YouTube SEO Best Practices

Did you know that YouTube receives 14.3 billion visits per month? That’s more than Facebook, Wikipedia, Amazon, and Instagram. Businesses and brands all over the globe are creating YouTube videos to reach, engage, and convert users into customers. If you’re creating content for YouTube that you want users to find, it’s important to take time to optimize your YouTube channel and videos as much as possible.

When implementing a YouTube SEO Strategy, it’s important to remember a few details.

  • Search volume on keywords is different for video content than web content which is found on conventional search engines.
  • It’s important to use the correct target keywords so the YouTube search algorithm understands the context of your video content.
  • Audience retention depends on your content pulling up correctly for relevant searches. 

How to Optimize YouTube Videos

Whether you’re just starting on YouTube or you’ve been on the platform for a while, you can always work on making your channel more SEO-friendly. Follow our video SEO tips to increase your organic traffic.

1. Use a targeted keyword when naming the video file

Before uploading the video to YouTube, rename the file with one of your targeted keywords relative to your video. While YouTube cannot actually “watch” your video to identify what it is about, the file name will inform the crawlers of the context of your content.

2. Optimize the video titles and descriptions

Once your video is uploaded, a title and description must be added before it’s published. This is the time to add additional keywords and keyword phrases. These should fit and flow naturally within the title and description. The title should be clear and concise and explain the video content.

The video description allows for more characters, giving you the opportunity to include more keyword phrases. However, YouTube only displays the first 100 characters before users must click “see more” to view the rest of the description. If there is a call-to-action you want users to see, make sure it is within the first 100 characters.

3. Don’t forget to add tags

YouTube allows you to tag your videos with keywords that relate to your video. Be sure to double back to your keyword research to ensure you’re not missing any important, relevant keywords that you weren’t able to fit within the file name, title, or description. Brian Dean from BackLinko explains YouTube uses tags “to understand the content and context of your video.” Tags are used by YouTube to associate your video with similar videos, allowing your video to be seen by more users.

Remember, YouTube has an internal search bar. Using relevant, popular keywords in your title, description, and tags will help your target audience find you!

4. Add a custom thumbnail to each video

The thumbnail is a decisive element for a lot of users. While there is an option to select an image to start your video, a custom image gives you a visual advantage. This is the image they see when scrolling through videos, figuring out which to watch. According to the YouTube Creator Academy, 90% of the best performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails. When creating a custom thumbnail for your video, the dimensions are 1280 x 720. This ensures its high quality on both mobile and desktop.

5. Enable closed captions

By enabling and uploading subtitles for your video, you create an opportunity for YouTube to crawl more content and find more of your keywords. Using YouTube Creator, you can easily enable closed caption and subtitles to any video. There are resources available online that can create these transcript files for you if you want to include a written version of the video for download.

6. Utilize cards and end screens

Cards and end screens are notifications designed to appear on desktop and mobile to promote your brand and other videos on your channel. YouTube allows up to five cards to be added per video. Cards can display custom images, URLs, and texts in order to lead users where you want them to go.

An end screen is like a card, but it is not shown until the end of the video. End screens have options for users to visit another video on your channel, visit another channel, etc.

Optimize Your YouTube Channel

While it’s crucial to optimize YouTube videos, you should not forget about your channel itself. When creating your channel, ensure all of the following elements are completed:

  • Add a channel banner with your branding.
  • Enable longer videos and monetization within the “Status and Features” section of Video Manager.
  • Add channel-focus keywords through Advanced Settings.
  • Adjust your default settings to include default categories and public privacy settings, and allow comments, tags, and video location.
  • Connect your website and social channels in the About section.
  • Create playlists that organize your videos by exact keyword match terms. This will provide a better user experience.
  • Create quality content that focuses on serving your target audience.
  • Share your videos on your marketing channels.

Earning backlinks of individual videos will improve the reach of your channel overall. So don’t be afraid to post a video link on social media or link to a blog post.

Track Video Search KPIs

It’s important to make sure your YouTube SEO efforts and video production are on the right track. While it’s always exciting when you have a high-performing YouTube Video, but the real question is whether it’s connecting with your target audience.

  • Watch Time
  • Video Rankings
  • Engagement Rates -subscribers and comments
  • Average percent viewed 
  • Calls to Action clicked

When adding these KPIs to a rank tracker, you’ll have a broad idea of whether the people watching your videos like what you’ve published. For example, if you find that people stop watching halfway through your content, try creating shorter videos. 

Learn more about YouTube Video Optimization Here:

If you’re spending time and energy creating content to put on the YouTube platform, make sure that it’s worth the effort. The goal of these videos is to turn users into leads and convert those leads into customers. Optimize your videos and your channel to get them in front of your target audience. Get started with our keyword research template to find the best exact-match keywords for your videos.

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Ryan is passionate about helping companies make a more personal connection online with their customers and prospects. He is a regular contributor to Search Engine Land, the largest and most popular SEO news site on the web. His works have also been featured on the HubSpot Blog, Business2Community and by LinkedIn Marketing Solutions.

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