YouTube SEO: The Ultimate Guide

The Definitive Guide to Keyword ResearchYou probably already know that YouTube is the world’s second biggest search engine…

…and a huge untapped traffic source.

(In fact, YouTube gets over 30 million visitors per day)

Today I’m going to show you the ins and outs of YouTube SEO, including how you can rank videos in both Google and YouTube.

Free Bonus: Download a free checklist that will show you how to quickly execute this strategy. Includes 2 bonus YouTube marketing techniques not found in the post.

My Top Ranking YouTube Videos

Before we get into my YouTube SEO tutorial, I want to show you an example of a video that I’ve ranked for a competitive keyword:

This video is ranking #1 for the keyword “SEO strategy“:

youtube ranking

Now that you can see that I know what I’m talking about, let’s dive into the step-by-step system that I used to generate this top-5 ranking.

Step #1: Find “Video Keywords”

Like anything in SEO, the YouTube SEO process starts with keyword research.

Your goal is to find keywords that have YouTube results on the first page of Google.

These are called, “Video Keywords”.

Unlike a normal SERP with 10 webpage results, with Video Keywords, Google reserves a good chunk of the first page for video results:

Google Video Results

In general, Google tends to use video results for these types of keywords:

  • How-to keywords (“how to shave a cat”)
  • Reviews (“Bluehost review”)
  • Tutorials (“Setting up WordPress”)
  • Anything fitness or sports related (“Cardio kickboxing”)
  • Funny videos (“Cute animals”)

Why is this important?

Well, let’s say you optimize your video around a keyword that doesn’t have any video results in Google.

In that case, you’ll ONLY get traffic from people searching on YouTube.

But if you optimize for Video Keywords, you’ll also get targeted traffic to your video directly from Google’s first page.

How to Find Video Keywords

The easiest way to find video keywords is to search for keywords in your niche.

Then see if any of the keywords you searched for have YouTube video results, like this:

YouTube Results in Google

Simple, right?

Once you’ve found a Video Keywords, it’s time to check if there’s enough search volume for that keyword.

Because videos don’t take a ton of time to put together, you don’t need to go after keywords with massive search volumes.

Just make sure your target keyword gets at least 300 searches per month in Google (you can find this information using the Google Keyword Planner):

GKP Results

Why 300 searches per month?

If a keyword boasts at least 300 searches per month, then you know it also gets a decent amount of searches within YouTube itself.

And if you can get that video to rank in Google, then a lot of those 300+ monthly searches will click on YOUR video in the results.

That means you’ll get more high-quality traffic to your video, and ultimately, your site.

Here’s a Real Life Example

Because Backlinko is in the SEO niche, I’m going to look for video keywords using searches like “keyword research tips”, “how to build backlinks” and “SEO tutorial”.

Bingo! The keyword “SEO tutorial” bring up two YouTube results in Google:

SEO Tutorial Results

Sure enough, that keyword exceeds our minimum of 300 monthly searches:

Monthly Searches

So that would be a great keyword to create a video around.

Speaking of creating your video…

Step #2: Make Your (Awesome) Video

Like anything in business, the more you put into your video, the more you’ll get out of it.

Personally, I hire a professional videographer for the day, pay an editor to add graphics, rent a studio…

The works.

Here’s an example of one of my most recent videos:

Looks expensive, but it’s not. That video only cost around $190 to produce.

If you’re on a really tight budget, you can record your voice over a PowerPoint presentation using ScreenCast-O-Matic ($15/year).

You don’t need to sweat production value in the beginning. As long as your video is valuable and  interesting to watch, you’re good to go.

I’m emphasizing quality so much because user engagement is THE most important YouTube ranking signal.

If your video stinks, it won’t rank…no matter how optimized it is for SEO.

Unlike Google — which can use backlinks and other signals to evaluate the quality of a piece of content — YouTube has no such luxury.

They judge your video’s quality based on how people interact with it.

The User Experience Metrics That YouTube Uses

Here’s what YouTube uses to determine the quality of your video:

  • Video retention: The percentage of your video people tend to watch (the more, the better).
Video_Retention

Video tutorial

How to Quickly and Easily Boost Viewer Retention: 3 Simple Steps

 

  • Comments: If people comment, they probably enjoyed the video (or at least watched it).
Video Comment
  • Subscribes after watching: If someone subscribes to your channel after watching your video that sends a HUGE signal that you have an amazing video.
YouTube Subscribe Button
  • Shares: How many people share your video on social media sites like Twitter and Google+.
YouTube Sharing Icons
  • Favorites: The number of people that favorite your video or add it to their “Watch Later” playlist:
Watch Later
  • Thumbs up/Thumbs down: Self explanatory 🙂

If you want to see how your videos are performing, you can see user experience data in your YouTube Analytics:

YouTube Analytics

If you make a top-notch video you’re MUCH more likely to get high-retention views, likes, comments and all the things that YouTube likes to see in a video.

