YouTube SEO: use insights to improve performance and rankings

optimising YouTube video for SEO

YouTube is the world’s largest video-sharing tool and the second-largest social media platform. With an estimated 2.5 billion active users, a third of the world is viewing video content on YouTube at least once a month.

It comes as no surprise that brands regularly post marketing content, curate their own playlists, and generally use the platform to upload and distribute their own content.

But is the platform being optimised to make such uploads work hard enough for their investment?

Just as with any social media programme, uploading and hoping for the best is no longer acceptable.

For one thing, there are too many random titles (‘March Meeting 2017’ and ‘Employee Onboarding’ are just two found at random) that say nothing about an organisation, its services or products, and say even less to anyone looking to explore the brand further.

By following a few simple SEO housekeeping steps, brands can make videos work harder, gain wider exposure, and deliver greater investment returns.

First steps in YouTube SEO

Just as with any other web artefact, it is essential videos have the right title. This means carrying out keyword research to identify primary and secondary words related to the video before uploading any content. The Research tab in YouTube Analytics and Google Keyword Planner are good places to start. For more targeted SEO work, specialist tools such as Semrush or Ahrefs offer greater returns.

Once keywords have been defined, look to create a title for the video that includes them but is also sufficiently descriptive enough to engage with users. Don’t get carried away as there is a 100-character limit, and YouTube will truncate titles longer than 70 characters. So, make sure the keyword is as close to the start of the title as possible.

It is also worth bearing in mind that YouTube scans the name of files uploaded, so make sure to add any keywords into file name before uploading, don’t leave it as whatever the internal creation process happened to call it.

The same keyword strategy should also be included in the video description. It is surprising how many brands fail to use it properly, or simply leave the description section empty. It not only advises viewers what the video is about but also inform the YouTube algorithm so helping with positioning and ranking.

The video description box has a limit of 5,000 characters but around 200 words is more than enough. Only the first two lines are visible at a glance, so it pays to maximise the most visible real-estate with a keyword-focussed description and link to your website.

Going further

Just as with any other social strategy, use YouTube to further your marketing funnel by including links to your social channels, website and other calls-to-action. Hashtags are increasingly popular ways to discover content on YouTube, so look to build those in too. Pick just one or two keyword related terms, as YouTube will look to flag, and demote, content it feels is spamming the platform.

When uploading your video there are some essential steps you should take. Adding an eye-catching thumbnail to the video will make it more appealing to casual browsers, while making sure video tags are being used effectively and are linked to primary and secondary keywords will ensure the YouTube algorithm is aligning content correctly, so leading to greater potential exposure.

SEO opportunities also arise when adding subtitles and closed captions to videos. YouTube will read any text that is uploaded along with the video, giving the algorithm more opportunities to link content with viewers searching for related topics.

The above steps alone won’t get brands to the front page of YouTube, as the algorithm is looking for other criteria such as video length and how engaged viewers are, but by deploying consistent SEO principles, the greater chance there is of a solid return on time and investment.

As a final thought, videos uploaded to YouTube don’t succeed in isolation, so make sure they are shared on social channels, embedded on company websites, and distributed in email campaigns. Once such steps are built into the video strategy, they will start to inform other parts of the overall strategy – leading even better results.

Need help making the most of SEO for YouTube or defining the overall video strategy? Drop us a line.