How to Get Found (& Clicked) in YouTube's Search Engine
By Kate Fodera
How to Get Found on YouTube
- Create a production plan
- Optimize your YouTube video titles for search terms
- Write an optimized YouTube video description
- Tag and categorize your YouTube videos
- Choose your YouTube video thumbnail wisely
- Include closed captions and subtitles on your YouTube video
- Engage with your YouTube viewers
- Use YouTube video analytics
- Finally, share your YouTube videos
I’ve been there before - I’ve spent a lot of time (and sometimes sweat and tears) creating the seemingly perfect video only for it to fall completely flat once I publish it to YouTube.
You know, very few views and zero engagements.
It broke my heart and caused a few swear words to accidentally fall out of my mouth.
But what did I do? I didn’t let it get me down. I researched the crap out of what to do to help my video get found in YouTube’s search engine. Instead of making the same painful mistakes I did, follow these top tips to develop your own YouTube SEO strategy.
Hint: It’s all about optimization…
1. Make Sure You’ve Got a Production Plan
Arguably, one of the worst things you can do when it comes to creating a YouTube video is going into it without a plan. Even the most popular YouTube Stars, who seem to just make it up as they go along, have a plan… or at least an outline of the important points they want to hit; Believe me.
If you aren’t planning on reading from a script, which you shouldn’t, create an outline of what you want to talk about and then run through it at least 100 times. Okay, maybe 100 times is a lot but honestly, it’s important to have it down pat.
When you don’t stumble through your words or stop to say “umm,” it will be smoother, easier for viewers to watch, and more engaging. You should also do your research and make sure that the topic you choose for your video is one your audience is actually interested in.
With 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and almost 5 billion videos watched on there every single day, paying attention to these elements will help you stand out from the crowd.
2. Optimize Your Title for What People Are Actually Searching
Similar to crafting a blog title, crafting a YouTube title that hits on what real users are searching for is one of the biggest keys to being found in YouTube’s search engine. Traditional keyword tool aside, a great starting point is going to YouTube yourself and typing in what you think you’d search for when looking for a video like the one you’re going to create and upload.
You can also gauge how they’re performing in Google Trends!
When you type a keyword into the tool, it will tell you:
- Interest over time
- Interest by region
- Related topics
- Related queries
Once you think you’ve got a great keyword (or maybe two) that will work well and are being searched by users, figure out the context that will go around your keyword.
You don’t want to keyword stuff your title because YouTube users understand natural language. If your title is just a string of keywords, it’ll look and sound odd and may turn users off from clicking and watching. Plus, it violates YouTube’s Spam Policies so.. Just don’t do it, ok?
3. Write an Optimized YouTube Description
Just like having an optimized title, an optimized description of your video is important as well. This will tell users what they’re about to watch and can be the difference between a user clicking on your video and clicking on someone else’s.
To ensure you’re showing the user what they need to know quickly, put your keyword towards the beginning of the description so it’ll be shown in search results. YouTube displays about 100 characters naturally and after that, users need to “click more” to see the rest of the description.
That’s why it’s important to frontload the description with all of the important stuff, like keywords and calls-to-action (CTAs).
If you need to write more, and sometimes it’s absolutely critical that you do, then make sure the rest of your description is optimized as well. Add the keyword where it makes sense, give the important information your viewers need to know about the video or about the brand -- and then stop.
YouTube allows you to write up to one thousand words in the description, but we’ve found if you’re just trying to keyword stuff or add a bunch of links, the platform can (and will) penalize you.
Check out the YouTube Creator Academy to see smart description examples.
4. Tag and Categorize it
By adding tags and a category to your YouTube video, you’re helping the platform and users figure out what your video is about. This not only gives them a better idea of what they’ll see when they click on your video but it will also tells YouTube what other videos are similar to yours.
When it knows this information, it may serve it up after those videos have played - hello increased reach!
When figuring out what tags make sense, don’t overthink it. A good rule of thumb is to use your target keywords and your industry as tags. For example, if I uploaded a video about The Importance of Marketing Automation and if I talked about HubSpot, I would consider using the following tags: Marketing, Marketing Automation, HubSpot.
