You can put hours of effort into your video production on YouTube, but if no one watches then your brand will not grow. This is where understanding of YouTube SEO comes into play. With smart YouTube SEO strategy, users will be able to search for and watch your uploaded video content with ease.
YouTube SEO applies to both video on demand (VOD) content as well as live streamed content. One major advantage to YouTube is that your streamed content automatically gets saved in video on demand (VOD) format when the stream finishes, letting your video accumulate views, likes, subscribers, and more long after the live event is complete.
In this post, you’ll learn YouTube SEO tips to make your videos rank higher in both YouTube and Google search results and help grow your YouTube audience.
Having effective Google SEO on your YouTube videos means they will rank in Google search results pages when users search for related content. Here’s some tips to help make your YouTube videos more searchable on Google.
Google SEO ranking factor: keywords
There’s all different kinds of video on YouTube, however the majority of viewers on YouTube come for video content that teaches a skill, reviews a product or service, or offers an opportunity to pass the time. Google understands the value in these types of videos and often ranks them favorably in search results.
Google indexes, or “reads”, a web page by quickly parsing through the page’s text content and HTML code, but struggles to make sense of image and video content. This is why keywords are so important – they help tell Google what your video is about.
The exact keyword searches that lead to YouTube videos on Google search results are called video keywords.
To be more specific, Google tends to show YouTube SEO results for these types of video keywords:
Note that these categories all describe content that is best explained visually. A how-to video, tutorial, or a person falling down the stairs are all examples of people doing stuff.
If your keyword doesn’t fit into the categories above then there is less chance your video will have a chance to rank (although certainly not impossible). For example, Googling the word “acetaminophen” (the active ingredient in the pain-reliever brand, Tylenol) is unlikely to show any related YouTube content because users are more likely to read about Tylenol than watch a video about it.
On the other hand, Googling something more visually rewarding, such as “cats getting brain freeze”, will return a fresh bounty of related YouTube videos.
I’m not kidding – at the time of writing this post, the number one search result for “cats getting brain freeze” is a 3-minute compilation video with 3.3 million views showing a montage of cats reacting to headaches after licking frozen desserts. And if that one video wasn’t enough, the next 7 search result slots are occupied with cat brain freeze videos too.
The takeaway here is the following: when you’re deciding on a topic for a video to maximize Google SEO for your YouTube videos, select a keyword that describes a visual or instructional action. If you’re not sure, search the keyword in Google. If YouTube content shows up anywhere on the page, you’ll know the keyword you selected is a valid video keyword in Google’s opinion. Remember this keyword – you’ll need to use it in the title and description for your YouTube video.
Bonus Google SEO tips: Try keyword research
To refine your keyword selection further, use a keyword research tool, such as Google AdWords Keyword Planner, SEMRush Keyword Research tool, or Moz Keyword Explorer. Note that you’ll need to pay to use most keyword research tools, although a quick Google search reveals a number of free tools out there (note that the paid tools likely yield more accurate results!).
Generally speaking, it’s difficult to compete with generic keywords (such as “cat” or “cooking”) due to the sheer volume of other users competing for that same word. I recommend selecting a more specific keyword (such as “cats getting brain freeze” or “best vegan recipes”) with a reasonable volume of 300+ monthly Google searches.
This strategy ensures your keyword is actively searched, but not so often that you wouldn’t be able to compete!
Google SEO ranking factor: relevance
Google always tries to deliver the best possible results for a user’s search query. While keywords play the most important role in this respect, a secondary Google SEO ranking factor is relevance. Google determines which video content is most relevant by tapping into popular social media platforms to tally the number of social engagements your page or video gets, such as likes, shares, re-tweets, etc.
Therefore if you want your YouTube content to get noticed by Google, you need to promote your video across a variety of social networks.
While YouTube videos can be indexed and ranked in Google search results, YouTube has an independent ranking system of its own. Here’s a few tips to help viewers find your live video or VOD in YouTube.
YouTube SEO ranking factor: keywords
Similar to Google SEO, the use of highly targeted keywords helps boost your YouTube SEO in YouTube search results. To help tell YouTube what your video is about, use your chosen keyword in the video title and several times throughout the video description.
Here’s a few tips for optimizing your YouTube video description:
- Place your keyword in the beginning of your title. For example, assuming your keyword is “how to bake a cake”, the title “How to bake a cake using 3 easy methods” is preferable to “Use these 3 easy methods to learn how to bake a cake”.
- Flesh out your video description as much as possible using your keyword a few times throughout. However, be mindful to avoid the practice of “keyword stuffing” where a keyword is deliberately overused – this will get your content penalized and ranked lower.
- Use keyword synonyms to support your main keyword. Doing so helps YouTube determine what your video is about. For example, if your main keyword is OBS livestream tutorial, use related keywords and phrases like “OBS setup guide”, “OBS live broadcast instructions”, or “how to livestream with OBS”. Don’t over-do it though! Stick to about 6-10 synonym keywords at most to avoid being penalized for “keyword stuffing”.
- Use a different description for each of your videos. Duplicate content is frowned upon and will get your content’s YouTube SEO penalized.
- Struggling to fill our your description? Try typing out your transcript. This requires a lot of effort and may not be feasible for everyone, but doing so is an excellent opportunity to complete your description with lots of keyword and related-keyword mentions.
- Use closed captions. The closed captions text file is read by YouTube and presents yet another opportunity to include your chosen YouTube SEO keywords. YouTube likes videos with closed captions and tends to rank these videos higher in general.
YouTube SEO ranking factor: engagement
Another important YouTube SEO ranking factor is user engagement. Users who are engaged with your video content will often comment, like, subscribe, and interact with you in some manner. These forms of engagement act as signals that tell YouTube your video is worth watching.
The most important engagement signal is views, but the following metrics play a role as well:
- Number of comments your video receives
- Number of likes your video receives
- Number of viewers who subscribe after watching your video
- Number of times your video is shared on social media platforms
- Number of times your video is embedded (or linked to) on other websites
- Total time users spend watching your video (the more seconds you can keep a user on your video, the better your videos will rank)
These metrics force YouTubers to create videos with better, more engaging content in order satisfy the algorithm and achieve a higher rank in search results.
Live streams offer a particularly unique opportunity for maximizing engagement because you can respond to viewer comments in real-time. (You can do this easily using a dedicated social media encoder, like our Webcaster X2.)
YouTube SEO ranking: additional tips
Consider the following factors to help your videos rank in terms of YouTube SEO:
- Flesh out your channel page. YouTube considers fully complete channel pages to be more professional and a legitimate source of quality video material. Complete your YouTube channel page using header images, a full description (including keywords), social media links etc.
- Create compelling thumbnails: Everyone loves a good picture. Well-crafted thumbnails with rich imagery helps to attract clicks and boost viewer engagement.
- Playlists: YouTube encourages brands to keep their channels alive and upload content frequently. To take this a step further, you can organize your video content into specific playlists (or topics). Playlists signal to viewers that you have more video content planned for the future and therefore provides incentive for viewers to watch for your next video.
- Tags: Video tags are another good place to use your keywords. Tags are less important than description and title text for ranking purposes, but are effective at categorizing your video content. Categorized videos are more likely to show up as a “related video” in the sidebar area of YouTube and therefore help to make your videos more easily discovered.
There you have it – the secrets for mastering YouTube SEO and getting your video content ranked as high as possible on both Google and YouTube search results pages. Use these tips to attract more viewers to your YouTube channel and watch your brand grow like never before.
And if you’re interested in simple and professional live streaming to social media platforms like YouTube and Facebook, I suggest exploring our dedicated social media encoder, Webcaster X2.