Understanding YouTube SEO for Site Success

There’s nothing more frustrating than creating videos that aren’t viewed by many people. Luckily, there are steps you can take to get your videos ranked higher within YouTube’s search algorithm. This way, they’re more likely to be seen by your target audience.

From production to posting, here are some useful pointers to improve your YouTube SEO (search engine optimization).

YouTube SEO 101

Keep in mind that your videos have two audiences: real people and YouTube’s search algorithm. That means you’ll need to pay attention to both the qualitative and quantitative aspects of your content.

1. Production

Keep these guidelines in mind before you hit the “record” button.

  • Specialize: Focus on one niche. If it’s saltwater fishing, stay within this genre or you’ll end up with a confused audience and few channel subscribers.
  • Quality: Quantitatively, this means that you should record in the highest video resolution possible. YouTube automatically scales your video resolution down, but never up. Qualitatively, it means that your content should be funny, interesting, informative, and unique.
  • Length: Keep your videos short. Ideally, three minutes or less is the perfect amount of time. The more people who watch your videos in their entirety, the better your search engine rankings will be. Longer videos tend to lose viewers out of disinterest or time constraints.

2. Posting

Follow these rules of thumb to make your videos easier for fans to find online.

  • Short, keyword-specific titles: Limit your title to 100-characters or less so it doesn’t get cut off. Make sure your keyword is in the title as close to the beginning as possible.
  • Search-focused keywords: Use the exact words that someone might input when searching for your content. For example, “how to catch marlins” could be the keyword for your latest fishing video. You’ll also want to use your keyword within the video’s title and description.
  • Related tags: Tags allow you to contextualize your keyword for YouTube’s search algorithm. For instance, tags on your fishing video might include “fishing,” “saltwater fishing,” or “fishing for marlin.” As a starting point, you can find the top-ranked video (one similar to yours) and use those same tags.
  • Descriptions: Unlike your video title, longer descriptions (around 2,000 characters) are better suited for YouTube SEO; but, your first 150 characters are the most important because they appear before the “more” link.
  • Video thumbnails: Video thumbnails have a huge impact on which videos people click on. By default, YouTube generates three thumbnail options, but if you have some design skills and a verified YouTube account, you can create your own custom thumbnail. If you’re part of the YouTube Partner Program, you can put an “end screen” on your videos, asking viewers to subscribe to your channel and to watch your other videos.
  • Transcript files: This tip is optional, but if your video has lots of competition, creating a caption transcript file (to give YouTube’s algorithm even more information about your content) could give you an advantage.

3. Sharing

After you publish a video, take a few extra steps to ensure that your videos are fully optimized for search.

  • Playlists: Add your video to a playlist of related videos within your channel to give it an extra SEO boost.
  • Advertise: If you’re really invested in a particular video, consider promoting it. Paid traffic will boost your view count (and other statistics) that YouTube uses in its SEO rankings.
  • Social: Share your video on social media and interact with other YouTubers in your niche to get more interactions with your channel.
  • Blog: Add your video to a page or post to provide a richer experience for your fans as well as content for search engines to crawl.

Whether you have one subscriber or one thousand, these guidelines (along with some determination and consistency) can help to bridge the gap between you and your target audience.

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Aaron von Frank

Cofounder and CEO at GrowJourney.com, a USDA certified organic heirloom garden seed subscription service. Writer at TyrantFarms.com, Edible Upcountry Magazine, and other media outlets.

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