YouTube SEO: 10 quick tips for marketers

Search engine optimisation (SEO) is as important on YouTube as it is on your website. There is, in fact, a direct relationship between the two sometimes.

Marketing managers have mostly woken up to the idea that video content marketing is an important asset in the marketing mix, but so many do it half-heartedly. This is probably because of the assumption that it’s all about the video itself. This is not true. The video is half the story – as you will no doubt agree when you see a lot of bad videos getting thousands of views.

YouTube as a search engine and some statistics

Optimising YouTube videos for greater search gainsSome 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube each minute, according to YouTube. Thousands of advertisers are using TrueView in-stream and 75% of those in-stream ads are skippable.

YouTube’s Content ID service scans more than 250 years of videos every day looking to identify content infringements. Content ID is YouTube’s system for letting rights owners identify their owned content (an audio file or original pop video, for example). YouTube then uses this to compare with other videos uploaded by individuals – most of whom don’t know about copyright law, or don’t care.

YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world and is owned by Google. There is a lot of overlap between the Google results and the search algorithm technology.

Search results on Google often incorporate YouTube videos – this is especially true if you search for instructional questions. In this example I have searched Google for ‘how to measure for a blind’.

Search engine results screenshot of mixed content types including video

How to make your video appear in search results

In order to understand how to make your video appear in search results, you will need to understand SEO in general. One factor is the videos ranking within the YouTube ecosystem.

First, a video result needs to be relevant to the search. Second, the video itself needs to be relevant to the search term. Popularity of the video is also a factor.

If you search for a specific phrase on YouTube, the order of the results will depend partly on the popularity of a video and partly on other things, such as relevance (judged by Google’s algorithms) and whether or not you have a relationship with the publisher. If you are a subscriber to their channel, for example.

So, let’s get to those 10 quick YouTube SEO tips

1. Use captions, aka sub-titles

The captions feature allows users to watch sub-titles and translates them to their own language. This improves the quality of the video but it also gives YouTube more text with which to categorise the video.

YouTube turnon captions screenshot

2. Add links into the video itself

This feature tends to be over-used by some or poorly presented – such that the video-watching experience feels like you are only there to be sold to. Used sparingly and sensibly though, embedding links within videos can be a good way of promoting other, related videos.

YouTube in video promotion opportunities

3. Use an optimised file name for the video

By default, your video file might have a meaningless file name, like 4985986098.flv. When you upload the video, this can also default to the title. Before you upload the video, give the file a meaningful name, containing descriptive keywords, such as howtomeasureforblinds.flv. This will help search engines (YouTube, Bing and Google) categorise the video.

4. Select a sensible, optimised title for the video

Don’t keep the default title that appears when you upload the video. Don’t use abstract themes or obtuse phrases. Your title contributes 80% to the click-through ratio, so it needs to be relevant, clear, inviting and intriguing.

5. Promote video responses

Forge connections with other videos by promoting yours as responses to others – ensuring you choose relevant ones to link to. This will help YouTube categorise your video, whilst also boosting visibility.

6. Create playlists to group videos together

Playlists are a good way to get people watching more of your videos. Create a video series and link them together.

7. Promote the videos on Twitter and Facebook

According to The Relevancy Group, 500 years of YouTube videos are watched each day on Facebook itself.

8. Make videos more engaging

YouTube will reward you for making videos that people watch for longer. This may not be a direct reward, but there is a correlation between video quality and overall results.

Better videos mean more people will subscribe, promote or interact with the content, so it stands to reason that such content will earn more credibility and gain authority.

9. Use links in your descriptions

YouTube show more text examples

There is an argument in favour of web links in video descriptions because of how it could help SEO for your main website. I won’t go into the whys and wherefores of this.

Regardless of any SEO benefit, adding links into descriptive content enables you to gain extra traffic from viewers who want to learn more.

10. Use YouTube Analytics to gauge success

YouTube offers analytics on your videos, which show the audience for a video and for how long they watched.

Don’t have a video?

Among the most effective are explainer videos. These are animated, usually about one minute long, and are great for communicating your product or service in a fun and concise way. We can produce these for you! Check out our show reel below to see some examples.

Steve Masters profile picture
Steve Masters

Steve (RIP) was Services Director for Vertical Leap. He started professional life as a magazine journalist, working on music magazines and women's titles before becoming a web editor in 1997, then joining MSN to work purely in online publishing. Since 1999 he has worked for and consulted to a broad range of businesses about their digital marketing.

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