Make Your Video At Least 5-Minutes Long

Like with text-based articles, longer videos rank better.

I consistently see longer videos outperforming shorter videos in YouTube and Google search.

For example, if you search in YouTube for the keyword “WordPress”, 3 out of the 4 top videos are an hour long.

YouTube Search Results Screenshot

So aim for at least 5-minutes.

If it makes sense for your video to be even longer than that, go for it. Don’t worry about your video being too long. If it’s awesome, people WILL watch it.

OK so you’ve created your compelling video that’s 5-minutes or longer in length. Nice work 🙂

Now it’s time to optimize your video and upload it to YouTube.

Step #3: Upload Your Video With YouTube SEO in Mind

Here’s how to extract the most SEO value from your video.

Video Filename

When you’re done with the video make sure that you use the keyword in the video’s filename.

For example, if you wanted to rank for the keyword “weight loss tips”, you’d want to name your video weight_loss_tips_video.mp4.

Video_Filename

This may not be a ranking factor. But it doesn’t hurt 🙂

Video Title

The title of your video should be at least 5-words long. That way, you can include your full keyword without keyword-stuffing.

For example, my Advanced SEO video’s title is 5 words…only 2 of which are my target keyword:

Video Title

Power Tip: Like with a blog post, I’ve found that you get a slight video SEO boost by putting your keyword at the beginning of the title.

So if you were trying to rank for “surfing tutorial” you’d want a title like: “Surfing Tutorial: Learn How to Ride a Wave Today”.

Description

Your videos description is VERY important.

Because Google and YouTube can’t “listen” to videos, they rely on your text description to determine your video’s content.

Here are the basic guidelines for the description:

  • Put your link at the very top of the video (this maximizes CTR to your site)
  • Include your keyword in the first 25 words
  • Make the description at least 250-words
  • Include your keyword 3-4 times

This SEO-optimized description helps tell Google and YouTube what your video is about without being spammy.

Here’s an example of a description for a video optimized around the keyword “Advanced SEO”:

YT Description

Tags

Tags aren’t super-important…but they help.

Just include a few keywords to help YouTube and Google learn what your video is about.

YT Tags

Targeted tags not only help you rank for your target keyword…

…but get you to you show up more often as a related video in the sidebar area of YouTube:

YT Sidebar

When the video someone’s watching has a similar tag as your video– boom!– you’re added to the sidebar.

Once you’re done, hit “Save Changes” and your video will go live!

Step #4: Get Video Views

We talked a lot about user experience signals so far…which are REALLYimportant.

But in order for your video to rank for competitive keywords, it needs to get A LOT of views.

More views=higher rankings.

But there’s one catch…

…the views need to be real.

YouTube has caught onto fake views. That’s why I don’t recommend using a service on Fiverr to pump up your view count.

And as we already discussed, long-retention views are worth their weight in gold.

Here are some strategies you can use to get targeted views to your video:

Mention Your Video on Quora and Other Q&A Sites

Quora, Yahoo! Answers, and other Q&A sites are some of the most popular sites on the web (Quora rocks a top 500 Alexa ranking).

But if you try to go in there and plaster links all over the place, you’re going to get banned in a flash…

…unless you link to YouTube.

Because you’re posting your video in a place where people are desperate for information on a given topic, the views you’ll get are extremely high-retention.

Just search for a question on your video’s topic:

Quora Search Results

And add a link to your video. Or better yet, embed it into your answer:

Quora Answers

Link To Your Video In Your Email Signature

People that email you (like your mom) generally like you.

And if you’re like me, you get A TON of emails.

So when you add a link to your latest video in your email signature, that means you get high-retention views like they’re going out of style.

Email Signature

Embed Your Videos in Blog Posts

Whenever you write a blog post (on your site or as a guest post for another site), think to yourself:

“Where can I embed a YouTube video into this post?”

For example, when I published a case study about The Moving Man Method, I embedded a video to explain how the strategy worked:

YouTube Embed

This INSTANTLY got my video a few hundred high-quality views.

Here’s What To Do Next…

If you want to get more traffic from YouTube, I’ve got something special for you.

It’s a step-by-step checklist that will show you the exact steps you need to take to get your videos ranking highly in YouTube and Google.

Click on the link below to download the free PDF checklist:

Youtube SEO Checklist Download
  1. Hey Brian.

