YouTube SEO: how to get more views on YouTube

YouTube is a magical place, filled with videos of music covers, terrible pranks, crazy DIY projects and useful tutorials. The popular video hosting platform gives us access to an array of useful, interesting information. Let’s take a look at some stats.

Why are we throwing a bunch of numbers at you? It’s harder to get noticed on an extremely popular platform like YouTube. That’s why we’ve put together this post! We’re going to show you how to get more views for your videos using YouTube Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). It’s time to stand out from the crowd!

YouTube SEO: What is it?

The key to getting discovered on YouTube is ranking in search. Search Engine Optimization is a relatively simple concept. A search engine like Google wants to show users the most relevant content based on the words they typed into the search box. To do that, it needs to understand what different websites and pages are about.

The search engine bots crawl websites, noting specific words and phrases. Every page is indexed. Then, when a you type in your search words, Google pulls up the most relevant pages and presents them to you.

Video is a little different. At the moment, bots can’t understand video or images. They interpret them by looking at the text around them, in the title, the tags, the description and the file name. That’s why, to rank in YouTube search, you need to optimize for all these factors.

YouTube Keyword Research

Optimization starts with keyword research. Everything you write, from the title to the description, is built around those keywords.

A keyword is a word or phrase that you use when searching for something. Let’s say you need to build a chicken coop. The main keywords are “chicken coop.” By themselves they aren’t very descriptive. When you type them into YouTube, you get all sorts of results, from how to build one all the way to fully guided tours around other people’s coops.

To get better results, you’d have to use a longer descriptive phrase like “how to build a chicken coop.” That’s what’s called a ‘long tail’ keyword, and it gives more specific results. When you’re researching keywords, you want a selection of both short and long tail keywords.

To find these search phrases, you’ve got a few different research options.

1. Use YouTube’s auto-fill feature

YouTube’s own auto search feature can be quite a goldmine. It will show you the top terms around your potential keywords. Use this to build an initial list of potential short and long tail keywords you can use in the description and in the tags.

At the same time, you can use YouTube search to check what type of videos your competitors are making, and see what words they rank for. This can give you ideas about how you can position your videos better. If you want to dig even deeper, a tool like SEO Chat’s suggestion tool can show you a plethora of related results.

2. Keyword research tools

Once you’ve got a list of preliminary keywords, it’s time to check their performance. Browser extension TubeBuddy is a powerful weapon. This all-in-one tool was designed to help YouTube creators optimize their channels and gain exposure. It can help you manage various aspects of your channel, including keyword research and optimization.

You can use the Tag Explorer in the free version to learn about your keyword’s performance. If you opt for one of the paid versions, you’ll get more detailed results.

If you click on the “Historical” tab, you’ll find a graph of the historic search volume, and in the “Results” tab, you’ll see all the videos that rank for this keyword. From there you can use TubeBuddy’s Videolytics tool to see exactly what other tags your competitors used to rank their videos.

TubeBuddy is not the only tool that can help. VidIQ’s paid plans all include access to their powerful keyword research tool. Tools like TubeBuddy and VidIQ are a great way to test out keywords and discover new ones. They’re also extremely useful for general auditing and optimization of your channel, in a similar way that tools for performing SEO checks online work for your website.

Still, ranking on YouTube isn’t the only way to get more views. YouTube results often show up on the first page of Google for certain searches like how-to videos and reviews. You can use the Google Keyword Planner to check the search volumes of various keywords.

This can be a useful way to gauge competition, and come up with new ideas. Ideally, you want to choose low-competition, high-volume words. Don’t be afraid to experiment with longer phrases. Like most high quality search engines, YouTube uses a semantic search and can infer meaning fairly well. Focus on creating a list of terms your ideal audience will actually search for, and then check their search volume.

How to Rank YouTube Videos: YouTube Ranking Factors

While no-one knows the precise factors that influence the YouTube ranking system, we know it’s heavily affected by certain factors. To rank in search, you need to optimize for each one.

