The Internet is a place of constant change. Platforms are born, gain popularity and die, being replaced by more modern channels, more suited to today’s users. This circle of digital life applies to most sides, but there are some that break the mold and have been triumphing around the world for years. YouTube belongs to this elite group. The platform was born over 15 years ago and has quickly become one of the fastest growing websites in the world. Today it is the third most visited website (after Google and Facebook) and the second most popular search engine in the world. That is why YouTube is a platform with huge marketing potential that should not be underestimated.
SEO on YouTube – why do it?
More and more marketers invest in YouTube, but most often it concerns ads on this channel generated with the help of Google Ads. Meanwhile, YouTube can also provide a brand with a significant increase in visibility thanks to organic inputs – guide videos, materials from the company’s life, reports from industry events, video instructions on how to use products – all this content thanks to which brands gain interest and trust of customers. Of course, there is a catch though. According to statistics, videos with a total length of about 500 hours are uploaded to YouTube every minute! There are billions of videos on the platform, uploaded by users from 88 countries. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that it is enough to upload a recording to the Internet to become the king of YouTube – according to our report, almost 90% of YouTube videos do not exceed 1,000 views. So, as with Google, you have to make an effort to get high in the results ranking and get noticed. This is where YouTube video positioning comes into play.
SEO of YouTube videos – what is it all about?
Positioning is still mainly associated with the optimization of the websites themselves and the texts that are on them, while this concept has a much broader definition. SEO activities (Search Engine Optimization) concern not only written content, but also all other materials posted on the Internet – such as photos or videos. Therefore, also on YouTube, we can take appropriate steps to optimize published materials and thus increase the number of views. And it is definitely worth doing, because YouTube is the world’s largest search engine for entertainment content. According to a 2019 study by Ahrefs, a few basic SEO activities, taking no more than 5 minutes, are enough to increase the organic reach of a video by 30%. If we decide to spend about 15 minutes on optimizing and enrich the video with all elements of positioning in the YouTube search engine, we can increase the reach by as much as 400%! First things first. Let’s tell you step by step what needs to be done to make our video visible on YouTube.
Step one – analysis
The basis of any orderly and effective YouTube positioning activity is an in-depth analysis of the channel and individual videos. Thanks to it, we can see what the current visibility of videos is, what works best, but also where there are problems and room for optimization. Specialized tools such as vidIQ help in this.
vidIQ is a Chrome plugin, thanks to which we can measure our YouTube positioning results and increase the organic reach of video materials, but also check the results of competitors or similar channels. What is most useful in the program is the algorithm that determines the optimization score, i.e. the estimated SEO score for each YouTube video. It analyzes all factors related to the video and determines the likelihood that the material will be high in search results or in a side list with similar videos. Thanks to the plugin, we can also conduct a channel audit or check the actions taken by the competition. It is a basic knowledge tool with which you can move to SEO on YouTube.
Step two – movie title and filename
The title is one of the first things a user sees when choosing what content to watch. However, it is also one of the elements taken into account by the YouTube algorithm when matching results to the query entered by the recipient. Therefore, it is important that it describes well what the movie is about, but also contains a properly selected keyword.
A keyword is a term that users enter into a search engine on the platform to find a video on a given topic. Its selection is very important and should be based not on gut feelings, but on hard data on the monthly number of searches for a specific phrase. In search of the best keywords, tools available on the Internet, such as the aforementioned vidIQ plug-in or Ahrefs – a keyword explorer providing results for all the most popular search engines in the world, help. The easiest way to find useful phrases, however, is to check suggestions in the YouTube search engine.
The title of the video should explain as much as possible what the user will find in the video, but it is worth remembering that in the list of similar or recommended videos, the too long name may be cut off. To make sure that doesn’t happen, we should create a title of no more than 60 characters, including spaces. However, you can also use the so-called Zeigarnik effect, which says that people feel the need to complete a process that has already begun. So when the title is too long and gets cut off, there is a chance that the user will open the video to see the rest of the name, but it’s important that it breaks off in an interesting place.
If we decide on longer titles, the most important thing is that the first three words should match the attractive key phrases as possible. Then there may be the so-called long tail phrases, CTA or clickbaits. However, the use of clickbait names works only if they really fully refer to what is in the movie. Ultimately, it is the user’s involvement in the video that determines whether the YT algorithm will continue to display this material on a given query as interesting content. If a lot of people watch the video and don’t abandon it in the first few seconds, the content is valuable – this is called fulfilling the user’s intent.
Positioning a video on YouTube will be more effective if we also include the keyword in the name of the file that we intend to upload to the platform. This is a very important step in positioning as algorithms can read the name to determine the subject of the video. The meaningless original filename reduces our chances of getting on the search results list and the recommended movies bar.
Step three – movie description
The description of the film is a place where we can include all the most important information about the material – data of the creators, place and time of production, etc. However, it is also a space that allows you to use the potential of keywords. An SEO-optimized description should include phrases thematically related to the video material, but placed in a natural way – artificial saturation of the text with any slogans we can think of will not only increase the organic reach, but may be counterproductive.
