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Youtube SEO Guide: Watch Your Rankings Rocket In 2024!

Youtube SEO header image
Youtube SEO header image

If you’re posting great video content but struggling to get views, YouTube SEO mistakes could be holding you back.

Around 3.7 million videos get published on YouTube every day.

Video content is a vital part of any modern content marketing campaign, and any client who lacks video is missing out.

Optimizing your videos to stand out from the crowd is therefore crucial.

In this guide, we’re going to reveal everything you need to know about YouTube SEO. You’ll learn proven tactics to rank your videos and get more views.

We’ll cover:

  • What YouTube SEO is and why it’s important
  • How to do keyword research
  • How to optimize for keywords
  • How to get more clicks, shares, and comments
  • How to promote your videos online

Prefer to watch rather than read? Well, fittingly, we’ve also produced a handy video guide to Youtube SEO!

What Is YouTube SEO?

YouTube SEO is the process of optimizing your videos so they reach a wider audience on the YouTube platform. It involves tactics to boost engagement and increase visibility for specific target keywords.

FATJOE graphic explaining What Is YouTube SEO

There are two ways users can find your videos on YouTube.

Your videos appear in search results when a user searches for a related keyword:

Youtube search example

Your videos are recommended to users who are watching content similar to yours:

Youtube recommended videos example

YouTube search engine optimization (SEO) maximizes visibility in these two areas.

The Benefits Of YouTube SEO

If you’re creating videos, you need to be doing YouTube SEO. Here’s why:

Increased Visibility

You can increase the chances of your videos appearing in search results and recommendations. That means more people will discover and watch your content.

More Engagement

Optimized videos attract viewers that are more interested in the topic you cover. You’re likely to see higher engagement rates.

Enhanced Authority

You build credibility when your videos consistently appear in relevant YouTube search results. Your audience will see you as a reliable source of information in your niche.

More Website Traffic

Getting more views can increase organic website traffic. You can drive traffic directly from YouTube.

You’ll also increase brand recognition. That can translate into higher click-through rates on Google and other search engines.

Conversion Potential

You can get your brand in front of more potential customers. So you’ll have more opportunities to convert viewers into subscribers and customers.

Keyword Research

Keyword research is the foundation for your YouTube SEO strategy.

It’s about identifying the specific phrases that your target audience uses. These are the words and phrases people type into the YouTube search bar, and Google, to find videos like yours.

Why Is Keyword Research Important?

When you know the terms that your audience is using, you can use them strategically in your video’s title, description, and tags.

This makes your video more likely to pop up when someone searches for those specific terms.

It’s surprising how many YouTube channels and websites miss this crucial step.


Keyword research helps you align your video with what your audience wants. It gives you the insights you need to target the right viewers.

How To Do Keyword Research For YouTube Videos

You should already have a rough idea of the topics you want to cover in your videos.

These broad topics are your seed keywords.

There are a few ways to expand on your seed keywords and narrow in on the best search terms to target.

YouTube Autocomplete

This method is super easy and super effective.

Take one of your seed keywords, head to YouTube, and type it into the search bar.

YouTube will give you a bunch of related keywords:

Youtube auto complete example

These keywords are the actual terms that people type into the YouTube search bar.

You’re not guessing if these keywords are popular or relying on third-party tools.

The YouTube algorithm is telling you these are the related video keywords people are searching for.

Spy On Your Competitors

You can also spy on your competitor’s keyword strategy.

Optimizing YouTube videos for SEO is key to getting found on the platform. So if a video is getting lots of views, the publisher has likely done a good job with keyword targeting and optimization.

The first step is to find a popular YouTube channel in your niche. You should be able to easily find a channel by searching for one of your seed keywords.

Click ‘Videos’ and sort the page using the ‘Popular’ tab.

Youtube popular tab example

This will organize the video ranking to show you the content with the most views.

Click on a popular video and see which keyword it is targeting.

A quick analysis of the title and description will reveal the keyword the content is optimized around.

You can also look at the YouTube Tags the video is using:

Youtube tags example

The easiest way to spy on competitor tags is to use a Chrome extension like YouTube Tags.

You can also use right-click and ‘View Source’ to search the source code of a YouTube URL. Use Control + F and search for ‘keywords’ to see the tags.

Research Tab In YouTube Analytics

YouTube added the Research tab to Analytics back in 2022. It’s one of the best ways to find YouTube keywords.

You can see the popular terms that your viewers are searching for.

Click ‘Analytics’ in the left-hand menu in the YouTube Studio and then “Research.”

Now click on the ‘Your viewers’ searches’ tab.

