A few months ago, I wrote a post on how to expand your audience on YouTube, by doing such things as branding your channel, increasing audience retention and using YouTube Analytics to monitor your growth.
This time around, we’re going to delve into the art of getting your videos ranking in YouTube’s SERPs (search engine results pages). You know the score: the higher you appear in the rankings for popular keywords, the more views you’re likely to get and, whilst everyone knows that SEO applies to Google, it also applies to the Google-owned YouTube, too.
There are a number of user-orientated signals that YouTube will look at in relation to your video, and if you’re ticking a lot of these boxes, YouTube will decide that your content is good and deserves to rank.
These signals range from simply how many views you’ve got in total, and how many you’re getting every day.
When a user goes on to perform an action after watching your video, these are even bigger signals to YouTube that users have enjoyed your content. These range from users liking your video or leaving a comment, going on to watch more of your videos, or even subscribing after watching – that’s a biggie.
To be able to get the views rolling in, though, users need to be able to find your content, which is where ranking well within YouTube’s SERPs comes into play.
When you host a piece of written content online, Google will be able to understand it and decipher exactly what it’s about because its algorithms understand text. However, Google isn’t quite smart enough to be able to interpret video content just yet.
So, hang on a sec, how does YouTube know what your video is about?
It will look at the video’s title, description and tags when attempting to understand your content. So these three areas are extremely important to focus on when you’re creating content and uploading it to YouTube.
First and foremost, you need to decide which keywords you want to target with your content.
Which keywords should I try to rank for?
As with written content, the research phase is just as important as actually putting the content together. Therefore, before you go ahead and create your video, it’s important to do a little research into the amount of interest there is in the topics that you have in mind.
There are tools like Keywordtool.io (subscription required) which can show you the search volume of keywords in YouTube, whilst you can use YouTube’s auto-complete to get an idea of which relevant keywords are likely to have a high search volume.
For example, let’s say you’re a cosmetics brand, and you’re looking to create some video content around a new line of makeup products that you’re wanting to push.
As you can see from the above image, you’re able to take all these suggestions that YouTube auto-complete has given you, and type them into the keyword tool to check their search volumes.
You should aim to have around ten keywords that are all closely related to the topic of your video. Once you’ve selected them, it’s time to go ahead and create your content.
Creating your videos
As a quick recap from my first post on the topic: using on-brand, custom thumbnails for your videos is a great way to entice users to click on your video in a list of results. You should also aim as high as you can with the production quality of your video – there’s nothing worse than what is actually good content, filmed with dated equipment that is lacking in quality.
This is especially important when it comes to how-to and tutorial videos, where the viewer will need to be able to fully understand what you’re showing them at all times.
Be sure to check which videos are already ranking well for the keywords that you’re looking to target.
Why are these videos ranking; what are they doing well? Is there anything they could actually do better?
What should I do next?
When you’ve created your video and you’re at the stage at which you’re ready to upload it, you’ll see that YouTube has a section on the uploader where you can add tags.
Each tag should be treated as an individual search query that closely relates to your video – have your keyword research to hand so you can see the search volumes of your desired keywords. You should aim to include around ten separate tags, as a guide.
NOTE: You also have the option of adding tags to your channel, as well as each individual video. These are useful in helping YouTube to broadly determine what the videos on your channel are all about.
How should I title my video?
YouTube also allows you to add your video’s title and description at this point, too.
Regarding the title of your video, it’s important to adequately describe what your video is about in a shorty and snappy manner. It’s also a good idea to mention your brand name, as it increases users’ awareness and also encourages YouTube to rank your videos and channel for your brand name.
YouTube allows you to add a title that’s up to 100 characters in length, which should theoretically give you more than enough space to play with.
However, YouTube will also take the title of your video (truncating it if necessary) and use it as the meta title for when your video displays in Google’s video SERPs. Unfortunately, it’s currently not possible to create a separate meta title and description for each of your YouTube videos.
Also, if a user is browsing all of your videos on your channel, only the first 57-or-so characters of your title will show, so this is also important to bear in mind when deciding upon a title.
