YouTube is a search engine for videos.
Just like any search engine, there are ways to optimize your videos for search rankings—that is, making sure your videos come in first in related searches.
There are a lot of differences between YouTube's algorithm and traditional search engines like Google and Bing, but also a lot of similarities.
If you’re struggling to push your digital marketing campaign to the next level through this vast video search engine, these 8 YouTube SEO tips are exactly what you need. In this article, will show you that you don’t need a lot of money to do this, just time and a little bit of thought.
1. Make Good Video Content
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it's a critical YouTube SEO tip to start with:
No matter how well you optimize your video, it will rank poorly if the video content is weak.
This is one of the significant differences when it comes to optimizing for YouTube versus optimizing for the search engines. As you’ll see later, the most critical factors that affect your rank in the platform’s search results are how users react to your video.
You don’t need a studio-level production. A smartphone camera, tripod, cheap microphone, and a few hours invested in learning video editing goes a long way in making engaging videos.
Spend time thinking about the content of your videos, because this goes a long way in bringing them to the top of YouTube’s built-in search engine.
2. Pay Attention to Audience Retention and Watch Time
Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of videos, are uploaded to YouTube every day.
Google can't watch every single video uploaded to their platform, so they use smart algorithms to determine where to place videos in their search results.
Two of the ranking factors they use are audience retention and watch time.
Audience retention is the percentage of your videos people watch. If people watch through half the length of your video before stopping, then that’s 50% audience retention.
Watch time is the total accumulated time of your videos that people have watched.
Since YouTube is in interested in making people stay as long as possible for ad views, channels that keep people watching are promoted better when it comes to search results.
So when YouTube sees that people stop watching your videos within 30 seconds, you aren’t going to see them boosting your channel in the search rankings.
How do you increase watch time and audience retention? Well, this all goes back to the first tip of this article: Make quality videos that keep viewers engaged.
Make sure to keep things dynamic during the video so that people aren’t just looking at the same thing for 10 minutes --changing color palettes, pacing, and audio can keep them hooked for longer.
If it makes sense, make your videos longer. After all, longer videos equate to more watch time.
Image from Backlinko.com
3. Analyze Your Videos
If you’re drawing blanks on how to make your videos more engaging, and you already have videos in your channel, one important feature that YouTube gives you is your Audience Retention Report.
This tool is invaluable for people trying to make engaging videos for their channel since it shows you where in your video people drop off.
Image from smartinsights.com
Pay attention to the peaks in your Audience Retention Report. Watch the corresponding parts of your video and figure out what keeps people watching or what turned them off. Perhaps a graphic popped on screen. Maybe you filled the screen with text or you played a particular sound effect.
With this tool, you can drastically cut down on guesswork when experimenting with your content.
4. Build a Subscriber Base
One crucial YouTube SEO tip that people usually forget is that viewers are the most important part of boosting your channel --more than keywords or video length. Fostering a community and getting people to subscribe is a great way to increase your channel’s ranking.
Well, if someone subscribes, that means they enjoy your video content, and if they enjoy your video content, then they’re more likely to watch when you put a new video up, and all the way through, increasing both your watch time and audience retention.
(At least, that’s the presumed logic behind YouTube’s current algorithm --they call the shots, we follow suit).
Image: 5-Minute Crafts
One of the best ways to get people to subscribe to your channel is, once again, creating good content for people to watch.
Another way to encourage people to subscribe is to have an appealing channel page.
If you don’t already have a channel banner, get one. On a similar note, try to keep either a channel introduction or one of your best performing videos on display when someone visits to win them over --the second they land on your channel’s homepage, it’s your job to turn them into fans.
Of course, one of the tried and true methods to get people to subscribe is to ask them.
Telling a viewer to subscribe at the end of your video, perhaps putting the subscription button right on your end screen will entice people into subscribing to your channel. Like a good CTA, this keeps the “Subscribe” option convenient, and top-of-mind.
5. Engage Your Audience
The more YouTube sees people engaging with your channel, the more likely they are to promote it.
What do we mean by engagement?
We mean video comments, likes, sharing, and, yes, subscribers.
Likes and shares come naturally with good content, but one of the easiest things you can do to boost these engagement signals is asking about them in your videos.
You may notice that many successful YouTubers encourage their viewers to like, comment, and subscribe at the end of their videos. It may seem like such a simple thing, but it does work.
Take comments, for instance. Smart and well-timed questions (like, “If you know a better way of doing the thing I demonstrated, let me know in the comments!”) can spur action. Even the simple act of replying to the comments can make a big difference in your metrics.
If people see that their favorite content creators notice people who comment, they become more likely to mention themselves.
6. Research Keywords
Now we’re getting into more traditional SEO tips to boost your YouTube channel.
The engagement signals talked about earlier are essential, but before you can get those comments and subscribers, you first need people to find your content. Naturally, optimizing your videos around the right keywords will help boost the number of eyes on your channel.
In general, it’s better to choose keywords that don’t have a lot of competition. Longer, more specific keywords (called “long-tail keywords”) are perfect for this. You’ll get a lot more hits on a video with “Makeup Tutorial for people with fair Skin” than you will with a broad keyword like “Makeup Tutorial.”
One way to get keyword inspiration is by using the search bar’s autocomplete feature.
Simply type in your keyword of choice...
...and it will return some of the most popular keywords that people search.
Once you have your keyword, be sure to place it in your video title.
Put some thought into optimizing your description around it, too. According to Briggsby, descriptions that are too long appear to do worse on the ranking. The most optimal word count for a description is around 300-400 words.
7. Use Tags Wisely
Nowadays, video tags aren’t very important where YouTube search ranking is concerned, but they do tell YouTube what your video is about, so it pays to give them a little thought.
Always be sure to include your target keyword among the tags, a couple of variations that people may search for, and a couple of broader tags to help YouTube categorize your videos better.
Try to have no more than 10 tags that accurately describe your video, and don’t engage in tag stuffing.
Using as many tags as possible to try and fit everything in there is a mistake a lot of video creators make and it has a good chance of ruining your ranking.
If you don’t know where to start, you can look at the tags that your competitors use on their videos to give you ideas. While there are apps that you can download to view people’s tags, you can simply view the video’s source in your browser of choice…
...and search for the term “keywords” in the resulting code until you find them.
In fact, knowing the tags used on popular videos is also an advantage, since if the tags on your videos match with the one a YouTube viewer is currently watching, it has a much higher chance of appearing in the Suggested Video sidebar.
8. Upload Your Own Transcription
This final tip is one that most people tend to miss.
Whenever you upload a video, YouTube automatically generates a transcription of it.
It does this so that it can better understand what your video is about; whether the keywords and tags you chose to associate with the video actually apply.
Yes, this means that the transcription of your video is actually crawlable.
(You did remember to say your target keyword in the video, right?)
Now, while YouTube’s automatic transcription program is impressive, it’s far from perfect, and if it mangled the target keyword in your video into something completely different, it could affect your ranking.
To get around this problem, all you need to do is upload your own transcription to make sure every word is 100% accurate. Both YouTube and your potential viewers will appreciate it.
Content marketing is great for your website’s SEO, but it isn’t the only way to draw the attention of paying customers.
While this is no means a comprehensive list, these 8 YouTube SEO tips serve as a decent primer for the best practices you can do on the platform in order to build up your channel and get more people watching your videos.
Growth on YouTube is exponential, so once you start getting subscribers and views, YouTube starts seeing your videos as valuable, thus making it easier to collect more subscribers and views.
Keep these best SEO practices in mind and soon you’ll be seeing massive numbers on your channel.
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