Don’t know the basics of YouTube SEO? In this step by step guide I’ll show you how to rank a video on YouTube, which will get you more views on YouTube. You don’t need any fancy software (although it would help) to rank YouTube videos. All you need is time. It’s important that you READ EVERYTHING BELOW. This SEO guide is long, but it’s important you go through all of it. Missing a part may confuse you, which will piss you off. Don’t like being pissed off? Then grab a coffee, relax & read it all.
- Why Should I Optimize My YouTube Videos?
- How to get more views on YouTube
- Finding Keywords For YouTube
- YouTube Ranking Factors
- YouTube Title SEO
- YouTube Video Description
- YouTube Tags
- Ranking a YouTube Video
- Getting Backlinks For YouTube – Method#1
- Getting Embeds & Links For YouTube – Method #2
- How To Increase Your YouTube Views
- YouTube Targeting Options
- Optimizing Your YouTube Channel
- How To Promote Your YouTube Channel
- Closing comments
Why Should I Optimize My YouTube Videos?You might not know this, but YouTube is the second biggest search engine. YouTube is bigger than Yahoo and BING. Let that sink in for a second. It’s not that Yahoo and Bing are terrible (they’re pretty bad) it’s that YouTube is just so damn popular.
If you learn to optimize your YouTube videos you’ll get lot’s of high quality traffic to your videos, and in turn to your website. YouTube SEO is also a lot less competitive in my opinion than Google search. You’ll be able to rank for competitive terms with half the work it would take for you to rank the same terms on Google.
Backlinks also play a much smaller role in rankings, so that’s another positive in my books!
My Experience With YouTube
I’ve had the unfortunate experience of having to optimize hundreds of YouTube videos for channels getting millions of views. So I know a thing or two about YouTube. Most of my experience is in B2C, but I also have some experience in B2B.
Differences Between Ranking a Video On Google Search & YouTube
YouTube videos can rank in Google search and in YouTube. Today we’re going to focus on ranking on YouTube; since ranking a video in Google search is something we have less control over.
Here’s how a video ranking in Google search looks like:
Here’s how it looks in YouTube:
The point of the example above is to show you that ranking a video in Google search doesn’t necessarily translate into ranking well on YouTube search. Most of the videos above rank in either YouTube search or Google search, but not both.
There’s lot’s of factors that decide why a video will rank well in Google search, but not in YouTube and vice versa. In the guide below I will focus on ranking for YouTube. When you rank a video in YouTube you usually rank well in Google as well; and if you don’t it doesn’t matter since you’re ranking in YouTube anyway.
How to get more views on YouTube
In this guide, you’ll learn how to get YouTube views by optimizing your videos. First thing we’ll talk about is how to find keywords.
Finding Keywords For YouTube
Picking keywords for YouTube is pretty much the same as it is for Google. You want to pick keywords that have traffic, are buyer keywords and that don’t have much competition. Don’t know the basics of keyword research? Check out my guide.
Let’s pretend we own a fitness related website and want to rank for something like “how to get abs”
Go into the Google keyword planner and see how much searches “how to get abs” gets.
The keyword above gets 22,200 searches a month in the USA, so worldwide it probably gets a lot more. We want to find keywords with at least 1,000+ monthly searches. Making a good video takes lot’s of time; time that could be spent writing content. So I personally recommend that the search volume be much higher for videos than it would be if you’re writing content.
I often target keywords with 100-500 searches with text articles, but I wouldn’t do the same for YouTube. Writing 500 words of content takes me less than 30 minutes. Creating a good video takes me much longer, so the reward needs to be greater.
If you’re great at producing videos and a bad writer then you could target keywords with less traffic.
A higher suggested bid is also better, it means the keyword is valuable to advertisers. If a keyword is valuable to advertisers it’s also valuable to us.
One important thing to know before we continue.
Keywords that work well for text are not the same as the ones that work well for video.
“How to” videos generally work really well. If your website is about insurance you’re going to have a much harder time finding good keywords to use than if your website is about how to bench press.
I can talk about what makes a good keyword for hours; so here’s the easiest way to think about it:
[intense_alert color=”error”]What would you rather see when you search for: “Your keyword”, a video or an article?[/intense_alert]
Here’s two example keywords:
How to squat: Talking about how to properly squat isn’t as good as showing someone in a video.
Car insurance quotes: Someone searching for car insurance quotes probably just wants to fill in some information and get a quote. They don’t need or want a video explaining car insurance.
