February 13

YouTube SEO Tips 2023: How to rank your videos higher

By Isabel Roco

February 13, 2023


I. Introduction to YouTube SEO

Is YouTube dead? YouTube has 1.7 billion unique monthly visitors spending an average of 19 minutes a day on the platform. In the U.S., 63% of users access it daily, 93% use it weekly and 98% visit it monthly. It is the second most visited website just after Google and “YouTube” is the third most searched term on Google.

So even if rival TikTok is gaining popularity, YouTube is still a solid social media platform that every marketer should invest in. More and more businesses are turning to YouTube to promote their products and services, and to build their brand. However, with so much competition on the platform, it can be challenging to get your videos to rank higher in the search results. That’s where YouTube SEO comes in.*

What is YouTube SEO?

YouTube Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of optimizing your videos to rank higher in the search results, and drive more traffic to your channel. By optimizing your videos for search, you can increase your visibility, build your audience, and ultimately, grow your business. In this article, we’ll be sharing actionable YouTube SEO tips that you can use to rank your videos higher in the search results in 2023.

II. How does YouTube SEO work? Understanding YouTube Algorithm

YouTube’s algorithm is designed to surface the most relevant and engaging videos to its users. By understanding how the algorithm works and the factors it takes into account, you can increase the chances of your video appearing in search results and getting more views. 

YouTube’s algorithm has evolved from ranking videos with the most clicks (which unfortunately, many abused with clickbait video titles and thumbnails) to those with longer watch times to the latest updates using machine learning and deep neural networks

YouTube’s algorithm takes into account various factors when ranking videos:

  • Video engagement – measured by the number of views, likes, and comments on your video
  • User engagement – measured by the number of subscribers, shares, and watch time on your channel
  • Relevance – determined by how well your video matches the user’s search query and the keywords used in your video’s title, description, and tags.

YouTube considers a viewer’s search and browsing history as well as interaction with the channel and optimization metrics. These ranking factors are combined into a list and the more popular your video is compared to the others on the list, the higher it will rank in the results. Like many social media platforms, YouTube is focused on figuring out which videos satisfy customer needs so they’ll stay on the platform longer which allows YouTube to show them as many ads as possible.

Here are effective YouTube Tips to help you rank your videos higher:

III. Optimizing Video Content

1. Keywords

YouTube is not just a video-sharing platform but the second largest search engine, after Google. Similar to optimizing for Google search, paying attention to keywords will also help you rank on YouTube.

Keyword Research

In order to effectively optimize your videos, it is crucial first to determine what exactly you are optimizing for. Doing keyword research will help with this.

  • One easy tool to use for keyword research is Google Keyword Planner. And don’t forget the good old YouTube search bar–just type in a topic and see what pops up. Those autosuggest are real phrases that people use to find content on YouTube.
  • When coming up with a focus keyword, use long tail keywords, which seem to generate the majority of traffic. For example, instead of trying to rank for “marketing,” make it more specific if applicable, like “marketing strategies for small businesses.”
  • Since the YouTube autosuggest doesn’t show search volume, you can use Google Trends to gauge a keyword’s popularity over a period of time. The last drop-down menu defaults to “Web Search” so make sure you change that to “YouTube Search.”  You can also add other keywords for comparison. As you can see below, the interest in “marketing agency” is trending upward and is higher compared to “b2b marketing agency” or “tech marketing agency.”
YouTube Tips Google Trends

You can also use tools to help with your YouTube keyword research. Here are some of the popular ones with free and paid options:

  • TubeBuddy 
    • TubeBuddy is a browser extension and app. It has free with paid options for more features.
  • vidIQ
    • vidIQ is an educational website on YouTube channel growth. It also has a Google Chrome extension. Free with paid options starting at $7.50 a month
  • Keyword Tool
    • Free online keyword research tool that uses Google Autocomplete to come up with long-tail keyword suggestions. Positioned as an alternative to Google Keyword Planner.
  • aHrefs
    • SEO software suite for keyword research, competitor analysis, link building, and more. Go to Keywords Explorer then select YouTube as the search engine. You can also see country-specific volumes. Starts at $99 a month.
  • Semrush
    • An all-in-one suite for online visibility and marketing insights. Use the Keyword Magic Tool to help with keyword research. Pricing starts at $120 a month.
  • Google Search Console
    • Free keyword research tool that helps you monitor performance.

Note that there has been a controversy on the accuracy of search volumes in some of these tools. Use them as jumping off points for idea generation and keep in mind that the numbers are just estimations.

