Skip to main content

Discovery is as important on YouTube as it is anywhere else on the internet. As more people — particularly younger viewers — come to consume a lot of video content online, YouTube has become an important marketing opportunity. But taking full advantage of this marketing channel, just like any other, requires some careful strategy.

Every minute, hundreds of hours of video are uploaded to YouTube. This means there’s a massive amount of competition for viewers. No matter how good your videos are, your efforts won’t pay off if no one can find your content. This means you need to optimize your videos for search.

YouTube is a division of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and its content shows up readily in Google searches. That makes YouTube a better video platform for discovery than similar sites like Vimeo. Users can also find videos using YouTube’s search feature. We don’t know a lot of definitive information about how this search feature works, but it does seem to perform differently than Google.

So how can you optimize your YouTube videos to perform well in search, both in Google and within YouTube itself? Here are a few steps to incorporate into your strategy.

Use Keywords Wisely

Keyword research works for YouTube SEO the same as it does for any other web search. In fact, keywords may be more important on YouTube than for Google. With content farms and other bad actors stuffing keywords into text to game the system, Google made major changes to its algorithm. It now focuses more on quality and other factors for written content.

But search within YouTube seems to still focus pretty heavily on keywords. You can use keyword research tools, Google trends and other tools to find keywords that are relevant to your content.

Once you have your target keywords identified, make sure to include them in your video’s title, tags, thumbnail and description. You can even weave your keywords into the video’s script and create closed captions or subtitles, which can further enhance your content’s keyword exposure. But don’t stuff keywords or let the keywords do all the work. Your titles should be concise and enticing — it doesn’t matter how highly you rank in search if no one actually watches.

With that in mind, make sure your keywords are actually relevant to the content. That content should, in turn, be relevant for your brand. There are two reasons for this. One, it’s always a good idea to provide great content. Inbound marketing strategy requires that you engage and delight your audience, and that means serving up something they actually want to watch.

The second reason has to do with SEO. The more relevant your videos are for viewers, the higher YouTube will rank them. In the context of keywords, though, the important thing to keep in mind is that the keywords you choose will appear throughout your content. You should be sure to choose words relating to topics that are useful for both your viewers and your brand.

Focus on Engagement and Viewer Retention

The more time viewers spend on YouTube, the more ad revenue the company makes. YouTube is ultimately an advertising platform too, so it makes sense that its leadership wants to incentivize viewer retention. This translates to a search boost for videos from channels that are proven to keep their audience members on the platform.

Engagement, including subscriptions, likes and comments, is about more than just popularity on YouTube. Getting your viewers to interact with your content helps your videos perform better in search. As an added bonus, it’ll also lend your brand more credibility with viewers.

How do you do this? Creating a reliable stream of relevant content can help encourage subscriptions, and producing good-quality work can entice people to hit the thumbs-up icon. Include a CTA in each video asking viewers to post questions about what you’ve created or recount their experiences with the topic at hand. You can then interact in the comments to incentivize future participation. And, of course, asking viewers to like and subscribe is a classic and effective technique among YouTubers.

Aside from likes, comments and subscriptions, you want your viewers to actually watch through the entire video. That means you’ve got to grab their attention up front with a relevant intro. Don’t waste precious time with a long intro sequence. Get to the point, or you’ll lose most of your audience within a few seconds.

Additionally, you’ll want to optimize the length of your video. If it’s too short, it may not get many views. If it’s too long, many people won’t stay until the end. Try to keep your videos somewhere in the 10- to 15-minute range as you get started.

Add Links to Other Content

You can use cards, which are popup links that appear during a video, and an endscreen, to promote other videos. This is a good idea for a few reasons.

One, it increases the chances that viewers will stay on YouTube after watching your video. Two, it increases exposure to your other content. Three, it can enhance the utility of your videos and give viewers an even more positive impression of your brand. How? Let’s say you’re making a multi-part video or expanding on a topic you previously touched on. You can add a card directing viewers to that relevant information for explanation.

Overall, the goal of YouTube SEO is to foster a blend of discovery and retention. If you can balance those two elements using the techniques described above, you’ll be well on your way to success.