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YouTube SEO Best Practices

YouTube is second only to Google as the largest search engine in the world, and has 100 hours of video uploaded every 60 seconds. With over 4 billion videos viewed on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that forward-thinking businesses, individuals, and entities of all sizes are scrambling to get a piece of the action. As they do so, certain questions may arise as to what they can do to optimize their efforts. Two such questions are as follow:

  • What can I do to improve my YouTube rankings and presence?
  • What does YouTube’s algorithm favor, and what does it identify as being high quality?

What Are YouTube SEO Best Practices?

To answer these questions, let’s consider some factors. You see, there are a couple of key principles to keep in mind when optimizing for the YouTube search engine. One is that unlike optimizing for Google’s algorithm, off-page metrics (such as links) have less of an overall impact on your ranking within YouTube search results. This leads to the second principle, which states that user engagement and on-page elements (page titles, descriptions, and video tags) are vital in helping your video achieve a prominent position in the YouTube search rankings. This makes optimizing for YouTube a lot more simple than optimizing for Google. This is all the more reason to get excited about what these tips can do for you!

To clarify the scope of what these YouTube tips will cover, it is important to note that there are various aspects of a YouTube channel and video that have their own set of best practices when it comes to getting the most bang for your buck. Today we’ll focus on 6 powerful-yet-accessible areas to target in order to improve your YouTube SEO optimizations. These areas of focus can be divided into two parts—channel-specific and video-specific SEO optimizations.

YouTube SEO Tips Part 1: Video-Specific SEO Optimizations

1) Video Titles
Titles contain valuable information to help viewers find relevant videos in search results. As with text web pages, the title of your YouTube video is the most important piece of copy on the page (at least from an SEO standpoint).

When looking into how to optimize youtube videos for SEO, it’s a good idea to include keywords with high monthly search volume and low competitive difficulty directly in the title. These metrics can be derived from SEO tools such as Brightedge, Ahrefs, Moz, or SpyFu.com. For example, if you are making a title for a video on how to make the best tortillas ever, some possible keyword are shown below:

YouTube SEO Keyword Research
If you notice, these keywords all have relatively high search engine average monthly search volume, high cost per click (a metric used to measure conversion strength), and a low keyword difficulty.

Once you’ve identified the target keywords that best describe your video, create titles for the videos based on how you would expect searchers to find your content while adhering to the YouTube title character limit. Following the example given above, these are some possible title iterations:

  • How to Make Tortillas: Best Recipe Ever!
  • Homemade Tortillas: How to Make Tortillas
  • How to Make Homemade Tortillas

Having titles geared around a keyword and formed around a potential search query increases the chance that your video will be found and watched by your target audience.

2) Video Descriptions
Along with a well-formed title, an optimized and enticing video description is almost certainly guaranteed to be attractive to both the viewer and the YouTube algorithm. Incorporating the keyword research steps listed in the previous section will also be the starting point for this process of creating the best description for a YouTube channel.

YouTube SEO Video description

Currently, YouTube gives users 5,000 characters for video descriptions, so you’ll likely have more than enough room to work in additional keywords to help YouTube’s algorithm associate your video with various relevant search parameters. It’s also important to make the first 157 characters of your description as compelling as possible while still using one of your more valuable/relevant keywords within. This is because YouTube truncates most video descriptions at the 100–150 mark, meaning that searchers will only be able to see a fraction of the allotted 5,000 characters the YouTube description character limit allows until they click on the option to see more.

Youtube video description section

3) Video Tags for YouTube
YouTube Tags identify each YouTube video at its most objective level and play a heavy role in YouTube’s algorithm. By appropriately tagging each video with popular youtube tags, YouTube will be able to better serve your video in response to organic searches.

As you select your YouTube tag list, be sure that you have some keyword research data to backup your choices. Additionally, if your competitor has an audience that you would like to target, including their YouTube channel name in your tag list will increase the chances that your video will come up as a recommended video, thus leveraging your competitor’s audience base.

YouTube video tags section

YouTube SEO Tips Part 2: YouTube Channel Specific SEO Optimizations

A YouTube channel serves as a hub for all your company's video content, allowing you to present your brand to YouTube. By optimizing your channel’s overall presence, you will better capitalize on views as they arrive at your channel homepage.

4) Channel Description
The description may be the first information about you that viewers encounter as they land on your channel. Additionally, the channel description is a way for you to communicate to YouTube’s algorithm the relevance your channel’s video’s carry. To do this, you'll need a description that highlights your most important content right up front, so that users won’t have to dig around to find something worthwhile. For YouTube channel description ideas, see the example below.

YouTube channel description

Also, be sure to include high-value target keywords that help establish your channel’s value proposition right up front. As you do this, remember to utilize the full 1,000 character channel-description limit.

5) Watermark
The branding watermark enables you to embed your channel logo across all of the videos on your channel. This added flare can be created on something as simple as Google Drawings and uploaded as a PNG. file. Most channels currently use the watermark to perpetuate their brand, since this watermark is seen across all videos on the channel.

6) Channel Keywords
Channel keywords act as general keywords intended to clearly define your channel using key phrases and terms. When selecting the best YouTube channel keywords for your channel, effective keyword research and an understanding of the industries and verticals you would like to target yield the most favorable results. However, be aware that YouTube only allows a maximum of 10 keywords per channel, so choose wisely! For additional help in choosing wisely, look at some YouTube channel keywords examples from successful YouTube channels in order to choose the best channel keywords for YouTube channels you manage.
YouTube Channel Keywords Section

As you incorporate these tips into your YouTube SEO efforts, it is important to note that the biggest mistake many users make is neglecting to take advantage of SEO optimization options at all. YouTube is giving you a direct line to their algorithm in ways traditional SEO digital marketers only dream Google would. By incorporating these simple tips for YouTube SEO, you’ll be able to leverage YouTube’s algorithm to better reach the eyes and ears of the people who matter most. And, given the 4 billion videos that YouTube showcases on a daily basis, there are a lot of eyes and ears worth reaching.

Joe Robledo

Joe is the VP of SEO at 97th Floor. He loves digging into the weeds of all realms of SEO. He has a strong passion for continual-improvement and efficiency in SEO and all other aspects of life. He loves being with his family and adventuring outdoors.

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