Most keywords can work well as text & video. Your job is to find keywords that work really well for video and to focus on them.
Using Google Display Planner
The Google keyword planner tool is great, but so is the Display planner. We can use the display planner to see how popular the keyword we picked is. Here’s what I did:
Set bidding to vCPM, Filter for Video. Select Placements and make sure Videos is selected.
Now you’ll be able to see popular fitness channels related to the keyword “how to get abs”. How to get abs looks like a pretty popular keyword. There’s 8.24 Million impressions a week for keywords related to “how to get abs”.
The number above is highly inflated, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that we know similar keywords/ channels are getting impressions on YouTube. We also get a list of popular channels, like:
The channels above will be helpful to us later, but we can skip over them for now.
Generating Keyword Ideas
We can use keywordtool.io to generate some more keyword ideas. Here’s what I did:
You can use the free version to generate some YouTube keyword ideas.
LongTail Pro For Keyword Research
I like using LongTailPro to think of ideas. Here’s some keywords I found:
LongTail Pro is one of my favorite tools, I did a review of LongTailPro here.[intense_panel title=” Quick Recap For Keyword Research” title_tag=”h3″ title_color=”error” color=”#f5f5f5″]
The tools we use to find keywords don’t matter. The two thing’s that matters are:
- The keyword has traffic (preferably 1,000+ searches a month)
- Keyword has buyer intent (higher suggested bid is better)
Before we start talking about YouTube SEO optimization, let’s talk about YouTube’s ranking factors.[/intense_panel]
YouTube Ranking Factors
The infographic above is from TagSEO, and is from 2012. Even though the infographic is over 3 years old, it’s fairly accurate. Here’s how I would rate the importance of each (in my opinion, no data to back this up!)[intense_blockquote]
- Audience retention
- Channel strength
- Meta description / Tags
- Sharing ( Facebook, Twitter, etc)
Now that we know the ranking factors let’s start optimizing our video.
YouTube Title SEO
Before you upload your video you should give the video file a title like: howtogetabs.
Having your keyword in the video file name helps with YouTube SEO; very slightly if at all. But since it takes only 2 seconds to rename a video it’s worth doing.
Okay now that we’re finished with our keyword research, let’s put it to use!
The title should:
- Have your main keyword(s)
- Shouldn’t be too long (no paragraphs please!)
- Should be interesting & something that users would want to click
The title I came up with “How to get abs fast with these 5 simple exercises” meets all the criteria above, although it may be a little too long.
You should go to YouTube and search for your main keyword, so you can see how other people have titled their videos.
YouTube Video Description
A lot of people get lazy when it comes to the description, don’t be one of those people. Having an optimized YouTube description is probably one of the best things you can do to rank your video on YouTube. Most videos have short and useless descriptions.
Here’s what you should do:
- Write 300+ words at least. More is always better
- Include your main keyword + all the other keywords you’ve generated
- Link to your website, or another website with authority. Link to your website right in the beginning of the description.
Include as much of the keywords you generated as you can; but don’t stuff them in just for the sake of having them.
Your description let’s YouTube know what your videos are about. Having keywords in the description will help YouTube associate your video with those keywords when people search for them.
Here’s an example of a well done & badly done description. Hover over the image below and drag the arrow down or up to view.
[intense_image_compare image1=”475″ image2=”476″ size=”large2048″ before_text=”How it should be” after_text=”How it shouldn’t be” mode=”vertical”]
The channel above has obvious keyword spam. Don’t stuff keywords.
Video tags for YouTube are more important than most people think.
YouTube related video traffic is my favourite method of getting views for my videos, and one of the easiest ways of getting traffic from YouTube.
Here’s how I do it.
First install a Google chrome extension called VidIQ. This extension is amazing, and if you do any SEO for YouTube it’s a must.
Here’s what we need to do: search for our main keywords and click on the top ranking videos.
Ignore the VidIQ stats above, what we need right now is the tags. The number beside the tag is for what position the video ranks for, for that particular tag. The video above ranks #4 for the term “get abs”.
- Copy the top 4 tags for the video above (which are related to our keywor)
- Go through the top 5 videos for our search term and pull the top 4 tags for each of the videos.
After doing this you should end up with 20 tags, make sure to delete the duplicates.
The trick to ranking for related videos on YouTube is to have similar tags to the video you want to show up as related for. Most people will copy the important tags like “how to get abs fast” or “ab exercise”.
