SEO Training

Youtube SEO: How To Rank Videos In Youtube

By | June 12, 2017

Internet users may not wait more than five seconds for a website to load, but they are willing to spend 2.7 minutes watching an online video. Video is powerful. So powerful, in fact, that we watch 6 billion hours of YouTube content every month.

Did you know that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world, after Google? The platform generates around 100 billion page views every month that you could capture and transform into leads for your business.

Now that you know just how powerful video is, and how it can impact your business, let’s take a look at a few SEO tricks that will actually help you rank with your videos in Google searches.

The following guide will teach you:

  • How Youtube Ranks Videos
  • How to do keyword Research for videos
  • How to optimize videos to rank well
  • How to build links & promote your videos

Understanding How YouTube Ranks its Videos

Google’s ownership of YouTube has helped the platform transform into a powerhouse for video search, secured instant indexation, and also helped it secure a preferential spot in SERPs (for certain queries). Like Google, YouTube also uses a wide array of metrics in order to rank videos.

Relying solely on keywords and descriptions when it comes to YouTube SEO won’t cut it. There are a few areas that you can focus on to increase the visibility of your videos:

  • Views & frequency
  • Number of subscribers
  • Annotation linking
  • Flagging
  • Likes & dislikes
  • Shares
  • Favorites

The purpose of YouTube SEO involves optimizing, not only your video content, but also your playlists, meta-data, and descriptions for search.

Keyword Research For Videos

Having your videos rank on YouTube is great, but do you know what’s even better? Ranking on YouTube AND Google! While it is true that Google gives YouTube preferential treatment in SERPs, this is only true for certain keywords. These keywords are commonly referred to as “video keywords”.

Before you start working on your next clip you might want to google your targeted keyword to see if any videos appear on the search engine result pages. Video keywords make sense only for certain topics.

Google will generally display “video results” for the following keywords:

  • Product or software reviews.
  • Tutorials (e.g. “how to install Adobe Photoshop CS6”)
  • How-to keywords (e.g. “how to make a YouTube video”).
  • Funny videos (e.g. “funny cat fails”)
  • Anything sports, fitness, or fashion related.

Bottom line: Don’t invest in videos before you check SERPs and evaluate organic potential.

On-Page YouTube Signals

There are several on-page elements that you can optimize to improve your visibility with YouTube videos:

Make your video file name your keyword
Much like saving a picture for SEO purposes in code, adding a descriptive name to your video file will improve its organic visibility.

Put your keyword in the video title.
In the header section of your video you can add links that will refer visitors to relevant pages (e.g. a behind-the-scenes for your video, social media profiles, etc.). There are approximately 14 options that you can use to maximize the visibility of your video content.

Write Long, Keyword-rich Video Descriptions
As we already mentioned, YouTube and Google cannot view or listen to your video. This means that both platforms rely heavily on the text that surrounds a video to understand its topic. A 30-word description won’t do you much good.

As is the case with long-form content, the more YouTube knows about your video, the more confidently it will rank it for your targeted keywords. You should aim for 200-400 word long descriptions that will help you rank for multiple variations of your keyword.

Put in tons of keyword tags.
Put in all kinds of tags and variations for your video. You can find the tags that the competitors are using by either looking at the HTML under meta keywords, or by using this plugin.

Create a High-Quality Video Transcript
Crawlers cannot interpret the content of a video the same way that we do. Video transcripts represent a huge asset for search because they can be crawled by search engines. Furthermore, video transcripts can be optimized to include your most important keywords. This will help you tell crawlers what your video is about.

Many YouTubers use automated transcripts as their starting point. This is a good idea, but you will have to manually clean-up and replace errors to make the text readable. Another option would be to manually create your transcripts before creating the video, but this is a time-consuming process.

The SEO benefits of adding short transcripts can be seen from the first few days.

Promotion & Link Building For Videos

After you have totally optimized your video with the steps above, it’s time to get into promotion.

Because YouTube REALLY cares about metrics, it wants to rank videos that are getting lots of views, links, and embeds.

You’ll want to get as much attention to the video right when you publish it as you can. Here’s what to do:

Get as many natural views as you can as fast as possible
After you create your video, you want to send it to your email list and publish on all your social media channels.

Continue to get views in alternative ways
You can also run ads to videos to keep the views going strong until it ranks if you don’t have any other options for natural views.

Start building links to the video and get embeds
You’ll want to build links to the video and get embeds as well. YouTube can take the heat of pretty much whatever types of links you want to throw at it.

Have your friends / followers / like comment and subscribe.
These are good signals too – getting likes, subscribes and comments. Make sure you have a CTA in the video to like, comment, and subscribe.


Ranking videos can be an awesome source of traffic. Share this guide if you found it helpful!

Clayton Johnson is the CMO of The HOTH SEO company. He has over 8+ years experience in the SEO industry and has spoken at events like SEJ Summit. The HOTH has been featured in Inc 5000, Forbes, SMX, Pubcon, Content Marketing World, Affiliate Summit, Brighton and more.

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