All too often businesses just slap a video on YouTube, give it a quick title, and hope for the best — this is the wrong way to boost your video’s search rank. Yes, YouTube is a fairly simple platform and doesn’t have as many optimization intricacies to worry about as, say, a website, but there are certain things you can and should do to increase your exposure.
Essentially, ranking high in YouTube search results boils down to two main factors: the quality of your content, and the level of user engagement. What can you do to improve these two areas? Here are some vital steps to take that can expand your video’s reach.
What’s great about content is it’s totally in your control — you have the power to improve your ranking by optimizing your video and delivering stellar material.
An obvious first place to start optimizing your YouTube content is your title. The title is much more than a description of your content or a witty headline, it’s what’s going to make your video appear in specific search listings (at least, in part), and it’s what convinces people to click on your video. These are two very important jobs, and the reason title selection shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Picking a title should involve keyword research, so look for commonly used search terms that relate to your topic and try to incorporate one or more of them naturally into your title. Make sure you pick keywords which truly match your content or viewers will either think your video is terrible, or you tried to pull a “bait-and-switch” on them. Either situation gives a negative impression of your brand and reduces the chance of people watching any of your videos in the future.
For our videos, we like to use our major keywords that people use to find us on Google. This ensures that our videos will show up when they search for common terms.
Likewise, if you exaggerate in your title or over-sell the video’s content, you are setting viewers up for disappointment. Unless you want to leave a bad taste in people’s mouths, don’t say you’re going to reveal a “secret,” show them the “best ” whatever, or make any other promises you can’t deliver. Focus on creating interesting titles that draw people in and make them so curious they can’t help but click on your video. However, at the same time, keep it real.
Ideally, you want your video to be exactly what the person is looking for — this makes them happy, it makes you look good, and it helps YouTube.
How annoying is it when you want to know a little more about a video before committing to watching it, but there’s no description? Don’t make that mistake. By not having a description, some viewers may decide your video isn’t worth the time and will just click away. After all, why would they waste their energy watching a video if it isn’t really what they’re looking for? They’re better off finding a new video they know more about. The description is there for a reason — take advantage of it! Let people know what’s special about your video, why they should watch it, and how it’s different from others like it (especially your competitors’).
Besides turning off visitors, omitting a description also causes you to miss out on some major SEO benefits. That description space is just begging to be filled with keyword rich content which can be picked up by YouTube and Google. Also, don’t be afraid to make your description a little lengthy (100 to 500 words) as it will give search engines more content to crawl and categorize; just remember to optimize it for humans too.
When creating a video, we use the same keywords that we use for the title. We accompany that with a brief description of what the video is about. Since the example below is from a video that is about our business, we had the opportunity to put in even more keywords. Like I said above, remember to optimize it for humans too. This is exactly what we did. Getting the perfect combination of keywords and clear readability is paramount with any video description on YouTube. In addition to the description, adding your website, phone number, and address not only gives your viewers easy access to your business, it’s also going to help you with local SEO.
Additionally, the description section is a good place to cross-promote your other web properties, so include a link to your website or blog, and encourage people to click by adding some type of incentive.
Yes, tags matter… don’t ignore them. If you’ve already taken the time to conduct keyword research for your title then coming up with appropriate tags should be simple. Just choose a few that best relate to your video and include a few variations of each one (create at least 10 tags).
It’s important to use variations of your words, because YouTube isn’t the best about figuring out what people want if the keywords are typed in exactly right. So, if your video is on “sunscreen” and someone searches for “sun block,” your listing may not appear. Or, YouTube may not rank your video if the searcher spells the keyword differently, such as “sun screen” instead of “sunscreen.”
With that in mind, use your researched keywords as your tags, but also include synonyms, plurals, misspellings, related terms, and any other words or phrases a searcher might use.
One of the lesser known ways to optimize your YouTube videos is by including a transcript below the video. Again, this strategy is another way to incorporate keywords and to tell search engines more about your content. Plus, it’s a handy thing to offer your viewers, and YouTube automatically matches the text to the video, which makes it possible for you to include closed captioning (a great way to broaden your audience).
What even fewer people know is YouTube offers transcription services; however, it’s not recommended as it provides notoriously bad results. As you can see below, the transcription of our video is possibly the worst thing ever created. Not one thing about it makes sense.
The last thing you want is your transcript to be filled with a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, or worse, have incorrect words that cause your video to rank for something totally unrelated to your topic (yes, transcripts are included in the ranking process).
A better strategy is to have someone on your team, who’s already familiar with the material, type up the content. The proper transcript took one of our team members about twenty minutes to type out into the description box. Clean, easy to read, and another spot to put in keywords that will be read by search engines.
It won’t take much more time, especially considering all the work you’ve already put into your video, and it can give you an edge over the competition.
Having consistently great content brings more visitors to your YouTube channel page, which means more views, likes, and ultimately greater channel authority. Channel authority is what you want because Google automatically gives preference to videos appearing on popular channels, so even one of your newer videos has the potential to rank highly if search engines recognize it as coming from a worthwhile source.
So, make it your goal to create an all around awesome channel. Consider redoing videos that aren’t getting much attention, and put real effort into every video you post.
If you have a video nobody wants to watch then all the strategies listed above are moot — delivering a fantastic video is the most important thing. Otherwise, few will watch, less will share, and your YouTube channel and brand will suffer. Plus, it won’t take long for YouTube and Google to realize your videos are uninteresting and consequently lower your rankings.