What you need to do is copy the channel/username of the video. For example in the video above you should copy these tags
- athlean x
Having the tag of the YouTube owners channel/name will help you rank for related videos. Here’s how related videos look like:
Most of the related videos are of the same channel. The channel above uses the tag “sixpackshortcuts” for all of their videos. This helps their videos show up as related.
When you add the tag “sixpackshortcuts” to your video it’ll help your video show up as related.
The videos above have millions of views, showing up as a related video will give you tons of views.
YouTube related videos are the easiest way to get traffic to your videos, and all it takes is a few minutes of adding tags. When you add the channel or username tags to your video you should have 20-30 tags. Make sure to create a channel tag for yourself as well, so that your videos will pop up as related for each other.
See isn’t YouTube SEO a lot easier than Google SEO?
Ranking a YouTube Video
Okay, so we’ve done keyword research and optimized our YouTube video meta data. There’s still a lot more we need to do to get our videos ranking.
YouTube’s algorithm takes user engagement very seriously.
I got the data above with VidIQ.[intense_panel title=”Here’s What Matters For Ranking On YouTube” title_tag=”h3″ title_color=”error” color=”#f5f5f5″]
YouTube Likes / Dislikes -> The more likes you have the better. Remember to ask your viewers to like your video. You should create an annotation asking for likes & for people to subscribe.
YouTube embedded sources -> This is how often your video is embedded in other websites. Make sure your video has embed enabled. The more people who embed your video the better, you’ll get more traffic and your video will rank better.
Avg View Rate -> This is how much of your video the average viewer watches. The higher the percentage the better. If people are only watching 10% of your video that let’s the YouTube algorithm know that your video isn’t want users are searching for. Make your videos engaging and you should have no problem with the view rate.
Views -> The number of views your video has the more likely it is too be shown to other users.[/intense_panel]
The four things above are the most important engagement ranking factors, but not the only thing that matters. There’s one more thing, backlinks..
YouTube is similar to Google search in that having backlinks for a video helps it rank, although not nearly as much thankfully. Nevertheless we’re going to need to get backlinks for our video. There are lots of ways to do this, but I’ll show you the white hat way.
Find the top videos for “how to get abs”
Copy the video URL into ahrefs.com
Select the referring domains
Click on the backlinks button
Click on the URL above and you should see the video link on the page.
What you need to do is email the webmaster and ask if he could link to your video. The email should go something like this:
My name’s Benjamin,
I created a video that I think your readers will really like: [Video Url].
It’s similar to the video you link out to here [Page with the YouTube video], except my video is more detailed, and shows more ways to get abs [Tell them the benefits your video has over the one they’re linking to].
Would it be possible for you to link out to my video instead? I think your readers will really enjoy it!
Thanks for the time,
The example email above will change depending on who you’re emailing. Getting backlinks with the method above is not easy and the success ratio is very small. Even though this method isn’t the best, you should still end up with some very nice links with a few hours work, so it’s worth it.
Getting Embeds & Links For YouTube – Method #2
I’ll show you my favorite way of getting backlinks & embeds for my YouTube videos. First thing we need to do is a quick google search for our keyword.
We need to contact every website ranking in the top 5 for our keyword, and ask them for a favour. Here’s what we do:
- Create a list of the top 5 ranking sites for your keyword. Do this for multiple keywords. So for example, also try keywords like: how to get abs fast, or how to get abs for women. In the end you should have at least 25 websites in your list (more is better).
- Make sure that the websites above do not have a video in their content.
- Email the webmaster asking for an embed or backlink. Here’s how.
We need to send the webmaster an email that goes something like this:
Hey [Webmaster name]
My name’s Benjamin, I run a fitness YouTube channel: [Channel link]
I recently released a new video on how to get abs. I think your readers would benefit from my video, especially on this article: [article link].
I also think my viewers would benefit from your article, and I would be happy to link it in my YouTube description, or create an annotation link for your article.
Would it be possible for you to link your visitors to my YouTube video, or to embed my video in your article?
Let me know if your interested!
Thank you for the time,
This works much better than method #1, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use method #1. You need to do everything you can to get embeds/backlinks.
Here’s why method #2 rocks:
- The website owner gets something in return, they get a backlink from you!
- The website owner gets traffic from your video.
- The website owner’s visitors benefit. They get a great video to go with the article their reading.
You get a backlink or embed from a website ranking for your keywords. You’ll also get more video views & get a major ranking boost. All you have to give them is a simple link.
