Everything You Need to Know About YouTube SEO
If you asked anyone that works in video production where to start with your video marketing strategy, it’s highly likely that you’ll get the same unanimous answer: get on YouTube! It makes sense. And it’s not about the lack of options.
Being the second biggest search engine in the world and with more than a billion users per day, YouTube most certainly is the place where you’ll find your target audience eager to check out some videos – and those videos could be yours!
Of course, it’s not as easy as putting up your explainer videos, ads and how-tos. Given the insanely amount of videos that are uploaded to YouTube every day, the chances of your video going viral or hitting thousands of views are very slim.
Fortunately, you can do something to improve your odds of getting your content to your audience. It’s hard work that will have you optimizing every single video you upload (and your entire channel as well) but it’s worth it. Following the tips below will greatly widen your possibilities of finding your audience.
Start by researching keywords
As with any marketing strategy worth its salt, video marketing on YouTube also starts with thorough keyword research. You need to know how people are finding the kind of videos you’re putting up. That’s why you have to find the common terms they use in YouTube to do so.
It’s easier than it seems. You can use YouTube itself to do that, just by letting the platform suggest keywords from generic ones to specific ones. Start typing a keyword you think of as essential for your videos and see what comes up in YouTube’s search box. You won’t just get interesting suggestions for your keyword pool but also some nice ideas for new videos as well.
There are other ways to grow your keyword list. You can use typical tools for this goal, such as Google’s Search Console, SEMRush, Moz or similar alternatives to get a deeper insight into trends and common keywords. You can even take a look at your competitors most-viewed videos and borrow keywords that work with your own content.
What kind of keywords should you be looking for? Don’t settle for generic ones like “video marketing”, “YouTube SEO” or “video marketing tips.” Instead, use them as a starting point to get to richer and longer keywords that are more specific. Things like “video marketing tips for YouTube SEO” feels much stronger and specific, while alternatives like “how to make your video rank on YouTube” cover a similar ground but with other words.
Explore and be as thorough as possible, as the keyword research process is the basis of a successful YouTube video strategy!
Get into the metadata
Most people I know think of metadata when thinking of SEO – and that’s what puts them off! However, this “backstage optimization” is one of the most essential things you can do in SEO, be it with YouTube videos or with any other thing web-related.
There are a lot of possibilities in the SEO world, but in YouTube, I can break the metadata to 4 important aspects:
- Tags: these are simple words or phrases that let YouTube identify what the video’s about. You should definitely use your most important and relevant keywords here and combine them as exhaustively as possible (remember, use “video marketing” but also “video marketing tips for beginners” or something similar)
- Video description: a brief text that explains to potential watchers what they can expect from your video. I can’t emphasize “brief” enough here – the video description should be read in under a minute and have only the absolutely necessary information to understand what the video is about. You can even put a couple of links for people that get interested in your brand. What you should never do is promise something in the description that the video can’t possibly deliver (“video marketing tips guaranteed to get you the top 1 spot on YouTube”)
- Title: one of two things that will capture your potential audience’s attention, the title has to be engaging, intriguing yet never vague. There are 3 rules you can follow to get the perfect one: being entertaining, being clear and including an essential keyword. In other words, use things like “3 video marketing tips to grow and shout “Here I am!”” and not “3 incredible video marketing tips for unbelievable results.”
- Thumbnails: the title is one of the things to catch the eye of anyone passing by your content but it works in combination with the thumbnail next to it. A promising title with a generic or boring thumbnail might drive people off. That’s why you need to pay special attention to the miniature image you pick to illustrate a video. The easiest thing is to pick a relevant and colorful frame from the video itself, but if you can take the time to design something specific for it, you’ll see better results. Remember: use colors, be funny or be sexy and you’ll be on the right track.
Work the details out – or don’t bother at all
All of the above is essential for sure, but you can have the tidiest of backstage and not make a dent in your audience. That’s because the times where you could “trick” a search engine into showing your content are over. Now, the content you upload has to meet certain criteria or it’ll be doomed from the get-go.
That’s especially true for YouTube videos. There are a number of things you should take into account even before shooting the first scene. Take the types of videos you can make, for example. How-tos and product reviews are extremely popular in YouTube, but you have to see if they fit into your overall video marketing strategy.
Of course, if you choose to go with the most popular videos on YouTube, you have to compete with high-quality content or you’ll be out of the race way too soon. That’s why you have to invest in the best equipment you can afford to shoot or, at least, hire a video production company to make it for you.
