Video SEO Optimization: A Quick How-To Guide

Our checklist of helpful tips will teach you all the tricks and tools you need to come out on top in the YouTube search rankings.
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Even if you’re not a technical expert or the biggest fan of keywords and sitemaps, we’ll show you how to get your content noticed on YouTube. After all, you worked hard on producing it – now you deserve to have an audience.

What is YouTube SEO optimization?

Video is a growing area of content marketing, but surprisingly few people have cottoned on to the fact that video SEO optimization is different from other types of SEO. When you think about it, though, it’s logical – you interact differently with a blog post and a video, don’t you? It stands to reason that video SEO would be different, and it’s centered around two main goals.

When creating video content for your SEO strategy, you want to be aiming for one of two things:

  • gaining a nice number of high-quality backlinks
  • creating shareable quality that will drive traffic to your website

Great video formats include catchy explainers, how-to guides, and infographics. Videos can be informative or entertaining, but as long as they’re catchy, they’ll help generate traffic and backlinks. And to harness their power, you need to focus on areas of SEO that might take a backseat when it comes to other content, like a blog post. Think rich snippets, tags, custom thumbnails, and carefully composed titles.

How can I do video SEO optimization for YouTube?

In this checklist, we’re going to refer a lot to YouTube, simply because it’s the biggest video-sharing platform out there. However, you can also use some of these tips to optimize your content on other platforms – or even videos integrated into your website or blog.

1. Think carefully about search intent

Closely matching search intent is a very important ranking factor for YouTube, so you need to do some thorough keyword research. Use free keyword research tools that allow you to filter results for YouTube, and also check out the platform yourself. This will give you an idea of the type of content viewers want to find.

2. Use keywords naturally

Once you’ve got your list of keywords, place them strategically in your video titles. Knowing how to do this naturally is essential for successful video SEO optimization – illogical titles will have viewers (and YouTube itself) running for the hills. Keep it short and compelling, preferably telling people what you’re going to show them. HubSpot recommends a maximum of 60 characters.

3. Optimize your video description

Your video description also needs to include natural use of keywords, and as much information as possible in the first 2–3 lines (all that YouTube displays automatically). Though you don’t want to make it TOO long, you could consider adding a transcript here for extra points in the user-friendliness stakes.

4. Make use of tags

Tags are a fairly simple YouTube SEO optimization tactic, as they help both viewers and search engines understand what’s in your content. Keep the tags relevant, but do mix up short- and long-tail keywords to create them. Note: the words “how to” are particularly popular in the search bar, so employ these if your video is appropriately informative/explanatory.

Related: How to Effectively use Metadata

5. Customize your thumbnail (or: how to use rich snippets)

You’ll need a verified YouTube channel to do this, but it’s well worth the extra work. A customized thumbnail (rather than one chosen by the platform) gives viewers the first impression you want them to have. Beyond this, a custom thumbnail is helpful on SERPs – here you might have heard it called a rich snippet. Essentially, a search engine like Google will display your thumbnail along with video information. A clever combo of keywords, tags, and images will help catch potential viewers’ eyes and increase your number of conversions.

6. Consider in-video SEO optimization

It’s not all about titles and tags. In-video SEO optimization consists of a few extra steps that can boost user engagement and so improve your view times (another ranking factor on YouTube). Closed captioning/subtitling, end cards, and end screens can optimize viewer experience and encourage them to watch another video or take further action when they’ve finished.

7. Boost engagement with playlists and pages

This is the follow-on from in-video SEO optimization: another way of getting viewers to stay longer on your YouTube page. Creating playlists and series is a great way of getting users interested in your content, subscribing to your channel, and sharing your videos. Remember: YouTube likes content that keeps viewers on its website, so avoid creating videos that drive viewers away from the platform. It may sound counterintuitive, but it can help your rankings in the long run.

Learning how good video SEO optimization works is a matter of combining established SEO tools (keyword research, compelling tags) with new features specific to YouTube and other platforms (a custom thumbnail, in-video SEO). Audit your content, make a few simple changes, and don’t forget that a few well-chosen words and images can go a long way to increasing organic video traffic.

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