top of page

YouTube SEO: The Complete Guide to Ranking Your Videos

YouTube SEO

YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. With over 2 billion monthly logged-in users, it's a platform that can send huge amounts of traffic to your site if you learn how to optimize your videos.

In this complete guide, you'll learn how YouTube SEO works and get actionable tips to improve your video rankings and get more views.

How YouTube Ranks Videos

YouTube wants to show viewers the most relevant and high-quality videos for their search terms. So how does it determine which videos are the best?

While Google keeps its ranking algorithm secret, we know these key factors matter for YouTube SEO:

Video Title

Your title is displayed below the video thumbnail in search results. A compelling title that includes the target keyword phrase can improve click-through rates.

Video Description

The description tells viewers and YouTube what your video is about. Include a meta description-like summary with the keyword targets naturally incorporated.


Tags are keywords and phrases you add to help categorize your video. Including all relevant tags signals to YouTube what the video covers.

Watch Time

Videos that keep viewers watching for longer tend to rank higher as it correlates to engagement and quality content.

Video Quality

High-quality videos with good editing and branding are more appealing. Optimize your thumbnails as well since they represent the video in search results.

Shares and Backlinks

When other sites and users share and link to your videos, it indicates valuable content. Promote your videos to earn these backlinks and social engagement.

Channel Authority

Channels with an established audience and reputation tend to outrank newer channels. So keep putting out great content to build authority over time.

Now that you understand what matters for YouTube SEO, let's get into specific optimization tips and strategies.

Step 1: Do Keyword Research for Your Niche

Start with keyword research to see what search terms and topics people are looking for in your niche. The YouTube search bar autocomplete is a great place to uncover keyword ideas.

You can also use Google's keyword planner or look at suggested keywords for competing top-ranking videos.

Aim to rank for a mix of these types of keywords:

  • Broad keywords like "YouTube SEO"

  • Long-tail keywords like "YouTube SEO tips"

  • Low competition keywords in your niche

This ensures you target both high-traffic and easier to rank for terms.

Step 2: Optimize Your Title for Keyword Opportunity

The video title is critical for helping viewers find your content in searches. Follow these best practices:

  • Include your target keyword naturally close to the beginning of the title. Don't over-optimize.

  • Keep titles below 70 characters so the full title shows in search.

  • Use compelling titles focused on benefits and value for the viewer.

  • Add your brand name for a branded keyword opportunity.

Here are examples of optimized titles:

"How to Learn Speed Reading | My Top 5 Tips"

"Blue Microphones Yeti Review - Best USB Mic Under $100?"

Step 3: Include a Keyword Focused Video Description

The description provides an opportunity to include more keywords and optimize your meta data. Best practices include:

  • Create a mini meta description for your video with your target phrase organically included.

  • Write a summary of what the video covers and highlight key sections or takeaways.

  • Add links to any related videos or external resources mentioned.

  • Include a call to action to Like, Share, or Subscribe to your channel.

Keep descriptions under 5000 characters including spaces and line breaks.

Step 4: Research and Utilize Relevant Tags

Tags are another way to signal to YouTube the topics covered in your video. Optimize them with these tips:

  • Do keyword research to find relevant tags that describe your content. Look at what tags competitors use as well.

  • Include keyword-focused tags, but don't stuff too repetitively. Mix in longer phrases too.

  • Add related tags beyond just your targets, like broader categories.

  • Revisit and update tags as needed to target new keywords over time.

Getting the tags right takes experimenting to see which ones best connect your videos to opportunities.

Step 5: Engage Viewers with Great Content

While all the technical optimizations matter, YouTube will really favor your video if viewers are engaged and watching it all the way through.

Some tips for engaging content:

  • Hook viewers in the first 10 seconds before they click away.

  • Produce high-quality videos with value for the audience. Entertain, educate, inform or inspire them.

  • Ask your audience questions throughout the video and encourage comments.

  • Structure your content so it builds and keeps viewers watching to the end.

Videos with higher engagement metrics like click-through rate, average view duration and likes/comments will tend to rank higher.

Step 6: Promote Your Videos

One of the best ways to improve YouTube SEO is getting more people to watch your videos. Promotion and backlinks signal that a video is popular and worth ranking.

  • Share your videos on all your social media accounts. Ask followers to Like, Share and engage with your content.

  • Contact others with audiences in your niche to collaborate and cross-promote videos.

  • Build backlinks to your videos from other sites by getting featured or mentioned by relevant blogs, news sites and more. Link building works!

  • Optimize channel home page content with keywords while highlighting your best videos.

Promoting great content amplifies the impact of your YouTube SEO.

Step 7: Analyze Your Results and Optimize

YouTube and Google provide free analytics tools to see how your videos are performing. Use them to identify optimization opportunities.

Key stats to look at:

  • Search traffic source - How many views are coming from YouTube searches?

  • Click-through rates - How appealing are your titles and thumbnails?

  • Audience retention - How engaging is your content based on watch time?

  • Top videos - Which ones resonate best with audiences?

  • Traffic sources - Where are the referral visits coming from?

Keep optimizing your new videos based on what works best with your audience. SEO is an ongoing process!

Key Takeaways for YouTube SEO

Here are the big picture keys for improving your video rankings on YouTube:

  • Research target keywords and create optimized titles, descriptions and tags for each video.

  • Hook viewers fast and make engaging, high-quality content.

  • Promote your videos online and build backlinks to them.

  • Analyze performance data to identify optimization opportunities.

Focus on value for your audience while incorporating keywords naturally and strategically. With time and consistency, your YouTube SEO efforts will pay off!

The second largest search engine is waiting for you. Now get out there and start ranking your videos!


bottom of page