Wondering how to rank YouTube videos?
You’ve poured hours and hours into creating your video, making sure that every little element is just right.
Now that you’re finally ready to hit Upload, you need to make it worth your time investment by ensuring that your video is seen by as many people as possible.
One way to do this is by optimizing your video for search, also known as SEO.
SEO allows video producers to maximize exposure by ensuring their content appears at the top of the search results when users look up the selected, relevant keywords.
Why is YouTube a big deal?
Video SEO is becoming an increasingly important tool for marketers, as more and more users are turning to YouTube in place of traditional search engines.
YouTube is now the second biggest search engine in the world, with more users and traffic than Bing, Yahoo!, Ask and AOL combined. There are over 2 billion logged-in monthly users.
75% of adults in the US use YouTube, and 77% of 15-35-year-olds visit the platform. It’s the second most visited site in the world – after parent company Google’s search page.
With video undeniably becoming the dominant form of online content, it’s now vital for video-makers to take the time to optimize their content for SEO to be seen in the crowd.
How to Rank YouTube Videos
Like most things today, YouTube uses an algorithm to decide what to rank where. That means you need to understand a few of the basics to help maximize your video content.
Let’s look at what we know about some of the most important ranking factors. You’ll find the tips summed up on an infographic at the end of this article!
Top of the list are factors around Audience retention. YouTube tells us these are among its main ranking factors.
What does this mean? It refers to how long someone watches your video before leaving.
Audience retention looks at:
- Average view durable (all videos on the channel).
- Top videos by how long they have been watched.
- How specific videos retain watchers.
- How a video compares to the average for similar videos.
Next up are the engagement factors. These are about people engaging with your video. They tell YouTube something about what they liked and didn’t like.
Factors here include:
- Video comments.
- People subscribing to the channel after watching a video.
- People sharing a video.
- The click-through rate – where they go after watching the video.
- Giving the video a thumbs up or thumbs down.
Other ranking factors
Lastly, other factors come into the equation to help rank your videos. These include:
- Number of views and total watch time.
- Channel authority on your topic.
- Keyword use, including in video title and description.
- Keyword relevance in the video to overall channel.
How to optimize your YouTube videos
Once you have some ideas about how the algorithm works, you can start optimizing your content for these things.
Here are a few of the most important areas to focus on.
Before you commit to your YouTube Video ideas, your process should start with keyword research.
The goal is to understand the searcher intent for a term so that your video matches it. Otherwise, you won’t show up in the right places.
You also want to choose keywords that you can create content about naturally, and that fits in with your other content.
YouTube’s search suggestions are a good place to get ideas. Then you can then see what’s coming up for the search with a single click.
Many keyword research tools have a YouTube option. Plus, Tube Buddy is one of the most well-recommended extensions to help.
Once you have your keyword and know what the video will be about, creating an eye-catching title is crucial.
The title is often the first thing people see. Just like with a blog post, you want to grab their attention.
Use your keywords in the title but not in an excessive way – keep it natural.
Keep the title under 60 characters, and have the most important keywords as near the beginning as possible.
Use curiosity to highlight a benefit of the video to get people interested.
Along with a great title, knowing how to make a YouTube thumbnail that catches attention will help get people watching.
Text on thumbnails is important, as well as just some kind of image. Use the keyword on the image and choose a visual that makes sense for the content of the video.
Lots of people like to include an image of themselves in thumbnails too – this helps build a brand and get people to recognize you.
Brian Dean has used this strong branding for years. It works!
Descriptions with key facts at the front
The next part of ranking YouTube videos is that you write a searchable description with the important keywords as near to the front as possible.
But don’t just limit yourself to that one exact phrase. 75% of the top 20 videos use broad match variants in their descriptions.
When you do competitor research, look for terms that are used a lot. Then try to avoid them, or make yours a little different, where you can.
Best use of tags
Tags on YouTube are a simple way to categorize your video. These should be the keywords you discovered when you did your research.
You can also look at common tags in competitors’ video, and use any that make sense for your content.
Make the first 3 tags your core keywords. Then make sure additional tags are highly relevant. Use synonyms and 2-3 broad categories.
Stay on-point! 8 to 10 targeted tags seems to be ideal.
Check out the video near the end of this article to make sure you’re using tags the right way with the TSC formula.
Add subtitles and closed captions
Some experts think that YouTube ranks content better if there are closed caption files with it.
But even if this is a bit of an internet myth, it’s still good practice to include them, as well as subtitles.
That means everyone can access your video, whether they speak your language, can hear the content, or simply want to watch with no sound.
There’s a transcribe and auto-sync option within YouTube that’s great. Just check it over before publishing as it isn’t perfect.
Maximize end screens and cards
Cards and end screens are ways to get people to watch more of your content. This is key for your audience retention and watch-time analytics.
There are five card actions:
- Watch another video (or playlist).
- Discover another YouTube channel.
- Donate to a nonprofit or charity.
- Answer a question in a poll.
- Visit an external link.
The card can be set to slide in at a specific point of the video, such as when you mention a related video or blog post.
Don’t overuse cards – be strategic about them.
End screens are similar but appear at the end of the video. You can use similar options to get people to subscribe, watch more, or visit another video or blog post.
Publish at the best time
I’ve got a whole article on figuring out the best time to post on YouTube.
But the highlights are that, unlike most platforms, you need to publish several hours before your audience’s peak viewing time. That’s because it takes a little time for YouTube to understand the content and categorize it.
Publish too late and you miss your window!
So use analytics and other tools to nail when the top time is, and then go back 3-4 hours and test if it works.
Cross promote your video content
Once your video is live, it is time to promote it to other audiences.
Go to your Facebook Page and Group and tell them you have a new video.
Create a Pinterest pin and an Instagram Story about it.
Add it to your newsletter, or even send a tips-style email that sends them to the video as the call to action.
Finally, think about getting a transcript of the video and creating a blog post from it – then embed the video in there.
To keep your web page loading fast, I highly recommend a plugin or script that delays loading the video until your reader clicks to watch. Here’s what I use.
You can see how it works on the video below. You do have to click the play button twice, though.
Don’t just leave it to the YouTube algorithm to get eyes on your video – cross-promote it wherever you can!
Making the most of YouTube
YouTube is a hugely powerful platform, the second most visited website in the world. That means if you can come up with YouTube video ideas for your business, you’d be crazy not to participate.
But understanding the algorithm and how the platform works is also important, so your videos get seen by the most viewers.
Pin the infographic from the team at One Productions for reminders on to rank on YouTube!