Why is setting the right description so important from the point of view of YouTube positioning? The content placed in this field is one of the elements taken into account by algorithms when categorizing videos, so including keywords in it increases the likelihood that the video will end up in the sidebar with suggested videos on similar topics. This one is an important source of views for most YouTube channels.
The character limit for the description is so high that we can allow ourselves to thoroughly discuss each material. It is worth taking advantage of this potential and creating an exhaustive description (at least 450 characters) – this is an important element of SEO on YouTube. It is important, however, that most users will only see its beginning, which is around 100-150 characters. To see the full text, it is necessary to click the “show more” button, which is chosen by a small percentage of Internet users. Therefore, the first sentences should contain the most important information about the movie and the most important keywords.
Step four – tags
The selection of tags is one of the most important steps in SEO on YouTube. They should best show users what they will find in the material, but also help the algorithms to link the film with other videos on the platform. To a large extent, it is the tags that determine which videos will be sidelined with similar content suggested by YouTube. However, it is worth choosing tags for your video carefully – too many unrelated tags may be considered spam by algorithms and result in a penalty from YouTube. The aforementioned vidIQ tool will help you choose the best tags. It can be used in two ways. If we add the first tags to the video, the algorithms will show us similar tags with great potential. However, we can also search for them manually, checking in the vidIQ program the activities of the competition that is best at positioning on YouTube. It is worth adding niche keywords in the tags, such as the name of the channel or exact phrases from the title of the movie, but also popular, though not very broad, terms. If we have a chicken stew recipe video, a better tag would be #cassersauce than alone #recipe.
Step five – adding a custom thumbnail to the video
Next to the title, the thumbnail is the most visible element on the list of results, therefore it largely encourages or discourages users from clicking the link, and thus has a significant importance in positioning the page on YouTube. Therefore, it is worth taking care of positive visual impressions of our recipients and preparing a special board that will inform about the subject of the film and attract the eyes of Internet users. It is true that we can choose one of the automatically generated thumbnails by the platform, but YouTube itself states that 90% of the most effective videos are those that have a custom thumbnail. It is important that the image is of very good quality and is legible on the list of films also on smartphone screens – after all, about 70% of YouTube users use the website via mobile devices.
The parameters relevant to the thumbnail are:
– thumbnail size: 1280 × 720 pixels,
– format: .jpg, .png, .gif or .bmp,
– file size: maximum 2 MB.
When creating thumbnails, it is worth using, for example, the Canva graphics program – it has not only a YouTube-sized creator, but also ready-made templates that we can use.
Step six – movie subtitles
Videos published on YouTube should also be enriched with subtitles. They will be useful when the user is watching video with the sound muted, and will facilitate reception for deaf people. In addition, they are very important for the positioning of videos on YouTube – the platform’s algorithm likes films with subtitles, preferably in several languages. We can add captions in various ways. The easiest way is to put a regular text transcript in the description of the movie. Then the user can read the content, but will not be able to view the material at the same time. However, we can use a simple editor on YouTube and add subtitles to the video directly on the platform. On the available timeline, let’s mark there when a given part of the text should appear on the screen and how long it should remain on the screen, thanks to which it is easy to synchronize the subtitles with the sound. However, we can also use an external tool and export the file to YouTube in the .srt format. In the case of the most important films on our channel, it is worth trying to add both a transcript in the description and subtitles in the material itself.
Step Seven – Cards and End Screens
Cards and end screens can be compared to linking in texts to various tabs of a website or external services. They encourage recipients to see other video materials, subscribe to a channel or go to an e-shop website, but also allow them to conduct a survey.
Cards are well-formatted notifications that can be set at different points in the movie using the timeline editor. When we turn on the cards on YouTube, the so-called snares which, when clicked, take the user to another movie, channel, etc. – depending on the implemented link. You can enter up to five cards in one movie. The end screens work in the same way, but appear as a full-surface element after the movie ends. You can set a selected photo as a background and place visually attractive links – for example, when we decide to enter a link to another movie, its thumbnail will appear on the screen.
By taking advantage of the end-screen cards and screens, we greatly increase the chance that a user will reach for other content we publish – especially when combined with the appropriate CTAs in the video. So it is a very important element of SEO on YouTube.
SEO on YouTube – a simple way to increase your visibility
Initially, positioning videos on YouTube may seem difficult and time-consuming, but with a little practice, it does not take more than a few to several minutes (of course it will take longer to create a transcript, but it’s really worth adding). Compared to the time needed to prepare a video, this is very little, and it can make the effort to make a recording worthwhile. Importantly, the correct positioning of a video on YouTube builds a more engaged group of users, and thanks to it, the material often scores a better average rating (the ratio of paws up to paws down) than paid-promoted videos. Could there be a better reason to start SEO?