YouTube SEO: How to Rank Higher on YouTube

YouTube can be a fantastic platform to amplify your brand and show users exactly what your product or service can do for them. That being said, it takes time to create engaging, on-topic content and you don’t want that going to waste, which is why YouTube optimisation is a vital ingredient in your success. 

Today, we will take you through the steps involved in optimising your YouTube channel and content, how to optimise your videos for the greatest impact and all-important descriptions. 

What is YouTube SEO?

YouTube hosts millions of videos and just like Google, it uses search engine algorithms to sort through this content and prioritise the best results – not to mention the channels and videos found by users in the Google search engine itself. SEO is Search Engine Optimisation and this is the process of optimising content to match user intent whilst maintaining best practices for the said search engine. 

To match user intent, you have to a) know what users are searching for and b) know why they are searching for it. For example, they may want to watch reviews of your products or they may want to know the best way to use your software. 

The first step is fairly simple; there are many tools on the market to help you find out what users are looking for and how many people are searching for a term each month. A free tool that shows seasonality is Google Trends; simply pop in your term or keyword and choose your country, period and search engine from the dropdown menus. The below example is for the query ’SEO’ in the YouTube search engine. At the bottom of the example, you can see some suggested related keywords and topics. 

Use Google Trends for YouTube Keyword Research - Pico

This is when the ‘why’ comes into play; looking at the above screenshot, the related topics and queries are not directly related to ‘Search Engine Optimisation’. One way to overcome this is by searching for a few different terms and semantics to find what resonates well; in this instance, we will want users who are searching for ‘SEO’ because they want to find Search Engine Optimisation content, so what happens when we investigate the ‘category’ dropdown?

The categories are pre-conditioned fields but it’s fair to say that SEO would sit in the ‘internet & telecom’ category. Once that change is applied, our related topics become relevant:

Using intent for YouTube Keyword Research

You can do the same with your own queries. Locations and categories to find the most popular terms related to your content and use them as your focus keyword.

Another way to generate popular keywords is to use the search bar on YouTube itself, which will populate suggestions based on popular searches. However, you may need to drill down into longer phrases to ensure user intent. 

When looking at what users are looking for, it’s best to drill down to one keyword that embodies what your content is about and a few more that are related keywords that would naturally appear in the copy or video.

When it comes to the YouTube search algorithm your content ranks on the following factors:

  • Relevance – how well does your content match user intent, i.e. does it have relevant keywords, is the length of the video on par with content users are already engaging with
  • Engagement – how many people are watching the video, for how long and how many likes, comments and shares are you getting?
  • Video length – longer videos (of ten minutes or more) tend to satisfy topical queries but this can depend on what the user is looking for. Do your research and find out what is already ranking well.

How to Optimise your YouTube Channel 

You’re probably ready and waiting, with your first video or many videos ready & uploaded but the first thing you’re going to want to do is to optimise your channel and create a professional hub for all of the amazing content you have in the pipeline. 

When thinking about optimising your YouTube channel, you need to think about your branding and helping users understand what your channel is about. These steps will help users recognise your channel and find it too. 

  • Use your branded keyword in the YouTube URL
  • Use a clear logo image and background image – make sure you’re using the suitable sizes
  • Fill out your channel description – make it user friendly and use relevant keywords 
  • Use channel keywords tags – what keywords match user intent and reflect the type of content you will be uploading 
  • Keep your channel trailer updated and relevant – ideally 30-60 seconds long, giving a good overview of who you are and what you can do for users
  • Optimise your playlists to develop logical playlists that users will want to engage with 

These steps are vital to creating a fully optimised channel that users will want to engage with and subscribe to. When writing your description, remember to include keywords that relate to what you do and what you plan to share on YouTube, as well as writing coherent, engaging copy that tells users who you are, what your channel is about and what it aims to achieve. And, remember, the first 48 words (or so) will appear on external search engines so try and summarise your content within the first sentence.

How to Optimise YouTube Videos

Now that you have got your channel looking professional and the content where you want it to be, it’s time to turn your attention to the video itself; after all, this is what users are coming to see. 

As mentioned above, length is a contributing factor to how well your video performs. Though shorter, snappier videos might be relevant for other social channels or YouTube shorts, longer content between 10-15 minutes usually does well. But, this does depend on the type of content you are creating; something like parodies may only last 2-4 minutes, while how to’s tend to last up to 20 minutes. Once you have your keywords, do your research and see what’s already ranking, how long the video is and whether there are any topics they covered that you may have missed out on?

Circling back to those keywords, make sure you include them in the copy of your video – if your content mentions the things that users are looking for, it’s easier for them to find you. 

