Google owns YouTube, they bought it back in 2006 for $1.65 billion. Today, YouTube is the second-largest search engine in the world, right after Google.
This just means that optimizing your videos for YouTube is just as important as optimizing your content for Google.
This article is meant to, in a clear and simple way, give you the knowledge and best practices needed to optimize your videos for YouTube. It will also, however, provide you with tips and insights used by the pros to increase the chances that your videos will not only rank in search results on both YouTube and Google, but they will also have a better chance to retain your viewers not only during your entire video but inside YouTube as well. A fact that YouTube loves.
As much as technical optimization of your videos is important, focusing only on that is senseless and actually more difficult than cohesively strategizing an approach that includes:
Keyword & topic research
Audience, competitor, and market research,
And a solid structure to convert that YouTube traffic into revenue and profitable traffic.
Meaning, let's dive into what it takes to make YouTube a tool for growth.
Basics of YouTube SEO
In order to truly understand how to rank videos and optimize them for YouTube, you have to dominate the basics. Let’s get going.
Keyword Research & Target Audience
If you start by typing your target keywords on YouTube and take note of the suggestions you get, you’ve already started your keyword research process. This step will help you get ideas and brainstorm popular topics among your target audience.
To take your YouTube keyword research to the next level, you should start by clearly defining your target audience and buyer personas. For B2B brands, a buyer persona template is a great tool to understand who they are and what content they’re consuming. For B2B brands, it’s essential to develop an Ideal Customer Profile so that you can paint a clear picture of the players involved in the decision-making process and create content aimed at each of them at each stage of their buying journey.
Once you’ve developed a thorough understanding of your target audience, you have to start analyzing your competitors. By doing so, you’ll be able to infuse a more profound understanding of what content works best and what content doesn’t get good results. Learning from your competitors is essential and allows you to find gaps and opportunities you might miss otherwise.
Once you’ve analyzed your target audience and competitors, you’ll be able to find keywords that your audience is actually interested in and how they talk about it online. Tools like Semrush, Google trends, and similar ones allow you to compare words, gauge their popularity and other metrics in order to create content that answers the questions your audience is asking.
Consistency, Rankings, & Content
Search engine optimization is heavily based on data. Tracking your Youtube rankings, views, and subscribers is essential to understanding if your strategy is working or not. Regularly keeping an eye on your YouTube analytics is highly important, so make it a habit and create regular reports from which you can extract insights.
Remember that YouTube is an extremely competitive channel and great content is essential to stand out amongst the crowd. However, going viral should not be your sole objective. It’s is great to have millions of views but YouTube is not only about views. Building a loyal subscriber base and forming long-term relationships with your viewers might prove to be even more crucial and will also give your channel more sustainability throughout time.
To accomplish this, focus on giving your audience quality content on a regular basis. This will help you nurture the relationship with your audience and subscribers. It’s also important to know what quality means for your audience. They might not expect a huge production or super sophisticated production quality, but understand well the length of the videos your audience consumes and the content they’re looking for to answer the questions they’re asking, the pain points they’re trying to solve, and the entertainment they’re looking for.
There’s a mistaken assumption that people prefer short videos of up to 3 minutes. This is not true for every audience. YouTube is a direct competitor to TV, even they’ve started this because they aim to charge TV-like advertising rates. So, as long as your videos are high-quality and satisfy what your target audience is looking for, length is relative. In fact, videos that are at least five minutes in length tend to perform better and have a higher chance of ranking in Google searches. Keep an eye on watch time for each video and for your channel overall. If it increases month to month, you’re doing a good job.
Another tool to exploit strategically is playlists. Don’t just create playlists around genres, dates, products, or other broad categories. Instead, use your keywords and keyword research to go deeper and create playlists based on topics and even look into adding other people’s videos to your playlists in order to drive viewers to your YouTube channel page.
Finally, make sure to really take advantage of the first 48 hours of publishing your video. YouTube algorithms need to see a fully optimized video right away. So, make sure your titles, description, tags, thumbnail, transcript, and so on are fully optimized from the get-go. It’s possible to publish right away and optimize later, but it will take much longer and much more effort to recover lost ground as compared with videos that are optimized right from the start.
