How to Optimize Your Videos for SEO & Ranking
Now that your YouTube channel is up and running, let’s talk about search. Remember how we mentioned that YouTube is the second largest search engine? While creating engaging content is a must, it’s not the only factor for success. There are several things you can do to optimize your videos to rank highly on both YouTube and in Google search results.
The first step to becoming a YouTube marketing pro is creating and optimizing your video’s metadata. Simply put, metadata gives viewers information about your video, which includes your video title, description, tags, category, thumbnail, subtitles, and closed captions. Providing the right information in your video’s metadata will help to ensure that it is properly indexed by YouTube and appears when people are searching for videos like yours. Be succinct and straightforward when filling out your metadata — your content could be removed if you try to promote it with unrelated keywords. Check out the video and tips below to learn more about optimizing your video for search.
Just like with on-page SEO, it’s important to optimize your video’s title and description. The title is the first thing people will read when scrolling through a list of videos, so make sure it’s clear and compelling — it should make searchers curious about the content or be instantly clear that your video will help them solve a problem. Do some keyword research to better understand what viewers are searching for. Include the most important information and keywords in the beginning of your title. Finally, keep titles to around 60 characters to keep text from being cut off in results pages.
YouTube will only show the first two to three lines (about 100 characters) of your video’s description, then viewers will need to click “show more” to see the rest. For that reason, be sure to include any important links or CTAs in the beginning of your description, and write the copy so it drives views and engagement. Below this, you can include the video transcript. Video transcripts can greatly improve your SEO because your video is usually full of keywords. You can also add a default channel description that includes links to your social channels, video credits, and video specific time stamps. You can also include #hashtags in your video titles and descriptions — just be sure to use them sparingly.
You’ve placed keywords in your title and description, so now it’s time to highlight your main keywords in your tags. Using tags is a way to associate your video with similar videos, broadening its reach. When tagging videos, tag your most important keywords first and try to include a good mix of more common keywords and long-tail keywords.
After you upload a video, YouTube will allow you to choose a video category under “Advanced settings.” Video categories help to group your video with related content on the platform. YouTube allows you to sort your video into one of the following categories: Film & Animation, Autos & Vehicles, Music, Pets & Animals, Sports, Travel & Events, Gaming, People & Blogs, Comedy, Entertainment, News & Politics, Howto& Style, Educations, Science & Technology, and Nonprofits& Activism.
Your video thumbnail will be the main image viewers see when scrolling through a list of video results, and it can have a large impact of the amount of clicks to and views your video receives. YouTube will auto-generate a few thumbnail options for your video, but we highly recommend uploading a custom thumbnail. Reports say that “90% of the best performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails.” When filming, think of high-quality shots that accurately represent your video. YouTube recommends using a 1280 x 720 px image to ensure that your thumbnail looks great on all screen sizes.
One thing to note: You must verify your YouTube account to upload a custom thumbnail image. You can do this by visiting youtube.com/verify and entering the verification code YouTube sends you.
SRT Files (Subtitles & Closed Captions)
Not only do subtitles and closed captions help viewers, they also help optimize your video for search by giving you another opportunity to highlight important keywords. You can add subtitles or closed captions by uploading a supported text transcript or timed subtitles file. You can also provide a full transcript of the video and have YouTube time the subtitles automatically, type the subtitles or translation as you watch the video, or hire a professional to translate or transcribe your video.
To add subtitles or closed captions, head to your video manager then click on “Videos under “Video Manager.” Find the video you want to add subtitles or closed captioning to and click the drop-down arrow next to the edit button. Then choose “Subtitles/CC.” You can then choose how you’d like to add subtitles or closed captioning.
Cards and End Screens (Annotations)
Starting in May 2017, YouTube will no longer allow users to add annotations to their videos. Instead, they are encouraging users to incorporate cards and end screens in their videos to poll viewers, link to external sites, or direct people to other videos. Thankfully, cards and end screens are as easy to add as annotations. Cards are small, rectangular notifications that appear in the top, right-hand corner of both desktop and mobile screens. You can include up to five cards per video, but if you’re including multiple cards, be sure to space them out evenly to give viewers time to take the desired action.
To add a card, head to your video manager, click the drop-down edit arrow, and choose “Cards.”
Then, click on “Add Card” and choose to create a Video or Playlist, Channel, Poll, or Link card.
Once you’ve created your card, drag it to the spot in the video you want it appear. Your changes will be saved automatically.
End screens allow you to extend your video for 5-20 seconds to direct viewers to other videos or channels on YouTube, encourage viewers to subscribe to your channel, or promote external links, such as ones that direct to your website. End screens encourage users to continue engaging with your brand or content.
To add an end screen, head to your video manager, click the drop-down edit arrow, and choose “End screen & Annotations.”
Then choose which elements you’d like to add to your end screen. You can add elements by importing an end screen you used in another video, using a template, or creating elements manually. It’s important to keep in mind that YouTube requires users to to promote another YouTube video or a playlist in part of the end screen.
Are you creating videos around a few specific themes? Playlists might be the perfect tool for you! Playlists allow you to curate a collection of videos from both your channel and other channels. Not only do playlists help to organize your channel and encourage viewers to continue watching similar content, they also show up separately in search results. Creating playlists provide you with more discoverable content.
To create a new playlist, go to a video you’d like to add and click the under the video. Next, select “Create new playlist.” Type in the name of the playlist you want to feature and click “Create.”