  • Look at what your competitors are doing. Review the videos that appear on the first page of Google and see what are their common characteristics. Check out their channels and see what topics they cover. If you’re going to try to compete with them for a certain keyword, do you think you’ll have a chance to outrank their videos on the same keywords? It might be better to look for other keywords that may not have as stiff of competition especially if you’re just starting to build your YouTube channel.

Keyword in Titles and Description

One of the most important factors that YouTube’s algorithm takes into account when ranking videos is their relevance to the user’s search query. To ensure that your videos are as relevant as possible, you need to use keywords in your video’s title and description. This will help YouTube understand what your video is about and make it more likely to appear in search results for those keywords.

The maximum character limit for Titles is 100 but anything longer than 70 characters might be truncated. Front-load your keyword to avoid this.

The description is another section you can optimize with keywords to get found on YouTube. Video description has a maximum character limit of 5,000 characters but only a few lines will be visible before the user has to click on “Show more.” Make sure your call to action (CTA) is visible on the first part.

Other helpful items that you can include in your description to make it more effective include:

YouTube Timestamps

  • This can help viewers go straight to specific topics on your videos especially if you have a long video.
  • Your first timestamp should be 00:00
  • There should be at least 3 timestamps listed in ascending order
  • Each section or chapter should be at least 10 seconds
  • YouTube will automatically create a clickable link to the timestamp you specified but you can edit the description for each timestamp. This is another opportunity to highlight some more keywords related to your video topic.
  • You can also allow automatic chapters in YouTube Studio.

Provide transcript

Including a transcript can help you with SEO by providing another area where you can include keywords that your audience is looking for but it also enhances viewer experience, especially for those that prefer written text. You can use the script you used for the recording or the transcript that YouTube autogenerates. If you opt for YouTube’s auto transcription, just check it for accuracy before posting.

Links to social media channels, other associated websites, and homepage

  • List your social media channels and invite viewers to follow you or connect with you.
  • Do you have a blog related to your video topic? Add the link to the blog in the description.
  • Invite your viewers to visit your website for more information related to your video topic.
  • You can also add contact information for your company and the best way to reach you.

Use #hashtags 

Why use hashtags in YouTube descriptions? It can help broaden your reach by making it easy for viewers interested in your video topic and related ones to find you. YouTube allows up to 15 hashtags with three displayed above the video title. Note that hashtags are different from tags. Tags are not as relevant nowadays especially when YouTube switch to artificial intelligence (AI) to determine video content.

– A call to action (CTA) for the viewer to subscribe

– Links to any resources mentioned in the video

Here’s an example of how we implemented the above for our client SML.

Keywords in Video

This sounds obvious but it is worth mentioning the importance of using the keywords in your actual video. Writing a script can help ensure that you include your primary keyword and related keywords in your video. Don’t overdo it though. Sound natural as you discuss your topic. You can follow the format:

Intro – Many recommend keeping this short (as in a couple of seconds) to totally skipping it in favor of diving straight into the meat of your topic to entice viewers to keep watching your video. The first 10-15 seconds is crucial. Some also inject a short introduction about themselves after couple of minutes of discussing the topic first. Experiment and see what works with your audience.

Body – Talk about the problem and then provide the solution.

Outro – Bring it back to your users and ask them to take action or see if you’ve solved their pain point. Invite them to subscribe to your channel.

2. Thumbnails

What is a YouTube thumbnail? A thumbnail is a small image that represents your video in the search results. It’s the first thing that viewers will see when they come across your video, and it can make or break their decision to click on it. That’s why it’s important to create a compelling thumbnail that stands out in the search results and makes people want to click on your video.

You can choose from one of the three thumbnails YouTube automatically generates or make a one-of-a-kind video thumbnail that pops. Brian Dean of Backlinko recommends using blue, orange, green and yellow (BOGY) to stand out from YouTube’s colors of white, black, and red. Aim for a mix of professionalism and fun. Choose an image that makes it clear what the video’s all about. 

Here are some tips for creating custom YouTube thumbnails:

  • Thumbnail resolution should be 1280×720 pixels
  • Use a 16:9 aspect ratio to ensure that it can be viewed easily on desktop and mobile devices.
  • Its minimum width is 640 pixels.
  • Image formats can be JPG, GIF, or PNG.
  • Maximum file size is 2MB.
  • Use the highest resolution available and choose an image that both draws clicks and sets your brand apart from the rest.
  • Go for a clean font and a complementary background image with text overlay.
  • Pick image and text colors that are easy to read and match the video’s hues.
  • Custom thumbnails should follow YouTube’s community guidelines
  • There’s a daily limit on custom thumbnail uploads. If you get an error message, try again in 24 hours.