If you add irrelevant tags to your post, again, YouTube will penalize you. Yikes!
5. Choose Your Thumbnail Wisely
Get this - The YouTube Creator Academy reports that “90% of the best-performing videos have custom thumbnails.”
In fact, think about your favorite YouTubers. I’d bet money that they all take the time to create high-quality, custom thumbnails for everything they release.
A custom thumbnail puts forth a sense of professionalism and can help users make the decision whether or not they want to click on your video. Your thumbnail is such an important element, Adobe Spark advertises that you can easily create custom thumbnails for YouTube using their software:
“With Spark, the creation process allows for effortless erasing and new attempts, so you never have to feel anxious about whether you’ve made the ideal choice. Instead, your creativity is completely freed from worry about the finished product.”
Regardless of whether or not you create one yourself or use software, it’s important to remember that only verified YouTube accounts can upload custom thumbnails.
Check out this article for more tips on creating the perfect video thumbnail.
6. Don’t Forget Closed Captions and Subtitles
Similar to other elements that we’ve already covered in this blog post, subtitles and captions can help highlight important keywords.
YouTube makes this process fairly easy for users once they upload their blog posts:
1. Go to your Video Manager
2. Scroll to the video you want to add closed captions or subtitles to
3. Select Subtitles/CC
4. Click “Add new subtitles/CC”
5. Choose how you want to add or edit subtitles or closed captions to your video
But what does this have to do with getting found?
Well, Discovery Digital Networks (DDN) ran an experiment to investigate if closed caption files were actually being indexed by YouTube’s search engine. To do so, they searched for phrases that appeared in the transcript of the video BUT not in the description, tags, or title.
Overall, they found that their captioned video ranked 4th on YouTube for the query - proving that YouTube indexes and factors closed captions into their search rankings!
7. Make Sure You Engage With Viewers
Similar to algorithms on other social media channels (*cough* Facebook *cough cough*) YouTube also factors engagement into whether or not they’re going to serve up your content.
Backlinko found, for example, that a video’s comment count strongly correlates with higher rankings and video likes are significantly correlated with higher rankings.
So, use that!
A YouTube content creator’s job isn’t over once they upload their video to the platform. To really engage with the online audience, it’s important to keep an eye on how people are interacting with your video. Are they commenting? Sharing? Going to your website and turning into leads?
When someone gives your video a compliment, feel free to say thanks! If they don’t like your video, it may even be appropriate to ask for constructive feedback. Now, this might not always work but if/when it does, their criticism will help you create a more valuable video next time.
Plus, this engagement will remind your audience that you’re listening to them and there’s a better chance you’ll turn them into brand advocates who will keep coming back to see what you have to say.
8. Use Analytics
On a similar note, take advantage of the analytics that YouTube provides.
I know analytics and metrics aren’t everyone's favorite topics but they are important ones when it comes to having your videos found.
Their analytics dashboard provides insight into numerous metrics but two of the most important analytics to help your videos get found are demographics and retention rate:
Demographics: Who is watching your videos? Is your audience mostly male or female? Are you sharing the right message to the audience who is watching?
If your message doesn’t resonate with the audience who is watching, they’re more likely to leave and less likely to engage with your video, which will deter it from increasing in the YouTube search engine rankings.
Retention Rate: This is the percentage of your video that actually gets watched.
A higher retention rate means higher search results. YouTube uses this information to make the decision of whether or not your video is valuable to its users. If your rate is low (think 25% and below), it’s time to explore decreasing the length of your videos.
9. Share Your Video
YouTube is a social network so make sure you’re social when you use it!
Once your video is completed and uploaded, share it with your digital network: post it on Facebook, tweet it out, blog about it. Word-of-mouth and distribution are important when it comes to all things marketing, so don’t skimp out here.
Ask your audience what they think about it and if they like what you have to say, ask them to share it with their peers. This may feel awkward at first but it will make a difference when it comes to increasing reach and proving value.
Remember, all of this engagement will nudge YouTube to pay attention to it.
In conclusion, there are many things you can to do help your video increase in YouTube search engine rankings. With careful consideration and the right optimized elements, you’ll be on your way to being a great content creator that viewers come back to for valuable and entertaining information.
Wondering where to begin?