With more than 4.95 billion monthly active users, YouTube is undoubtedly one of the most powerful search engines around. And with video being one of the most important formats that you can invest in due to high consumption rates, a good YouTube strategy can significantly enhance your visibility, reach new audiences and drive traffic to your website. In this article, we’ll walk you through effective strategies to optimise your video for YouTube Search. Plus, we’ll also break down what YouTube SEO actually is.

What is YouTube SEO?

YouTube SEO stands for YouTube search engine optimisation. When we consider YouTube as a search engine like Google or Bing, where millions of videos compete for the attention of the audience, there are certain elements that help the algorithm prioritise one video over the other. YouTube SEO is the process of optimising your video content to rank higher in YouTube search results, in the same way you’d optimise your blog posts for Google SERPs.

According to Google, “Like Google’s search engine, YouTube search strives to surface the most relevant results according to keyword searches. Search results are not a list of the most-viewed videos for a given search.” The factors that YouTube search takes into account include:

  • The video title and description: Both the video and description should be concise and clearly describe what viewers can expect from the video.
  • Video tags: Tags are a great way to categorise your videos, so that your existing subscribers, as well as new audiences looking for a specific topic, can find your videos.
  • Video metadata: This includes upload date, video length, video count and language. Making sure your video metadata is correct helps the YouTube search algorithm understand what your videos are about and categorise/rank them.
  • Watch time: The more people watch a specific video, the higher it will rank in YouTube’s SERP.
  • Engagement: Likes, comments and shares are crucial feedback, both for yourself and YouTube. The higher your engagement, the more YouTube prioritises your video over others.


7 YouTube SEO optimisation strategies

Keyword Research
Keyword research is the cornerstone of search engine optimisation. The easiest way to start your keyword research on YouTube? Start by typing keywords adjacent to the topic or business type of your video in the YouTube search bar.

Its auto-complete feature will suggest popular and trending keywords, which will help you get a feel for which keywords are performing best. These suggestions are actually based on what YouTube users are looking for, so it’s a (free!) goldmine for identifying your top keywords.

For example, if you type “how to film content,” you’ll immediately get other suggestions like “how to film content with iPhone,” “how to film content for Instagram,” “how to film content for TikTok” and “how to shoot content.”

Use keyword research tools
Using keyword research tools like SEMRush, Ubersuggest and Google Keyword Planner doesn’t have to be limited to Google or Bing. You can also use them for YouTube.

Have a look at the keyword search volume, competition, as well as related keywords and queries. These tools help you understand which keywords have a high search volume within your target audience, and which ones are worth targeting.

TubeBuddy is another tool worth looking at, as it specialises in YouTube. In addition to keyword research, it has features such as title A/B testing and search rank tracking that can make the keyword research process a little easier.

Analyse competitors’ videos
There’s no better way to check what keywords are actually working, and which ones are bombing than doing some old-school digging. Look at your competitors’ top-ranking videos and analyse which keywords they’re using in their titles, descriptions and tags.

Moreover, examine what topics are working best for them, what common phrases they’re using throughout the video and in their descriptions, and how they’re structuring their videos. VidIQ is a good tool to identify the tags your competitors use so you can eliminate the guesswork and focus on implementing your strategy.

Optimise your videos’ title
Unfortunately, the old adage “don’t judge a book by its cover” doesn’t apply in the digital age. Video titles are crucial, as they’re the first thing people see. Therefore, you need to ensure that your titles are curated in such a way that they significantly influence click-through rates.
Front-load keywords

Placing your primary keywords at the beginning of the title may seem like a no-brainer. However, it’s an easy mistake to make. Make sure you front-load your keywords, so that your title not only catches your audience’s attention, but also ensures that the algorithm picks up your video.

Clearly describe what your video is about
Like video titles, video descriptions need to provide context to your viewers, and the YouTube algorithm. You have 5,000 characters to describe your video, so use them wisely.

When a user has a query, the search results page only features the first 120 characters of your video description. After that point, the user has to manually click on “show more” to see the full description. That’s why it’s important to include your primary keywords within the first few sentences.

For the rest of your video description, include exact keywords, as well as a mix of broad matches and phrases. This is where you should also include relevant links, timestamps and call-to-actions.

Use tags
As we’ve already mentioned, video tags are important to help YouTube contextualise your videos. Therefore, make sure you include a combination of general tags related to your niche and specific tags directly related to the content in your video.

You should also include your primary and secondary keywords as tags and their synonyms. Think of all the words your audience would use to describe a particular topic, and use these adjacent words as tags to boost your reach and engagement.

Prioritise thumbnails
Thumbnails should be part and parcel of your YouTube SEO strategy, as they’re critical for attracting clicks. It’s the first thing users will see when scrolling through the search results, so your thumbnails need to be eye-catching.

Sure, they don’t have a direct impact on your SEO, but they sure have an impact on your click-through rates. More clicks mean higher viewing counts, sending signals to the YouTube algorithm that your video is popular. The algorithm will, in turn, suggest it to more people.

You can always pick one of the auto-generated thumbnails. However, for extra points, use a custom thumbnail that’s visually appealing, includes text overlays, and conveys what your brand is about.

Wrapping up

YouTube SEO is an ongoing process. With new trends popping off every day and regular changes to the YouTube algorithm, you need to keep an eye on how your videos are performing and change your strategy accordingly.

By prioritising keywords, effective tags, engaging content, eye-catching thumbnails and clear video descriptions, you’ll not only succeed in future-proofing your content, but also increase its chances of reaching and resonating with your target audience.


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