What is YouTube SEO & How to Rank Your Videos in 2023?

  • Last update: 26/12/2022
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YouTube is the biggest video platform worldwide. It is also the second-largest search engine right after Google (which has also owned YouTube since 2006).

Via this channel, people consume tons of audiovisual content across the internet. Businesses saw this as a great opportunity to develop their video marketing strategy.

As time went by, it became harder for online users to find videos of interest on YouTube. It is the reason why the platform organized its content with a powerful search engine.

All search engines work based on an algorithm that ranks content & delivers the most relevant results for each query. This article explains how to get the most from YouTube SEO.

What is YouTube SEO?

YouTube SEO is the process of optimizing video content for YouTube search engines in order to increase visibility, engagement, and viewership. It follows the principles of Search Engine Optimization on YouTube’s environment. YouTube SEO involves using several techniques, such as keyword research and optimization, adding titles and descriptions, creating playlists and thumbnails, encouraging user interaction through comments and ratings, and leveraging YouTube’s advertising capabilities. By implementing these strategies, YouTube creators can ensure their videos are visible in YouTube search results, reach a wider audience base, achieve higher rankings in YouTube’s algorithms – and ultimately drive more traffic to their channel. Digital marketers also call YouTube SEO “video SEO” or simply “vSEO.”

By optimizing YouTube videos with carefully researched keywords that relate to a given topic or niche market, content creators can gain maximum reach among potential viewers on YouTube. Additionally, customizing titles and descriptions with relevant keywords will help YouTube’s algorithm associate videos with specific topics and thus increase rankings. YouTube playlists, which group related videos based on common themes or topics, also aid YouTube in determining what a video is about.

Additionally, YouTube advertising can effectively target potential viewers – allowing YouTube creators to reach audiences that are otherwise difficult to access through organic search. Finally, actively engaging with users via comments and ratings will further increase visibility as user threads become more visible in YouTube feeds. By following these strategies and tips, YouTube creators can streamline their efforts to optimize video content for YouTube search engines. This optimization process not only increases visibility and viewership but also reduces the overall time spent on marketing campaigns while improving ROI (Return on Investment).

YouTube SEO

YouTube Objective

Most people prefer watching videos rather than reading content. Successful blogs usually embed transcript videos besides the images & plain text. Usually, 3-minute videos tend to beat 15-minute-read articles.

The video format grows within the multimedia world. That’s why the YouTube platform is so popular. To satisfy this demand, YouTube has a double purpose:

  • Ease the video search to online viewers
  • Keep people watching as much as possible

In 2022, users uploaded around 300 hours of videos every minute on their YouTube channels. It represented a total of 5 billion videos watched daily.

The competition is high, thus important of understanding how the YouTube algorithm works.

YouTube Algorithm

Like Google, YouTube SEO is based on market data & online users’ behavior.

The algorithm collects information like how people interact with suggested videos (the list on the right side of the channel) or how they click to search & watch content.

We will see below how to optimize videos following YouTube’s algorithm. Before that, please find here the most important metrics that the platform tracks regarding the users’ profiles:

  • Past video watched history
  • Time watched
  • Video likes & dislikes
  • User feedback

This data affects the way the algorithm returns video results when YouTube users perform a search.

How to Rank Your Videos?

Like Google, YouTube’s algorithm is complex & includes many factors.

To rank high, videos must please YouTube’s algorithm & online users. The indicators of video attractiveness are:

  • Number of views
  • Number of subscriptions
  • Number of comments
  • Number of video likes

Following this, the algorithm surfaces the right videos to the right people at the right time. The most desirable videos are those going to the top.

Unlike on websites, there are no backlinks on YouTube. It means the platform cannot evaluate the video quality of referrals. It mostly relies on audience retention & interaction.

YouTube Keywords

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To optimize YouTube videos, the first step is to conduct keyword research. What are the terms & queries that people are inputting when looking for videos?

Those key phrases are a gold mine to maximize the chances of ranking high. When a video matches keywords that people are looking for, the algorithm makes it more visible.

There are many ways to select the right keywords. The purpose of this work is to choose terms that:

  • Are relevant to the video
  • Have enough search volume
  • Are not too competitive

Once you identify those keywords, follow the checklist in the next section.

For the keyword research work, we recommend using Ahrefs Keywords Explorer > YouTube. It is a paid & great tool.

Otherwise, you can also consider using the YouTube Search Suggest feature which works pretty much like Google’s, as it gives you a list of terms that people actually type on YouTube.

YouTube SEO Checklist

Once you have your keywords, make sure to optimize your videos following this checklist:

  • Video file name
  • Video title
  • Video category
  • Thumbnail
  • Description
  • Tags
  • Transcriptions & closed captions
  • Video length
  • Cards & end screens

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Edit your file name before uploading the video to the platform. Replace names like video_0123456789.mp4 with something like topic_name_including_keyword.mp4.

The video title is one of the first pieces of information that people see. Make it both descriptive & appealing. Use your main keyphrase. Good title length of around 60 characters (100 being the maximum).

When you upload your video on YouTube, you can set its category in the advanced settings. Use this option as it is a great & simple way to markup your content.

With the video title, the thumbnail is one of the first touchpoints between the viewer & your video. Choose a great image & make sure it differentiates enough from the other suggested videos.

The video description gives you the opportunity to share content with no length limitation. Use keywords & add social links to get the most out of it.

Tags have some impact on video visibility & categorization. It will also showcase related videos to the viewers. A rule of thumb is to include from 5 to 10 tags per video.

Transcriptions & closed captions help YouTube understand the media content. Unlike the video itself, search engines can crawl them. They make a difference to get the edge over competitors.

Overall, longer videos perform better as they match the platform’s purpose, which is to keep YouTube users watching media as long as possible. Of course, content must remain useful.

The cards & end screens display interactive info on the screen that links to other videos. This trick lengthens the watching time. We recommend creating video series & playlists.

To monitor those vSEO factors, use the free vidIQ Chrome extension.

YouTube SEO Wrap Up

YouTube SEO is an essential strategy for YouTube creators looking to increase visibility and viewership on YouTube. By utilizing a combination of keyword research, optimization, title and description creation, playlists, thumbnails, and YouTube advertising – YouTube creators can maximize their reach as well as reduce the time spent on marketing campaigns while improving ROI.

As we saw, it is harder to optimize YouTube videos than online text content. Search engines cannot index this media format. Marketers must find other ways to rank their videos. Refer to the checklist from the previous section when you consider YouTube SEO. If you follow it, you cannot go wrong.

Last tip: when you embed your videos into your website, mark them up with structured data. It will encourage rich snippets to feature your videos.

If you need experts to take care of this task, work with vSEO professionals to optimize your videos.