YouTube optimisation is important, very important. YouTube is the second most visited website behind Google, as well as the second most used search engine (again, behind Google).
With over 30 million daily users and over a billion videos watched by users every day, you can be sure that there is plenty of exposure on YouTube for your content to be seen. But with the huge volumes of users and content creators viewing and posting daily, how do you get your videos to cut through the noise and rank on YouTube?
This article will discuss top tricks and tips on how to optimise your videos for YouTube, as well as pointers on how best to tailor your videos to your target audience and create engaging, entertaining and interesting content that people want to watch (and keep watching!).
What is YouTube SEO?
Just like normal SEO (search engine optimisation), but with videos. SEO is the act of optimising your written content for search engines, prioritising certain keywords that give your content better context when Google is trying to decide what it is you’re talking about. This context then allows Google to show your content to people who are searching for the topic/terms that you are writing about.
As one would optimise these keywords for Google, the same can be done for YouTube. It’s very much the same principle, just like your article has relevant titles, headings and content to what it is you’re writing about, YouTube videos need the same. Video titles explaining what your video is about, relevant video descriptions, appropriate thumbnails, video subtitles and other things.
It’s not just optimising the content that matters, either. It goes without saying that your video also needs to be good. We don’t mean that it has to look like a movie. It just has to be fit for purpose; is it clear and concise? Is it of good visual and production quality? Does it hit the key points that people are searching for? Is it informative? These are all key aspects of a good video and contribute massively towards optimisation. The more it gets viewed and shared because of its quality, the more optimised it becomes, the more it gets viewed and shared, and the cycle repeats.
Why is YouTube Video Optimisation Important?
YouTube SEO is important for many reasons. First of all, you want your videos to get views, right? YouTube SEO helps you achieve this by improving your videos rankings and getting them in front of more people looking for your topic. We all know about the weird and wonderful YouTube algorithm that suggests us totally useless but entertaining videos at 2:00 AM when we should be sleeping. It’s this algorithm that you need to feed when optimising your videos.
Although the algorithm is incredibly complex and considers lots of different things like watch history, Google search history, your preferred kind of videos, watch duration of certain videos and others, it’s actually pretty simple to feed the algorithm with your content if you follow the basics of YouTube optimisation.
The importance of YouTube optimisation has been fluctuating for some time, but nowadays with so much content out there and so much more added daily, it’s crucial to feed the algorithm and cut through the noise. If you don’t properly optimise your videos for YouTube then you will not get as many results as you would like.
People won’t be seeing your content, or will be seeing a video from someone else on your topic simply because their video is optimised better and looks better and more relevant than yours, even if your video is more detailed and in-depth.
Here are the key reasons why YouTube optimisation is vital:
- Reaching more people – The better optimised your video, the more people it will reach.
- Engaging your audience – Better involve and interact with your audience. Ask them to leave comments and like your video!
- Get better interaction with social media – Use social media for your audience to better interact with you
- Better search engine rankings – Better search engine rankings = more traffic
How to optimise videos for YouTube
Without further adieu, here are the fundamentals to follow when optimising your video content for YouTube.
1. Do some keyword research
To start off, you need to do some keyword research. Just like with normal SEO, you need to do some research on popular keywords that you are looking to target and use them in your videos title and file name. Instead of posting your video as MOV_1000638 then renaming it on YouTube, rename the file itself before posting. YouTube picks up on this even if you change the title after upload so it’s important to rename the file prior to upload and give YouTube some better context about your video.
Thorough keyword research will not only show you what terms people are searching for in your niche/topic, it will give you a better idea of the bigger picture when creating and optimising your content.
There are plenty of tools available to do keyword research. One of the simplest and most accurate ways of collecting keyword info is to type your keyword into YouTube’s search bar and check out the autocomplete options. These are the most common search terms that people are typing in about your topic, so they give you a perfect starting point on how to structure and optimise your keywords around your content.
Another useful free tool for keyword research is Ubersuggest. Ubersuggest is a great tool that uses collected data from Google and gives you results like search volumes, SEO difficulty, PPC difficulty, keyword ideas and suggestions as well as other helpful features.
2. Consistency is key
When starting off your YouTube journey, it’s easy to get distracted and not have a solid schedule. Even if you have a video that ends up going viral, it will soon be forgotten and buried in the vast amounts of content regularly posted on YouTube every day. This is why remaining consistent is key. Schedule your videos and their optimisation. Post regularly to keep your audience engaged as well as to gain more followers.
Channels that post quality content regularly tend to stand out the most. Not only does it tell YouTube that you’re here to stay, it also has an impact on your already posted videos. If your channel becomes popular and your videos are viewed regularly, this then increases your reach and potential to gain new followers.
If your audience has come to expect certain kinds of videos from you on certain days and times, it helps to try and stick to these schedules and formats so that you can maintain a regular stream of content, keeping your audience involved, giving YouTube a better idea of your content and, most importantly, improving your overall YouTube ranking.
