in our example video).
But how do you know which ones to go for?
It’s quite simple, but first you have to:
For channels that are already highly ranked, the best keywords to use as the primary keyword are the ones that are searched the most, as they will bring in the most views.
Makes sense right?However, since you’re reading a guide on how to SEO optimize Youtube videos, we’re assuming you aren’t one of those channels.
In this case, you want to go for the lowest competition keywords as these will be the easiest ones to rank well in.
This used to be as easy as searching each of your keywords and writing down the number of results, but unfortunately for us, Youtube doesn’t display that number any more.
Luckily, the results from Google are far from irrelevant and can give us great ideas regarding how to optimize Youtube videos for SEO (both in YouTube itself and in Google results pages – which we’ll discuss shortly).
With Google owning Youtube and most online searches beginning on Google, combined with the fact Google regularly serves up Youtube videos in its search results, the data is going to be very similar.
In fact, let’s try a little experiment before continuing onwards. What happens if we Google “how to catch big catfish?”
As you can see in the above screenshot, Google does still show how many results they find for each search.
While the number of search results isn’t directly the same as it would be on Youtube, it is almost always proportional, meaning we can reliably use the amount of Google results as a guide when it comes to SEO optimization for Youtube.
You should aim to find a keyword that has a nice balance between searched often (higher up in the Youtube search recommendations) and low competition (has fewer results showing up in Google).
This will give you a much higher chance of ranking quickly and staying there than you would if you targeted a highly competitive keyword, but over time as you gain loyal viewers and become a more highly ranked channel, you will be able to begin attacking the more competitive keywords.
This brings us to another secret about how to optimize Youtube videos for SEO: ranking them in Google!
Let me explain:
This is important because if you’re targeting a keyword or topic that has Youtube videos showing up in Google, and then you rank well in Youtube, your video will replace those in the Google SERP, giving you a potentially huge source of alternative traffic.This means it’s worth running your primary keywords through Google’s Keyword Planner too, and going for one that is searched often on Google if possible.
This, if ranked well enough, will bring you views from a whole different angle.
Now that we’ve reverse engineered how some successful videos have gotten their views, let’s look at how to implement what we’ve learned in order to build a powerful Youtube video ranking:
Now that we’ve done our research and found the topics or search terms we want to rank for, it’s time to optimize our video as much as possible in order to allow it to gain ranks and maintain them for our chosen keyword(s).
There’s a tip here that many people are unaware of and others struggle to believe:
Saying your keyword in the video really helps!
Yes, it’s true!
You are likely aware that Youtube uses transcription technology to generation closed captions, transcriptions and subtitles for Youtube videos.
This same technology is used to analyse what each video is talking about, in order to prevent people trying to rank videos for a different subject than what they’re actually talking about.Saying your target keyword out loud in the video will tell Youtube that your video is relevant to the topic, which can only be a benefit when it comes to Youtube video SEO.
Let’s look into some tips on how best to optimize your video title, description and tags to help your video increase in rank and stick there:
It’s important to get your primary keyword in the title of your video.
Neglecting to do this can tell Youtube that the video’s topic isn’t directly related to the keywords (tags) you’ve chosen to use.
It also hurts your click through rate, as a Youtube user who types one thing and is served a video that seems to be about something sightly different, is much less likely to actually watch it.
While your primary keyword is crucial, it’s also important to put some other details in there to avoid keyword stuffing.
As you can see, most of our videos follow the same pattern of ensuring the primary keyword is front and centre, but then using some other words to help encourage the click too:
This might seem like a simple tip that’s easily overlooked but it’s a major one for the following reasons:
Once you’ve got that part nailed, let’s look at the videos’ description, which is equally as important:
Your description ideally provides further related keywords which help Youtube’s algorithm to further narrow down the context of exactly what your video is about.
This is a huge plus for your Youtube SEO optimization if done right because the more Youtube understands what your video is about, the more likely you are to show up in the Suggested Videos section, or be automatically played after related videos, both of which will drive your view count upwards.
Despite this, it’s important to also write your description for humans as opposed to just stuffing it with as many keywords as possible.
While descriptions aren’t visible to viewers on smart TV apps or games consoles, they are plainly visible on desktops and smartphones, so you should aim to make them well-written descriptions of your video making use of some copywriting techniques to persuade the reader to watch the video.
We recommend sticking to the following rules when writing a Youtube video description:
We personally also like to include several links, giving viewers the chance to engage further with our (or our clients) other content if they enjoy the video:
This setup has been developed over time and works for us every time, but if you’d rather come up with your own layout, the main thing to remember is get your primary keyword in, and some related ones, while still keeping it valuable and worthwhile to read for the viewer.
Now, onto the next of our Youtube SEO tips:
Tags have two main functions:Boosting your rank for your primary keyword
andAllowing your video to show up as a suggested option or autoplay after related videos
Both of these will increase your views, which will directly increase your Youtube ranking, so be sure to get it right!
Optimized Youtube tags are considered an effective Youtube marketing strategy because even years later when you may have potentially lost your rank or found a better topic to target, your video will continue to be suggested on the sidebar when viewers watch videos with the same tags, giving you a long tail when it comes to views over the lifespan of the video.