You should also think about the video’s duration. As a rule of thumb, most marketers speak of the 2-minute mark as the final frontier you should never surpass. And while that may work for you, it’s not applicable to all kinds of videos or to all brands. Maybe you can’t cram all the tips about video marketing you have in a couple of minutes. Should you sacrifice your content in the sake of length?
Not quite.In fact, you can go over that golden rule here and shoot a longer video. How come? Well, if we can take a hint from YouTube itself, you’ll see that the platform’s filters can sort the search results by length and, what do you know, they use the 4 minutes mark to divide short videos from long ones. So, feel free to break the marketer’s golden rule of video duration in YouTube, as people on there are willing to spend a little more time watching.
There are other things you should think about. How the video is edited is another one – and I’m not talking about frantic editing or seizure-inducing dynamics. I’m talking about the importance of starting off strong to keep your audience’s volatile attention.
The beginning of all your videos have to be amazing, as to instantly engage the audience and glue them to the screen. If you don’t put some high-energy, entertaining or intriguing scene at the beginning, people will start to run for the exits. Think of your videos as little movies: they should have a narrative that poses a problem and gets to a solution while being an enjoyable ride.
For example, listing the tips for video marketing on YouTube will turn you into just another one of many marketers that do so. Instead, start with a splash about the horrors of not getting SEO right on YouTube and then sell your solutions.
Finally, there’s that audience retention thing you should also worry about. Basically, that’s the name YouTube gives to the metric that measures how much of each of your videos your audience is actually watching. This is a crucial factor for YouTube rankings, so you have to pay attention to it.
If you get a low audience retention rate, that means people are running away from your videos the second they press play. To improve that metric, you have to follow what I’ve already told you above: follow a compelling narrative, use the most beautiful shots you can get, pick some pretty music that goes with the video’s rhythm and create relatable characters.
If you tell a good story, people will stick around. And if they do, your audience retention (one of the crucial metrics for your rankings) will start to soar.
But wait – there’s more
As if all of the above wasn’t enough, there are 3 extra things that I should at least mention for you to have the whole scenario of YouTube SEO. Here they are:
Calls To Action: all marketing efforts should be geared towards a specific purpose. Your YouTube videos can’t escape that reality. So, think about why you are uploading them in the first place. Do you want more sales? More brand recognition? More traffic to your site? Define one goal for each video and create a specific call to action (CTA) to serve it. Use that CTA to get that traffic, get more leads, or improve your followers or subscriptions. You can put them as buttons or thumbnails on the video, or put links in the descriptions. Just keep something in mind: DON’T ABUSE THEM!
Playlists: Playlists are the perfect way to organize all of the videos you upload to YouTube. On one hand, classifying your content into playlists will let you have some order in your channel. But, most importantly, playlists will make it far easier for your audience to find videos that are similar to the ones they’ve enjoyed from you. Additionally, the autoplay feature of all playlists may hook your audience by playing more and more content that suits their interests. Thinking in playlists is definitely a win!
YouTube Channel branding: your YouTube channel shouldn’t feel detached from your brand’s entire marketing strategy. That’s why you should also take the time to create a good cover photo, a relevant profile pic and a description that engages potential audiences while also being clear about what they can get from subscribing. All of those things might feel like details, but they create a sense of consistency you’ll need if you want to create a stronger brand presence.
Some final thoughts
Though this article is long enough to get you informed about the basics, there’s certainly more to YouTube SEO. Creating the perfect strategy before shooting your first video is a challenging task that will have you researching your market and your audience, devising a plan about the types of videos, and finding your own voice while creating high-quality content.
There’s the scripting, the actual shooting, the editing to be taken care of – and that’s not all! The “technical details” (such as titles, tags, descriptions, calls to action and the like) may seem like minor things but they can truly ostracize your content if you don’t pay attention to them.
If you’re plunging into the video marketing world for the first or even if you have tried before and failed, be sure of one thing: video is any brand’s best friend. Most people are watching videos right now, and YouTube is their platform of choice. If you want to get your message to them, you’d better follow the tips in this brief guide. You might not get results the first time around but don’t get discouraged: failing is a way you start to see how you can get better.
Bio Victor Blasco:
Víctor Blasco is the founder and CEO of the explainer video company Yum Yum Videos. He is also an audiovisual designer and video marketing expert. Aside from running the business, he loves studying Chinese Philosophy and is a real geek for science fiction films and comics!