Find out
October 24, 2023

YouTube SEO – 7 ways to optimise your videos

Chris Hughes-Kroon
Senior Digital Planner
share this post:

How YouTube SEO works and how you can optimise it

YouTube SEO is the process of optimising your videos, channel, descriptions and metadata to help improve your ranking.

As we covered in our video marketing blog, YouTube is the world’s second most-visited website. With an estimated 2 billion users active every month, it’s easy to feel like it’s impossible to stand out.

The good news is there’s a simple strategy for optimising your videos – and it doesn’t involve going on a search engine optimisation course, or downloading expensive SEO tools. In just a few steps, YouTube SEO can help your video ranking dramatically improve, exposing your content to new people, and increasing brand recall.

Step one: Have a goal in mind

Before you do anything else, determine what you’re trying to achieve with your video. Is there a new market you’re trying to break into? Are you hoping to expand into a particular new territory? Or just increase your brand’s exposure and recall?

Your next task is to target keywords which will help you to achieve your goal, using the same methods as you would for webpage SEO. These keywords will lead search engines, YouTube’s bots and, in turn, people to your content.

For a sure-fire way of identifying keywords and phrases people are searching for, you can use YouTube’s own 'search suggest' feature. This is effectively the platform’s search bar, and it completes any search term you begin to type with automated suggestions.

These are the keywords related to your query. Each suggestion comes from YouTube’s own search data. So you’re shown what people are actively searching for on the platform.

At this stage in your preparation, you’ll also want to set a reasonably ambitious (but realistic) measurable outcome. This will help you track your own progress, so you can test, refine and learn throughout.

Step two: Title your videos strategically

Your title is possibly the most important part of your video when it comes to optimisation. If the title is irrelevant or doesn’t make sense, not only will people not see it, they won’t click on it either. A good, SEO-friendly video title should be:

  • A maximum of 60 characters long
  • Frontloaded with your targeted keyword(s)
  • Short, snappy and engaging

Bonus fact: Using the year in your title (where relevant) can also help to increase click-through-rate (CTR). People want to know they’re accessing new information, and not something outdated. You can see how we’ve included all these factors in our own ‘Designing at Scale’ playlist on YouTube.

And it’s not only the video title you’ll need to consider: it’s also vital to change the file name before you upload it.

When search engines crawl your content, they can’t ‘watch’ your video to see what it’s about. Instead, they’ll use the other content around your video to help index it in the right place – and that includes your metadata. In this case, your file name.

So, where most films are exported as or similar, you’ll want to rename yours using the keywords you’re targeting. If it’s a film about marketing for beginners, for example, it could be

Step three: Write a video description

You might think of your video’s description as existing for the audience. But it’s there for search engines, too. Writing your video description with that in mind will help to attract the right people. Ideally, your description should be:

  • Rich in keywords
  • 100-200 words in length
  • Searchable – i.e. containing phrases that people are searching online
  • Descriptive, but not give away the ‘take-home messages’ of your video

Step four: Add captions to your videos

Not only is adding closed captions great for accessibility (and will help you overcome the pitfall of people watching with the sound off), it can improve your ranking too.

As mentioned, search engines can’t ‘watch’ your video, but they can crawl text – and that includes text captions.

Where possible, captions should be translated, providing more content for search engines to crawl – and adding the bonus of international-viewing potential.

Step five: Use your final frame to make an impact

What’s currently on your video’s end screen? If it just ends with a black frame, you’re missing a huge opportunity. It’s the final thing your viewers will see, so if you want to create a lasting impact – or hold their attention for longer – you’ll need a strong finish.

How often have you gone to YouTube to watch one video, and ended up on the site for an hour or more watching related content? YouTube is a prime medium for promoting longer, stronger audience engagement.

There are a number of things you can do to maximise this opportunity. You can place your videos into a playlist, so YouTube will automatically play your next film. Alternatively, you can link to more of your content from within the end frames of your video, providing a preview of your other films or playlists.

Whatever it is, it should be relevant to your audience in order to make the most impact.

Step six: Create a ‘clickable’ thumbnail image

Every video has a thumbnail, acting like the cover of a book: advertising its contents.

Thumbnails are relatively small in most cases, and so they should be clear and identifiable. Any text should be large, and frames shouldn’t be overcrowded.

It’s worth mentioning that brand consistency is just as important on YouTube as on any other social channel. Your overall look and feel should reflect your brand’s personality: from YouTube headers to thumbnail imagery.

But while you can base your thumbnails on brand templates you already have, remember to keep your goal in mind: what’s going to increase your CTR? What’s going to make people want to watch your video? In this case, a company logo probably won’t be enough to make people click.

Step seven: Use your tags more effectively

Tags help YouTube figure out what your video’s about, and its relevance to people’s search queries.

To make the most of your tags, you’ll want at least one to be your core keyword. Then, you’ll want to add two or three supporting or alternative keywords, which show relevance across your topic. Plus, one or two which are still related to the topic in general, but are much more broad.

If your video is about YouTube SEO for example, your tags might be:

  • Core keyword: YouTube SEO
  • Supporting keywords: video SEO, YouTube ranking, increase YouTube views
  • Broader topic keywords: video marketing, metadata

Remember, whichever keywords you choose here will have an overall impact on your YouTube ranking. And that works both ways: if you’re using tags which are misleading, people will navigate away from your video without watching it. To YouTube, that means your video isn’t relevant and your customer retention score will be lower, causing your ranking to drop.

Maximise your video’s ROI with YouTube SEO

Using YouTube SEO creates higher engagement, more exposure and increased brand awareness.

Need we say more?

At P+S, we’re not just your standard B2B integrated agency. We have an in-house team of skilled strategists and SEO experts, plus our own videographers, animators, and script-writing teams. There’s no part of your marketing journey that we can’t handle. Our SEO services have helped to promote clients’ offerings, increase brand engagement on their digital and social channels, and  educate their customers too.

Get in touch today.