Other things you want to think about when optimising your YouTube video:

  • Your file name & keep it short and sweet
  • Your title should also include the focus keyword but differentiate from the file name and be between 50-70 characters long (including spaces). It’s also good to remember that the title is going to have a significant influence on whether the user will watch it or not so make it enticing 
  • Upload a formatted thumbnail that will a) stand out to users and b) represent what your content is about – keep it on-brand 
  • Choose two or three keywords that relate to the channel, the topic and your content
  • Add subtitles – there are many tools out there that you can use to create your subtitles automatically but be sure to read through and edit as none are 100% accurate. There are also options on YouTube to upload, manually create and async your subtitles. 
  • Add layers or annotations on your video – direct watchers to subscribe or like and add your logo or website either on your video content or on a slide at the end of your video – now that users are watching your content, you want to build loyalty and eventually drive users to your website to make purchases or become leads
  • Create a custom end slide: create a 1920 x 1080 image to upload to the end of your video, including elements such as a call to action to subscribe, images of thumbnails for related videos and the website address and logo

What to Include in your YouTube Video Description 

You may be wondering why we have added a separate section for this, as the video description is definitely in hand with optimising your video. However, this is such an important detail to get right that it deserves its own spotlight. 

You want to include your keywords here and you may be tempted to use as many as possible but don’t go overboard. The algorithms used for YouTube’s search can easily detect ‘keyword stuffing’; keyword stuffing is when you overload your content with the keywords you want to rank for and your content is of little relevance and passes no value to the user. A good guide is to use the focus keyword a maximum of two times, followed by 2-3 related keywords. 

The first paragraph holds the most weight so you’re going to want to summarise your content here and then write an extended summary with a little more detail below. There’s ample room for description but 250 words describing the video content itself is sufficient. 

When going into further detail in your video description, you can also link to related parts of the video simply by adding a timestamp in brackets. When published, users will be able to jump to parts of the video playback by clicking on the hyperlink, allowing them to find what they are looking for quickly and easily and demonstrating that the content is relevant to them. 

It’s also a good idea to include a short channel description in this space, letting users know what your channel is about and what value they can get from subscribing. Follow this with a channel subscription link. 

When using links, you probably want to use a URL shortening tool. If you are linking to your own site, use URL parameters to track what engagement you are getting from where. 

Finally, formatting is minimal on the video description; still, you want to break up the different sections so that users can quickly differentiate between individual areas of your content.

Perfecting your YouTube Playlists

We mentioned optimising your playlists above in channel optimisation but what are they and what does the process entail?

What are YouTube Playlists

YouTube’s playlists are a way of organising your videos by topic. You might find it easier to think of your playlist as a series and each video is an episode in the series. These videos might be produced in natural succession or you may find that it’s logical to present them differently post-production. 

By organising your videos, you help your content be seen by more people and increase watch time by creating collections of videos that users might find helpful or enjoy. 

How to Create a YouTube Playlist

Creating a new YouTube playlist isn’t too difficult and once you know where everything is, you’ll be the greatest playlist creator YouTube has seen. 

The first thing you’re going to do is head over to YouTube Studio, the hub for all your creations. Once there, you will look for ‘playlists’ on the left side column and select ‘new playlist’ from the top right. Now you will see a dropdown in the dialogue box that opens, you can choose between ‘public’, ‘private’ and ‘unlisted, public means that anyone can find your playlist, private means that the playlist is only available to you and those you share it with and unlisted means that anyone with a link can find it, which is particularly useful for content being embedded on your website or in media. 

You’re also going to want to choose a title. This can be up to 150 characters but we recommend 70 characters for visibility across different platforms. Include a focus keyword that is common to all the videos you’re planning to add to this playlist and try and make the title as descriptive as possible. Now you can click on ‘create’. 

Now that your playlist is created, it will still be empty but we want to focus on the playlist description. 

Like the video description, we want to summarise the content of our playlist, whether that be the steps in a how-to series or the areas covered by a tutorial series. Just like the video description, we will want to focus on the first paragraph and be sure it gives a brief overview of the content using the focus keyword. Then, we want to break it out into more detail in the following 200 – 250 words. We will also want to include a little about our channel, some common keywords relating to it and a link to our channel subscription. In addition, you will also want to list the titles of the videos in your playlist so that users can quickly view what content is included. 

And, there we have it, you’re a complete guide on how to rank higher on YouTube and increase engagement. 

If you need help with managing your YouTube channel or content and would like to hear more about our social or SEO packages, simply drop us a line and a member of our team will get back to you.

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