We recently completed a project where we had to write over 90 SEO YouTube descriptions in 2 weeks (yikes!). And it got us thinking about how creating YouTube content, and knowing how to optimise it, can support digital marketing and drive business growth.
That’s why we wanted to share with you our guide to optimising YouTube videos for search engines—including both Google Search, and YouTube’s own engine.
With over 77,000 YouTube videos viewed every second, YouTube is a popular (and powerful) platform for content creation, distribution and engagement—from simply how-to tutorials to full TV series.
Publishing YouTube content can benefit your business immensely, as engagement from YouTube videos has the capacity to not only promote your products and services, but also build a community and drive more traffic to your website. It can even earn you money through YouTube advertising.
But with the abundance of content on the platform, it is easy for your videos to get lost. This is why video SEO is vital to ensure the success of your YouTube content.
So how can you create successful YouTube content that will help promote your business? This is where video SEO comes in.
What is video SEO?
Let’s start with a little refresher on what SEO (search engine optimisation) is. Basically? SEO is all about producing content in a way that makes it easier to discover in search engines—as well as being relevant, engaging, and useful. Video SEO means optimising your video so that it ranks highly for related keyword searches within search engine results pages, but also within YouTube’s own search results.
How to optimise YouTube videos
So how do you optimise a YouTube video for search? Just like most content optimisation, it all starts with keyword research.
1. Keyword research
A critical step to video SEO is keyword research. Both Google search and YouTube search engine results rely primarily on keywords, so it’s important to choose the most relevant keywords for your video. Bonus points if there is strong demand (or monthly search volumes) in organic search.
If you already have a video that you want to optimise, start by making a list of keywords that relate to it. Note: in SEO, keywords are usually more than one word long. They’re more like key phrases or search queries.
Next, pop those keywords into the YouTube search engine.
By doing this, YouTube will generate all of the most popular searches that relate to the keywords you have chosen, so you know what people are searching for.
Pro tip: When researching your keywords, use a service like Keywords Everywhere or Ahrefs Keyword Explorer. These add-ons show you the search volume and competition data of your keyword in Google and YouTube search engines. Why does this matter? Because, if you choose a word that people only search for 10 times a month, then it’s probably not worth optimising your video around that keyword.
2. Choose your focus keywords
Once you’ve done the fun part (making lists–yay!), it’s time to choose a keyword that you will use to optimise your video.
It’s important to choose a word that people actually search for, but make sure that it does not yield too many results (like a few million), as this will make it harder for your video to compete with other results, especially if you are just starting out.
So you’ve chosen your word. But what do you actually do with it?
3. Pick a title (and optimise it, of course)
Let’s start with the title. You want to include your keyword at the start of the title, as this will help to bump it up in search results by telling search engines what the video is about.
The length of your title is important, as well – too long, and it’ll deter people from clicking on it, too short, and people may not grasp what it is actually about.
Create a snappy title that describes what your video is about, while including your keyword.
For example, say your keyword is ‘bathroom renovation’. Here’s an example of the top result for this search on YouTube.
This title is descriptive, explains what the video is about, and uses the keyword.
4. Write a 300(ish) word description
Often overlooked, a super important step in optimising your YouTube video for search engines is the description. The description gives you another chance to get in that keyword and some variations.
You want to get around 300-350 words in. Don’t stress if you change the wording of your keyword a little – as long as you mention it a few times.
The description also gives you a chance to add links to your other social media and website — another great way to keep people within your content universe, which can help to increase conversions (such as sales, email subscribes, and lead generation).
5. Make an appealing thumbnail
If you want people to click on your video, you’ve got to have a good thumbnail. After all, it’s not just about appearing in search results — you want to get clicks and video views as well.
Your thumbnail should include a clear image that helps add to what the video is about/what will be included in it. The more people click on your video, the better it’s likely to perform within the YouTube search engine. If it’s messy, ugly, or makes the content of the video look unclear, people will be less likely to click on it.
For example, the first image that appears when you search “blogging tips”, is this one. It is a good quality image of a woman on her computer (presumably blogging) and the text reads next to it clearly, ‘how to start a blog’.
In the thumbnail, she’s provided additional information on what the video is about, and has made it look as though the video will be professional and helpful.
Pro tip: If you’re not sure where to begin with creating a template, Canva has an awesome YouTube thumbnail template library that makes it super easy.
6. Transcript matters!
Believe it or not, what you say in the video also makes a difference to video SEO. Think of your video transcript as if it is an article or blog post for your website.
You should mention your keyword – this will help even more with making your video appear at the top of YouTube search results.
7. Video quality and watch time
Similarly to regular SEO — where you want people to click on your search result and actually read and engage with your content — once people have clicked on your video and started watching it, you want them to keep watching it. Hopefully all the way until the end.
So, how do we keep people watching? By making an engaging, high quality video, of course. You want to ensure that your video is interesting, and that people are getting what they came for (no clickbait!).
Don’t stress too much about video length – it is more important that you create engaging content, than it is that you have a super long (or very short) video.
8. Encourage comments, shares and subscription
Annnnd last (but certainly not least), the more people actively engage with your content and channel from your video, the better it will perform in search engine results.
While it may seem tedious, encouraging people to subscribe, comment and share your video at the end will make them more likely to do it. You’re reminding them, because people forget!
Shares, comments and subscriptions tell YouTube that people like your content and want to engage with it. Plus, when your content is shared on another platform, it’s likely to reach a wider audience, and get you more engagement and views.
Video Optimisation Checklist
So, you’ve read through what you’ve got to do to ensure that video of yours is optimised for YouTube search results. Now, here’s a final checklist you can tick off once you’re ready to upload.
Let’s make sure you:
- Research your keywords
- Choose a not-too-competitive keyword to optimise your video around
- Write a punchy, clear title with keyword included
- Include a 300+ word description about the video, including keywords and links to your other socials
- Create an appealing thumbnail
- Ensure that you’ve mentioned your keywords in your video transcript
- Create a high-quality, engaging video
- Encourage commenting, subscribing and sharing at the end of the video
How to optimise your video for Google (and other search engines)
We’ve looked at how to optimise your video for YouTube’s search engine, and while Google owns YouTube, the way that results appear is not entirely the same.
If you want your video to appear in Google results, then you want your keyword to be optimised for Google, too.
Search your desired keyword and see if there are already any YouTube video results, as that’s a good indication of whether your video will rank in this kind of search.
And, don’t forget to use a keyword research tool in Google to determine whether your keyword is popular in Google as well as YouTube results.
Something worth keeping in mind? The videos that tend to appear in Google search results are usually tutorials, how-tos, and reviews.
Expert tip: Another way to rank in Google organic is to live stream your video (even if it’s pre recorded). According to Brett Melville from Digital Treasury, Google marks it as much more valuable content — it ranks in Google search in 2 minutes!Brett Melville, Digital Treasury
Ready to start optimising your videos?
YouTube is a powerful platform that can be highly beneficial for promoting your business, if you know how to optimise your videos. Hopefully this SEO guide encourages you to create optimised YouTube content, or to optimise the content you’ve already produced.
But remember — even with all the optimisation techniques in the world, it’s *still* incredibly important to make high quality content people actually want to watch. If there’s no demand for your content, then optimisation doesn’t help. Same goes if people aren’t watching and engaging with your video content. So find your inner filmmaker, and make some great content.