Linking out to other website on your YouTube video will decrease the clicks your own URL gets, but the extra traffic you get makes up for it.
How To Increase Your YouTube Views
Everything above is great, but the results are not instant. It’ll take time for you to start ranking your video in YouTube. New videos have a hard time gaining traction, since they have so little views and no engagement metrics.
I have an easy, but slightly expensive way of getting the crucial first visitors you need. Here’s how:
YouTube AdWords Ads
You might be slightly disappointed that I’m talking about AdWords and not some super secret special way of getting tons of free views.
Too bad. All the good things in life cost money.
Unlike AdWords for search which gives you no benefit organically, AdWords for YouTube does benefit you organically!
AdWords for YouTube is like a cheat code to increasing your YouTube search position. Here’s how it works
- You create a YouTube ad for AdWords, the ad is the YouTube video you want to rank for.
- Get a few hundred views, then pause your Ad
Getting the first hundred views for your video is super important. It’ll give YouTube data to assess your engagement rate, and you’ll start to get some related video/organic traffic from YouTube search.
AdWords let’s you speed up the process. Instead of waiting months to start getting organic traffic, you can start getting traffic in days.
Here are the results from one of my recent video campaigns:
I spent about $50 to get my first 262 views.
Here’s Some Tips For Running YouTube Ads
- Focus on cheaper countries. The ads above are for the USA, Canada, UK. Views are views no matter where they come from. You should be able to get Cost Per View (CPV) down to $0.05 by targeting cheaper countries.
- Before you start targeting North Korea, it’s important to know that the most important metric isn’t views, it’s engagement. Focus on user engagement (likes, shares, time on video, subscriptions)
- Test multiple ads & formats
Audience retention is how far people watched your video before leaving. The image above is from my last campaign, around 5% of in-stream ad clickers watched the whole 14:44 minute video (not good!). In-display did even worse.
In-stream ads cost me $0.21 per view, while in-display cost $0.17. in-stream performed better where it matters, (audience retention) so I would continue to run it and pause in-display.
My spend was only $50, so it’s important to note that the data I got was minimal. In-display could have easily outperformed in-stream for a multitude of reasons. You’ll have to run ads yourself to see what performs better for your video.
Remember to focus on increasing audience retention as much as you can. You can do this by playing with your ad targeting; but the best way to do it is to have a good video that grabs and maintains the viewer’s attention.
YouTube Targeting Options
There’s lot’s of targeting options for YouTube ads.
I like using Keyword targeting; but I’ve had success with all the targeting options, except Topics. I can’t really recommend what targeting you should use because it’ll depend on a million factors. Your best bet is to go with your gut, and look at the data you get.
You can use the keyword targeting option to generate more keywords ideas; by selecting the “find related keywords” button. I like keyword targeting because it gives me lots of keyword data, like how much impressions a keyword is getting:
Having keyword data can help you further optimize your channel/video keywords. Since you’ll know what keywords are performing better for your video.
One important thing you should know. The keywords above are “broad” so they’re not exactly what someone searched for on YouTube. To get the exact search someone did on YouTube you need to go to the “Search Terms” bar. Here’s how it looks:
As you can see my Search terms data is empty. There isn’t enough data to show the search terms.
Quick Warning About Buying YouTube Views
Before you head over to fiverr and buy 10,000 YouTube views, remember one thing:
- Audience retention matters. The 10,000 views you buy will bounce from your video in 1 second, or not engage at all. If you buy fake YouTube views you’re only hurting yourself, since the algorithm will think your videos are terrible.
Quality of views is more important than quantity of views.
Optimizing Your YouTube Channel
Sure optimizing your video is important, but making sure your channel is optimized is important as well.
Having an optimized channel will help you convert viewers into subscribers.
Subscribers will help increase your video views & engagement, which in turn will give you more subscribers!
What a beautiful cycle isn’t it?
We need to make sure that our YouTube channel is well optimized to convert visitors. There are millions of thing’s you can do to optimize your channel. YouTube channel optimization warrants an entire 3,000+ word post, but for now let’s focus on the most important stuff.
Channel Description -> You have 1,000 characters to work with. Add some of your keywords + your most important link to the channel description.
Channel Links -> Link out to your website + your social accounts.
Subscriber Count -> Unless your subscriber count is over 1,000 you should hide it. Go into Channel -> Advanced -> and you should see an option to hide your subscriber count.
YouTube Channel Keywords -> If your channel is about working out, what you should do is find similar channels and copy some of their keywords. Remember the channels we found before?
