If you’ve been looking for YouTube video optimization ideas, you’ve most likely been through the regular tactics – adding proper tags, adding keywords in the title or description and the likes. This article is ideally for people who want to delve deeper into the core aspects of YouTube SEO, to go above and beyond and experiment, and find their niche to rank better.
So let’s start with the fundamentals.
People search differently on YouTube and Google
This is one big reason why YouTube optimization can’t simply be an extension to your regular search optimisation process. You need to remember that the consumption of content is very different depending on the medium delivering it. The same video may have a lower watch rate on Facebook and higher one on YouTube. The rate of consumption also changes drastically on whether a video is sponsored or organic. This core understanding allows one to think differently on how you are creating videos and how you are disseminating it.
You can rank and rank well even if you don’t have a huge subscriber base
If you can engage, entertain, you can gain visibility even if you don’t make videos for the masses and are limited to a specific industry.
SEO cannot outperform content
Being visual, engaging and also a medium of choice, the quality of content you create here is directly proportional to the rank you achieve (all other factors of SEO being equal). The easiest example is the scores of recipe videos available on YouTube. If you look for Broccoli soup, you’ll see videos where the chefs are ambling for a while about the benefits of Broccoli before getting to the actual recipe. Within the recipe too, some spend time to show the detailed chopping of vegetables just to prolong the video. Other videos will simple show the accelerated recipe with captions describing the ingredients and method. While both show the exact same recipe, no prizes for guessing which video is likely to have a higher watch and completion rate.
So now let’s get down to business
What is YouTube SEO?
YouTube SEO, as Google describes, is the process of optimizing your videos, playlists and channel to rank high when searched on YouTube. Videos are ranked based on their title, description and content. This definition, while sounding simple, allows us to form the base of the important factors that form the foundation of SEO for videos
- The title and description are super important – You need to feature your keywords here
- It is important to align with the user’s search intent – Think of the context in which you want your video to rank, evaluate who is already ranking and then provide a better context. Your video should be engaging enough: Engagement has many metrics on YouTube. It depends on how many people watch your video for the first six seconds and then go beyond it. It checks on how many people watch the full video – a metric that works disproportionately for longer videos.
Here is a checklist of the top YouTube video optimization techniques.
Searching for the right video keywords: The way we search has generally evolved with the adaptive intelligence of search engines or vice versa. From searching for ‘London Hotels’ to ‘Which hotel in London has the best reviews’, the way people search is now conversational. In YouTube too, you will see a lot of keywords starting with ‘How to…’ like “How to make Sanjeev Kapoor style butter chicken”.
Tools for video keyword research
Google Keyword Planner: Just like you do for regular search, pick out the keywords with the highest potential search volume. These give a base to start cover your ground, especially for the tags you’ll add during the optimization process
Youtube auto suggest: Start typing the most likely terms someone might use to search for your video and YouTube will automatically drop down a list of phrases that are being searched. These give an idea on how to frame your title
AHREF YouTube keyword search volume: AHREF comes the closest in terms of providing the YouTube search volume for keywords and phrases.
Competitors: Stealing keywords from competitors isn’t a new SEO practice. Tools allow you to swoop on enough and more information on competitor strategy. See who is currently ranking for your prized keywords, analyze their video length, quality, backlinks, title and description optimization and also engagement ratio. This will give you a fare predictive model on what you need to achieve in the next three to six months to beat your closest competitors.
How to optimize the title and thumbnail of your video
The book is only as good as its cover. In this case, the title (a key part of your cover) is a big contributor in allowing easy discovery of your video. YouTube titles are similar to your blog headlines and you can pretty much use the same guidelines to create click-worthy headlines.
A few tips to remember
- Include your most important keyword phrase in your title: Including the key phrase in your title gives validation to the user that your video is close to being the answer to what they are searching for.
Solve a problem in your title: The intent to click on a video is high if the video is closest being the solution to the user’s query. For example, if the user is typing “How to make Origami Peace Crane”, having ‘Origami Peace Crane’ in the title is a must. Along with it, also include words like the easiest tutorial or quickest tutorial or such phrases that make your video closest to the user intent of learning to make the origami crane.
- The video thumbnail is essentially the make or breaks factor when it comes to clicking on your video. Choose your thumbnail to either include the finished product or value proposition so that viewers know what to expect by watching.