So far, we’ve shown you how to use Youtube competition research techniques to find the ideal content topics and keywords and how to optimize your listing as well as possible.
This is all super important because a badly optimised video is going to struggle when it comes to Youtube search SEO, but it’s also fairly well done in general, and chances are you’ll be up against some videos with some well optimized titles, descriptions and tags too.
Now we’re getting to the part that truly separates the amateurs from the experts: engagement, audience retention, and building a following.
Let me explain:
Audience retention is one of the most important aspects of SEO for Youtube and probably always will be.
If you’ve optimized your video as much as possible and still can’t figure out how to get more views on Youtube, we can almost guarantee this is the answer.
Youtube wants to keep people watching as much as possible in order to maximise engagement with the platform and profits from advertisements.
One of the ways they do this is to make audience retention a major ranking factor – meaning if you have a well-optimized video with a highly attractive thumbnail but viewers keep clicking off your video, you can only do so well.
On the flipside, if viewers are watching your video in its entirety, and even clicking like and subscribe and/or making comments, this tells Youtube’s algorithm that your video is not only very relevant for the term you’re trying to rank it for, but that it grabs viewers attention, provides them with value and increases their engagement with Youtube as a whole.This is what Youtube is looking for and will lead to you being ranked highly in the search results, and staying there for the long term!
In fact, when people ask us to briefly explain how to rank on Youtube or how to SEO a Youtube video, we always just tell them to focus on audience engagement above all else.
This video was made by Youtube themselves and explains how you can easily judge the engagement levels of your audience:
With this in mind, a powerful strategy to employ when first launching a Youtube channel is to launch 3-4 videos that are entirely targeted around viewer retention.
This achieves the following:
This also means the quality of your video is a major factor – if it ranks well but nobody watches it to the end, it’s going to drop out of the rankings pretty quickly.
Tattoo those words into your brain and make sure every piece of content you ever create is all 3 of those things, and you can’t go too far wrong!
Here are a few easy tips that can help you boost your viewer retention:
Many viewers click off a Youtube video because they aren’t sure if it’s the correct video and they aren’t willing to sit and watch the whole thing to potentially gain nothing.
A quick summary of what you’re going to discuss at the start of the video will give them confirmation and reassurance that they’re in the right place, and increase the chances that they’ll stay for the whole thing.
Referring to topics you’re going to discuss later in the video can peak your viewers’ interest and make them hang on to see the other segments of the video.
For example, in our fishing example, a video on how to catch catfish could say something like:
“This setup is great for catfish from 10lbs all the way up to 100lbs, but if you want to catch anything larger than that you’ll need a slightly different rig – more on that in a minute!”
It’s a simple technique but, if somebody has clicked on your video hoping to learn about larger catfish than the ones you’re currently talking about, saying this is the difference between them sticking around to hear what you have to say, and clicking off to go find a video specifically about large catfish.
This technique is known as an ‘open loop’ and this video on the topic by BrightonWestVideo will help you to understand it further:
After reading our tip above about summarising your video in the introduction, you might be tempted to talk for a little too long about that.
Babbling on in an overly long introduction is boring to the viewer and tells them that the whole video is probably way more wordy than it needs to be – in other words, a waste of time.
Keep the introduction brief and respect the viewers time – the earlier in the video the useful information starts to appear, the more likely people are to stick around.
Use these tips in your Youtube videos and you’re sure to see improved retention and higher rankings.
One thing we haven’t touched on yet though is interaction.
People interacting with your videos (liking, commenting etc) is a sign of audience retention but also that your video is interesting and drives discussion.
This is a major ranking factor when it comes to optimizing Youtube for SEO, so let’s take a look at this next:
These factors are crucial to keep in mind in order to increase audience interaction with your videos:
There is a direct correlation between comment activity and higher Youtube rankings.
This is probably not surprising since a comment suggests that the person either thoroughly enjoyed the video or found it controversial (the two driving forces behind most ranking systems!).
We recommend starting the conversation in your video, for example:
“Did you find this video helpful? Do you have a better idea for a great catfishing rig? Let us know in the comments!”
You probably hear things like this on Youtube pretty regularly, and they do work.
It’s also important to reply to the comments on your videos as this encourages others to ask you questions or be more willing to engage.
The only YouTube video SEO software you should ever give the time of day are ones for tracking your rank.
These can help you to realise which changes help boost your rank and which don’t, but everything else is better done manually.
People subscribing to your channel after watching a video is another major sign that the video is high quality and relevant.
Unfortunately there are no secret techniques to convince people to subscribe, and the only real way to succeed here is to create high quality content that people want to subscribe to, via all of the other tips listed here.
It is worth mentioning though that simply asking people to subscribe does increase the percentage of people that do, and therefore we recommend mentioning it briefly at the end of every single video, ideally in an honest and non-pushy way such as “if you liked today’s video, please take the time to like and subscribe to keep up to date with our upcoming videos”.
Social media shares are another major sign that your content is valuable.
YouTube particularly like this one as it brings people that are browsing other platforms into the YouTube ecosystem – if your video is the reason, why wouldn’t they reward you with a higher ranking?
