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YouTube SEO: 4 tips for video optimization in 2022

Wes Flippo
Wes Flippo
9 min read
14 December 2021

Whether you’re thinking about your brand’s YouTube SEO for the first time or seeking additional ideas to strengthen your current YouTube rankings, these YouTube search optimization tips will set you on the right course heading into the new year.

What is YouTube SEO? Why does it matter?

At a high level, YouTube SEO is the process of optimizing your brand’s YouTube channel and videos to improve your rankings and visibility on the YouTube platform. This requires a multi-pronged approach, including choosing the right keywords, writing strong descriptions, growing viewer engagement, and increasing audience retention. When done well, YouTube SEO efforts can increase important channel and business metrics like follower count, site visits, business revenue, and overall brand awareness.

The rest of this guide is organized into four main sections, based on which part of the video creation process you are at. You might notice that many of the research strategies and optimization best practices overlap between YouTube SEO a website SEO – YouTube and Google are both search engines after all!

How to approach keyword research for YouTube SEO

The goal of keyword research is to generate a list of keywords to use in your channel and video descriptions. This is an important step, as it will help guide the rest of your YouTube SEO strategy.

How to find the right keywords:

  • Use YouTube suggested keywords: Paid tools exist for YouTube SEO keyword research, but a simple (and free!) way to get started is directly on the platform. Open up YouTube and begin typing a search term related to your video/topic, and YouTube will suggest keywords that viewers are looking for.
  • Look at competitor YouTube channels: Visit a channel in your industry and look at its most popular videos. Find a competitor’s video about a topic that you can also create a good video on and analyze its video metadata (e.g., title, description, video tags). This will give you inspiration for your own video’s metadata and a good idea of what works well for your topic and industry.

We recommend using a combination of both approaches for a variety of different queries you can think of (that are related to your video) and continuing this process until you’ve generated a solid list of terms to choose from. Compiling a list of 10-15 terms is usually a good place to start.

How to narrow down your keyword list:

From your keyword list, you’ll need to hone in on the best keywords for your YouTube video. How do you determine which keywords are the best ones to use?

  • Consider how much search volume each keyword has using Google Keyword Planner or a different keyword tool. Terms with larger search volumes will generally be more competitive, but also increase the chances of your video receiving a lot of views if it manages to rank.
  • If your channel is just getting started, we often recommend picking terms with lower competition.

Picking terms that already generate video results on Google

Aside from thinking about the competitiveness and search volume of a keyword, it’s also important to pick terms that already generate videos in Google’s search results. This is key because if you manage to rank in the video results on Google, you’ll have the chance to get video views from both YouTube and Google!

Keywords that often have YouTube video results on Google include “how-to’s” or other tutorials, “reviews,” and those related to “fitness or sports.”

By following these tips, you should be able to narrow down your keyword list, which you’ll be referencing throughout the rest of the YouTube search optimization process.

YouTube SEO considerations for the content of each video

Factors like good production quality or fancy equipment never hurt, but those aren’t the things that will necessarily get your video to rank well on YouTube. Instead, here are some things we’d recommend focusing on during the video creation process.

Improve your audience retention by creating good content

A video won’t rank if the actual content is weak, regardless of how optimized it is for YouTube SEO.

Perhaps you’ve heard the term “audience retention” used in other YouTube SEO articles. This is essentially how much of a video is actually watched, and it’s one of the biggest YouTube SEO ranking factors. If viewers lose interest and navigate away early on, your video will struggle to rank well. Read the tips YouTube shared on analyzing your current audience retention for more information.

There are several ways to boost audience retention, with two big ones being:

  • Summarizing your video at the beginning. This lets listeners know they’ve found the right video and encourages them to continue consuming.
  • Keeping your video introductions short. Instead of rambling, keep it succinct and jump right into the content.

Voice your target keywords

Voicing your target keywords throughout your video (in a natural and unforced way) helps YouTube’s algorithm better understand what your video is about. This is similar to actually including and using the target keywords in your text-based articles. And when viewers hear you say relevant keywords they’ve searched, your audience retention will increase.

Remind users to leave comments

This is another signal to YouTube’s algorithm that your audience engages with your video. Verbally remind viewers to leave a comment in the actual video (ask them for their opinion on something or pose a question for them to answer) and make sure you reply to the comments that you receive.

Ask viewers to subscribe to your channel

Reminding viewers to subscribe to each video can do wonders when it comes to strengthening your YouTube SEO. Similar to how it’s a best practice to have strong CTAs on each webpage and in your meta descriptions, reminding viewers to take a next step is important too.

Encourage users to share your videos

Make shareability a component of your video, as this is another signal to YouTube that viewers enjoy the content. This also brings more people to visit the platform, which translates into more video views and ad revenue.

Video metadata and preparing to post your video

When it comes to metadata, you’ve likely wondered which elements matter most and where you should focus your YouTube SEO optimization efforts. If you haven’t already, the top three you should start with are video thumbnails, titles, and descriptions.

Create compelling video thumbnails

Eye-catching video thumbnails can improve your click through rate (CTR). The higher your YouTube video CTR, the more likely YouTube will notice and rank you higher in search results. Which thumbnail works best for each video will depend on your industry and viewers, but some general best practices for a great video thumbnail include the following:

  • Displaying a high-quality image
  • Including a human face
  • Using an image that conveys emotion
  • Including five to six words in your thumbnail text
  • Using a readable font
  • Maintaining brand consistency
  • Avoiding excessive clickbait and misleading content

Include your target keyword in your video titles

Where possible, put the target keyword near the front of the title, as this could give you a slight signal boost. This is similar to SEO title tags for regular text-based pages!

Write compelling video descriptions

Think carefully about your descriptions, as they’re key to providing more context for search engines on what exactly your YouTube video is about. The better the search engine understands a video, the more likely it will rank well for relevant searches.

Some basic guidelines for video descriptions:

  • The description length should be 250 words at a minimum.
  • Include your keyword towards the beginning, ideally within the first 30 words.
  • Incorporate your target keywords at least 3-5 times each, but make sure the copy doesn’t sound spammy and unnatural.

If you’re stuck on what to write for your video description you can draw inspiration from other channels, or you can leverage GPT-3 based tools like CopyAI or Copysmith.

What to do once your video is live

Promoting your YouTube channel and videos is the last major step and one you should not skip over. Here are some ideas to get started:

  • Link to your YouTube video from blog posts and your website: You should also do this whenever possible on external sites – for example, if you’ve written a guest post.
  • Set up playlists on your YouTube channel: This makes it easier for your audience to find other related content they might enjoy and encourages them to keep watching since videos automatically play by default.
  • Nurture your main YouTube channel page: We’ve focused on YouTube SEO for individual videos during this post, but optimizing your overall channel page to look professional and organized will boost the legitimacy and recognition of your brand. And don’t forget to include relevant keywords in your channel description!

Remember these tips as you continue improving your YouTube channel’s SEO. If you have any questions or want more information on DEPT®’s Digital’s industry-leading suite of marketing solutions, please reach out – we’d love to hear from you!

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