We all know that the most important thing when it comes to making good video content is, well… making your video content good. That comes down to a number of things, but if you're already making quality content, how can you make sure it's really getting seen?
I recently ran a workshop, and a lot of participants were curious about the technical side of YouTube. Remember, YouTube is part social media platform, part search engine. In fact, did you know that YouTube is the biggest search engine in the world after Google? That means that when it comes to being strategic on YouTube, SEO (search engine optimisation) plays a big part in making sure that we appear in YouTube's search results. Plus, it’s owned by Google, so if you play your cards right, your video might even come up as a top result on Google itself if it ranks well for the same term on YouTube.
There are many other factors that can help your video to perform better on YouTube, but SEO is a big one. So, I decided to put my YouTube video SEO tips in one resource.
BASICS OF VIDEO SEO
Just like in traditional SEO you want your content to be one of the top ranking for the specific search terms/phrases that your target audience is searching for. The same is true of YouTube.
That doesn’t necessarily mean picking the search term “cupcake” for our cupcake business. There’s not so much chance of our content competing with the millions of results for such a vague term. So let’s pick something a little more specific… what type of cupcakes? Where in the world are you offering these cupcakes? Perhaps even a term relating to why your audience want the cupcake in the first place (this is where the cupcake analogy falls apart a bit, because obviously we all want cupcakes).
HOW TO IMPLEMENT VIDEO SEO ON YOUTUBE
There will be other factors that come into play on how your video is ranked, but there are three big ones that you can directly control.
1. Video Title
2. Video Tags
3. Video Description
If you want to learn even more about this, make sure you’re signed up for my video marketing and production mailing list. In each newsletter I build on the topic covered in that week's blog post and offer further tips on each week’s theme. For now, let’s break each of these points down further.
1. VIDEO TITLE
Every video has a title. This helps the viewer to know what the video is about. But more than that, it’s an important piece of data which will be read by YouTube's technology to place your video in the search engine's algorithm.
These keywords are some of the most important in letting YouTube understand what your video is about and what other videos it might be related to when recommending it and ranking it in searches. Pick your main keyword/phrase carefully, and include in the title. If you can repeat your keyword more than once in the title, that’s even better. However, it’s important that your title is easy to read for your audience, and titles under 70 characters tend to perform better.
2. VIDEO TAGS
For any keywords you struggled to include naturally in your title, the video tags is the place to put them. Here you have a lot more characters to put words and short phrases describing what your video is about. Use alternate phrasings (e.g. “influencer” instead of “Instagrammer”), and pay attention to the order of your tags. Although Google (the parent company of YouTube) hasn't confirmed this, I’ve found that by placing the most important tags at the beginning and the least important at the end, I’ve increased my chances of being ranked for my priority words and phrases. Remember that unlike the title and description, your video tags are not immediately visible to viewers of your video, although there are ways for them to find your chosen tags if they want to.
3. VIDEO DESCRIPTION
The first characters of your description are equally important in telling YouTube what your video is about. You should repeat the keywords you chose for your title and include some that you identified to use in your tags. The different between the video description and tags is that your audience can read your description, so make sure it is easy to read instead of a list of incoherent keywords. I would recommend dedicating the first 150-170 characters to a really easy-to-read, keyword-rich introduction. The next paragraph could be a continuation of this, although viewers will need to click “see more” to read this, so keep in mind that it is less likely to be seen. After this, you can include any other information that is important to your video, such as credits. Please note if you’re trying to drive viewers to a link, while it may not be conducive to your SEO goals, place it at the start of your description. Viewers are less likely to click on it if it doesn’t appear in the 150-170 character preview of your video.
There are reports of videos performing less well if there are too many external links in the description, since YouTube wants to keep you on their platform. YouTube does not tend to share information on how its algorithm works, and while I have not noticed this hypothesis to be true, I also have not conducted sufficient testing to confirm or deny this claim.
YOUTUBE VIDEO SEO TOOLS
While it’s possible to carry out these tips on your own using analytics and some strategic thinking, there are some tools that will make a lot of the steps way more simple and quick. I use Vid IQ which is a chrome plugin designed to help your YouTube videos to perform better. This tool allows me to see how competitive a term is when I search for it on YouTube, explore the search terms and analytics on another user’s individual video, and it even helps me to optimise the three categories above when I am uploading my video. There are different tiers available with more/fewer functionalities, but the most basic version is free. An alternative to VidIQ is TubeBuddy which offers a similar range of functions.
When choosing my search terms I also use Keywords Everywhere which can help me to analyse how competitive a search term is both on Google and on YouTube. In the most basic sense, the sweet spot of a search term will be the one(s) that is searched for a lot but does not yet have a huge library of content already on the search engine to compete with. Experiment with different terms to get to grips with the tool and find your niche's sweet spot. VidIQ also has a scale to help you to determine this "sweet spot" when you are using YouTube's search function.
There's a lot to learn about YouTube, and I want to cover it in detail in the coming weeks.
Do you have specific questions on getting your videos discovered? Let me know in the comments!