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June Murtagh

June Murtagh

Your Guide to SEO for YouTube

Let’s be honest. Building a presence on YouTube can seem overwhelming. YouTube has become an incredibly popular platform and there are a few individuals and businesses that seem to dominate. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that these creators weren’t all overnight success stories. It’s true that YouTube does have the potential to send some videos viral, but most successful channels are built on persistence, hard work and attention to detail.

So, how do you start building your brand on YouTube? A good place to start is by implementing SEO strategies to get your videos ranking high in the search results.

Optimise content for humans first, search engines second

Like Google, YouTube is a search engine. This means that when you upload a video, there are all sorts of factors YouTube considers when deciding where to place your video in the search results. Google owns YouTube, so they rank content in very similar ways. You may even see YouTube videos show up when you complete a search on Google.

A lot of the time, we can get caught up in trying to make our posts as SEO friendly as possible and forget that what we’re really trying to do is connect with potential customers or in this case, viewers. Search engines are getting better at understanding searcher intent, so the more user-friendly your content is, the more YouTube will love it.

Do some initial keyword research

Before posting your content, have a think about the words or phrases people might use to try and find a video like yours. When you’ve got a few terms you think might be relevant, try searching them in YouTube and see what comes up. If the content that appears is similar to what you’re posting, you’re on the right track!

For more in-depth results, you can use tools like Google Search Console and Google Ads to find popular keywords that might be related to your content. Aim for words that aren’t too general, but also aren’t so niche that no one will ever search for them.

For example, imagine you’re a garden supplier posting a tutorial about how to compost. Choosing the keyword ‘gardening’ will probably be too broad. You can still use it within your description, but don’t rely on it. Include more specific phrases such as ‘composting tutorial’ or ‘composting food scraps’ which will have less competition and are more likely to deliver results.

Once you’ve got some relevant keywords and phrases, you can start to incorporate them in your titles, descriptions, captions and more.

Use SEO friendly file names

YouTube can’t ‘watch’ your video, so it’s important that you incorporate as much helpful information in your file name as possible. One way to do this is to rename your file before uploading.

For example, if you have the file saved on your computer as something like ‘youtube-27052020’, consider renaming it something more appropriate. To use the garden supplier example, you could rename the file ‘composting-tutorial’ to be more specific and to tell YouTube what it’s looking at.

Optimise video titles

YouTube ThumbnailsThe video title is one of the first things your audience sees when they stumble across your video in the search results or in the suggestion bar. It needs to be strong enough to entice the audience while avoiding appearing ‘clickbaity’.

Your video title should be:

  • Clear
  • Compelling
  • Relevant
  • Include your keywords naturally
  • Tell the viewer exactly what they’re going to see, and not mislead them in any way.
  • Short and to the point (limit titles to around 60 characters so it’s not cut off in search results)

Optimise your video description

The video description presents another great opportunity to include your keywords and tell your audience (and YouTube) exactly what your video’s about. Again, you should keep it natural and optimise for your viewer’s experience.

Make the first one or two sentences of the description compelling. When you search for something on YouTube and see the list of results, the text you see below the title and next to the thumbnail are the first few lines of the video description.

The rest of the description should:

  • Be informative, engaging and relevant
  • Contain relevant keywords that you discovered in your keyword research phase (include these naturally into readable sentences and do not list keywords in bulk)
  • Include links to your website, social media channels or other helpful resources

The video description is part of what YouTube uses to analyse what your video is about and decide which videos are similar to yours. A good description with relevant text can help you show up as a suggested video when someone is watching a related video. This is a great way to get more views and grow your audience!

Use relevant tags

When you’re uploading a video, you should see a section where you can enter ‘tags’. This is where you can fill out a bulk list of keywords and keyphrases. YouTube will use these to understand what your video is about and how to categorise it appropriately. They are also a great tool to help get your video appearing as suggested content.

It’s important to only use tags that are relevant to your video, for both the user experience and SEO purposes. Google notes that ‘Adding excessive tags to your video description is against our policies on spam, deceptive practices, and scams.’

When listing your tags, include the most relevant keywords first. It can also be helpful to enter common misspellings of any of these words so that your video can still show up if people mistype.

Create an engaging thumbnail

YouTube is by nature a very visual platform. It is therefore important to create a custom thumbnail that is eye-catching, stands out from the crowd, and will draw the attention of the searcher who will see your video in a long list.

Here are some tips on creating an engaging thumbnail:

  • YouTube will give you the option to select a freeze-frame from the video but avoid doing this. Custom is always better
  • Make sure any text in your thumbnail is clear and readable at a small size
  • Keep the design simple
  • Keep the file size under 2MB
  • Use an aspect ration of 16:9 or 1280×720 pixels

Use subtitles & closed captions

Subtitles and closed captions are great for so many reasons. They are a great tool for accessibility while also providing YouTube with a transcript of the video so it knows exactly what you’re talking about.

You can upload a transcript manually, or utilise YouTube’s speech recognition software. Be aware that their speech recognition software isn’t 100% accurate, so you’ll need to go in and make small amendments.

Add captions by going to your video manager, then click the ‘edit’ button next to the video you’d like to add captions to. You should see a dropdown option for adding captions and subtitles.

Don’t underestimate intros & outros

Video EditingIntros are one of the most important parts of your YouTube video. You need to capture the attention of your audience immediately, otherwise, they’ll click off and find something else more engaging and relevant. YouTube sees this information and uses it to determine how your video should rank. They want people to stay on their site, so it makes sense that they’ll prioritise videos that people want to stick around for.

You can see how long people are watching your videos, by visiting the analytics section of your account. Don’t be disheartened if you see a general trend of people dropping off over time. This is completely normal! If you’re seeing a drastic drop off in the first few seconds, it may be time to reconsider your intro.

Outros are also important. They present a great opportunity to direct viewers to your other videos, social media sites or further resources.

To create a compelling outro:

  • Include a call to action. This could be reminding your viewer to subscribe, directing them to your website, or checking out the description box for more resources
  • Add an end screen to your video. An end screen comprises of links that will pop up on the last few seconds of your video, sending viewers to other videos or prompting them to subscribe. There are end screen templates available on YouTube

Share your content

Utilising these simple SEO strategies is a helpful and effective way to let YouTube know what your videos and your channel are all about. From here, you can begin sharing your videos across social platforms to expand your audience even further.

Remember to remain patient, and don’t expect overnight success. Implementing these strategies, posting regularly and sharing your content across social media is a great way to get the ball rolling and start growing your brand. Over time, the audience will start to increase and YouTube will recognise that your channel is valuable and has authority.

You should also familiarise yourself with the YouTube Community Guidelines and pay a visit to the Creator Academy, which has lots of great resources on how to create and upload content.

If you would like to discuss SEO for your business, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team at TheOnlineCo. and we’ll be happy to help!

June Murtagh
June Murtagh
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