Optimize your tags for SEO
Tags give you the perfect opportunity to add Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) keywords to optimize your YouTube Video. This simply means you are adding keywords related to the main keyword to the tags. Search results are no longer limited to exact results. This is very similar to the current accepted norm in keyword research these days. For example, if you are searching for resizing pictures, you may also use tags like resizing photos and resizing images. Another simple example is if you are optimizing for ‘vegan diet meal plan’ as your main keyword, you may also include ‘tags’ like ‘vegan weight loss plan’, ‘vegan recipes’, ‘vegan breakfast’, ‘vegan diet food list’ etc.
Be explicit on how you want your users to engage
Engagement is a core metric in YouTube with different weight given to different types of engagement. Users can like, share, subscribe or comment on the video. Comments are marked as a big signal of engagement and so is subscription, so do tell your users to leave comments on your video or specific feedback. Subscribing to your channel means that the user is truly interested in your world of content and not just a single video. Encourage users to hit the bell icon – it adds to the overall value of your channel that cascades down to individual videos.
While share can’t be a forced action, if you create content worth sharing, it is likely you’ll not have to tell your users to share it. In fact, sharing will be the sum result that will show the true potential of your video.
Comments give you an opportunity to engage with your viewers actively. Reply with thanks or further conversation or encouragement which lets the user knows that this isn’t a deadpan video and the maker is very much present and interested in receiving the viewers’ comments. Active engagement is more likely to propel more users to respond positively.
Quality – the not so secret ingredient
We all have watched high-quality videos where either the content or visuals are so engaging that you literally watch to the very end. Quality doesn’t happen by accident. The interesting point here is that it need not cost an arm and leg and pro-studio quality shoot to create a quality video. Most good android and iOS phones can do the trick just as well.
- Keep it stable with a tripod: A neat and simple trick that prevents a shaky wishy-washy video.
- Use a nice backdrop: A nice bed sheet taped to the wall can make you a backdrop without investment. Alternatively, you can easily buy a backdrop off Amazon.
- Mind the lights: Simply follow the basic rules of lighting keeping it nice and bright just above your face so that you don’t squint but are in a well-lit environment. Basic photographic lights aren’t very expensive and it makes sense to invest in it if you plan to make videos on an ongoing basis.
- Add in a good quality microphone: Most people are used to watching videos without sound and/or turning it on and off in bits. But this doesn’t allow you to discount on the sound quality. Even an inexpensive microphone will give you better quality than your phone’s inbuilt microphone.
Add closed captions
Captions were initially added so that those with hearing challenges would be able to make sense of the video. But captions also have a catapulting SEO advantage as Google can read captions. While YouTube supports automatic captioning, it may not be accurate depending on your native language and accent. Therefore, always caption your videos and ensure they are accurate and also include those nice SEO friendly terms.
Name your video properly
Remember how we warned earlier to not upload a file called DSC2345.jpg? Same goes for videos. Rename the file to one that Google can read and make sense. With SEO, every little effort counts, so don’t discount this.
Link building for your video
The simple truth to increase the number of views for a video with subsequent engagement is by building relevant backlinks to them. Go all out to build backlinks for your star videos like posting and reposting them on Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin. Don’t forget Q&A sites like Quora that are more than capable of delivering traffic and views.
Your own blog and Linkedin will require an added effort of writing a supporting article or blog to share the background for the video – both with different contexts where relevant. During the initial days of the video, you can also send it to your email subscriber list or shoot out a special mailer just so that it can catch the attention of your existing catchment audience.
Optimizing video descriptions
These are often the most underutilized of the SEO tools for YouTube. One neat trick is to start your video description with your important SEO keyword which gives it much-needed weight.
Analyze before your next move
An optimization strategy without the hindsight of analytics will lead you to make avoidable mistakes. Once your video is up and running, look at YouTube metrics which will give you an indication of why your video is ranked where it is. Here are the things you need to track:
- Watch time: A video’s watch time is a great indicator of engagement. Identify patterns to see where people are dropping off the most and optimize that bit before your next video.
- Completion rate: The completion rate is a great indicator on the hook potential for a video on retaining audience until the very end.
- Check the video’s comments, shares and likes: The overall engagement rates compared to the views is a great SEO indicator. To get the ball rolling, you could share the videos with everyone in the company and ask them to share their comments. Once this happens, the indicator of engagement is automatically going to feed on this activity.
Create playlists and optimize your channel
Rich playlists are also filled with great keywords that make their discovery easier and also conducive for human search. Once you have ten or more videos, club them into relevant categories with the right keywords which is likely to improve the play list’s ranking in SEO.
You are likely to see the first results of YouTube SEO a few months after implementation. Most SEO gurus have learnt what works with experimentation and self-reliance. After doing all these steps you may realize that there is still more to be done which works for your niche in particular.
Over time, we hope you can share your tactics below on what’s worked for you in YouTube SEO.