Digital and creative
By now you’ve heard the statistics. We could rewind it again, but we won’t. Because in the end it boils down to a simple fact: YouTube is a video monster.
But you know all that. You have set up the channel. Got the ideas. Did the videos. You’ve had a bit of a hit – some decent numbers in a couple of videos – and now you want to take it to the next level. The question is how?
One word (well, an acronym): SEO. You see, SEO is very important not only for Google search but also for videos. At the end of the day, properly optimized videos have a much better chance of ranking, and a better ranking means more eyes on your content. That ultimately means more money.
The thing is, you might think you know SEO, but YouTube SEO is a whole different ball game. That’s why we’re showing you 5 simple tips to help you maintain your content ranking.
1. Keyword research is key
Let’s start with the familiar things. Google, Bing, Yahoo … it doesn’t matter where you search, keywords are the foundation of all SEO. In this regard, YouTube is no different (after all, it is owned by Google). Basically, keywords can be traced back to one question: What are your potential viewers looking for?
The trick to writing a good SEO friendly YouTube video description is to keep things simple
Usually the answer can be found in the basic topic of your content. For example, the main keyword of this article would be “YouTube SEO”. Once you’ve figured that out, you can use tools like YouTube Suggests (that is, you type a keyword into the YouTube search bar and see what else comes up), Google Trends, and Ahrefs’ Keyword Explorer to translate that main keyword into expand a series of keywords (between 5 and 10).
Once you have your set, you can use it to tweak your YouTube video in 3 key areas:
Your YouTube title
Make sure your main keyword is at the beginning of your title, just like we did here and here. It’s as simple as that. Of course, it also has to bewitch and captivate and seduce. But that’s for another article.
Your YouTube video description
The trick to writing a good SEO friendly YouTube video description is to keep things simple. Clearly and precisely describe what will be seen in the video, using your keywords. Again, clarity is key – we cannot stress that enough.
Your YouTube tags
YouTube allows you to add specific tags to your video that help the platform categorize all of this content. You’ll want to add between 2 and 5 tags based on your main keyword. The secret here is to keep it relevant.
2. Focus on your click through rate (CTR)
This is where things get very specific to YouTube. You see, engagement is a big deal on the platform, especially when it comes to SEO. Click through rate (CTR) – the percentage of people who see your video in search results and actually click on it – is one of the most important metrics YouTube uses to measure this.
Put simply, the more people who see YouTube clicking their way through your videos, the more likely it is that you will improve the rankings. With so much noise out there – remember, there are more than 500 hours of video uploaded here every minute – there are a few tricks you can use to increase your click-through rate.
Take the time to really make your thumbnails stand out
First, try adding parentheses and parentheses to your titles. For example, if it’s a job interview, give it a try [INTERVIEW]. Or, if you hand out the tips, try something like this [5 PROVEN TIPS] like we did for an upcoming episode.
Some research shows that titles that do this add more than a third to their click-through rate. The theory is that it offers a quick preview of your content in just a few words.
Thumbnails that are hard to resist
Next, take the time to really make your thumbnails stand out. In case you didn’t already know, a thumbnail is a small still image from your video that appears next to the title in YouTube’s search bar.
In our experience, it pays off to create your own custom thumbnails instead of just using a random image from the video. Strive for bold, contrasting (and brand-appropriate) colors. The focus of the image should be on the main character of your video, with a supporting background image. If your video doesn’t have people in it, it needs to be very effective at capturing the substance of the video. You should also have a mini-title on your thumbnail, 4-6 words max. It worked for us.
3. Engage, Engage, Engage
Community management is another great YouTube SEO booster. You know, likes, comments, shares and subscribers – something like that. The more you get, the higher the value of your video. As your engagement grows, move up the leaderboard.
But how can you go beyond creating engaging YouTube videos to increase engagement? Well, it goes way beyond replying to comments – you need to actively encourage people to leave those comments in the first place. The easiest way to do this is to ask questions.
Avoid open-ended questions and try easy-to-answer multiple-choice questions instead. Ultimately, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to respond. Try things like:
- Have I covered everything here or have I missed something?
- Did you find this video helpful?
- What did you like the most about this video?
- Was there anything you didn’t like about this video?
In addition, regularly ask your viewers to like, watch, and subscribe with a call-to-action. As you have probably noticed from our videos, we like to put one at the beginning and one at the end. Tell the people on this CTA why they should subscribe and follow you. Whether hot tips, expert product reviews, hacks or interviews … let the viewer know what’s in it for them.
4. Pay attention to the playback time
Just like click-through rate and engagement, watch time plays a huge role in YouTube SEO. For all three metrics, the theory is pretty much the same: the longer people watch your videos, the more relevant they are in the eyes of YouTube.
Here are three ways you can increase your YouTube watch time:
Make sure that your thumbnail and the title of your video accurately reflect the content of your video. If you’re trying to attract viewers with clickbait, they’ll click quickly. Nobody likes to be cheated. It will also have a negative impact on your SEO. So don’t do it.
Take the time to plan your videos
The best videos are focused, well thought out, and meticulously planned. This means writing a script, storyboarding, and keeping your video to the point and useful.
Create useful playlists for your content
Once your video ends, the next one should be related to that topic. For example, we could follow this video via YouTube SEO (link) with this one about creating engaging YouTube content. YouTube allows you to create custom playlists so you can choose exactly what your viewers will see next.
5. Upload your video transcript
By this point, you’ve done most of the hard work – but there’s one last thing you should do before you hit publish: upload your transcript.
If you’ve stuck to your script (the one you did before your video, do you remember?) Then you pretty much have a transcript ready. All you have to do is upload the transcript to your YouTube video. As you do this, be sure to match the text with the correct timing of your video and include any differences between the text and the video.
Once uploaded, the transcript will appear as a subtitle on your video, which greatly increases the SEO performance of your content. There are three reasons for this:
- The transcript is text, which means that Google can crawl your video, which will significantly increase your chances of ranking. Since the script is already crammed with relevant keywords, it is effectively classic SEO content
- It makes your content more accessible. Subtitles are helpful for people with hearing problems and will maximize your potential audience
- Captions are a great way to get attention on social media. Even if a person scrolls with the sound off, your video is still useful
Build YouTube SEO into your video production process
So there you have it, 5 simple steps to SEO-ing your YouTube videos. For the best results, make SEO a part of your video creation process. Think of it as one more step in the checklist besides planning, scripting, and filming. The more you invest in YouTube SEO, the better your videos get – and the more people will see them!