YouTube SEO: The Ultimate Guide
You probably already know that YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine…
…and a huge untapped traffic source.
(In fact, YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day)
Today I’m going to show you the ins and outs of YouTube SEO, including how you can rank videos in both Google and YouTube.
Free Bonus: Download a free checklist that will show you how to quickly execute this strategy. Includes 2 bonus YouTube marketing techniques not found in the post.
My Top Ranking YouTube Videos
Before we get into my YouTube SEO tutorial, I want to show you an example of a video that I’ve ranked for a competitive keyword:
This video is ranking #3 for the keyword “SEO strategy“:
Now that you can see that I know what I’m talking about, let’s dive into the step-by-step system that I used to generate this top-5 ranking.
Step #1: Find “Video Keywords”
Like anything in SEO, the YouTube SEO process starts with keyword research.
Your goal is to find keywords that have YouTube results on the first page of Google.
These are called, “Video Keywords”.
Unlike a normal SERP with 10 webpage results, with Video Keywords, Google reserves a good chunk of the first page for video results:
In general, Google tends to use video results for these types of keywords:
- How-to keywords (“how to shave a cat”)
- Reviews (“Bluehost review”)
- Tutorials (“Setting up WordPress”)
- Anything fitness or sports related (“Cardio kickboxing”)
- Funny videos (“Cute animals”)
Why is this important?
Well, let’s say you optimize your video around a keyword that doesn’t have any video results in Google.
In that case, you’ll ONLY get traffic from people searching on YouTube.
But if you optimize for Video Keywords, you’ll also get targeted traffic to your video directly from Google’s first page.
How to Find Video Keywords
The easiest way to find video keywords is to search for keywords in your niche.
Then see if any of the keywords you searched for have YouTube video results, like this:
Once you’ve found a Video Keywords, it’s time to check if there’s enough search volume for that keyword.
Because videos don’t take a ton of time to put together, you don’t need to go after keywords with massive search volumes.
Just make sure your target keyword gets at least 300 searches per month in Google (you can find this information using the Google Keyword Planner):
Why 300 searches per month?
If a keyword boasts at least 300 searches per month, then you know it also gets a decent amount of searches within YouTube itself.
And if you can get that video to rank in Google, then a lot of those 300+ monthly searches will click on YOUR video in the results.
That means you’ll get more high-quality traffic to your video, and ultimately, your site.
Here’s a Real Life Example
Because Backlinko is in the SEO niche, I’m going to look for video keywords using searches like “keyword research tips”, “how to build backlinks” and “SEO tutorial”.
Bingo! The keyword “SEO tutorial” bring up two YouTube results in Google:
Sure enough, that keyword exceeds our minimum of 300 monthly searches:
So that would be a great keyword to create a video around.
Speaking of creating your video…
Step #2: Make Your (Awesome) Video
Like anything in business, the more you put into your video, the more you’ll get out of it.
Personally, I hire a professional videographer for the day, pay an editor to add graphics, rent a studio…
Here’s an example of one of my most recent videos:
Looks expensive, but it’s not. That video only cost around $90 to produce.
If you’re on a really tight budget, you can record your voice over a PowerPoint presentation using ScreenCast-O-Matic ($15/year).
You don’t need to sweat production value in the beginning. As long as your video is valuable and interesting to watch, you’re good to go.
I’m emphasizing quality so much because user engagement is THE most important YouTube ranking signal.
If your video sucks, it won’t rank…no matter how optimized it is for SEO.
Unlike Google — which can use backlinks and other signals to evaluate the quality of a piece of content — YouTube has no such luxury.
They judge your video’s quality based on how people interact with it.
The User Experience Metrics That YouTube Uses
Here’s what YouTube uses to determine the quality of your video:
- Video retention: The percentage of your video people tend to watch (the more, the better).
- Comments: If people comment, they probably enjoyed the video (or at least watched it).
- Subscribes after watching: If someone subscribes to your channel after watching your video that sends a HUGE signal that you have an amazing video.
- Shares: How many people share your video on social media sites like Twitter and Google+.
