Did you know that YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, after Google? Just like any other content, your videos need to be optimised for search.
This beginner’s guide to YouTube SEO will school you in the basics. Put these Youtube SEO tips and tricks to the test, and watch your channel and video performance soar…
1. Kick things off with keyword research
You should approach your YouTube content in exactly the same way you’d approach your website content. YouTube is a video search engine – a Google for video, if you like. So it’s important you put as much thought into keywords as you usually would, in order to inform your topics and titles.
Your mission? To discover what your target audience is searching for already, and serve up good content that correlates.
How to find keywords for YouTube
You can find keyword inspiration on YouTube simply by typing a seed keyword into the search bar. This will then automatically generate popular things that people are searching for.
(Invest in a tool like Ahrefs for more in-depth research – it’ll generate loads of ideas for keywords via its Keyword Explorer function.)
Along with your title, you can actually include keywords in your videos by saying them out loud. For instance, if you’re interviewing someone, use keyword research to determine some of the questions you’re going to ask. The search bots crawl your video content for this kind of context, and will rank yours higher because of it.
Similarly, remember to change your file name. As in, use your chosen keyword to name the video file before you even upload it to YouTube. So, if you’ve got a file saved as Simon and Jade marketing interview.mp4, tweak it to become content-marketing-tips.mp4.
Every little bit of relevancy tips you closer towards ranking in the top spots for your audience’s searches.
2. Go for lengthier videos
Longer videos tend to perform better on YouTube. Why? It’s all to do with ads. YouTube charges a helluva lot for advertising, and can run more ads with long-form content, as it keeps users on the site for longer.
So exactly how long should my YouTube video be, I hear you ask? As a minimum, five minutes. Here’s a rule we really love…
Make your video as long as it needs to be, but as short as possible.
In other words, you want to add value but equally you don’t want to lose people. There’s a balance.
Understanding YouTube watch time
Watch time is really important, and refers to the number of minutes someone watches your video for. YouTube looks carefully at watch time in order to determine the quality of your content. This is the bit you want to pay attention to. You should be creating videos that people watch for longer, not videos that are necessarily longer in length. Geddit?
3. Always choose a punchy title
Your title should be snappy, grabby and not too long. In short, it should make someone want to click on your vid.
Approach your YouTube video titles in the same way you’d approach the headline of a blog post. It should do what it says in the tin, and also include the keyword you want to rank for. Once you know your keyword, check out competitor titles and make yours better than theirs. Do NOT shoe-horn your keyword, though. Yes, you want to optimise your title, but you don’t want it to sound unnatural and clunky, either.
4. Be sure to include a thumbnail image
It doesn’t matter how amazing your video content is, or how click-baity your title, if your thumbnail doesn’t have some va va voom then no one will bother watching.
The thumbnail is your video’s title image. It needs to be visually appealing, so avoid clashing, garish colours, oversized logos, too much text or poor-quality imagery. You’re aiming for professional, clean and eye-catching, with the title included.
Remember, your thumbnails reflect your brand, so ensure they’re consistent in style. Use a small selection of colours from a predetermined palette, and the same font each time. This will solidify your brand identity and boost recognition.
5. Write a winning video description
While it may be tempting to write a short and sweet summary underneath your video – don’t. You’ll want to spend real time on this piece of work.
Your YouTube description should be clear, conversational and valuable. The first three lines appear before the ‘show more’ fold, so try and make these as enticing as possible. If you mention certain products or sites in your video, include links to these. Interviewing another person? Include their bio, website and socials. You should also use bullet points to clearly demonstrate the topics or ideas that you’re covering.
Aim for 150 to 200 words, sprinkle your copy with keywords, and write in a tone of voice that best shows off your brand personality. All in all, you want your description to command attention – from both search engines and viewers.
6. Get tagging
You can add tags against your channel and against your videos. One of the simplest YouTube SEO tips, it involves inputting popular keywords that are related to your content.
Be sure to use a mix of phrases and single keywords. For instance, if your video is about dating in lockdown, you’ll want to tag it with “dating in lockdown”, “dating” and “lockdown”. By doing this, not only are you helping viewers understand your subject matter, you’re also telling YouTube what your video is all about. Tags will help YouTube associate your content with other similar content, too, which can broaden your reach. Bonus.
You can use as many tags as you like, but try to focus on quality, not quantity. 15 strong tags are better than 25 wishy-washy ones. Check out the top 10 videos of your competitors to see how they’ve tagged theirs. To do this, download vidIQ Vision Chrome Extension, which lets you set up an account for free.
7. Add in an end screen
YouTube end screens are great, as they tell your viewer what to do next and will encourage them to hang around on your channel for longer. You can choose from a variety of end screen styles within YouTube Studio. One option is to signpost another video your viewer might like, and to encourage them to subscribe to your channel, like you see in the example above. Play around with different options and templates to see what goes down best with your viewers.
8. Encourage content interaction
When we talk about YouTube interaction, we’re referring to your likes, subscribes, shares and comments.
The goal is to make interaction as easy as possible for your viewers. You can set up a floating subscribe button, ask your viewers to like and comment verbally, and promote your videos via your social media channels.
9. Create playlists
You want viewers to watch not just one video on your channel, but a series of videos. Enter playlists.
YouTube playlists are hugely underrated when it comes to boosting your video traffic. It essentially involves grouping together video content by topic, and you can actually increase your channel watch time by doing so. Playlists keep viewers engaged and on your page for longer.
Use your keyword research to determine your playlist names where possible. Not got many videos to play with just yet? No problem. You can steal other people’s vids and add these into your own.
10. Remember, you’re no one hit wonder
Going viral is all well and good, but it’s not all about lots of views on one great video. Instead of getting bogged down with becoming a viral sensation overnight, concentrate on creating awesome, compelling content that will attract long-term, loyal subscribers.
To do this, you need to post brilliant content consistently. If you choose to post daily, then stick to a daily schedule, and work within a content calendar, planning well in advance to ensure you hit your publishing deadlines. Posting twice monthly? Great, just make sure you stick to the same dates so your followers know when to expect it. Don’t be tempted to post late or skip a day. You’re building trust and familiarity, and it’s serious business.