3. Regularly track your rankings
Once your video content is optimised correctly and out there in the wild, it’s important to keep track of your results and your YouTube rankings. This can be done by using tools such as TubeBuddy and vidIQ which provide ways to check your rankings. When enough information is gathered, you can then work on ways to better optimise both your current and future videos around your chosen topics and therefore rank better on YouTube.
You can also carry out this kind of research on your competition. See what works for them (and doesn’t). Examine what makes their video stand out more than yours does. Is it more keywords in the description? Are the subtitles better than yours? Is the content itself just more informative? These are all things that affect YouTube ranking.
4. Long-form content over short-form
Contrary to popular belief, long-form videos outperform shorter ones by a large margin. It’s easy to think that, in our society of ever shorter attention spans, shorter videos are more popular than longer ones, but it’s simply not true. Metrics show that longer videos often outperform shorter ones. This is because longer videos tend to contain much more information than short, punchy ones and therefore keep people watching for longer to gather this information.
That being said, there are times where short-form content is more appropriate. For example, if you’re creating an advertisement or a trailer, then the best option is obviously a shorter video to stop people from getting bored and switching off.
5. The First 48 Hours Matter
Just like when investigating crimes, the first 48 hours after posting a video are crucial. YouTube works on its own clock, which is 24/7/365. It won’t wait for you to get everything in order before the algorithm starts chomping away and analysing your videos.
For this reason, it’s necessary to have everything ready to go before uploading. Make sure your optimisations are all in place, make sure your video is titled correctly and contains the relevant keywords, write up your description with focus keywords naturally sprinkled throughout, prepare any video tags, segments and thumbnails before you make your video live. 1st
If none of these are in place when your video goes live then you are going to miss out on traffic straight away. The YouTube algorithm will not classify your video properly and therefore not present it to the relevant audiences, and recovering from that damage after the first 48 hours is almost impossible (almost!).
Optimising your videos correctly
Now we have covered the fundamentals, it’s about time we told you how to actually carry out all of this optimisation.
Titles should be at least five words long as they play a large role in how well your video ranks.
Just like with a title in a magazine or on a blog post, your video title should grab the viewers attention and describe exactly what it is they’re looking for. It needs to be concise, punchy and to the point. Having a title that is too long or wordy will instantly put your viewer off, whereas being brief and getting straight to the subject matter will let them know they’re in the right place.
This is where strong keyword research comes into play. Find out what keywords people are searching for in your niche, study your competition and see what works for them. As Leonardo Da Vinci once said; “good artists copy, great artists steal”. This doesn’t mean steal your competitors titles and use them as your own, it means steal them and make them your own.
We live in a visual world. The mind processes images much faster than it does words, so making sure your thumbnail catches attention is important, even more so than the video title itself.
If your title is perfect but your thumbnail is ugly then the likelihood of someone clicking your video drops dramatically. We are visual creatures, after all, and if we don’t like the look of something at a glance, then we don’t like the look of it, period. First impressions count.
Use a custom thumbnail, either a supporting image that visualises what your video is about, or even a decent frame from the video itself and include some text and graphics, maybe a logo. In order to use a thumbnail you have to be verified on YouTube, so make sure you get on that.
The description is where you want to include all of your juicy hooks and CTAs (call to action). Maybe you want the viewer to visit your website? Make sure to include the link above the “show more” button so that it is clearly visible.
Good descriptions often follow a formula. First, hook your viewer with a few lines that entices them to hit the “show more” button to get more information. If your channel is relatively new and you want to give people a little background on yourself and your project then include a brief bio that does this.
After the bulk of the text, add a few CTAs to get your viewer interacting more with your content. Want to drive traffic to your blog or store page? Add a link to them asking the viewer to visit for further information. Probably the most important CTA to include is asking the viewer to subscribe to your channel, and this should be in the video, the description and everywhere else that you can squeeze it in without sounding needy.
Video transcripts, or captions, are considered by YouTube as additional text that the algorithm can read and determine rankings and relevance from. This can contain even more of your target keywords, adding to your YouTube keyword optimisation.
It’s best practice to make your own transcript rather than to rely on the one automatically generated by YouTube. The reason being is that the automatically generated transcript is likely to contain errors and “best guesses” as to what is being said and therefore may not relate to the context of the video as well as it could.
Make sure that you time-stamp the transcript that you use, too. You want it to be both accurate and correct, making sure that the text on-screen matches what is being said by the presenter/narrator.
If you’re looking to cater your content to a wider audience beyond just English speaking nations then a transcript is the best way to do this. Not only can you provide foreign translations of your captions, but you can also time-stamp it the same as your captions.
Even better, these translations allow your video to rank for foreign variants of your keywords. Say you wanted your content to be viewed by a German audience too, you can create a German translation of your transcript and upload it to your video, allowing German viewers to watch and benefit from your content.
