Youtube SEO: Tips and Tricks for Growing Your Audience

YouTube SEO featured image
YouTube SEO is more important than ever, but how does it work. Image credit: Szabo Viktor

YouTube feels like it is forever growing, in total there are over 2 billion YouTube users. 500 hours of videos are uploaded to YouTube every minute. This means that YouTube SEO is crucial.

Half of the users access YouTube via their mobile device. YouTube is the second largest website behind Google as the biggest website on the internet.

YouTube is a search engine just like Google, so it is pivotal that your videos are seen when people are searching. The more your videos show up on search and recommended will result in your views increasing and in turn gaining more subscribers.

YouTube SEO Effectiveness is Based on Text and Viewer Interaction

Neither the Google nor YouTube algorithm has any ability to watch a video. On the other hand, YouTube does have voice recognition software that does a decent job of making a transcript of the audio from the video. On the video settings, you can turn on the Closed Captions (CC) meaning you will be able to read the text while the video is on, this is beneficial for people who are hearing disabled.

The CC feature also provides detailed information about what the video says, which Google uses to rank it for its search engine results page. It is crucial to use keywords in the video script, making it feel natural rather than just trying to fit in as many keywords as possible.

Keyword stuffing is the overuse of keywords that sound or read completely unnatural. Google will penalize any video that uses keywords excessively and lowers its ranking. Because of this, be sure to use keywords appropriately to create relevance, but do not overdo it.

Finding Effective Keywords

The keywords that are used for YouTube are the same ones used by Google to show search results for videos. There are subgroups of searches possible using Google. Entering something in the search bar brings up the default text search results. At the top of the SERP, there are also selectable choices for images, videos, news, books, and more.

By clicking on the video subgroup, all the videos related to the keywords come up with the most popular and most relevant listed first. If one wants to get traffic from Google to view a YouTube video or channel, they need to be in the top five listings on the SERP for important keywords or keyword phrases.

Finding the best keywords is sometimes counterintuitive because ranking high for generic keywords, such as the word ‘dog’ on the SERP is very difficult. It is better to use longer keyword phrases, but still get plenty of searches, such as “training your dog to speak.”

Great keyword phrases to use for videos include “How to” in the title. An example would be “How to Train Your Dog to Speak.” Funny and catchy video titles that contain the keywords attract more attention, such as “How to Train Your Dog to Speak French with a British Accent.”

YouTube SEO: How to train your dog
'Dog' is a very generic keyword, so it will be difficult to rank for. Image credit: Jamie Street

Other popular video categories are tutorials, product reviews, and experiences with services such as travel video blogs that rate hotels and resorts.

The Importance of Titles and File Names

It is pivotal to include keywords in both the titles of the videos and the file names when you are uploading the video to YouTube. Avoid using only a keyword in the file name as YouTube recognises this as a way to cheat their system and will result in a penalty. Using the full title name for the file will avoid this..

When making the file name ensure that you include dashes as Google recognises them as spaces. Using our example from above of the title, “How to Train Your Dog to Speak French with a British Accent,” a good file name would be either “how-to-train-your-dog.avi” or “how-to-train-your-dog-to-speak-french-with-a-British-accent.avi” and letter case is not important in file names.

Upfront Placement of Keywords in Title

Keywords that are located at the beginning of the video title are the most effective. Google and YouTube will recognise them as important when they are ranking the video. A good example of a great title using the keyword “dance,” would be “How to Dance Without Looking Stupid.” This title uses “how to” and puts the keyword “dance” near the beginning of the title. This title is funny and intriguing at the same time.

A search made on YouTube for “How to Dance Without Looking Stupid,” shows that there is not so much competition for this category. It would be very easy to rank highly, with a well-made video about this topic.

Searching for the same phrase on Google shows that the same video comes up in the top position on the SERP for both systems. It is both a YouTube video and channel called “How to Dance Without Embarrassing Yourself.” Both search systems recognize “looking stupid” and “embarrassing” as similar keywords.

Detailed Descriptions

Although unlikely, someone may read the description before they watch your video. Having an informative and detailed description will go a long way in improving the SEO on your videos.

