By Ryan O’Connell
YouTube, widely considered as the second largest search engine right after Google with over 1.9 billion users per month, is a massive opportunity for brands and content publishers to enhance their reach. Although YouTube is generally seen as a social media platform, there are many practices involving search optimisation that can be used to improve your rankings and drive more traffic. So when it comes to optimizing your YouTube content for searches, there are three primary areas to focus on:
- Keyword Research
- Content Optimisation
- User Engagement
Whether its YouTube or Google, the first step is always conducting keyword research, as creating the right content is simply not enough when it comes to gaining likes, comments, shares and views for your videos. Keywords serve the purpose of helping search engines match content with relevance and the search queries, making it easier for users to discover your content.
A well conducted video keyword research can help you find new content opportunities whilst improving your SEO. A good place to start is by developing a list of potential keywords that are relevant to your video. This can be supported by YouTube’s autocomplete feature, which helps identify the most common keywords based around your topic or theme. Google can also be used in a similar fashion to pinpoint the best keywords possible.
If you want to take your keyword research even further, there are additional tools that will help with comparing keywords to identify which ones are searched more frequently. A great tool for this is Google Trends, which actually has its own YouTube Search function that will give you YouTube specific search data.
So when it comes down to choosing the best keywords, it’s good to make the most of those that are low in competition and set an objective to rank for these. It’s also important to note that YouTube transcribes your videos. Therefore, its recommended you include your focus keywords in your video by mentioning them through the provided audio, which will help YouTube identify the contextual relevance of your provided content.
Here are the most important factors to look out for when optimising your content for YouTube:
Title & Keywords
The title of your video should aim to grab the users attention by concisely conveying why the user should click through to watch your video. Before creating your title though, ensure your keyword research is complete and identify your primary competitors for these keywords to understand what kind of titles are currently being used. Make sure your title is at least 5 words long and includes the focus keyword you’re wanting to rank for.
It’s common for many YouTube videos to provide only a few sentences within their description. However, this is a good chance to expand on the information within your video with additional calls to action, links and bios. If you want users to click on a link to your website for example, ensure its included “above the fold” before the “show more” prompt. On top of this, having a long description is preferred (at least 250 words in length) for both users and search engines, as users can access more insight into the video and search engines are given more context which will help you rank higher and show up more often in the suggested video sidebar. Don’t forget to always include your focus keywords at least 2-3 times within your description, which can also be implemented into your videos tags.
Video transcripts simply make your videos easier for search engines to understand when crawled and more accessible in general. It serves as an additional copy that is taken into account within YouTubes ranking algorithm. Despite YouTube offering an automated transcription process, its commonly known that choosing this option usually results in errors and faults throughout the transcript. It’s recommended to either manually edit the automated transcript or use a transcription service tool.
Adding timestamps within video descriptions is becoming very popular when looking to improve user engagement and experience. Users have the ability to simply click the timestamp and be taken to that exact point that they are looking for within your video, which is extremely useful if the video is considered long or covers a variety of topics.
If you’re creating videos that include a localised keyword such as “Perth SEO Agency” or are targeting local users, the video manager under advanced settings will allow you to specify this and include your location into the video’s copy, which will help you tap into local SEO.
When it comes to YouTube SEO, one of the most important areas to keep an eye on is your overall engagement. Counting the amount of views your videos and channel gets is not enough, you need to make sure your viewers are engaging with your content. The metrics listed below are your primary engagement metrics that you’ll want to pay attention to:
- Likes, comments & shares: Tracking the number of likes, comments and shares among your videos is the starting point of measuring engagement metrics. They serve as a good indication of what is popular content. The simplest of these to achieve is usually likes, with comments and shares being extremely valuable in increasing overall views and engagement. It’s common for channels to apply a strategy that encourages users to support your work through providing a like, comment or share.
- Video watch time: This is the amount of time that users spend simply watching your videos. It’s important to pay attention to as YouTube’s algorithm favors content that produces longer watch time over content that gains a lot of views. YouTube stated that “The idea behind the algorithm is that viewers can see more enjoyable content suggested to them, and creators can cultivate more engaged audiences.” You can see watch time as a metric in the YouTube Analytics Dashboard.
- Click through rate (CTR): The percentage of people that click on your content is known as CTR and the higher, the better. If you’re content is well optimised to show up high in rankings but you’re CTR is poor, this indicates that users don’t find your content appealing enough to click on. A big part of this is first impressions, which can be improved by optimising your title and video thumbnail.
One of the most helpful tips to form a better understand of YouTube SEO is to analyse the market by looking at the most popular videos currently going around. You can search for topics or channels that are relevant to yours to see how competitors are optimising their content, everything from thumbnails to descriptions.
As the internet continues to become more saturated with content, users are becoming more attracted to content that is easier to digest, especially video content. Although great content is the basis of any successful video, it’s extremely important to ensure it’s also optimised for searches as much as possible. Don’t forget that search engines can’t necessarily crawl and analyse the quality of video content and therefore rely on video descriptions and user engagement factors to determine your ranking.