Alike to writing meta titles and descriptions, you can check the length of your videos’ titles with a simple character counter, such as this one.
What should I add to the video description?
The overall limit for video descriptions on YouTube is 5000 characters; this is a space that largely goes ignored by many people and brands, and represents a huge missed opportunity.
If your video ties in with a page that currently exists on your website, it’s important not to get lazy and use the content (or even a portion of it) that you have onsite. Otherwise, you could end up in the dark realm of duplicate content, and no one wants that.
Aim to provide as much information about your video as possible, including any keywords where they naturally occur within the text. Your video’s description is very important in YouTube’s understanding of your content, so be sure not to skip over it.
It’s also important to consider how your description will appear in different circumstances. For example, the first 150 words of your description will appear above the fold, with the rest being shown when the user clicks ‘Show More’.
YouTube will also take the first 100 or so characters to form a meta description, for when your video shows up in Google’s video SERPs:
Be sure not to fall into the trap of writing content for search engines though – that’s old school. Whilst YouTube will look to understand your video through the use of your video’s description, as with all content, the user has to be at the front of your mind.
From my personal experience on YouTube, users do read these descriptions. For example, I have received many comments that relate to things I’ve stated in the description, that I haven’t specifically mentioned in the video itself.
It’s also a good idea to add some calls to action to your descriptions. These could be something as simple as encouraging users to subscribe to your channel or view more of your videos, or you could even go a step further.
Sticking with the idea of a makeup tutorial, you can use your video’s description to link through to the products that you’re using. You can also reinforce this in your video, either by directly communicating it in the footage itself, or by adding an annotation, post-production.
This can be a great way to add value to your videos beyond just viewing figures, by actually encouraging users to convert onsite.
You can track the success of this in Google Analytics, in the Referrals section.
There is a table that shows the amount of traffic that each referrer is sending to you. You can search for a particular referrer (YouTube in this case), by using search box.
You’ll be able to see how many visitors have come from YouTube, and whether or not they convert.
Views – getting the ball rolling
Once you’ve uploaded your video and your title, description and tags are all optimised, you’ve given YouTube everything it needs to understand your content.
But you’ll need to get people to start viewing your content, in order for it to begin to climb up the SERPs.
If you have an existing audience on YouTube, then your subscribers are likely to view your latest content. However, it’s also a good idea to push your videos out through your other social media platforms, to get more views coming in.
Additionally, give some thought to how your video content could work onsite – either forming part of a blog post, or even better, sitting on an informational webpage.
Again sticking with the same example, why not include makeup tutorial videos as part of the respective product pages? They will provide value both on and off site, as opposed to using a standalone video player.
They’ll assist in conversions onsite, whilst they’ll also provide views for you on YouTube, which in turn will help your videos rank better and reach larger audiences.
Paid promotion on YouTube
One way to attain video views that often gets overlooked is paid promotion on YouTube. For example, creating an advert that has strong calls to action linking through to watching your other videos, encouraging users to subscribe etc., will help you to reach new audiences.
You should never pay for views from services like Fiverr, for example. Why? Well, views are just one metric after all, and paying for viewing figures doesn’t translate into growing an audience that loves you and your videos, who will be back to watch time and time again!
It’s not all about the SERPs…
Did I really just say that? Yep.
It comes down to the type of video that you’re wanting to create, really – if there are large search volumes for topics that you want to create videos around, then you’ll want to concentrate on getting your content to rank for these terms.
However, you might be looking to create a video for a particular topic, which doesn’t have large search volumes relating to it. In this instance, it might be better to create shareable content which aims to get views via social shares and PR coverage rather than rankings.
Take Dove’s #ChooseBeautiful campaign for example.
At present, the video has received over six and a half million views, and was covered by many reputable news websites. As one part of a larger campaign, the video played its part well, but also succeeded in attracting a large amount of viewers to Dove’s YouTube channel.
So, whether you’re looking to simply achieve more brand awareness with the use of video content on YouTube or even aim for them to assist in conversions, more often than not, ranking well in YouTube’s SERPs is integral in this quest. By following all the above tips, you should be well on your way in no time!
If you would like more information on anything YouTube related, then please get in touch.