YouTube and Google, as well as users, rely on the information in the text description to learn if the video is relevant and important. Include a link to subscribe to your channel or any other relevant videos. Including timestamps in your descriptions will let viewers skip to the information they need. Linking your social media pages is a good way for you to engage with your audience.


YouTube allows you to give context behind your video. Tags give information to Google and YouTube. Create videos that are relevant to the keywords and use tags for them along with the tags they use for their videos. It is important to make the tags relevant to the video otherwise they will not improve the SEO on your video.

Create a YouTube Channel

Even if a YouTuber only has a single video, they can make a YouTube channel that includes their video with the other related videos. Mixing a new video on a channel with other popular ones is a great way to get a new channel started.

Make Longer, High-Quality Videos

The average length of the Top 50 videos on YouTube is around the 3 minute mark. The reason they are this short is because the majority of the most popular videos are music videos.

Longer videos tend to rank higher and are more relevant for keywords. Having longer videos is better for monetization. as you will be able to place a mid-roll advertisement in your video, which will also help with revenue.

YouTube does not watch the videos, the system relies heavily on YouTube users’ interaction with the videos to give the videos a ranking.

YouTube categorises these metrics as user-experiences, and they include:

  • Amount of Video Watched – YouTube captures the amount of time a user watches a specific video. If users watch the entire video, this tells YouTube that the video has interesting content. If users watch it only for a few seconds and then click away, this lowers the ranking of the video.
  • Comments – YouTube ranks videos with more comments as more important.
    YouTube Channels – By creating a channel of related videos and asking for subscribers, this increases the importance. As the number of subscribers increases, the ranking of the channel goes higher.
  • Shares on Social Media, Likes (Thumbs up), Favourites, and Save Video to Watch
  • Later – All of these user-experience metrics increase the importance of the video.

Encourage Engagement
Asking people for their thoughts will encourage them to leave a comment on your video, more comments will help with ranking the video higher. Even if you receive negative comments it is important to respond to them positively as it will encourage people to respond.

Trying to reply to a lot of the comments on your videos will encourage others to comment as they will see that they will get a reply.

Using Annotation with a Call-to-Action

To increase positive user-experience metrics, it is important to use the YouTube annotation system to ask for them, in addition to asking for them using the audio script portion of the video. This comes as a “call-to-action” at the end of the video.

YouTube users are up to ten times more likely to subscribe to a video channel or take another supportive action when the video presenter asks them to do it. You should uses an annotation asking for it that appears on screen for about twenty seconds.

Promoting YouTube Videos on Social Media

Having social media accounts like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is a good way to promote your videos. Social media will allow you to engage more with viewers, this could be through asking questions or just them complementing your videos. If the viewers have a more personal connection they are more likely to stick around and continue to watch you.

When you upload a video, posting it to all your social media accounts will encourage viewers to check it out earlier. Releasing snippets of videos and posting it to your socials is a good way to excite viewers before you have released the full video.

Think of this like a trailer to a blockbuster movie. Again, having the video presenter ask for shares and using an annotation on the screen that asks for shares increases the positive responses.

Eye-Catching Thumbnails

The thumbnail has to be something that catches the viewer’s eye straight away. If someone is looking up a video on how to tie a shoelace, it is a good idea to show someone doing it. You should:

  • Include text on the thumbnail.
  • Make it colourful.
  • Close-ups of your face.
  • Design the thumbnail as the quality will be better.
  • Using YouTube Analytics

YouTube analytics can be a crucial tool, it can show a range of different statistics that can help grow your YouTube channel.

Some of the key stats it shows are:

  • Watch Time
  • Average Percentage Viewed
  • Average View Duration
  • Audience Retention
  • Re-watches
  • Engagement
  • Impressions Click-Through Rate
  • Card Click-Through-Rate
  • Unique Viewers
  • Playlist Engagement
  • Who’s Watching Your Videos
  • Subscriber Growth

Studying these statistics shows what kind of videos that are working on your channel and those that are not. This gives you the opportunity to see what kind of people are watching your videos, which allows you to make videos for people that are actually going to watch them. 

Want to Know More

By understanding the relationships between YouTube, Google, and social media, it is possible to maximize the effectiveness of SEO efforts for all those systems. Following these tips, creates an SEO strategy that presents the video and/or YouTube channel in the most powerful way to increase its popularity.



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