Tags + Hashtags
Compared to the rest of the YouTube optimisation steps on this list, adding tags and hashtags is fairly straightforward. These tags should be your focus keywords, for example; if your video is about “top tips for grooming your chihuahua” then your ideal tags would be “chihuahua grooming”, “chihuahua grooming tips” and some more generic ones like “dog grooming” or tips on grooming your dog”. Pretty simple stuff, right?
This is where keyword and competitor research come in very handy. See what tags are used by the top contenders in your niche and use them. Free tools like the VidIQ Chrome extension let you view all tags on a YouTube video, even those that are hidden.
When it comes to adding hashtags, feel free to add up to 3 hashtags to the end of your video’s description, which YouTube will automatically pick them up, place them at the just below your video title. Just make sure your chosen tags and hashtags match up with one another.
Take Advantage of the Video Card System
Just like with normal SEO, using quality links is essential to optimising your YouTube video content. It’s best practice to link to your content on other platforms like your website, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc.) and maybe even your store (if it is appropriate).
YouTube has something called “Cards” which can be placed throughout your video. You’ve probably seen them yourself, when the presenter is talking about another video they have created about a different topic, they will say things like “click this link” and will point to a thumbnail on the screen that you can click to open. These are a great way to naturally work links into your video content without taking away from or interrupting the video itself.
Call to action (CTA)
When all is said and done and you’re happy with your videos content, what do you want the viewer to do next? Do you want them to visit your website or online store? Do you want to direct them to your Facebook page so they can view more of your content? Perhaps you just want them to subscribe to your channel?
This is where CTAs are important. You need to include them in both your video and the description. Studies show that over 90% of your viewers that read the headline will also read your CTA copy, and a large chunk of those end up clicking the link.
Oftentimes, viewers already want to read more about your content, that’s why they’re watching your videos, they’re just unsure where to go. Having clear CTAs at the beginning, middle and end of your video, as well as the description, gently guides them to what they were already looking for, as well as massively increasing your conversion rates.
How Analyse and Improve your Youtube Channel
When you’re happy that your videos are optimised and ready to go, you’ll want to make sure that you can track their performance with analytics.
The one-stop go to analytics tool that you must have is YouTube Analytics, provided by YouTube themselves. It’s brilliant for learning a lot about your video content including who is viewing your videos, where your viewers are coming from, how many of your viewers are subscribed, different demographics of your viewers and many, many more pieces of juicy, useful information.
You can then use this data to tailor your future video content to your target audience, as well as better optimising your pre-existing videos to help them rank higher on search.
Other analytics tools
As we mentioned a little earlier, there are plenty of other quality third-party YouTube analytics tools available. Some of them are free with paid versions, some you have to pay outright for. Using these different tools can provide alternate and deeper insights into how your video is interacted with and how it ranks on YouTube.
Using the various bits of data collected with these tools can help you build a “big-picture” idea of how your video content is viewed and by whom, helping you better understand what you need to do to tailor your content to the audiences you want to attract.
Using data to grow your audience
As discussed, these tools help you analyse and improve your video content and optimisations to rank better on YouTube and reach a wider audience, but what is the goal here?
Of course, everyone has different aims. If you run an e-commerce store and use YouTube to market your products/services, then you need to focus on the analytics highlighting what makes people click your store link, or better yet, what stops them from doing so.
Maybe you run a tech review channel and just want more people to visit your blog? Focusing on what makes people click your blog link is your best bet. Add some more CTAs at natural points, maybe asking the viewer to visit your written review for more in-depth technical information when you’re talking about the specs.
One goal that you should measure religiously regardless of your project, website, conversion goals or aims is the subscriber conversion rate. Getting more subscribers should be one of your main goals. The reason being is more subscribers equals more reach. The bigger your viewer base grows, the more YouTube sees your videos and channel as rank worthy. After all, people are interested in seeing more of your content, so YouTube sees this as a certifiable sign that your content is engaging, relevant and optimised well.
Now you understand the fundamentals of YouTube video optimisation and YouTube SEO, take stock of your channel, going back over your old videos (if you have any) and ensuring they are optimised based on popular target keywords in your niche.
Going forward, make sure all your new videos are optimised correctly right out of the gate so that they instantly start to rank. Introduce more calls to action in your videos to increase subscriber conversion rate and feed the algorithm even more!
Perhaps most importantly, constantly review and re-optimise your videos. See what works and what doesn’t and build on that. Study competitors and what works for them and make it work for you.
We’re not saying this stuff is easy. I mean, it’s pretty simple and straightforward stuff once you get into the habit and know what to look out for, but it sure isn’t easy. After all, it’s an ongoing process of improvement, and those are never easy (but they’re well worth it!).
Let MonkeyFish help with your YouTube optimisation
If you’re starting a new venture, be it a business, a blog, a YouTube channel or anything that requires video content to grow, then the likelihood is you will not have the time to learn and action all of the above points about in-depth video optimisation.