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YouTube SEO: How to get your videos ranking high

YouTube SEO: How to Get Your Videos Ranking High

Just like when you create a website, starting a YouTube channel means you've got to get a promotional plan in place early on. How else will you get the views you hoped for? Even with a handful of Youtube videos under your belt, you may not have dove into one of the most important aspects of the process as you should have: YouTube SEO.

Getting high rankings on YouTube is a result of two things. First, you’ll need to appeal to the platform, but you’ll also need to appeal to your audience so you actually get higher view counts and subscribers. Start with a great YouTube channel name and you'll be almost ready to get started. Up to the task? Awesome, as we’ve got some great SEO tips to help you with your YouTube marketing and a few engagement strategies to reel in your viewers.

How to go about Youtube SEO

01. Keyword research

After starting your YouTube channel, you’ve got to upload that first video to make it official. First you’ll be asked to fill out the title, description, and tags for it. Sounds easy enough, but this is one of the most important parts of the process and it’s not something you want to do haphazardly. However, you have some homework to do first.

Before you even begin filling out your title or description, you’ll want to know what your focus keywords or keyphrases will be. Your first stop will be to see the competition surrounding the keywords you’re looking to use. Whether it’s in the form of Google’s own Adwords Keyword Planner or the many other free options it’s up to you, but this will allow you to see popularity and the competition you’ll be faced with.

Short tail vs long tail keywords

Had your heart set on “DIY crafts” for your keyword, only to find out that it’s incredibly popular already? Shorter keyphrases are referred to as short tail, and you’ll find this is where the greatest competition lies. If you think your fledgling YouTube channel can’t compete with short tail keywords, don’t worry, you have options…

Long tail keywords allow you to get a little more specific, while still using the initial keyphrase you wanted to. So instead of “DIY crafts,” you could make it “DIY Crafts for beginners” or “DIY crafts for Valentine’s Day.” While it may be searched less-often, it also offers less competition, better targeting and if you’re looking into advertising, it’ll cost much less than short tail keywords.

Are your keywords video-friendly?

Think you’ve nailed it on your keywords for your video? While this may be true for YouTube itself, it may not be the case for search engines. The best way to find out is to actually search for your desired keywords in Google. Basically, you’re looking to see if videos appear on the first page when searching your keyword. If they do, you’ll have a better chance at ranking well in both YouTube and Google.

Terms like “how to,” “review,” “hands-on” and “unboxing” all have great potential to show videos on the first page of Google, so you’re pretty safe if you’re using one of them. Still, it’s best to try it yourself with multiple keyword options before you settle on one.

02. Youtube optimization

Now that you’ve researched your keywords, it’s time to apply all you’ve learned by putting your best foot forward.


The content of your video will determine how your title is structured, but it’s important to have your keywords in the first portion of the title. If your video is about how to make doughnut ice cream cones, “How to” or “Do it yourself” would naturally fall in the beginning of the title, but that may not always be the case, depending on your keywords.

It’s best to keep your title short and concise. Anything other than the essential words for the title can be put in the description section below. As along as the title showcases your keywords prominently and the point gets across, you’re good to go.

Speaking of titles, a good practice when uploading to YouTube is to use your keywords in the filename of your video. Something like “YouTube_DIY_Crafts_Valentines_Day.mp4” should suffice.


Much like Google bots don’t actually see your photos when indexing websites, YouTube doesn’t know exactly what your video is about when you first upload it. For websites, photos need to contain alt-text in order for search engines to understand what they’re about. For YouTube, the description plays this role, acting as the translator.

It’s important to note that long tail keywords do well in your description, especially if long tail is the primary route you’re going in. Remember, the detailed approach may be less popular, but it’s more efficient (at least in the beginning). Why? Because writing a long description is beneficial for your video, as it gives more information to both YouTube and the viewer, and this can positively affect your ranking.

In addition, the description section is also a great place to add links to your social networks and your website. Feel free to over-share here.