    Thanks for the post. I found you through a G search for how to rank a YouTube video. I honestly think with the recent G update, they are trying to force their adwords and YT and everything else they own to the user. So I think that the new “niche site” is going to be YT videos. I lost a ton of rankings to my niche site over the weekend. My entire website went from average 800 UV a day to 10… Really made my heart sink. Just as I was starting to do well with SEO ha ha.

    Anyway, I’m going to try some ClickBank + YT methods and hopefully get a few more affiliate sales back. No doubt I’ll have more questions as I go along, but I just wanted to say thanks for the post.

    Cheers!
    – James 🙂

    1. I like the way you put that: YT videos are the new niche site. And they’ll be more durable to updates because Google doesn’t want to penalize their own property. Thanks for stopping by, James 🙂

  2. Hey again Brian,

    You’re probably sick of seeing my name by now, haha.
    Anyway… I’ve been pulling out all the stop to get my Youtube videos ranked, but NOTHING is working. I have just realised though that all of my purchased, drip-fed, high-retention views are from mobile devices. Is this why I’m nowhere to be seen on Google’s SERPs? Also, do you have an e-mail address I could contact you at? I don’t want to take over your comments section single-handedly lol.

    Regards,

    Chris

    1. It can take quite a while (up for a month depending on your keyword) for Google to rank your video. Not sure about the mobile device views, but that might be a sign of fake views within YT’s algorithm. Just keep building views and you’ll eventually show up.

  3. Hi Brian,
    I was wondering, if you had 10 high quality backlinks to use, how many of those would go towards individual video URLs and how many would you use on your channel URL. I am just trying to gauge how important it is to get links pointing to your channel vs each video.

    Thank you!
    -Lewis.

  4. Hi Brian,

    Do I have to write a fresh content for the description?
    Or copying content from my website is ok?

    Thank you
    Jojo

  5. Hi Brian,

    Great post, which explained why some of my videos rank page one and other don’t….likely the “Video keyword” theory that you suggested.

    I’m at the top of Youtube but page 4 for a keyword in the travel niche.

    It is frustrating because I am offering this as a service for offline clients as it is selling like hotcakes.

    The only issue is getting to page one every time. I will try buying more views, the software links and also try blog networks. Great tips!

    Perhaps we can create some sort of mastermind around this strategy??

    Thanks again,

    Chris

    1. Glad you enjoyed that one, Chris. I never thought of offering this as a service. Great idea! As you said, if you start buying some real human views and building serious links to the video it WILL rank for those video keywords.

  6. Awesome post ! I’m gonna try to do some blast on my videos via fiverr and will let you know how it’s work. What about linking youtube channel together ?

    1. Thanks Simon! I’ve actually never tried linking youtube channels together but I think it could work really well 🙂

  7. I have found that these links building tactics are the best (for me)

    – PAD submission (software submission)
    – RSS submission
    – Private blog networks
    – Social bookmarking

    I know most of you probably have heard that some of these don’t work for SEO.I don’t know about SEO, but for Youtube SEO they are GREAT !!!

    Here is a proof

    youtube.com/watch?v=UR_mycV8Tj8

    Check this video for these keywords:
    surveys
    surveys for money
    online surveys

    And notice that I have so little views and likes, but I rank so high because of my backlinks.I also rank on Google for many related keywords…

    1. Thanks for your insights, John. Glad to hear that you’re crushing it with YouTube SEO (even without any views and likes). It looks like it’s all about backlinks for videos too 🙂

      1. Thanks Brian. Another question for you. How much time and money did you invest in this video and since it looks like almost 5 months since you published this post, can you update us on your total earnings?

        1. No problem. I didn’t keep close track of how much I invested in the video. Between the views and links, it set me back about $150. The video has made over $1500 to date.

  8. Excellent post Brian! I have a question for you if you don’t mind.

    I’ve heard that YouTube embeds help you rank in YouTube’s internal search, but do embeds also count as backlinks, therefore increasing your ranking in Google as well? I’ve been searching the net and asking around and haven’t been able to get a good answer.

    I was looking at the iframe embed code that youtube uses, and it uses a different url than the typical watch?v= url. It uses an url like: youtube.com/embed/. However, if you view the source of the /embed/ page, there is a rel=canonical that lists the typical watch?v= url. But does the link juice pass through?

    If embeds do count as backlinks, that would be fantastic, as it would increase my youtube ranking and my google ranking at the same time!

    1. Glad you liked the post, John!

      Good question. I do think that embeds help increase your videos’ rank within youtube. I actually never thought to look to see if an embed passed juice. But considering that the embed URL cites the original video page on youtube in their rel-canonical, I’d say that’s a backlink :-).

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