A Complete Guide to SEO for YouTube

You probably have heard wonders about YouTube ads. In fact, you may have seen those good things in action on your own marketing strategy! But don’t you wish there was a more cost-effective way to reach out to your YouTube audience?

Well, there is. And it’s called organic content.

I know, it sounds a bit scary to some. You may think that, with 500 hours of live-action and animated video content being uploaded to the platform every minute, there’s no way people will find your videos among this ocean of content. How on Earth will you drive clicks to your pieces and away from others’?

Well, in the same way as on every other search engine – with an on-point SEO strategy! Which is what brings us here today.

We want to show you how to create a YouTube SEO strategy that lands your videos on the top of the results pages. Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll know the inner ways of a great YouTube keyword and content optimization strategy. Ready to begin?

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Research Your Potential Keywords

Keyword research helps identify which terms the audience searches for the most. When it comes to YouTube, there are a few cost-effective ways in which you can carry out this task:

Looking at the Search Suggestions

Yep, as simple as that. The keywords YouTube offers as suggestions to complete your search can be a great starting point for your SEO strategy since they represent the most searched terms. So, pick a broad keyword related to your content and see what YouTube users have been searching about it!

You can always learn from others’ mistakes and achievements. So, we suggest you take a close look at a channel with a target audience similar to yours. Pay special attention to which keywords and topics are working out for them and which don’t pique much interest among the audience.

While at it, observe how the audience reacts to the channel’s content (Do they enjoy animation or prefer live-action pieces? Do they respond better to educational or entertaining content?). Regardless of SEO, this information can help you refine your YouTube strategy without going through much trial and error.

If you already have a few keywords in mind, Google Trends is the tool for you. This handy platform allows you to explore the search volume of specific keywords on YouTube. The coolest part is that you can also use it for Google, and all it takes is to register!

Choose Your Ideal Keywords

The moment you finish your research, you’ll find yourself with a list of different keywords. Looking at them, you’ll notice that the simplest and shortest keywords are more popular than those that are quite specific. Your first instinct might be to go with those popular ones, but you should give that a second thought.

You see, those keywords are usually too generic. When you search for them, millions of results come up. That translates into millions of videos competing with yours for the audience’s attention.

On the other hand, longer and more specific terms – often known as long-tail keywords – throw fewer results, so they involve less competition on the SERP.

Sure, fewer people search for those keywords, but you can use that to your advantage. If your video is inspired by a particular long-tail keyword, you can ensure viewers searching for that term find precisely what they are looking for on your video. You would have a somewhat smaller audience, but also a more involved one, as they would be likely to click on your video.

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Time to Put your Keywords to Work!

After you have chosen your ideal keywords, it’ll be time to put them into action. Basically, you need to include your keywords on your video metadata so that YouTube crawlers can identify what your content is about. Let’s see the elements you need to optimize at this stage:

The Title

It’s up to you to decide which keywords to put on your title, but remember there’s one you can’t leave out of this spot: your focus keyword.

That’s the professional way of calling your main keyword – the one that represents your video the most and whose searches interest you particularly.

The thing is that the video’s title not only affects your SEO from a keyword-oriented point of view. It also plays a big part in your Click-Through Rate, which is another vital factor the YouTube algorithm takes into account. For this reason, you need to create a title that’s compelling enough for the audience to click on it.

The Description

The description box gives you enough room for writing a brief text regarding your video while using your chosen keywords. This helps the YouTube crawlers identify what your video is about and present it in the appropriate search.

It also helps the viewer decide whether to click on your video or keep scrolling down the results page. After all, don’t forget that the first couple of lines preview on the YouTube SERP, so the beginning of your description can affect your video’s Click-Through Rate, and therefore, its SEO.

The Transcript

A transcript is a text file that contains every dialogue or narration said in your video. Why does it matter? Because YouTube crawlers are still incapable of processing audiovisual content, but they can go through text.

Put simply, if you pair your video with a transcript – whether written by a human, a speech recognition software, or both – the words you mention on your video can count as keywords. This results in a heavier and more diverse keyword density.

Want a little pro tip? Mention your focus keyword in the first 15 seconds of your video and unleash your transcript’s full SEO potential.

Optimize Your Content for SEO

You probably think that Search Engine Optimization is one of the last steps in a video marketing campaign. It makes sense – after all, SEO plays a part in the video’s distribution through YouTube or other digital channels. But it may surprise you to know a superb video SEO strategy begins on the script.

For starters, keyword research can act as an inspiration for the video’s topic. After all, keywords’ search volume indicates that the audience is organically interested in a particular subject so, what better way to reach out to them than addressing that topic?

However, there are also other ways in which your video script influences your ranking on the YouTube SERP. Let’s take a look at them:

The Script’s Length

YouTube SEO algorithm has a soft spot for longer videos, and it’s not hard to understand why: these videos make the audience hang out longer on the platform! Moreover, long videos are often related to quality content, as many – quite logically – assume there was a lot of effort put into its production.

It’s essential you know how your video’s length affects its ranking on the SERP, but don’t let this mislead you into stretching your video just for the sake of making it long. There are many other factors that also influence your SEO, like watch-time, likes, and shares – all elements that can be at stake if your video spends too much time revolving around empty content.

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The Introduction

Here’s another factor YouTube takes into account when defining your video’s ranking: Audience Retention, a metric that stands for how long viewers watch your video.

The ideal scenario would be that most viewers stay until the very end. That’s easier said than done, but it’s not impossible. You just need to learn how to keep your audience gripped from the very beginning.

You can start by mentioning or implying what they’ll gain by watching the full video. This value needs to be consistent with whatever your title, description, and thumbnail have promised – remember that viewers have clicked on your video expecting that.

The CTAs

Videos that result in new subscribers and loads of comments, likes, and shares tend to perform better on the SERP.

That is probably the most challenging YouTube SEO factor since you can’t control how people engage with your video. Having said that, you can influence their decisions by prompting them into leaving comments, liking, subscribing, and sharing. That’s why it’s so important to include CTAs on your YouTube video’s script.

How many CTAs? That depends greatly on your video’s length, but to give you an idea, you would find three CTAs on 10-to-20-minute videos: one placed when finishing the introduction, another one half-way through the video, and a last one at the very end.

Parting Words

Ranking number one on YouTube SERP may seem limited to long-time YouTubers, household companies, or cute cat videos. But, in truth, everyone can get to that precious spot just by taking the right SEO moves.

You can start by lowering your ambitions and focusing on long-tail keywords instead of generic ones. Yes, you would be aiming at a more reduced group of YouTube users, but they would be looking precisely for what you are offering! Therefore, they would be more willing to click on your video.

You should also mind your Click-Through Rate since it’s a vital element of any YouTube SEO strategy. So, while you tweak your title and description’s keywords, seize the chance to make these elements more attractive to the audience’s eyes.

Last but not least, don’t consider your SEO as an afterthought. You need to take SEO factors into account at the very first stages of your video production, especially when writing the script.

At the end of the day, people won’t enjoy your video unless they can find it. And with an infinite array of content competing to catch the YouTube audience’s attention, you need to make sure your video gets as much visibility as possible.

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