What Is YouTube SEO? – A Noob’s Guide

The way in which we consume content and the types of content we’re consuming, are always changing. Content is no longer limited to the written word. Nowadays, individuals consume information through social media, infographics, eBooks, checklists, videos and more.

So just when you thought you’d wrapped your head around SEO for written content like blog posts and articles, things move on and a new medium grows in popularity. And one of the most popular forms of content right now is video.

If you want your videos to be seen, much like written content you need to optimise them for search engines like Google and of course, YouTube. Some of the general SEO rules from written content will still apply, though there are some different strategies you’ll need to apply for optimising your YouTube channel and driving traffic to your videos.

But what are these and what can you do to make your videos as visible as possible? Check out our guide below on SEO for YouTube, to find out.

Do some keyword research

Before you begin uploading your videos, it’s a good idea to do some initial keyword research. There are a number of tools available to help you do this, for example, Google Keyword Planner, Moz and Ahrefs.

These platforms can suggest keywords based on your topic or industry, by looking at how often your phrase has been run through a search engine that month. Try to choose low-competition keywords as much as you can, as these are easier to rank for.

Use keywords in your file names

Before uploading your video, you can optimise it by including  relevant keywords to the subject of the video in the file name. The main reason for doing this is that YouTube has the ability to watch your video to see how relevant it is to your target keyword ensuring that they they give their audience the very best results for their search, so you need to seize any opportunity to safely insert this where you can.

Think carefully about the name of your videos

It might seem obvious, but you want the title of your video to reflect its content as much as possible. So, if you can use the keyword in the title then that’s great! This not only helps the search engines to rank your video but also lets your audience choose the most appropriate videos for their search terms. Just remember, this needs to be natural so that the title makes sense, confusing or nonsensical titles might put people off choosing your video.

Don’t forget to include a description

You’re probably aware that underneath each YouTube video is a description of what it’s about. This is the perfect opportunity to optimise your description with relevant keywords. But again, this needs to make sense and shouldn’t just be stuffed full of keywords in the hopes of boosting your visibility. Readability is also important for search engines.

Google suggests that your description can be around 1,000 characters, but this is quite a long bit of text. Sometimes it’s better to keep it short and sweet as the viewers just want to scan through and quickly identify if the video is relevant to them. It’s also worth noting that YouTube will only display the first two or three sentences, so this should contain the most important information.

Tag your video

You can add tags to your videos to help your audience to find them as well as letting them know what the video is about. In fact, YouTube recommends that you use tags in this way. By using tags, the platform can associate your videos with other similar content and help to drive more traffic and get more views.

But it’s important that you choose these wisely. If you choose lots of irrelevant tags you might find that search engines actually penalise you. It also makes it harder for YouTube to get your videos in front of the right audience.

Categorise your video

Once you’ve uploaded your video you can use the advanced setting to categorise it. This is very similar to the tagging we’ve discussed above and helps YouTube to group your videos with other similar, relevant content. But you need to pick your category wisely to ensure you get the best results. So, spend some time thinking about which category is most reflective of your videos and your brand.

Add subtitles to your videos

As with other text such as your title, descriptions and tags, adding subtitles and closed captions to your videos can help to boost your SEO efforts. This is done by highlighting the keywords in your subtitle scripts. Adding these scripts can be a bit tricky when you’re starting out, but once you know how this is a very effective way to optimise your videos.

Generally, the way to do this is by uploading a supported text transcript or timed subtitles file. Just be sure that your script contains your keywords, but obviously makes sense and is in line with the content in your video.

As a side note, it is worth adding subtitles to your videos when possible as many people prefer this. The reason for this is that we consume a lot of video content on the move or in public spaces, as such, many watch these videos with the sound off. If there are not subtitles, they are more likely to click-off or look for a different video that does have subtitles/captions.

Use a custom thumbnail image

Although not directly related to SEO, by using a custom thumbnail image on your videos you can help your audience to get a better understanding of what your video is about. A strong image is more appealing to viewers and this can help to drive more clicks, views and shares to your videos.

This in turn can help to boost your credibility and shows your video is well-trusted and received by audiences. This can help you to rank better in search engines. In fact, The Creator Academy revealed that 90% of the best performing videos have customer thumbnails.

It’s also worth noting that your account needs to be verified first so you can upload custom thumbnails to your videos. You can do that using YouTube’s verify page, here.