It’s no secret that video is becoming more important to any company’s marketing strategy, and for many hosting these videos on YouTube makes the most sense. You can still feature your videos on your website, but it helps to also have a YouTube account and page. By letting your videos live on YouTube, people can subscribe as well as find your videos while browsing around that search engine. In fact, YouTube is actually the second largest search engine with over 30 million visitors per day. This opens up a ton of opportunity for connecting with new audiences and bringing your business to the next level.
However, because YouTube is such a large platform (100 hours of video added every minute), you have quite a bit of competition when it comes to ranking. Just like any other search engine, you want your videos to show up when someone types in a certain search term. This means you need to not only have a strategy for the types of videos you’re going to create, but an SEO strategy to help make sure they get seen by the right people.
A Few Things to Keep in Mind about YouTube Rankings
Before jumping into optimization, it’s important to remember that YouTube works very similarly to your other content—it has to be quality, targeted content that will make people want to link back. You should stay consistent and put a lot of thought into what types of videos you’re going to create. This includes doing audience research and even creating personas so you know you’re putting out videos that will earn clicks.
It also helps to know what YouTube looks for when it comes to ranking videos. All of the optimization techniques that will be discussed in the next section will help you rank, but there are certain things YouTube looks for in a video that you should keep in mind:
- The number of times a video has been viewed.
- The amount of time someone spends watching the video.
- The number of times a video appears in a user’s playlist.
- The number of positive ratings and user comments.
- The number of subscribers the video’s creator has.
- How many times the video is added as a favorite or to a playlist.
- How many times the video was embedded on the web.
As you can see, some of the things YouTube looks for are factors that will only come about if you have a great video. SEO is incredibly important and is a way to help bring you traffic and help you earn the things on this list, but YouTube pays attention to what happens when people get there. Moral of the story: Your video has to deliver.
Top 6 Ways to Improve Your YouTube Rankings
Now onto the actual optimization, below are six different ways you can help your video rank on YouTube:
- 1. Keywords
Being able to find video keywords will help you figure out what you want your video to be about as well as help you know how to optimize that video. In other words, this is usually a definite first step. The YouTube Keyword Tool is an excellent place to try out a few different keywords in your industry and see where there isn’t much competition but there is a need for a video. Below is an example of what the keyword tool looks like:
As a side note, you can also focus on video keywords and use video rich snippets to help your videos rank on a Google SERP. Sometimes videos will outrank other results just because they are videos, so it’s a good idea to take some of these terms and plug them into Google as well as YouTube to see what the competition is like.
- 2. Title
The title of your video should be short and grab a reader’s attention. You have 120 characters to get across what the video is about and make people want to click. From an SEO standpoint, you also want to add in a one or two of your keywords in the title, but of course without keyword stuffing. It has to appear natural.
It also helps to put your keyword phrase at the beginning of your title if you can help it. For example, if you’re trying to rank for “riding a bike,” then you would want your title say something like “Riding a Bike: Learn How in 10 Easy Steps” as opposed to “10 Easy Steps to Learning to Ride a Bike.”
- 3. Description
When the YouTube bots crawl your webpage with your video, you have to remember that they can’t actually watch the video and listen to the words. This is why your description is so important. You want to make sure your keywords are included (but again, not stuffed) as well as a few other, similar words to help with semantic search. This not only helps YouTube classify your video correctly, but gives viewers more information.
It’s also a good idea to put your link at the top of your video because descriptions do get cut off (only about the first 55-70 characters, or approximately 22 words, are usually shown). Many companies also choose to add in a transcript of the entire video if it’s not too long.
- 4. Tags
Tags simply allow you to put in a few keywords that will help YouTube learn about your video. You can usually have as many tags as you’d like, so try to be extra specific and add in your location, categories, the names of people in the video, etc. I usually say that 10 tags is a good rule of thumb.
- 5. Links
Building links back to your YouTube video works the same way it works with traditional link building. You want to have a good link profile with lots of authoritative pages linking to your video. This means links that you find on the web as well—not just backlinks found on YouTube. In other words, if someone links back to your video on their blog, that links still improves your YouTube video ranking. Remember, Google owns YouTube after all!
It’s tough to say if the links you build on social media have anything to do with your rankings, but they will promote your video, which will hopefully help you build some of those links. After all, the more people who know about your video, the more people who will reference it when writing something on the web.
- 6. Thumbnail Optimization
Your CTR (click through rate) will improve if you have a quality thumbnail image, so I suggest creating a custom thumbnail for each of your videos. A custom thumbnail gives you control over what people see before they decide to click. Your thumbnail should have a resolution of 1280×720, .JPG, .GIF, .BMP, or .PNG form, and use 16:9 aspect ratio. You can visit this page to learn more about creating and uploading the perfect custom thumbnail.
Do you have any tips for helping your YouTube videos rank? Anything you’ve done in the past that didn’t seem to work? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.
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Because we can’t have a YouTube post without a gratuitous animal video.
About the Author
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility.com, one of the leading SEO firms in the United States.