Optimize your Videos for YouTube
Understanding the basics of keyword research, target audience, competitors, and other basics regarding YouTube is as essential as understanding the following SEO best practices in order to make sure your videos are well-liked by YouTube’s algorithms.
Not only should your video be catchy and grab your audience’s attention, but it should also communicate the topic and include your target keyword near the beginning. Make sure it’s at least five words long and take a look at what titles your competitors are using for similar videos to understand what works best.
Even more important than titles, a good thumbnail needs to be appealing and informative in order to get your target audience to click on it. Your thumbnails need to convince your viewers that their time won’t be wasted by watching your videos, so keep them professional, interesting, and informative. I shouldn’t even have to mention this, but design a custom thumbnail for all your videos instead of just using a frame from the video.
Consider the following tips when designing your Youtube custom thumbnails for your videos:
Use titles and fun graphics
Keep it professional but also keep your target audience in mind
Make your thumbnails intriguing and catchy
Don’t have intrusive logos or unrelated images
Use text but don’t go overboard
Take full advantage of the video description! A few short sentences won’t do it anymore. Use your target keyword, related keywords, and answer questions. Include links, performer bios, and CTAs (calls to action).
The descriptions on your YouTube videos are a great chance to drive your audience to your website. Make sure the most important information and CTAs are above the fold or before the “show more” button. Make the text enticing and informative so that people do click on “show more” and read the whole thing once it expands.
YouTube automatically creates transcriptions, or captions, for your videos. However, it’s not perfect and there will be errors, so proofread them and edit accordingly. These are highly important because Youtube’s algorithm does take captions into consideration.
Your target audience surely speaks the same language as your video. However, this is a globalized world and you never know who might your information relevant. So, providing foreign language translations of your video in the same time-stamped format of your transcript is a great way to globalize your content without having to reshoot your videos. Additionally, doing so will allow you to rank for keywords in a foreign language.
Remember that YouTube allows you to include your metadata in multiple languages, including the title, tags, and descriptions, in addition to the closed captioning.
Use common sense when adding tags to your videos to increase their visibility. Make sure your tags include your target keyword, obviously, and include long-tail keywords as well.
This is where a big part of your strategy comes into play. Make sure that the links you include in the description of your video are conducive to driving traffic to where you want it to go. Depending on what you want to accomplish you might want to include links to:
Your social media channels
A landing page
Other videos of yours
Make sure the most important links appear above the fold and consider promoting these links with YouTube cards.
YouTube calls to action - CTA
The most important CTA at the end of your video should be getting more subscribers. Give your viewers a one-click option to subscribe and make sure to tell them why they should do it. Give them valuable, relevant, and informative/entertaining content to incentivize them to subscribe to your channel.
Be obvious and take advantage of “end screens” to boost subscriptions and send viewers to related videos so that they spend more time on YouTube and on your channel.
Your YouTube efforts should be a part of your overall content strategy. So, it’s important to monitor and analyze their performance in order to understand what is working, what is not, and modify your strategy accordingly.
YouTube Analytics is a great place to start. Some of the data you can find there includes traffic sources, demographics, and what percentage of your watchers are subscribers. Combine these analytics with Google Analytics and other third-party analytics tools to get more insights and a deeper understanding through various metrics like rankings, view count, comments, likes, dislikes, video replies, and favorites.
Extracting insights from this data will allow you to modify your content creation and distribution strategies. Remember that building an audience is probably the most important factor for YouTube success, so keep a close watch on subscriber conversion to always tweak your strategy accordingly and continue to give your viewers the content they want.
YouTube for Business Growth
YouTube is an incredibly useful tool if you know how to leverage it. Every brand out there has a YouTube channel but not every brand is using it to boost growth and reach their business goals.
If you’re going to use YouTube for your business, make sure that it’s not only another channel but actually create a digital marketing strategy that focuses on creating valuable content that will help you move your target audience down their buyer’s journey towards conversions. That way you’ll be able to see a return on your investment (ROI) and you’ll see YouTube as part of a big content machine that produces tangible results that help your entire company grow and reach your business goals.