While there’s a debate on whether tags are still important or not, it’s another location to describe your video that YouTube offers, so use it! A mix of specific and general tags is suggested, allowing your video to span multiple avenues. You can use both your short and long tail keywords here as well.

An older tactic for tags was that you should always put 20 tags per video, but this practice isn’t as popular as it used to be. While it likely won’t hurt your ranking if you opt to do this, it could also do nothing for you. The best practice is to add as many tags to properly describe your video as needed. If you feel that your clip needs 20 tags, no one’s stopping you.

03. Appeal to viewers

Now that you have your bases covered for your video to entice YouTube, it’s time to put your effort on the viewers out there that will actually bring you the success you’re looking for. The more viewers you get, the more fans you'll have - and the more you'll be able to make money on YouTube.

Here are a few tips you can do that may not dramatically change your ranking for YouTube SEO but will catch the eye of viewers.

A stand-out thumbnail

If you have your key phrase for your video already, go to YouTube and search for it to see your competition. Now look at the thumbnails of each similar video. Do you see a common style or theme between them that you could pin point? Good, now do the opposite.

YouTube viewers will naturally gravitate to videos that catch their eye, so having a video thumbnail that stands out from the sea of other offerings is important. If you see a common color theme between your competition, make your thumbnail contrast so it’s prominent. That said, no need to use every single color possible. 

Hit them with your best shot (grab interest quickly)

While this is something you’ll need to accomplish while you’re actually filming your video, it’s essential for keeping the attention of the viewer. Far too many YouTube videos suffer from the ‘long-intro syndrome’, which can make people lose interest and go elsewhere. To avoid this, you want to try to grab the attention of the viewer within the first 15 seconds.

Keep your intro short and punchy. Tell the viewer exactly what they are about to see and get it to it. You can tell your “super interesting and only semi-related story” later. People usually come to YouTube to either learn something or be entertained, and if you’re not doing either of these in the first few seconds of your video, you’re doing it wrong.

04. Give them a reason to wait (viewer retention)

Even if you’re able to grab the attention of a viewer quickly, it unfortunately doesn’t mean they’ll stay for the full video. Viewer retention weighs heavily on your video’s YouTube ranking, so you want people to watch as much of the video as possible.

A tactic you’ve likely seen, quite a few times, on YouTube is the presenter giving a quick intro and then mentioning something interesting that they’ll show or tell you at the end of the video.

There’s a good chance that if you mention that you’ll reveal something interesting at the end of the video that viewers will want to stick around for it. This tactic carries with it potential intrigue and allure, and could become indispensable in your YouTube toolkit.

Engage engage engage!

If YouTube sees a large volume of interaction on your video, its ranking will go up. Of course, you’ll need people actually watching your video to achieve this, but you can help get the ball rolling. This is where engagement is key.

One thing you can do is ask your viewers to ‘like’, subscribe and comment on your video. It may sound simple, but this can really make a difference. To start a conversation, ask questions for viewers to answer in the comments. It’s your video, so don’t be afraid to ask away.

Once you start getting comments on your video, be sure that you reply. Keep the conversation going by asking and answering questions.

05. Call to action

Need to point something out to the viewer when they’re watching your video? Annotations, cards and end screens can make it easy for you!

Cards are less intrusive than annotations, which provides a better experience for the viewer. They’re also more limited on customization options. Like annotations, you can set the type of card and the time it appears on the screen, but you can’t place it anywhere you want. Card types include video or playlist, channel, donation, poll, and link.

Rounding out the helpful back-end features for your video is end screens. As the name suggests, end screens appear at the end of your video. You can add a call to action for viewers to subscribe to your channel and promote your website. Make sure this aligns with your marketing strategy.

End screens are another great place to promote your other clips. Add a ‘suggested videos’ to your End screen to keep them watching content, even if it’s not yours. You just might be thanked by YouTube by getting a bump in your ranking.

YouTube SEO may seem a bit tricky at first, but with the above tips at your disposal, you’re equipped to climb the ranks and to making it an integral part of your social media marketing.

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