If you have social media pages for your business, sharing every YouTube video you create from them really helps as it gives your social media followers a chance to share it without actually having to find it in YouTube first.
It also helps your videos to get immediate views soon after being posted, which can only help you get off to a good start when it comes to building YouTube rankings.
This brings us right back to YouTube wanting to increase the amount people use their platform.
Since they want the search results offered to users to be valuable and tempting to watch, if your video is clicked on more often than a competitor’s video, it will eventually rank higher than it too.
In the same vein, if people regularly scroll past your video and choose something else, you will lose rankings rapidly.
The best way to do increase your YouTube click-through rate is to optimize your titles and thumbnail images.
Follow these steps to maximise your click-through rate:
In a search term dominated by people with high levels of technical knowledge, such as our Amazon SEO example, you will find almost everybody is doing this so you’ll have to really pull it out of the box to stand out as much as possible and not just look the same as everybody else:
Whereas if you’re in a less technical niche full of people that aren’t necessarily tech-savvy, you’ll find almost nobody does this, making it much easier to stand out:
If you’re reading this guide and your business is in a niche/topic where people don’t know about this, you’re sitting on a goldmine my friend and following all the steps here will get you outranking the competition very quickly.
We have answers for that too:
Audience retention, interaction, click-through rate, these are all major ranking factors that are necessary for SEO/YouTube success.
But if nobody is clicking your videos in the first place, these won’t count for a thing.
In that sense, views remain the foundation of YouTube video optimization/SEO, despite not necessarily having as big an impact as other factors.
Here are some tips for increasing YouTube views.
We highly recommend using every single one of these as early as possible (ideally immediately on posting your video) as they will get your video off to a good start, and if you’ve used all of the other tips here well, it should begin to climb the rankings organically from there on out.
Let’s take a look:
These websites get extremely high levels of traffic because they tend to rank highly for tons of questions and longtail keywords.
People here are dying for answers to specific questions, so if your video is relevant, you will get high amounts of high quality, high retention traffic.
For example, all we have to do is search for questions relating to our topic:
Simply posting your video as a response will likely be considered spam, but writing a quick, helpful answer then linking your video in case they want more details is completely fine and even encouraged.
Not only does each of these questions represent somebody who is trying to find the answer, but each one will be receiving page views from people who have Googled the question too.
All of these people are directly interested in the topic of your video, meaning they are more likely to watch the whole video and more likely to engage than any other form of traffic.
Even better, most of these pages will likely remain live for some time and continue to send people to your video, even if the amount of traffic does slow down.
If you already have a blog with a loyal audience, you are potentially sitting on a vast source of YouTube views.
For example, AmazonSEOConsultant’s guide to Amazon SEO contains the very video we discussed at the start of this post:
Including a YouTube video in a blog post on the same topic should always work because every single person that lands on that page are looking for more information on that topic, increasing the chances they’ll watch your entire video.
Even better, this will increase the average time people spend on the blog page, helping your SEO in that regard too.
Playlists are a really powerful way to get more YouTube views.
Creating a playlist of several YouTube videos on related topics can persuade people to sit and watch the entire playlist.
People may even do this by accident while daydreaming, out of the room, or doing something else because playlists mean your videos will automatically play after each other, instead of another person’s video coming on next.
You can even feature these playlists high up on your YouTube channel so that people are more likely to click into them than individual videos.
This alone can account for thousands more views each month, and since all you have to do is decide which videos would go well together in a playlist, it’s really a no-brainer.
It’s also worth mentioning around now that our previous point about sharing on social media to drive further shares, works for views too.
So ideally, on posting each YouTube video, you should share it on every social media platform you have an audience on.
With us so far?
We’ve covered everything regarding your videos themselves, but there is one pretty major thing left to discuss:
Did you realise your YouTube channel itself can rank in YouTube too?
SEO for YouTube channels is almost as important as the individual videos.
If your channel is highly ranked and considered an authority in your topic, your videos will be given more chances to show up in search results and therefore will rank much more quickly.
It helps to have a strategically planned name too, like in the above screenshot, because YouTube isn’t sure if people are looking for your channel in the first place.
Of course, having your channel show up in a video search results page like that increases your views too and helps you to be seen as an authority in your niche.
Another important aspect of YouTube channel optimization is simply making your channel look awesome, professional and unique.
This simply increases retention and views by making your channel a more comfortable and enjoyable place to be, as opposed to being an actual ranking factor in YouTube, but it is important nonetheless.We would recommend using a professional graphic artist to do this properly instead of doing it yourself, as there are some seriously good looking pages out there, in terms of competition.
Last but not least, optimize the description of your YouTube channel with plenty of keywords in the same way you did for your video descriptions (but with more broad keywords that describe what your channel as a whole is about) to help your channel rank organically:
We hope this guide to ranking your videos in YouTube has answered a lot of questions and made it a lot clearer what you need to do.
If you follow these steps to the letter and maximise them for each video you post, you will absolutely see major gains in both rank and views in the long run.
This video is well worth a watch and will quickly take you through some other YouTube SEO best practices: