15 Best YouTube SEO Tactics for Video Marketing Success

15 Best YouTube SEO Tactics for Video Marketing Success

Last Edited June 28, 2019 by Garenne Bigby in Search Engine Optimization

Google is typically the first thing that comes to mind when we speak of SEO. It’s easy to understand why — it’s an incredibly powerful search engine and everyone wants to rank high on it. But it’s not the only search engine, especially in today’s day and age where everyone is looking towards other forms of media to answer their questions or give them the information they need. YouTube is becoming a very relevant search engine nowadays. It’s not as big or popular, but it’s certainly a search engine you’ll want to optimize for, in order to boost your online presence.

If you’re ready to achieve video marketing success, here are 15 of the best SEO tactics to use on YouTube:

Best YouTube SEO Tactics

Perform Video Keyword Research

First and foremost, you’ll need to generate a list of keyword ideas that you want to rank for. How do you do this? YouTube’s Search Suggest feature is a great place to start. Just type out a word or phrase that’s relevant to your videos, then you’ll see a bunch of related words or phrases pop up. This is incredibly useful as these terms are what people are actually searching for in the search bar.

You can also check out a few popular videos that are similar to the topic you plan on posting about. You’ll be able to see the keywords those videos are optimized around and use those same keywords in your strategy. Remember to look at the most popular channels in your niche and sort their videos by “most popular” to get the best results.

There are various tools available to give you an in-depth look at each video’s tags. VidIQ Chrome Extension, for instance, is a great one that shows you the video’s tags right on the page. You can also use your “Traffic Source: YouTube Search” report to find keywords people have used to end up on your videos.

The last step in your keyword research is finding keywords that have low competition. What qualifies as low competition? This is entirely dependent on your niche. When you search for a keyword, pay attention to the “about results” area that shows how many videos are there.

Make Sure Your Keywords Match Your Video Titles

Once you’ve performed your keyword research and you have a list of ideas, it’s time to start posting. Keyword matching is fairly important on YouTube, especially when compared to Google. You want to make sure your keywords match your video titles to get the best possible results. Let’s say you’re a coffee shop, and you’re trying to show up when someone searches for “how to make coffee.” In this instance, avoid naming your video “10 ways to make the best cup of coffee.”

Test it out for yourself. When you search a keyword, typically, your results will show videos that have that exact keyword in the title. YouTube’s algorithm isn’t as intuitive as other search engines. This means you’ll need to title your video something like “how to make coffee: 10 delicious ways” to rank for the keyword “how to make coffee.”

Publish High Retention Videos

It’s great to optimize your videos for the right keywords, but that won’t get you very far unless people are actually watching and enjoying what you’re posting. This is known as audience retention wherein the amount of your video that people watch is tracked. YouTube has actually stated that audience retention is a very important ranking factor for them. This is likely due to the fact that people won’t click on ads if they’re not staying on the platform itself.

YouTube will be much more likely to promote your video if it has a high retention rate. So how do you make sure your videos are engaging enough to keep people watching? First and foremost, make sure the content in the video is valuable and relevant to the keywords you’re ranking for. YouTube heavily relies on audience retention to determine the quality of the video.

Use Shorter, Keyword-Rich Titles

As mentioned above, it’s important to ensure your keyword is directly in the title of your video. But another important point you shouldn’t forget: keep your titles shorter — less than 50 characters. You can include your keyword in the title but keep it simple. Your description can include more keywords as you’re able to use between 200 and 350 words there.

As an added bonus, a short and clear title will make your video more shareable on social media platforms. When YouTube sees that your video is being shared, it’ll promote your video even more. Of course, you can go a few characters over the 50 character guideline but try to stick as close as possible to it.

Aim for a High Click-Through-Rate (CTR)

YouTube also pays close attention to the click-through-rate (CTR) of videos posted. How is the CTR calculated? It’s entirely based on whether or not someone clicks on your video over other videos found in the search results. Essentially, if your video commonly shows up for a specific keyword but isn’t clicked on, you’ll have a low CTR. YouTube will eventually push that specific video down the search results because of this.

So how can you improve your CTR? When you’re posting your videos, make sure you’re using compelling titles and thumbnails. As mentioned above, you want your title to be short and clear with your target keyword directly in it. As for your thumbnail, keep it bright and attractive. Make sure you’re using colors and contrast well to grab attention.

Use Keyword Tags on Your Videos

Google used to have something known as meta keywords tags. Keyword tags are similar to meta keyword tags, but they’re still commonly used, and in fact, they’re fairly important when it comes to showing up as a “recommended video.” When you’re watching a video, you’ll notice a list of recommended videos on the right-hand side of the video player on a desktop or below the video on a mobile device. You need to use keyword tags to show up here.

Aim for roughly 30-40 unique tags to add to your video — ranging from a simple word to three-word phrases. Go back to your keyword research and use some of the terms you gathered here.

Promote Your Videos on Other Platforms

YouTube won’t be able to measure your audience retention or any other important factors if you’re not getting views. Sure, you can rely on your SEO tactics alone, but you’ll get even better results if you spend some time promoting your videos on other platforms. So how do you promote your videos? Spend some time on other platforms, such as Quora and other Q&A sites.

Quora, in particular, happens to be one of the most widely used platforms online. Don’t go on there and spam your content. Instead, post a link to the video wherever it makes sense. If someone asks a question about something one of your videos can answer, provide the link for them. Typically, the people asking questions are desperately looking for an answer.

They’ll likely watch your video until the end, which is great because it’ll increase your retention rate. Ready to get started? Simply search a keyword that describes the topic of your video. Next, find a question that you can easily answer with your video. Give a brief answer before you give the link for more information.

Focus on the Right Video Lengths

When we speak of the right video lengths, it’s all dependent on your goals. For instance, 10 to 16 minutes in length tend to rank the best. However, 4 to 6 minutes in length tends to get the most possible views. Steer clear of videos that are less than 2 minutes in length. YouTube’s audience, in general, tends to avoid these videos as they’re often too short to provide adequate information.

Remember, you can have a good mix of videos — some ranging between 10 to 16 minutes and some ranging between 4 to 6 minutes. For example, if you’re running a promotional video on a new product, you might not have 10 to 16 minutes worth of content to offer. This is a great time to aim for views.

Encourage People to Subscribe to Your Channel

YouTube uses subscriptions as one of its many ranking factors to rank videos. While likes, views, and comments are fantastic, it’s important to make sure your audience is subscribing to see your content on a regular basis. YouTube considers the number of subscribers you have as a huge signal of whether or not you’re bringing value to the platform. Whenever possible, ask people to subscribe at the beginning of your video.  A quick mention of “don’t forget to subscribe so you’re notified when I post new videos” is sufficient.

Aside from directly asking people to subscribe, keep this in mind when you’re promoting your videos. If you’ve told someone on a different platform to check out your video, let them know to subscribe as you’ll post content on this topic and other similar topics often.

Try to Get Your Videos Embedded Elsewhere

Although it’s not proven, there seems to be a correlation between videos that rank quite well and videos that are embedded in other areas of the web. If you have a website, add a video library and embed your videos on there. If you notice a website that could use your information to coincide with the article they’ve written, let them know you’d be happy to have them embed your video to provide even more value to their readers. There are many ways to get your video embedded in other places.

Improve Your Production Value

When you’re starting out, a good quality mobile device camera or digital camera should be sufficient. But if you’re really trying to rank well, it’s time to start thinking about improving your production value. Of course, it’s not possible for everyone to afford an expensive pro-level studio setup. But that’s not necessary or recommended to have a higher video quality. If you’re using a mobile device, that’s perfectly fine. Just make a few small investments to improve your production value using that.

For example, get a tripod for your mobile device. This will help ensure you’re in focus, and the video is recorded in a stable manner. Once you’ve got a tripod, look into getting a backdrop for behind you. You can find some excellent quality backdrops online for less than $50.

Next, add some lighting. This is optional, but it’ll really help you produce high-quality videos. A few lamps can help, but if possible, aim for production lights. Lastly, use a microphone. There are many inexpensive options that give you better quality than the built-in microphone on your mobile device or camera.

Add Closed Captions to Your Videos

Many people don’t realize that YouTube supports the ability to add closed captions. This is fantastic for people who are deaf or hard of hearing, which is important as you don’t want to lose a significant portion of the population. However, closed captions also have a surprising SEO benefit: they’re crawlable. That’s right! If you add closed captions to all of your videos, you increase your chances of ranking higher as the search engines will be more likely to understand what the video is about.

YouTube offers automatic captioning, but it’s important to review what they’ve found rather than trusting that it’s perfect. You can use those captions or review them to make edits for accuracy. It’s also good to mention your keyword a couple of times in your video for this reason.

Remember to Double Check Your File Names

This is another tip that isn’t exactly proven, but given the most common SEO rules, it’s important to do. Although it won’t have a dramatic impact on your ranking, it’ll definitely help you get closer to where you want to be. Your raw file may have a default name similar to “20190316.mp4” so change it to something more focused on your keywords. YouTube will see this and know what your video is about — allowing them to rank it more appropriately.

Categorize Your Videos Under Advanced Settings

This is another commonly unknown tip, but you’re able to categorize your videos under “advanced settings” after you’ve uploaded them. This is a great way to ensure your video is grouped with other similar videos, in order to ensure it ends up on the “recommended videos” section. You’ll gain exposure to a wider range of viewers because they’ll find your video while watching similar videos.

Before you start categorizing your videos, it’s important to understand that the process isn’t entirely simple. In fact, you’ll need to figure out what works well for each category. Think about who the top creators are within the category and what they do well. Consider if there are patterns between the audiences of similar channels that post videos within a certain category.

You want to make sure you’re categorizing your video properly so you can get the best possible results. Don’t be too vague and aim for the category that seems to perform well for your particular niche. Do a bit of research on the category before you choose it.

Add Cards to Increase Your Channel’s Viewership

Have you noticed the translucent bars on videos asking you to subscribe? That’s known as a card. It’s essentially a preformatted notification that appears during a video, whether you’re on a desktop or mobile device, to help promote your channel or brand. It’s incredibly handy for leading people to other videos or resources while they’re already engaged with your content. So how do you add cards to your videos?

You can add up to 5 cards to any given video. There are six main types of cards you can add. This includes channel cards to direct viewers to another channel, fan funding to ask for support to create more content, donation cards to fundraise on behalf of a non-profit organization, video or playlist cards to link towards other videos or playlists, poll cards to ask questions/enable voting, and lastly, link cards to bring viewers to an external site.

Take advantage of the ability to add cards to your videos. If you’re looking to improve your rankings, use the video or playlist cards to get more views on your other videos. You can also add an end screen, which displays similar information but offers a bit more visual appeal.


The tips above may seem time-consuming, but it’s certainly worth your effort. YouTube has become more popular than ever before. In fact, people are spending 50% more time watching videos on the platform since last year. There’s a huge audience for almost every niche, so it’s important to get out there and focus on how well you’re ranking. Try to post new videos on a regular basis. A schedule helps give you accountability and your audience some consistency with when they should expect a new video.

Garenne Bigby
Author: Garenne BigbyWebsite:
Founder of DYNO Mapper and Advisory Committee Representative at the W3C.

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