February 8, 2023

How To Optimize Your YouTube Videos For SEO

Digital marketing continues to evolve at a rapid pace and your digital presence must adapt to reflect this. When inbound marketing was first introduced to the digital marketing world, it was met with some scepticism. After years of pumping out huge volumes of content targeted at specific audiences, the idea that internet users would come and find their brand was alien to many business leaders. Nowadays, it is arguably one of the most important aspects of marketing. When users want to buy a product or service, they search for it. And with video being used more than ever in marketing, YouTube SEO must now be a major focus for marketing managers and SEO strategists.

But how does YouTube SEO work and how do you include it on your videos to help get them noticed?

To assist those new to YouTube SEO, we’ve compiled a list of ways to optimize your videos to get them ranking highly in Google searches:

1. Rename your video file using a target keyword

Try to think of YouTube SEO in the same way you would approach SEO for your website. You need to optimize your video file for YouTube to display it. But YouTube doesn’t watch your video or scan it to establish its content. It simply reads the title of the video.

By renaming your video before uploading it to YouTube and including your SEO keyword, you will have taken the first important step towards YouTube SEO success.

2. Insert your keyword organically in the video title

Searching for videos on YouTube is very similar to searching for content on Google. We scan the list in front of us looking for something that grabs our attention. It is the title that will first compel a viewer to watch your video. To do that, the keyword needs to look natural in the title.

As with other forms of SEO, the keyword needs to attract attention, but it must accurately describe the content. If the video does not match the viewer’s expectations, they will soon switch off. So, make it compelling, make it concise, but most importantly, make it accurate.

3. Optimize your video description

People don’t go to YouTube to read a book. Just like your video title, your video description needs to be accurate but short. Google says the maximum description for video descriptions is 1000 characters. But if you people are going to read 1000 characters before making a decision to watch or scroll on, think again. Most users will read no more than 100 characters as they will need to click ‘show more’ to see any more. At this point, they will have probably been intrigued enough to watch or bored enough to move on.

Your video description must compel your audience to click and watch your video. It’s true that users are actively seeking content, but with so much content to choose from, if yours doesn’t immediately stand out it will simply be ignored.

4. Tag your video with popular keywords that relate to your topic

Tags are a great way to add keywords to your video and let potential viewers know what your video is all about. But when you add tags, you also help YouTube understand the content of your video.

How To Optimize Your YouTube Videos For SEO

Using tags, YouTube determines how your video is associated with other videos. In doing so, the platform will introduce your video content to viewers who have viewed or liked similar content. This extends your reach and places your video in front of those most likely to enjoy and engage with your video.

As with SEO keywords, it’s important the tags are relevant to the content. If you select a tag that doesn’t match the content, Google may penalise you and push your video lower down the rankings. It will also fail to attract your target audience and can ruin your reputation.

5. Upload a custom thumbnail image for the result link

When scrolling through YouTube videos, each suggestion will include a thumbnail image designed to inform the viewer what the content of the video is and tempt them to watch.

YouTube will generate a thumbnail automatically, but you know your audience better than YouTube. Custom thumbnail images perform 90% better than auto-generated ones.

Images should be 1280x720 pixels -- representing a 16:9 ratio -- and saved as a .jpg, .gif, .bmp, or .png files 2MB or smaller.

Custom thumbnail images are only permitted on verified YouTube accounts.

6. Use an SRT File to add subtitles & closed captions

Subtitles and closed captions can help boost YouTube SEO using keywords. To include subtitles or closed captions in your video, it is necessary to upload a file containing timed subtitles or a supported text transcript. Alternatively, you can place a transcript text for video which will auto-sync with your video.

To include one or the other:

  • Go to ‘Video Manager
  • Click ‘Videos’
  • Find your target video
  • Click on the dropdown menu next to the video
  • Choose ‘Subtitles/CC’
  • Choose how you want to add your text

How To Optimize Your YouTube Videos For SEO

YouTube SEO can appear time-consuming – and that’s because it is. Like any other form of SEO, it takes time to get right and is an ongoing process. SEO is not something you can do once and then forget about, as search engines and social media sites such as YouTube change the way they determine what to return in their searches, you need to keep on top of how each video is performing and make adjustments as required.

The key when first getting to grips with YouTube SEO is not to be overawed by it. Keep things simple to start with and concentrate on identifying the best keywords and getting them into your video title and description. Once you have that sorted, it’s time to move onto tags using the same keywords along with other relevant keywords that are popular at the time.

Only after you have nailed keywords should you move on to thumbnail images, and SRT files.

YouTube and other video sharing platforms are increasingly becoming the future of marketing. If you’re not already focusing on YouTube SEO, now is the time to start.


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