A Complete Guide to SEO for YouTube

If you’ve been thinking about finally pursuing a video marketing strategy, chances are you’ve been thinking about YouTube. Being one of the biggest online platforms on the Web and certainly the default one to go to when thinking about videos of all kinds surely made you want to consider it.

SEO for YouTube

In fact, that’s why more than a billion people use it every day to watch clips, from explainer videos to funny homemade bits. Its use is so huge that people have turned this video platform into the second biggest search engine in the world.

That’s also why every brand under the sun feels like it belongs there – because it’s highly likely they’ll find their audiences.

Unfortunately, even valuable videos can get lost amid YouTube’s massive video library. It can even happen to you! How can you avoid that? By optimizing each video to improve their rankings. Here’s how you do that, step by step.

Do your homework and research keywords

Let’s say you have a pack of videos for your electronics store. You review, compare and even give away useful tips for purchasing and using all kinds of devices. You’ll need to devise a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy to get them in front of your audience. And SEO plans have only one place to start: with keyword research.

You can use YouTube itself to do so but you should also use other traditional tools (like Google’s Search Console, Moz, SEMRush and the like). You can also take a look at your competitors’ top-ranking videos on YouTube and borrow ideas from there.


The type of keywords you’ll look into will depend on your videos’ topics. In the example above, you’ll want keywords related to things like smartphones, reviews, comparisons and such. You’ll also have to combine those with more specific and more generic words to create long-tail keywords. You’ll end up with something like “new iphone review”, “Samsung S9 compared to iPhone X”, “how to track a lost iPhone” and so on.

You have to take a look at keywords of all lengths and combine them to end up with new, more specific keywords you can use across your videos.

Optimize all of your videos’ elements

There are some things YouTube’s algorithm takes into account to organize its search results. The metadata you provide can help the algorithm find your videos faster, which in turn will result in more visibility. These are the 4 factors you should be thinking of:


  • Tags: YouTube will ask you to include some tags when uploading a video to identify what the video’s about. Take your time to be as thorough as possible and be sure you use some of your core keywords here (like “tech reviews”, “gadget comparison”, etc).


  • Video description: this is a brief explanation of what people can expect when watching your video. Be clear, concise and to the point. Include some keywords here as well. You can even use a call to action or some links here to capitalize on the traffic you might get. The only thing you DON’T want to put on a description is a promise that the video won’t deliver (“a tip to hack the new iPhone”).


  • Title: Some people try to entice the audience to watch their video by using a vague title. This can work against you, as some people might feel like itsgeneric. In the same sense, being extremely descriptive can feel flat. You need to work on your title to comply with 3 rules: being entertaining, being clear and including an essential keyword.


  • Thumbnails: You need to pick an image that’s eye-catching to make your videos stand out. You can do that with a colorful, funny or sexy image, so that’s what you should be looking for. Just remember: don’t pick a thumbnail that doesn’t relate to the video it belongs with, as people will feel cheated and will leave and never come back.


Videos rank higher if they are well-crafted

Though working on the metadata and the technical stuff is crucial, it leaves out another huge part about YouTube’s SEO: the actual content creation.

In video marketing, SEO starts even before writing your first script. Deciding whichtypes of videos to shoot, prioritizing their shooting and fitting them into your bigger marketing scheme are all parts of what you’ll have to do.

Your chances of people watching your videos will increase if you give them what they are looking for – in the highest quality possible. That’s why you have to learn what works and craft your videos in the best possible way.

For instance, did you know that product reviews, how-to videos and vlogs are among the most viewed types of videos on YouTube? In the case of our example, the first 2 types are perfect for our imaginary tech store channel.

Another thing you’ll have to decide beforehand is how long your video is going to be. Reality is that people lose interest quickly. That’s why short videos are all the rage now – because people usually don’t watch long videos.

So, short is good on YouTube. But how short is short? YouTube itself can give you a hint. Whenever you filter the results for any search, you’ll see you can filter them by length, with YouTube calling short to all those videos that are 4 minutes or less.


That doesn’t mean you can’t upload longer videos. A long detailed process that’s hard to explain (such as a way to fix a broken smartphone) can benefit from more minutes. However, and as a general rule, stick to that mark (or under) for a shot at success.

Yet another thing you have to take care of is how you hook your audience. You’re dealing with an audience with volatile attention, so to get your message across you’ll have to be more than just concise. You’ll have to arrange your whole video to say what you want while people are still watching with intent. That’s why the most important part of any video is the beginning.

Starting off strong and dynamic is key to keeping people engaged. We’ve grown accustomed to being entertained all the time, so you can’t afford to be boring.That’s why you have to plan out the videos for your business to follow a narrative.

They don’t have to be funny but you have to tell a story that takes your audience from point A to point B. Of course, if point A isn’t interesting, people won’t watch at all. Start with your strongest messages and images and build it up from there.

Audience retention is one more thing you have to take care of. YouTube checks how much of each video your viewers watch and uses that factor in its rankings. If people leave as soon as your videos start, then you’re doomed. That’s why it is so important to follow the narrative: if you’re telling a story, then people will stick around to see where it all goes.

Making your videos short, using dynamic and captivating shots, putting some enthralling soundtracks and creating characters with which the audience can relate to are all ways to increase your videos’ audience retention.

3 more things you shouldn’t overlook

As if all of the above wasn’t enough, there are 3 extra things I haven’t discussed here that you can’t ignore. They are:

Calls To Action: You are surely expecting for people watching your videos to bring you something: visits to your site, views on other videos or store sales. You can use call to actions to direct that traffic to your goal: in the descriptions, as buttons or thumbnails in the middle of the video, as suggested links at the end of it. Just don’t abuse them.

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Playlists: Audiences love playlists, because although they might be interested in a certain video (say, a review for a specific smartphone) the autoplay feature of all playlists may interest them in watching the following videos (reviews of other smartphones). You may end up getting thousands of extra views just for being organized!

YouTube Channel branding: You’ll have to make your channel look and feel exactly the same as the rest of your marketing materials. A good cover photo, profile pic and a nice description with a few keywords about what you offer video-wise can make a real difference. People arriving to your channel will instantly recognize it and will have a good feeling about who you are.

Where to go from here

There’s plenty to do with YouTube’s SEO. You have to make a plan before even shooting your first video, analyze your own market, find a hole where you can fit, start creating content and make sure people find you by paying attention to all the “little” things you haven’t worried about until now: titles, descriptions, keywords, calls to actions, video duration, type of video and a huge etcetera.

The vast majority of people are watching videos right now and are using YouTube to do so, after all, it is one of the most popular OTT platforms out there. So, unless you’re willing to be left out, all of these basic things I’ve gone through in this guide have to be inscripted in the way you think about your video marketing strategy.

Last thing: you have to know that you’re probably going to fail sometimes. Whenever you underperform, take a look at what might have gone wrong and change things the next time. Keep reading about the subject, contact a video production company to help, or try new things on your own. There’s no biggert failure in YouTube’s SEO than failing and believing there’s nothing you can do about it.

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