Viewer's searches tab

This will show you the keywords your audience has searched for in the last 28 days.

You can see the exact terms and the search volume on YouTube.

This is great.

But YouTube also gives you advice on which keywords to target.

You’ll see the ‘Content Gap’ tag underneath some search queries.

Content gap tag example

This tag indicates that users didn’t find a video providing the answers or content they were looking for.

Understanding content gaps

Creating videos targeting content gaps can be an effective way to reach your audience and get more views.

Popular Keywords And Search Terms

YouTube Analytics gives you a broad indication of search volume.

But you need to use a keyword research tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to get more detailed insights.

Enter your keyword into the SEO tool and check the search volume. This metric shows you how often the keyword is being searched per month.

You can specifically toggle the search database to target Youtube rather than the default of Google.

SEMRush Youtube results

There are also 3rd party Youtube keyword tools available, like Tuberanker, which specifically handles Youtube SEO tools.

Try to strike a balance between search volume and competition.

Generally, you want to target keywords that get at least 200 monthly searches.

Targeting The Right Audience With Your Video Content

YouTube wants to show video results that are relevant to user search queries.

That’s why search intent is so important.

Search intent is the motivation behind a search.

For example, somebody searching for “Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra review” is researching the smartphone before potentially buying it. They want videos with detailed insights into the phone’s features and pros and cons.

You need to determine the search intent for your keywords.

Is it informational, transactional, or commercial?

Understanding the purpose behind the search term will help you align your video content with the viewer’s needs.

One of the best ways to determine intent is to search for the target keyword and analyze the top results.

What type of content is ranking high for the keyword?

Youtube Samsung search results

When you know the search intent, you can create the type of video content your audience wants.

Optimize The Title And The Description

These are two of the most important YouTube SEO elements.

Title Optimization

Your video title needs to be clear, concise, and directly related to your video’s main topic. It should contain your target keyword.

This will help your video appear in relevant searches and get clicks from viewers interested in the topic.

A Backlinko study found a correlation between exact keyword match and YouTube ranking:

Backlinko Youtube study

You can also use your primary keyword in the video file name.

Description Optimization

Video descriptions provide more context about your content. It should give a summary of the topic you cover.

Include relevant keywords naturally to boost discoverability.

Here’s an example of an optimized description that contains the target keyword and closely related keywords:

Optimized description example

On average, YouTube video descriptions have a keyword density of 3% to 4%:

Briggsby Keyword density graph

Optimizing Your Video Content

YouTube SEO isn’t just about keywords.

It’s a social media platform. And, like all social media platforms, engagement is key.

Here’s how to optimize your YouTube videos to get more views, likes, comments, and shares.

Craft An Engaging Title For Your Video

This is one of the most important YouTube SEO tips.

You need an attention-grabbing title that encourages users to click.

Keep it short and try to spark curiosity.

A recent Semrush study found that 54% of high-performing videos have an average of 8 words in their title:

SEMRush Youtube title study

It’s about using words that resonate with your target audience and make them curious to learn more.

Describe what viewers will gain from watching your video. Will they learn something new, be entertained, or solve a problem?

Make this clear in the title.

There are common “click triggers” that you can use.

These can work well.

But avoid vague or misleading titles that might disappoint viewers.

Develop An Interesting Description For Your Video

A compelling video description can inspire curiosity and encourage users to watch your video.

Try to provide enough information to spark interest without giving everything away. That way, your audience is more likely to click on your video and watch it to the end.

If you’re posting a long video, include timestamps and chapters. This helps your viewers quickly find the information they’re looking for and engage with your content.

Timestamps in descriptions example

You can also use the description to add relevant information and links to enhance the viewer experience.

And make sure you include your call to action and a link to your website.

Add Relevant Tags To Your Videos

Tags help YouTube to understand what your video is about.

They are less important than your title and description, but they do have some influence on ranking.

Here’s how the YouTube Help Center explains it:

Youtube help center advice

Add relevant tags that accurately reflect the subject matter of your video. These can be specific keywords or terms related to the topic discussed in your video.

This can increase the chances of your video appearing in search results and recommendations.

Create A Custom Thumbnail Image For Your Video

The thumbnail is the small picture viewers see before clicking on your video.

Custom thumbnails example

If you take one YouTube SEO tip away from this guide, it should be to put lots of effort into designing your thumbnails.

A well-designed video thumbnail can help your video stand out on the YouTube SERP and encourage users to click.

Best SEO Companies has a great breakdown of what makes a good thumbnail:

BestSEOCompanies thumbnail breakdown

Image Source

Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

High-Quality Images

Use high-resolution images that are clear and sharp. Instead of using a still from your video, create a high-quality custom image for your thumbnail.