1. Optimize the metadata

YouTube uses metadata to understand what your video is about. To rank, you’ll need to:

  • Use a relevant filename. Give your video a name that makes sense. Ideally, use one of the keywords you want to rank for. So, a video about building a chicken coop should have a name like “how_to_build_an_awesome_chicken_coop.mp4”
  • Add a video transcript and use closed captions. While the bots can’t watch the video, they can read the transcript. Including yours will help them understand your content better, and rank it accordingly.
  • Create a clear, informative title. Be clear and concise. Your title should tell the bots and the user what to expect.
  • Write a keyword-rich description. This description is largely for the search engine. Be as clear as you can and describe what your video is about, using relevant keywords.
  • Use relevant tags. The right tags make your video easier to find. You can use TubeBuddy’s Videolytics to check out what tags competitors and content creators in your niche are using to rank.

2. Upload high quality content regularly

Just like regularly adding blog posts and fresh content to your website helps with SEO, if you want to rank in YouTube, you need to frequently upload high-quality videos to your channel.

High quality is one of those terms that’s easy to say, but hard to define. In this case, high quality means a video that your ideal audience will find useful. YouTube uses a few deciding factors to figure out just how good your video is.

  • Viewer retention. This one is pretty simple. YouTube assumes that if your video is good, and fulfils the promise of the title, people will stick around. If they don’t, the bots take it as a sign that your video stinks.
  • New subscribers. If someone subscribed to your channel after watching one of your videos, YouTube takes that as a good sign of its quality.
  • Likes and shares. High quality videos get the thumbs-up, and get shared across social media. The rest die in YouTube purgatory.
  • Comments. People commenting means they got engaged enough to actually take the time to connect. YouTube likes that.

YouTube assumes that high quality videos generate engagement. You can encourage viewers to subscribe, like, share and comment through an effective call to action at the end of each video. Engagement helps you build channel authority. That, in turn, makes it more likely that YouTube will show your video in search.

3. Keep viewers on YouTube

As a business, YouTube has one main goal. It wants to keep users on the platform as long as possible. The more videos they watch, the more ad revenue YouTube gets. That’s why these factors also matter.

  • Watch time. The total amount of time a viewer spent watching your videos. YouTube takes that as a sign that your content offers something valuable. One of the best ways to keep them watching is by creating irresistible videos.
  • Length of session. This is the length of your session on YouTube. Videos that started a YouTube watching session get rewarded, and videos that ended a YouTube watching session get penalized. One way to encourage viewers to keep on watching is by creating playlists that keep them on your channel by giving viewers a clear next step.
  • Consistent thumbnails. This is more about branding than SEO, but it does help you get results. The right tags are going to help your video rank in the sidebar. The right thumbnails will help it get noticed! If you’d like to learn how to create kickass thumbnails that get clicks, we wrote a post about it.

YouTube rewards creators that keep viewers on the platform, so use your wiles to keep them there. Going outside and doing things is vastly overrated anyway.

4. Go in with a launch plan

The first 24 hours that your video is live are crucial for its future YouTube ranking. Throw everything you’ve got at promoting it.

Share it on all your social media channels. Write a blog post around the video and embed it near the top. Go on Quora, answer relevant questions thoughtfully and link to your video. Share it with your email list.

Having a consistent publishing schedule also helps, because your subscribers will know when to expect a new video from you.

Give Youtube what it wants

Search engine optimization is half art, half science. You need to understand what YouTube wants so you can do your best to give it to them. YouTube profits from delivering the most relevant content to users. They want to give people what they want.

The YouTube ranking factors are linked to that business goal. By creating high quality content, doing your keyword research, optimizing the metadata, and encouraging viewers to actively engage with your videos, you help YouTube reach that goal and will reap the rewards.

Make sure you also check out our guide to video SEO for self-hosted videos to find out how you can also use your on-site video content to drive traffic from Google and support your broader SEO strategy.

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