It’s a great time to be alive. Kim Kardashian named her baby Saint West, Hoverboards are officially a thing, Viola Davis became the first black woman to win an Oscar, and YouTube is the second largest search engine on the planet.
That’s right. The second largest search engine on the planet.
So I think it’s safe to say that YouTube is kind of a big deal. And if you’re running a business, you need to know how to use YouTube to turn your brand into a big deal.
And that brings us to the million-dollar question – how do you make your videos and channel rank on YouTube? The answer isn’t straightforward – but it was one that I was determined to find.
Like all good stories, mine started with a single video.
I realized that Evercoach needed a killer YouTube strategy if we wanted to establish ourselves as an industry leader and the one-stop-shop for all coaches on YouTube. I decided to optimize one of our videos for YouTube SEO and then scale that strategy for our entire channel.
When I started, we weren’t ranking for any keywords, anywhere.
Like Google, YouTube uses complex ranking factors and algorithms to determine which videos end up at the top of each search results page. While there is no 100% guaranteed formula to get videos ranked, there are some well-known factors that can have a huge impact on your YouTube SEO.
To save you from making the same mistakes I did (and there were lots of those!), here are 6 things you need to remember to improve your YouTube SEO.
#1 CONTENT IS KING
I’m sorry for starting this post with a cliché, but unfortunately, this one is all true.
Great content is at the heart of creating a winning YouTube strategy.
This is the first place people often fail.
Know your brand and know what you want to say. Find a niche for yourself and then create valuable content for users.
Our video was a 15-minute long pure content piece that taught viewers how to sell anything.
No gimmicks, no sleazy sales, no false promises. Nothing. Just pure content.
Remember that users don’t come on YouTube to purchase a product. So don’t make your video a sales pitch. People want to solve problems, learn skills, be entertained, inspired or educated – so design your content accordingly.
If you are a business owner, you have in-depth knowledge about your industry so don’t be afraid to use it to create & offer great value to your audience.
Further, the YouTube ranking algorithm places huge importance on factors like audience retention (absolute & relative), shares, engagement, comments and subscribers after watching.
And all of these metrics depend entirely on how good your content is.
Because at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how great all your other SEO strategies are – if a viewer does not like your video or respond well to it, YouTube won’t allow it to remain a highly ranked video.
Remember, the more you put into your video, the more you will get out of it.
#2 PICK YOUR KEYWORD(S)
You probably already know how important keywords are to your SEO practices, whether on YouTube or Google.
Choosing the right keyword can sometimes mean the difference between being on page 10 and page 1 of the search engine results.
A single video cannot possibly rank for all keywords. But it can rank for a few carefully selected ones.
The Google Keyword Research Tool is a great place to start for keyword research.
Another neat tip is to search relevant keywords on YouTube and find out the number of results in a YouTube space. As a general rule of thumb – the more the results, the more popular the keyword is.
When considering keywords, it’s important to think about what your video is about, do your keyword research and choose the ones most relevant to your video that you want it to rank for.
Once you’ve selected your keyword, ensure that you add it to your title, description, and tags.
#3 THINK THROUGH YOUR VIDEO TITLE
While navigating the complex world of YouTube SEO, your video title can be your golden ticket to visibility.
The title has a lot of roles to play. Firstly, it should tell your viewers exactly what to expect in your videos. Easy, right? But here’s the catch, it should also feature the keyword that you want to rank for.
In addition, you video title shouldn’t be too long (too much effort) or too short (too ambiguous).
The title should be long enough to tell people what they are about to watch, but not too long that it confuses them or they lose interest.
Try and make your titles as accurate as possible to the user experience, while ensuring you add your keyword phrase within it.
#4 DESCRIPTIONS ARE EVERYTHING
Because YouTube cannot “watch” your videos, the algorithm relies heavily on your video description to determine the content of your video.
The first few sentences of your description are what will appear in the search results when a user searches for your keyword.
So it’s important to make an impact in your description.
Try and write a detailed, easy-to-read and keyword relevant description for your video, without resorting to keyword stuffing.
Some basic guidelines for writing video descriptions:
- Include your keyword at least once in the first two lines of your description
- Include your keyword between 2 and 4 times in the rest of the description
- Make the description at least 250 words long
- Ensure that the description is closely aligned to the video content
#5 DON’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A THUMBNAIL
Thumbnails are all too often easily overlooked. They are the proverbial underdogs of the YouTube SEO world.
When you upload a video, YouTube auto-selects 3 screens from your video, and uses one of them as your thumbnails as default.
But if you think about it, your thumbnail is the face of your video, and it’s often the first thing people notice. So why wouldn’t you put your best foot forward?
Customized thumbnails will always outperform an automatically selected screenshot.
Creating custom thumbnails can have a drastic impact on your CTR or click through rate, because people are more likely to click on them. This in turn will improve your rankings in a measurable way.
Leverage free online tools like Canva to easily create your custom thumbnails. Find a design and style that works for you and then keep your thumbnail branding consistent.
Think about your thumbnails as the first point of contact for a user. Create thumbnails that are eye-catching, aesthetic, appealing and make users want to click on them.
#6 SPRING CLEAN YOUR YOUTUBE CHANNEL
As a little birdie at Google once told me, having a spruced up YouTube channel can make a significant difference in how well your videos rank in a YouTube Search.
So invest time to clean your channel, fix it up and make it look professional.
This will improve your audience’s user experience and you will notice the effects of this in your YouTube video ranking.
Here’s a handy YouTube channel-cleaning checklist:
- Customise channel art & profile picture
- Create tightly themed playlists
- Add links to social media & a company website
- Write a solid channel description
- Create a branded watermark
- Subscribe to similar channels
- Add channel keywords
- Add a featured website
All of these small changes at channel level can go a long way in boosting your video rankings in the YouTube search results.
This list sounds extensive, but most of it is easier than it looks.
Within a day of making the above changes to the video, our video ranked on the first-page search results for the keyword “how to sell”, which has over 4 million search results on YouTube.
Currently, the video is ranked #10 of all search results for the keyword.
Before I began the optimization process, the video had less than 400 views in total. Today it sits at over 9800 views.
This strategy worked so well that we decided to adopt it for all the videos on our channel and the results have been nothing short of epic.
We grew from 600 subscribers to 1850 subscribers in less than 3 months.
However despite all this, the unfortunate truth is that there is no guaranteed foolproof cheats method to improve your YouTube SEO – it simply does not exist.
But if you focus your efforts on creating killer content, using your keywords in the right places, optimizing the hell out of your channel and giving your audience the best user experience possible – you are bound to be well on your way to success.