- Favorites: The number of people that favorite your video or add it to their “Watch Later” playlist:
- Thumbs up/Thumbs down: Self explanatory
If you want to see how your videos are performing, you can see user experience data in your YouTube Analytics:
If you make a top-notch video you’re MUCH more likely to get high-retention views, likes, comments and all the things that YouTube likes to see in a video.
Make Your Video At Least 5-Minutes Long
Like with text-based articles, longer videos rank better.
I consistently see longer videos outperforming shorter videos in YouTube and Google search.
For example, if you search in YouTube for the keyword “WordPress”, 3 out of the 4 top videos are an hour long.
So aim for at least 5-minutes.
If it makes sense for your video to be even longer than that, go for it. Don’t worry about your video being too long. If it’s awesome, people WILL watch it.
OK so you’ve created your compelling video that’s 5-minutes or longer in length. Nice work
Now it’s time to optimize your video and upload it to YouTube.
Step #3: Upload Your Video With YouTube SEO in Mind
Here’s how to extract the most SEO value from your video.
When you’re done with the video make sure that you use the keyword in the video’s filename.
For example, if you wanted to rank for the keyword “weight loss tips”, you’d want to name your video weight_loss_tips_video.mp4.
The title of your video should at least 5-words long. That way, you can include your full keyword without keyword-stuffing.
For example, my Advanced SEO video’s title is 5 words…only 2 of which are my target keyword:
Power Tip: Like with a blog post, I’ve found that you get a slight video SEO boost by putting your keyword at the beginning of the title.
So if you were trying to rank for “surfing tutorial” you’d want a title like: “Surfing Tutorial: Learn How to Ride a Wave Today”.
Your videos description is VERY important.
Because Google and YouTube can’t “listen” to videos, they rely on your text description to determine your video’s content.
Here are the basic guidelines for the description:
- Put your link at the very top of the video (this maximizes CTR to your site)
- Include your keyword in the first 25 words
- Make the description at least 250-words
- Include your keyword 3–4 times
This SEO-optimized description helps tell Google and YouTube what your video is about without being spammy.
Here’s an example of a description for a video optimized around the keyword “Advanced SEO”:
Tags aren’t super-important…but they help.
Just include a few keywords to help YouTube and Google learn what your video is about.
Targeted tags not only help you rank for your target keyword…
…but get you to you show up more often as a related video in the sidebar area of YouTube:
When the video someone’s watching has a similar tag as your video– boom!– you’re added to the sidebar.
Once you’re done, hit “Save Changes” and your video will go live!
Step #4: Get Video Views
We talked a lot about user experience signal so far…which are really important.
But in order for your video to rank for competitive keywords, it needs to get A LOT of views.
More views=higher rankings.
But there’s one catch…
…the views need to be real.
YouTube has caught onto fake views. That’s why I don’t recommend using a service on Fiverr to pump up your view count.
And as we already discussed, long-retention views are worth their weight in gold.
Here are some strategies you can use to get targeted views to your video:
Mention Your Video on Quora and Other Q&A Sites
Quora, Yahoo! Answers, and other Q&A sites are some of the most popular sites on the web (Quora rocks a top 500 Alexa ranking).
But if you try to go in there and plaster links all over the place, you’re going to get banned in a flash…
…unless you link to YouTube.
Because you’re posting your video in a place where people are desperate for information on a given topic, the views you’ll get are extremely high-retention.
Just search for a question on your video’s topic:
And add a link to your video. Or better yet, embed it into your answer:
Link To Your Video In Your Email Signature
People that email you (like your mom) generally like you.
And if you’re like me, you get A TON of emails.
So when you add a link to your latest video in your email signature, that means you get high-retention views like they’re going out of style.
Embed Your Videos in Blog Posts
Whenever you write a blog post (on your site or as a guest post for another site), think to yourself:
“Where can I embed a YouTube video into this post?”
For example, when I published a case study about The Moving Man Method, I embedded a video to explain how the strategy worked:
This INSTANTLY got my video a few hundred high-quality views.
If you want to get more traffic from YouTube, I’ve got something special for you.
It’s a step-by-step checklist that will show you the exact steps you need to take to get your videos ranking highly in YouTube and Google.
Click on the link below to download the free PDF checklist:
Here is a Motivational Video I made which uses all the above Techniques :
Originally published at backlinko.com on June 1, 2015.