2020 is going to present a lot of changes for YouTube content. Whether it’s demonetization, COPPA restrictions, or any number of unexpected changes, YouTubers need to be more business-minded than ever. One of the least mastered YouTube skills is SEO - search engine optimization. At the core of the platform, YouTube is a search giant. People are looking for answers, and your content probably answers it. BUT, if you’re not effectively making your content searchable - how are they going to find you? Here’s why you need to be working on your SEO and how to SEO can be a gamechanger for your YouTube Videos!

What is YouTube SEO?

There is a common belief that YouTube is a platform for video creators. While there is partial truth in that, YouTube is ultimately a search engine akin to its parent company, Google. YouTube’s aim isn’t necessarily about helping video creators be successful as much as it is about serving content that people are looking for. Most creators start with an idea of what they want to answer when they create their video. That same thought process can be used to optimize your content for search aka YouTube SEO. SEO is using the tools available to you to make sure that when people search, they find what you’re creating.

Will YouTube SEO make you successful?

YouTube SEO will NOT, on its own, make you successful. However, what it will do is provide you with more and more opportunities to become successful. The more your content is surfaced when people search, the more likely people will watch. Then, as your content continues to be consumed, it signals to YouTube that you answer the question people are asking, further pushing your video up in search results. With each video that people enjoy and watch, the more trust that YouTube’s recommendation engine will put in your content. But, none of these things are possible if people can’t find your content. So, you see how SEO can help make you successful.

How can you implement YouTube SEO?

There are some simple technical things you can do to start implementing YouTube SEO. These things take a bit of time to master, but as you start to do them, they will become second nature to you.

  1. Always search for keywords
    Before you publish your video content, always make sure you’ve done research into keywords. Keywords are what search engines use to help determine what you’re looking for. Knowing what your video is about and then writing down those keywords is a good start. From there use a keyword tool to identify the best ways to target a keyword that doesn’t have as much competition. For example “Cooking” would have a LOT of search competition, but “Cooking Starfruit” would have much less, making it easier to compete for.
  2. Rename your video file
    This one is very minor but MAY have some minor impact on search results. Your video file name should match the keyword you’re searching for. Rename “video-sequence-10.mp4” to “cooking-starfruit.mp4” for example.
  3. Your title is very important
    When you title your video, you need to hit a few things. First, make your title fit the keyword you’re trying to get search results for. This should go without saying, but your title is the first thing people will read (and it’s what the search algorithm will first consider). Next, make sure that your title is punchy and interesting. Titles need to be non-generic if you’re hoping to optimize them for search discovery. Finally, make sure your title is at least five words long, but also no longer than a short sentence. If your title is too long, it gets cut off by the limit and ultimately looks bad.
  4. Provide a detailed, but succinct video description
    The video description is very useful in helping YouTube understand your content. It helps identify keywords as well as context about the video - offering 1000 characters of possible written content. But while you have 1000 characters to use, we recommend not using nearly that much. Instead, you want to provide rich details about your video as well as relevant links in a paragraph or two max. The first 100 characters are most important, as they show alongside a video without needing to click “show more”. Make sure you provide some summary of the content in that first block. From there, flesh it out into a paragraph using other relevant content to the video. Finally, use a few more characters to link to your channel, social accounts, and other helpful content.
  5. Fill the tags category
    Your tags should be robust and detailed, covering everything that’s relevant to the video. This includes the targetted keyword(s) from your initial search. Make sure every keyword is directly related to the content itself though, as you may get hurt by unrelated tags.
  6. Make an eye-catching thumbnail
    Your thumbnail is the first visual SEO that people will look at when considering a video in search. The thumbnail should be relevant to the content and let the viewer know exactly what the video may be about. There’s a lot of supporting data that suggests the thumbnail is the most important reason why someone will click a video. Don’t cut corners on your thumbnails and instead become an expert in designing them!
  7. Add a call to action set of cards
    YouTube Cards are the most effective way to encourage people to watch MORE of your content and subscribe. The end cards give you some control over placement and full control over what content is recommended. Make sure you select the MOST relevant content you have to the video they just watched.
  8. Put your content in playlists
    Once your content is created, put them into playlists of your similar content. This doesn’t directly correlate to SEO, but what it does is assists in the recommendation of your other content. That, in turn, helps your content get surfaced more often on YouTube search results.
  9. Add a transcript of the video
    It may play a very small element in search engine optimization, but every bit helps. Transcripts are automatically generated by YouTube, but, they are often VERY inaccurate. If you’re short on time, consider Fiverr where transcription services are often fairly inexpensive.
  10. Review your performance
    After a video has been posted, routinely check on it and how it’s performing. Particularly, look into how it was found based on ‘organic search’. This is how people found your content through search functionality. If particular keywords continue to be used to find your video, consider making updates to the title, keywords and description to better match that search terminology.

Lastly, with all this in mind - consider hiring an expert to provide you a review on your SEO strategies. You don’t need to hire them full-time, but having an annual ‘check’ may help you identify areas you are lacking or opportunities you are missing!