It’s time to put them to use. Go to the channel home page, and view the page source. You should find keywords like this:
Get the keywords for the 3 channels above, or channel’s similar to yours. Use the most relevant keywords as your own channel keywords, then add a few original keywords you find.
Adding a watermark -> Make sure you create a watermark for your videos. This will let people subscribe to your channel. Getting subscriber should be your #1 long-term priority, not views! Here’s how you can do it:
Creating Playlists -> Make playlists for your videos. Your videos will get more views since people will watch more of your videos if they’re bundled together. YouTube can be addictive, so capitalize on it!
Intro/ Home video -> When viewers land on your channel page you can have a video play for them. Make a short intro video about what your channel is, and give them a good reason to subscribe.
Edit Your Channel Art -> Make sure you have some nice channel art created that has your branding.
Example of YouTube Channel Doing Everything Right
That’s it. If you follow the basics above your channel will be better optimized than 90% of YouTube channels I’ve run into.
How To Promote Your YouTube Channel
When you’re finished optimizing your YouTube channel and have a some videos it’s time to add some featured channels. You can see an example of featured channels above in the WatchMojo channel.
Linking to other channels, especially popular channels helps you establish authority. We don’t want to link out for free if we can help it, we want people to link back to us. That’s why it’s important that our channel looks great and has a few videos. No one wants to link out to something ugly.
Heres how we find channels to link to us. Go into Youtube.com/channels and search for channels related to your website topic/ keywords. In our case we need workout channels, or things related on how to get abs:
Look for channels that have over 500 subscribers but less than 50,000. Channels with over 50,000+ subscribers are very unlikely to ever add you to their related channels list, unless your channels also happens to have lot’s of subscribers.
Here’s a channel I found:
He’s linking to other channels, has a lot of subscribers and has a well optimized YouTube channel. Here’s how we get him to add our channel to his related channel list. We email him this:
I really like your channel!
I actually have a channel on getting abs as well: [Your channel]. I think my viewers would enjoy your videos, so I’ve added your channel to my related channels list.
I have also added a link to your channel on my website here: [Add his URL to your website. You can create a new resources page and add people there]
Would be happy if you could link my channel as well, I think your viewers would enjoy it. If you can’t link to me it’s no problem!
Thanks for the time, and keep up the great work.
That’s it. Remember my philosophy of give to get.
You need to give him something (2 links), to get something (1 link) from him. Always make sure to link out to their channel first before requesting them to do the same.
When you email them, make sure it comes across that your link to them will stay regardless of whether or not they link to you. People are much more receptive and willing to link to you when they feel they’re not being coerced into linking to you.
People feel the need to return a favour.
Getting channels to link to you isn’t that hard. You can even try to target channels with lot’s of subscribers (100,000+), but the more subscribers the channel has the harder it is to get a link back.
Channels with 100,000+ subscribers are much more business like in how they’re run, since a lot of the people running them are making a full-time income off YouTube. Smaller channels in general are less businesslike and more open to requests.
If the person you email doesn’t link to your channel, no problem. Keep linking to their channel for 2 weeks, then remove the link.
One Important Thing To Note
Your results will vary wildly depending on the niche you target. If you run a video game channel you’re going to have a much easier time with this method than if you run an insurance channel.
YouTube SEO Software
I haven’t used a lot of seo software, especially not for YouTube. Most of the software I’ve used for YouTube has been software I use for regular SEO. Such as: ahrefs, semrush, long tail pro and the Google keyword planner tool.
I’ve used some software called Brightcove before; but that was when I was working for a large company with thousands of videos. I wouldn’t recommend it for a regular YouTuber since the benefits of the software are most useful for large organizations.
At this time there is no SEO software for YouTube that I can recommend. If you use some software that you like please leave a comment below. I’m always looking for software that’ll make my life easier.
I hope you enjoyed this YouTube SEO guide. Took me a while to write it! ( 4600+ words). I know I’m missing a lot of stuff, and I have plans to add more to this guide. This guide really should be 10,000+ words. Let me know if there’s anything you’d like to know more about and I’ll add it to the guide.
Want to help me out? Link to this page![intense_code type=”block”]
<a href=”http://www.boredmarketer.com/youtube-seo/”>YouTube SEO Guide</a>[/intense_code]
Have a youtube page and want someone to check the on-page SEO? You can now hire me. I’ve worked on a lot of small and major YouTube channels so the size of your channel isn’t an issue. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to hire me.