5 Tips for Better YouTube SEO

March 24, 2017 BY ELISA EDELBERG
Updated: January 4, 2018


With 500 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, and 1,300,000,000 users, it’s not surprising that YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world — second only to Google, its parent company. With so much content out there, how can you make sure that your videos are seen? Here are five tips for better YouTube SEO.

1. Add Metadata

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When considering YouTube SEO, it’s crucial to stay relevant and accurate! Metadata, which is pulled from tags, titles, descriptions, thumbnails, closed captions, and playlists, are vital for increasing video SEO. In fact, when your YouTube video is first published, metadata is the only tool YouTube has to determine the video’s rank. If you later determine that your video is not doing as well as you had thought or hoped, it would be best to change up your metadata.

Once your videos have been available on YouTube for some time, YouTube will begin to weigh user experience heavily, putting less importance on metadata. It’s important to remember that while YouTube may no longer be utilizing metadata as its number one tool for attracting the right people to your video, using accurate tags will continue to influence user experience. So the more positive the user’s experience watching your video, the higher it will rank.

2. Add Captions

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Google and YouTube both index closed caption files to help your video rank for more relevant and diverse terms. Think about it- a search engine trying to understand your content cannot watch a video or listen to audio. Therefore, in order to relay the information contained within your media file, you need to provide words, or captions. You should also translate your captions in order to reach global and ESL audiences. Did you know that 80% of YouTube views come from outside the US?

Don’t think captions will help? Try this- search for a term that appears in the audio of the video, but not in the tags, title, or description. Discovery Digital Networks did, and here’s what happened.

Search Term Does Not Appear in Tags

While it’s important to add captions, keep in mind that automatic captions can actually hurt you. Google claims that their automatically generated captions are about 80% accurate. 80% accuracy means:

  • One in five words is incorrect
  • A 10 word sentence will be 11% accurate

Additionally, automatic captions are not indexed by Google or YouTube. Look at the example below with YouTube’s automatic captions versus what is actually being said in the video.

Correct Versus Incorrect Captions

3. Optimize for Viewers, Not for Keywords

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Your keywords should be aimed at providing true, relevant, and useful information about the video’s contents. If you lie to try to optimize for keywords, it will not pay. Don’t forget, that when first published, metadata is all YouTube has to determine rank.

4. Focus on User Engagement

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Google cares most about how viewers respond to your content because that’s what keeps people on their site!

Watch Time

Watch time, as you might imagine, is very important. Watch time refers to the actual time spent watching a video (not the percent watched). So for example, 50% completion of a 10 minute video will rank higher than 100% completion of a three-minute video. It’s important to hook your viewer in the first 15 seconds with a teaser! If your video describes how to do a DIY project, show the viewer the finished product at the beginning to spark their interest. You want to avoid having a long introduction without speaking.

Session Watch Time

Session watch time is another important measurement of user engagement. YouTube values how a video contributes to a user’s overall viewing session. Did the viewer leave the site after the video, or did they watch three more videos? YouTube wants people to spend more time on their platform, and therefore favor videos that help them achieve that goal. Although it may seem counterintuitive, videos that are designed to bring users to your website will hurt your SEO, because they move viewers away from YouTube.

User Intent

Google can read your mind! Ok, not quite, but Google does understand what searchers mean. For example, if you were to search “how to get more views on YouTube,” you would be shown a video called “how to grow with zero views and zero subscribers.” When creating a title for your videos, be sure to write something compelling and relevant. You might be tempted to title use the #1 searched phrase or term as your title, but don’t. Instead, answer the user’s question in your title, and add the search term to the description. Trust us, Google knows.

Growing Subscriber Base

Subscribers can generate a lot of watch time within the first week your video is published. The more you can amplify user engagement in the first seven days, the better. It might be a good idea to post on a regular schedule so your subscribers know when to expect a new video, and can make sure to watch.

5. Use Playlists

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Relevant, short (four-six videos), subcategorized playlists can greatly boost user engagement. It also makes it easy to share multiple videos at a time, by sharing a link to the playlist instead of to one video.


Want to boost YouTube SEO? Get started captioning today!

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