3. Closed Captions

Watch time is crucial for YouTube search ranking, as longer watch time leads to higher SERP rank. Closed captions boost viewership by retaining audience attention even if they don’t have audio access. YouTube supports basic, advanced, and broadcast file formats for subtitle or closed caption files.

IV. Building Audience Engagement 

1. Watch time

Video watch time is key for YouTube ranking. It’s the amount of time viewers spend watching videos, like dwell time on a website. The longer viewers watch, the better it is for a video’s SEO. Studies show a strong correlation between watch time and YouTube search rankings. To boost watch time and reach more leads, traffic, views, and sales, consider:

  • Making an appealing intro, keep it short. Some recommend skipping the intro altogether. The important thing here is to hook the viewers in the first few seconds so they’ll continue watching your video.
  • Longer videos (over 15 minutes). There are two schools of thought on this. Some say longer videos perform better in YouTube search. Some say shorter, snackable videos are the future. The length of the video is not as important as the content of the video. Produce a video that will answer your viewers’ questions.
  • Creating effective video playlists to make it easier for viewers to find content they want.
  • Duplicating top-performing videos to increase buzz and reach.

2. YouTube Click-Through-Rate (CTR) 

Click-Through-Rate (CTR) is the percentage of clicks on a video. High CTR increases the visibility of videos. Boost CTR by using relevant keywords in titles/descriptions, making engaging thumbnails, and optimizing for SEO.

3. Upload Frequency

Upload frequency displays the rate at which videos are uploaded on the channel. More frequent uploads improve YouTube search rankings, but beware of uploading too many videos that might result in account suspension. Create a posting schedule and stick to it consistently.

4. Session Duration

Session Duration is the time a viewer spends watching videos. This ranking factor reflects viewer engagement and the duration a user stays on the platform after clicking a video. To increase Session Duration:

  • Use descriptive titles
  • Design an attractive thumbnail
  • Write a compelling description

V. Promote video

Promoting your YouTube videos on other platforms can help drive more traffic to your videos and increase your visibility on YouTube. Here are some ideas on how you can spread the word:

  • Share your videos on your website, blog, and social media channels, and encourage your followers to watch, like, and share your videos.
  • Send an email to your subscriber list with a link to your videos.
  • You can also embed your videos on other websites, such as forums and community sites like Quora and Reddit, to increase your reach. Check the websites’ community guidelines before posting.
  • Use paid promotion to boost your videos and reach a broader audience. Platforms like Google AdWords and Facebook Ads can help you reach a larger audience and drive more traffic to your videos.

VI. Using YouTube Analytics

Video analytics can help you understand how your videos are performing and identify areas for improvement. YouTube provides detailed analytics for each video, including views, likes, comments, and more. You can also use YouTube’s analytics to understand which keywords are driving the most traffic to your videos, and which keywords aren’t. With this information, you can optimize your videos for the keywords that are driving the most traffic, and improve your search rankings. Additionally, you can track your audience engagement and understand when they are watching your videos, how long they are watching, and where they are coming from.

To use YouTube Analytics, sign in to YouTube Studio by going to https://studio.youtube.com/ or sign in to YouTube, select your profile picture in the top right, then select YouTube Studio.

Once signed in to YouTube Studio, select Analytics from the left menu. Or you can also select Content from the left menu, select video and choose Analytics.

Track YouTube analytics monthly using built-in reports. Monitor audience behavior, preferences, traffic sources, etc. Keep monthly records of channel growth, including subscribers, views, view duration, top videos, watch time, impressions, and CTR.

VII. How to Grow Your YouTube Channel

  • Create loyal followers

Building a loyal following is one of the quickest ways to grow your YouTube channel. Fans and subscribers often like, comment, and share videos with their friends. Here’s how you can increase engagement on your videos and create loyal followers:

  • Boost comments: Encourage viewers to leave comments on your videos by asking thought-provoking questions related to the video’s content.
  • Gain subscribers: Prompt viewers to subscribe to your channel, either at the end of videos or in between.
  • Promote sharing: Urge viewers to share your videos, which will help increase views and subscribers, boosting your YouTube video marketing.

We hope you find these YouTube SEO Tips for 2023 helpful and actionable. Gaining traction on YouTube involves a lot of moving parts. If you need a partner to make it happen, we’re just one click away. Forward Vision Marketing is a full-service tech marketing agency ready to make your marketing life easy.

*YouTube statistics reference: https://www.hubspot.com/marketing-statistics

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