Contrasting Colors

Choose colors that contrast against the YouTube interface. This helps your thumbnail stand out.

Centered Focus

Place the focal point of your thumbnail near the center of the image. The video timestamp and other elements are less likely to cover this area.

Eye-Catching Text

Add your title or some descriptive text to the thumbnail. Use large, bold fonts that are easy to read.

Create Curiosity

Encourage viewers to click by posing a question or giving a visual hint of the outcome of the video. This can make viewers want to see how that result was achieved.

Faces And Expressions

Use facial expressions and emotions to trigger curiosity. People want to know about the story behind the emotions.

If you need some help designing your thumbnails, consider outsourcing to a specialist. Thumbnail design is one of the many tasks suitable for video production outsourcing.

Once you’ve published your video, monitor the performance of your thumbnail. You can experiment with different designs to determine what drives more clicks and engagement.

Utilizing SEO Tools And Strategies

YouTube Analytics is your go-to tool for measuring performance.

It shows you insights into viewer behavior, demographics, and traffic sources.

Youtube Analytics example

You can see how viewers engage with your content, including video SEO metrics like watch time, average view duration, and audience retention. This helps you identify which videos are most engaging and which parts of your videos are most compelling.

It’s also important to track engagement metrics. Track likes, dislikes, comments, and shares to gauge viewer sentiment and engagement.

This information will help you better understand your audience and refine your content strategy.

You can also use third-party YouTube SEO tools like VidIQ and TubeBuddy to track video performance and discover optimization opportunities.

Promoting Your Videos Online

Take proactive steps to share your video content with a wider audience.

There are two ways to do this.

You can promote your videos and channel on the YouTube platform.

And you can promote your videos on other platforms.

On-Site Promotion

High user engagement signals to YouTube’s algorithm that viewers enjoy your content. That can lead to better search rankings and more recommendations on the platform.

You can boost engagement by encouraging users to like, share, and comment on your videos.

Ask viewers in the video itself or the video description. You can also use visual cues like on-screen animations.

Youtube CTA example

If you want to quickly boost your reach, you should consider YouTube Ads. These video ads can be a great way to boost your high-performing content.

Off-Site Promotion – Leveraging Social Media Platforms

You can also promote your videos beyond the platform. This can be a great way to increase your reach and boost engagement.

Use platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to share and promote your video content. These platforms provide you with a way to connect with a larger audience.

Most people use smartphones to consume social media content. So make sure you add captions to your videos. Around 75% of people watch mobile videos on mute.

Engagement is key on all social media sites.

When you share your videos, use a catchy description that highlights what your video is about and encourages people to click and watch.

Respond to comments and interact with your audience to get more people to engage with your content.

Incorporate Video Into Your Content Marketing

Content marketing is about creating valuable and relevant content to attract your target audience.

Video marketing can play a significant role in this strategy.

Instead of relying solely on written content, you can use videos to educate prospects, tell stories, and showcase your products and services.

Videos can capture attention and convey messages in a more engaging format.

The easiest way to get started is to repurpose some of your existing blog content into videos.

Choose blog posts that have evergreen content. Explainers, how-to guides, and lists work well for videos.

For example, you can create video tutorials for your products. These videos can provide valuable information to your audience while promoting your brand.

Video can help you maximize the reach and impact of your content marketing strategy.

Use Youtube SEO To Promote On-Site SEO, And Vice-Versa

Youtube SEO, and your wider SEO efforts, should be considered a multi-channel effort.

Boosting your on-page SEO can lead to great results for your Youtube videos as you embed your content, and vice-versa as more Youtube hits can lead to more clicks and general brand awareness.

Youtube results in Google search

Google loves to promote video content in the SERPs, especially when it comes from its own platform (Youtube).

If you cross over your content with links to on-site pages from your video, and embeds of your videos on your pages, you maximize the potential of grabbing clicks.

Sure, you might want to focus on on-page, say, but curating excellent Youtube SEO will still help your on-site efforts too!

Grow Your Brand With YouTube SEO

You need to go beyond simply uploading content and hoping for the best to succeed on YouTube.

YouTube SEO helps you take control of how your videos are discovered. You can get your content in front of a larger audience and build your brand.

It’s not just video views and rankings – it’s about delivering value, building connections, and making a lasting impression on your viewers.

Ready to conquer the world of Youtube SEO for your clients, but don’t offer video services? Check out our outsourced video production today and have a read of our guide on how to outsource video if you have any concerns about scaling your video production ops.

Daniel Trick
Daniel Trick

Head of Content

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