9 tips for optimising your YouTube videos for SEO

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YouTube is something of a different beast when compared with other social media channels.

People tend to use YouTube as more of a search engine rather than a social media network and so it is important that you optimise your videos for SEO, just like you would with a website page or a blog post.

Unlike most social media, your content is not time-sensitive on YouTube and therefore you can continue to gain reach and views as time goes on, rather than all your engagement being limited to just when you post, which then ends within a day or so.

Founded in 2005, by the owners of PayPal, YouTube is now owned by Google so it really is no wonder that it is the second biggest search engine in the world, with over 1.5 billion logged in users per month and over 1 billion hours of video viewed each day (Source: SearchEngine Journal).

Google’s blended search results also show videos for certain queries and for both of these reasons YouTube should be a key part of your content strategy.

It is also important that you optimise your videos for SEO to improve both video views and overall brand awareness.

Here are our 9 top tips for optimising your YouTube videos for SEO:

1.      Keyword optimisation

SEO optimisation for YouTube videos follows similar principles to webpage optimisation.

And so the first thing to think about is the keyword that you would like your video to appear for.

Ensure that this keyword is included naturally in both the title and description of your description.

You can use traditional keyword research to discover what people are searching for or try some of our new strategies for keyword research.

Keywords for both Google and YouTube are likely to be similar.

2.      Optimise your YouTube description

An optimised YouTube description can not only help you show up in search results but also help your video appear in the suggested video side bar, when similar videos are playing.

The character limit for a YouTube video is 5000 characters.

And while this is probably not going to be read by many viewers (after all, they came to the channel to watch a video not read a blog!) it is nevertheless a good opportunity to add some text to be crawled.

Both YouTube and Google’s featured snippets will only show the first couple of lines of text, so treat this as you would a meta description on a webpage.

Make sure important information, such as your call to action and your keyword, is included within these first lines.

3.      Plan your video content to match user intent

A bit like using Trip Advisor to look for reviews, users will often search for videos of hotels, restaurants or clothing to see what they are like before they go on to make a purchase.

These are good opportunities to get views if there are no other videos for this. Or if the ones that are on YouTube already are not very good quality, as it is therefore more likely that someone will prefer to watch yours.

Alongside this, instructional videos remain ever popular.

For example, you might search for something such as installing a theme on WordPress or how to change the water in your LazySpa Hot Tub.

Many people prefer to watch an instructional video rather than read through reams of notes.

4.      Upload a custom thumbnail

Your video’s thumbnail is what viewers will see when they are scrolling through search results.

YouTube stats show that 90% of the most-viewed videos use a custom thumbnail (Source: YouTube Creator Academy).

And so you will want your thumbnail to stand out and signal exactly what the video is about, in order to encourage click throughs.

Avoid using red, black and white on your thumbnail as this matches YouTube’s main colours and so your thumbnail is unlikely to stand out.

Instead, go for bright colours such as blue, green or pink.

And ensure that any text on your thumbnail is easy to read.

5.      Make sure that you categorise your video

This is a step that many people forget to do, as it is not immediately obvious when you upload your video.

To categorise your video on YouTube, go to the advanced settings and then choose a category which best fits your video.

This will help it to show up alongside similar videos.

6.      Tag your video with keywords

Using tags on your videos can let the user know what the video is about.

It also helps let YouTube know where it should be showing your video.

Lead with your most important keywords and use a mixture of short and long tail keywords.

Do not use any irrelevant keywords in the misguided belief that you will get more reach as YouTube is wise to this and may penalise your video, restricting its reach rather than amplifying it.

7.      Add subtitles to your video

Adding subtitles to your YouTube video can help with its reach as you are supplying more keywords and context to the video with the text.

However, it is also important to add subtitles to your video for accessibility.

Subtitles will allow a wider audience to view your content including anyone who is deaf or hard of hearing or viewers who speak a different language.

Subtitles  can also help viewers who may not be able to listen with the volume on because they are at work, on a Zoom call or on a train!

YouTube uses its own speech recognition technology to automatically caption your videos, but you may want to add your own as these are not always accurate!

To add your own, you can either add these directly to the video.

Or you can upload a timed subtitles file.

YouTube has a handy guide on how to add subtitles to your video.

8.      Add an end screen

An end screen appears at the end of your YouTube video (as the name might suggest!) and suggests to users where they should go next.

Here you can add links to more of your videos to help keep viewers on your channel, rather than letting them go off to the other videos that YouTube might suggest.

You can choose which videos you would like to promote here or else let YouTube pick from a playlist of your most viewed video.

Increasing your views and engagement will also signal to YouTube that your channel is one to watch and therefore increase its chances of being shown in more places.

9.      Include a question

It is a good idea to try and get a lot of comments and engagements on your video as this signals to YouTube that your content is popular and will help to prioritise it.

Try ending your video by asking a question within the video itself to get the conversation started.

And make sure that you take the time to reply to all the comments on your videos, in order to build up this engagement.

The best ways to optimise your YouTube videos for SEO

In summary, the best ways to optimise your YouTube videos for SEO are to:

  • Optimise your keywords
  • Optimise your YouTube description
  • Plan your video content to match user intent
  • Upload a custom thumbnail
  • Ensure that you categorise your video
  • Tag your video with keywords
  • Add subtitles to your video
  • Add an end screen
  • Include a question

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