Steps to Optimize SEO for YouTube

When it comes to making sure your website ranks well in search results, search engine optimization (SEO) is the name of the game. This is because most consumers tend to search before committing to making a purchase. Meaning the best way to gain more eyes on your website is if it appears in their search results. However, most people generally don’t look at sites that are too far down the page or even on the next page, so it is important to rank high and rank well in search engines.

This is where SEO steps in. Optimizing your website’s SEO organically is always going to last longer and have a better ROI than doing paid ads in search engines. This way, you can increase awareness of your brand, which can lead to more sales and leads. You can do this in two ways – either by optimizing your site’s SEO locally (which is best if you are running a local business with a brick-and-mortar store) or by using SEO worldwide (best for targeting overseas customers). 

However, some people seem to forget that SEO isn’t only just geared toward websites and large search engines. It also works on social media platforms too! Take YouTube, for instance. Most people have noted that YouTube functions like a search engine, as people often use it to search for specific videos, topics or educational content. As such, much like doing SEO on search engines like Google, it is also vital to optimize your videos so that they show up high in YouTube’s search results. 

In this article, we’ve listed out a few best practices that should ensure your videos are well-optimized and rank well on YouTube. 

Rename Video File 

Before you start, you always want to use an SEO tool to identify keywords (both long and short) that fit your video topic. You can use either paid programs or free ones such as Ahrefs or TubeBuddy. Afterwards, once you’ve got your list of keywords, you should rename your video file with it.

This is before you even upload your file to YouTube. Why? Because when you upload your video file to YouTube, the platform will trawl through it to read your file name and information. So, it’s best practice to just rename your file using your target keyword instead of the typical jumble of jargon the video editing software spits out. 

Use Keyword in the Title

The title is extremely important when it comes to YouTube videos because it is one of the first things our eyes are drawn to (aside from the video thumbnails, of course). The title usually determines whether a viewer will click and watch a video, or whether they pay attention to it. Therefore, your video title should be clear, and concise, and tell audiences exactly what they are getting out of the video. (However, a really good copywriter can make the title more persuasive and compelling.)

No surprise, but you should definitely include your target keyword in the video title as well. Sometimes, the type of keyword you add in a title will depend on the content of the video or your specific niche. For instance, if you are doing a product review, you might want to add the product name to the video title. All in all, you should keep in mind how your target audience acts on YouTube and be aware of what they might search for. 

Optimize Video Description

Another important SEO factor for YouTube SEO is your video description. YouTube even recommends that you put all your important keywords in the first few sentences of your description – in a natural way, or else it will look obvious it has been keyword stuffed. Another best practice to remember is that descriptions should not be too long – around 200 words max. After all, audiences come to YouTube to watch videos, not read long essays.

Because YouTube only displays the first 2-3 lines of text before viewers must click on the ‘read more’ button, you should include any important information there. This can be called to action (CTAs) or any other crucial links. While this seems like a lot of information to keep in mind, YouTube thankfully features some great resources and free guides on how to write a successful video description. 

Tag Video with Keywords

Another best practice is tagging your video with popular tags that relate to your topic or niche. This way, you are not just telling viewers what the video is about, you’re also making it clear to YouTube itself. By doing this, YouTube knows how to categorize your video, and how to associate it with other similar videos.

This can eventually create a feedback loop that will broaden your reach. However, it’s important that you choose tags that are relevant to your content. If you use a lot of unrelated tags, then Google may choose to penalize you for it. Much like your video description, you’ll want to lead with your most important keyword, and you should include a mix of short and long-tail ones.  

Pick Video Category

If you want to go even further, you can categorize your video in the ‘advanced’ settings. Aside from highlighting the genre of your video, it also indicates to YouTube how it should be categorized alongside similar content. This way, your video can gain access to different playlists, so it can obtain exposure to a broader range of viewers, or even convert viewers who started out searching for different content. Some common categories include music, gaming, comedy, entertainment, education, people and blogs, as well as film and animation. 

Here are a few questions that you’ll want to ask yourself as you pick a video category:

  • Who are the top performers in a category? What are they namely known for? 
  • Do videos in a similar category share similar qualities? This includes video length, format, or production value.
  • Can you find any particular patterns between audiences of similar channels and their categories? 

Use Custom Thumbnail Image 

If there’s one thing that is as important as a video’s title, it is its thumbnail! These images are by far the first thing that draws the eye – meaning they can make or break your YouTube video. Studies have shown that stronger thumbnails can lead to longer watch times, which can affect your video’s ranking on YouTube. 

While you have the option of picking an auto-generated thumbnail, it is best you create your own. YouTube recommends using images that are around 1280 x 720 pixels (making it a 16:9 aspect ratio). It is best practice to make your thumbnails as engaging and eye-catching as possible so that they can stand out from the crowd. Keep in mind that thumbnails will look small on your mobile device, so your thumbnail also has to be distinct – enough so you can still recognise it even when it is small. You can also include keywords and another ‘title’ in your thumbnail so that you are extra clear to viewers about your content. 

Add Hashtags

Much like hashtags on other social media platforms, YouTube’s hashtags can help users find the content that they are looking for. Hashtags are great because they can make current trends more visible. After you have added a hashtag, it is shown at the top of the video, which is then hyperlinked. Some companies use their company name as a hashtag, or you can include relevant keywords instead. 

Aside from including hashtags in the title, you can also put them in your description. However, it’s essential you don’t go overboard with it. Using too many hashtags can get you flagged by the platform. Instead, it’s best that you use 2-3 that reflects what your video content is.

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