Check out a couple of the videos we have on our YouTube channel. Both of them let customers know who we are and what we do. These videos along with a great description and tags will be very well received by Google and YouTube.
Depending on your brand and the message you want to send, there are many ways to make a great video. You may think all YouTube videos have to be funny, but that is not the case as some of the best simply tell a story or inspire viewers in some way. Whatever tone you use, make sure the subject is relevant to your audience, entices them to keep watching, and the content is delivered in a way that encourages people to make comments, share, and engage.
If you’ve created awesome content then engagement should naturally follow, but first you have to let people know it’s out there.
Sometimes ranking high on YouTube is like trying to get a job right out of college; no one wants to hire you because you don’t have any experience, but you can ‘t get any experience until you get a job. Similarly, you need a lot of views to rank highly, yet high rankings is needed for more views. Instead of grumbling about the injustice of it all, go out and do something. Specifically, letting people know about your video.
You can spread the word through your website, blog, social networks, putting a link in your email signature, and telling friends and acquaintances in the “real world.” Eventually, maybe slowly at first, the views will start coming in and you’ll see your ranking rise. Then, once you rank high enough you’ll start seeing views increase exponentially.
Still, don’t make the mistake of thinking plain old views are enough; you need quality views. One of the best ways to judge the quality of a view is by looking at viewers’ watch time (you can find this in YouTube’s engagement report). In other words, are people watching your video all the way through, or are they getting bored and bailing after a few seconds or at the halfway point? Ideally, you want folks to watch the whole thing, but the longer you can keep them there the better as this lets YouTube know your video is interesting, which will improve your rankings.
Go back and check the engagement report for all your videos and take note of how long you are keeping viewers’ attention. If you find many are dropping out early then try to fix the problem. Perhaps your videos are too long and need better editing, maybe the video content wasn’t really what people were looking for (check that your title and keywords are relevant), or maybe your videos are just boring. Whatever it is, fix your poor performing videos, and strive to make all future videos interesting for the duration.
In the world of SEO, the need for inbound links never goes away; not even on YouTube. As with everything on the web, inbound links give validity to content. They tell search engines something is worthwhile and that it deserves a higher place in search rankings. On YouTube, you need inbound links for both your channel and your videos, and you can use many of the same tactics to get these links as you would for your website or blog.
For instance, start by providing great content which encourages users to naturally share your stuff. Then, let people know about your video by publicizing it on your social channels and doing all the other view-increasing tactics mentioned in point one. Views and inbound links typically work hand-in-hand, so if you can get one the other should fall into place.
Social shares not only increase views and inbound links, they also keep your brand in the social sphere, which is a good place to be. Social media is part of many people’s daily routine, so if you can keep your brand visible and part of the conversation, you’ll continue to get attention and your rank will keep increasing.
YouTube has several ways to share a video with the top three being the obvious social media giants. Having so many options will only increase the number of people that your video will be put in front of.
Also, it’s easy to share videos through social media; all people have to do is hit a button and something they like can be sent to all their friends. Thus, making your videos easily accessible is a great tool to have in your arsenal.
Yes, you can choose to disable the embed feature on your videos, but there’s rarely a good reason to do so. Embeds get you more of everything: views, likes, shares, and a higher rank. Allowing others to embed your videos enables your brand to reach all new audiences, and once your videos start getting attention in the blogosphere there’s no limit to where they might appear.
Don’t forget to embed your videos on your own site too!
Comments & Video Response
You know viewers are engaged and interested if they are leaving comments (unless, of course, they are only saying your video is terrible) and start talking to you and each other about your content. Google recognize comments as evidence of value and will reward you with higher rankings if you can keep the conversation going. Therefore, encourage viewers to participate by asking questions or even including something a bit controversial in your video. You don’t want to offend anyone, but don’t be afraid to have an opinion as this is what sparks people to share their own views.
If someone does make a comment, respond back. Answer their questions, tell them where they can find more, and encourage further engagement by mentioning your social page or website.
The ultimate “comment” is a video response, because it proves your video made such an impression someone was motivated to create their own video just to share their feelings. Obviously, these require more energy than an ordinary comment, which is why they carry more weight, but it also makes them harder to come by.
How can you get a video response? Sadly, there’s no guaranteed way to make one happen as they are very organic in nature; however, you can increase your chances by making a video response for someone else, which may inspire them to reciprocate. Plus, when someone accepts your response they inadvertently boost your ranking by sending “authority” back to your page. You can also ask a friend or someone in your industry if they’d like to swap video responses, which will benefit you both.
Other things you can do are make your video a response to someone else’s video (could get you quick attention), or make a video response to other videos on your channel (e.g. an update, more information, a reply to comments, etc.). These strategies aren’t quite as useful as someone making a response for you, yet they are still worth the effort.
Likes & Favorites
What’s more reaffirming than a few thousand thumbs up (likes) for your video? That said, there’s nothing wrong with a few thumbs down too (everyone gets them) as they still show that folks are engaged and motivated enough to voice their opinion.
What’s even better for your ranking is if someone “favorites” your video. This lets you and search engines know someone likes your video enough to share it with their friends, advertise it to the world, and, in all likelihood, watch it again.
Ultimately, the goal of YouTube and Google is to get searchers the best video that relates to what they’re looking for. If you can align your own tactics with this mission and create a stellar “product” full of engagement, you’ll have no problem getting high rankings. Of course, there are no shortcuts to this formula — only hard work and great videos.