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5 ways to ace your YouTube SEO strategy for 2021

Did you know that YouTube is actually the second largest search engine online? 

5 ways to ace your YouTube SEO strategy for 2021 Blog Feature

Lindsey Schmidt

Video Trainer, 6+ Years of Video Strategy Experience

December 17th, 2020 min read

The world of search engine optimization (SEO) can sometimes feel like you’re basically learning a foreign language. If you don’t have a working knowledge of websites, Google, and how algorithms work it can be downright confusing to read a bunch of blogs and websites trying to discern what is right based on all these expert’s suggestions. 

And now, if you have decided to use YouTube in your video marketing strategy, it can feel like you just entered another dimension of things you have to remember to make sure you’re on top of the YouTube SEO game. 

🔎 Related: Ultimate YouTube video publishing checklist for marketers

You might even be thinking, why should I care about YouTube SEO in the first place? The reason is because behind Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world.😵  

Second, if you make SEO mistakes on YouTube you are downgrading your potential to show your videos to the right audience who need to watch your content because it’s an answer to a question they have. 

Well, I’m here to tell you that you don’t need to be an expert in YouTube SEO to grow your channel, and to increase traffic, leads, and sales for your company with video. The tactics I’m going to share with you are considered to be tried and true best practices. 

By nailing down the basics of YouTube SEO, your strategy has the potential to soar and create an audience of raving fans who can’t wait to watch your next video.

1. Ye olde keyword research

That’s right! Keyword research isn’t just for your business blogging strategy. This step is something you can do before you even create your video. Honing in on the right keywords is important because they indicate to YouTube what your video is actually about. The platform algorithm cannot watch your content, so it needs to be told what the content of the video contains so it can show it to people performing relevant searches. 

Keyword Research can be done in several ways. But I’m going to show you how to do it using Google Trends. When you open the site, you’ll have the option to start with a search term and or an example. 

At the home screen, type in the topic of your next video project. Once you’ve hit search, you’ll be navigating to a display that looks like this: 

The above dashboard allows you to see how a keyword is trending, but also allows you to compare different keywords and phrases. 

Initially, you’ll see the results for web search, but you can change the setting (as pictured above) to be reflective of YouTube search queries. Comparing the growth and potential of keywords over time will allow you to make calculated decisions on how to present your video on YouTube based on these searches. 

If you continue to investigate the page, you’ll notice that you’re also provided with related searches and how they’re ranking on YouTube: 


While it’s helpful to know what regions are trending, it will be helpful for you to know what related searches are popular and potential tags for your video. You can also see which keywords have potential if you toggle between Top and Rising keywords, pictured below: 


The fun doesn’t stop here! Use tools like TubeBuddy during the upload process and to make updates to your published video as needed. 

2. Monitor watch time and retention

Unlike its parent company Google, YouTube doesn’t rely on things like backlinks to rank the content of a video. Rather, it relies on and rewards videos with a high Audience Retention Rate. The metric, audience retention rate, refers to how long viewers are watching your video. The higher the percentage the better. 

To figure out what the retention rate for your videos is, first, navigate to, which will bring you to the dashboard for your channel (if you’re logged in):


The dashboard of your YouTube channel should look something like this one from IMPACT’s Film School For Marketers channel.

Once you’re in the dashboard, choose the Videos tab on the left of your screen. Once you’re in the Videos tab, you’ll see all the videos you uploaded to the channel in the order that they’re published. From there, hover over the video you’d like to review the analytics for and select the second icon from the write that looks like a bar graph. 

Choose the analytics (pictured above) section for the video you want to review. 

Once you’ve clicked into the analytics, to find Audience Retention select Engagement, and scroll until you see a line graph that represents the Audience Retention rate of your video, similar to the one pictured below. 

At the bottom of the ‘Engagement’ tab, you’ll find a graph similar to this showing the retention rate of your video. 

Now you may be asking yourself, what is a good retention rate? Generally speaking, the answer is 60%. However, you should aim to create video content that your audience sticks around to the end of your video. In the example above, you’ll notice that the retention rate for the video is about 42% with most of the audience only making it through 90 seconds of the video. What could be the cause of this? 

Perhaps the video isn’t being directed at the right audience. If this is the case, updating thumbnails, descriptions, and tags could make a difference. Or the answer could be that the video isn’t providing enough information to the search queries. 

Compare your videos that have the highest retention rate and those that have the lowest. What are the key differences in the video content itself? What are the differences in the way this video is set up? 

Once you truly understand what your audience needs, wants, and best responds to, your audience retention will reflect that. 

3. Create a YouTube playlist of related videos

Playlists are not only a great way to organize your videos into relevant categories, but they’re also a great way to create new and unique content for your channel. It’s important to consistently be publishing new content, and the YouTube algorithm favors those who publish consistently. 

To create a playlist, start by choosing a video on your channel. At the bottom right-hand corner, click Save. 

Once you’ve clicked ‘Save’ a menu will appear (pictured below), where you’ll have the opportunity to create a new playlist or choose a playlist that has already been created to add a new video to. 

If you’re creating a new playlist (or need to update the titles of your old playlists), name the playlist with your keywords at the forefront of the title so that it pops up in relevant searches.

The image above shows an example of a playlist title that could be started for the chosen video. Also notice that under the Privacy setting, ‘Public’ is selected. The default for this option is private. You will want to make this playlist public so that anyone searching for the topic has the opportunity to view it. 

4. Track your engagement (a critical metric)

Engagement is defined as any action that someone takes on your channel or a single video. Examples of engagements include but are not limited to likes, dislikes, comments subscribes, and unsubscribes. 

In the analytics dashboard, you can keep track of the engagement of your channel and the top-performing videos. 

To start, navigator to and you’ll be taken to your channel dashboard. 

This is the side menu of your dashboard. 

Once you’re in the menu, select analytics. In the analytics view, you’ll be able to choose Engagement towards the top of the page. After engagement is selected, you will be able to analyze the videos and video elements that are engaged with the most as pictured in the view of the engagement metrics of our channel, Film School for Marketers below. 


There are a few ways you can encourage engagement in your videos. By asking viewers to like and subscribe, you can encourage viewers to engage with your content. In addition, using end screen elements that encourage engagement at the end of the video — which you can track in your engagement analytics shown above — will allow you to see if your strategy for engagement is working. 

You can also use your other platforms to promote viewership of your content. Share your videos on social media, in an email newsletter, and/or on your website to continuously find ways to get more viewers watching your content.

5. Create chapters in your YouTube videos

In May of 2020, YouTube introduced a feature called chapters to its user experience. While it’s not proven to have an impact on a video’s SEO yet, there are strong indicators that chapters could play a large role in related searches in the near future. 

Notice the chapters in this video, What is a Revenue Team, the chapters break the timeline up into sections that you can easily skip to.

To create chapters within your video, edit your description to include timestamps of when you’ve moved on to the next topic, indicating a new chapter. 

This video is broken down based on the segments that walk through all the elements from what a revenue team is down to what makes it successful. 

If you’re unsure how to break up your video and you’d like to use chapters, think about for your next project incorporating segments as we recommend using the Video 6

You’re now on your way to becoming a YouTube SEO master

Mastering the basics and building a good foundation are incredibly important to most new strategies in life. The same can be said for the effort you put into your YouTube SEO. By creating a habit of consistency and best practices, you’re well on your way to creating a presence with your videos that’s not only memorable to your audience, but searchable content that is easily found. 

It’s also important to stay up-to-date on YouTube and any of the other platforms you’re using for updates they may make that could have an effect on the performance of your content. The best way you can do that is by reading up on YouTube’s Blog regularly. 

If you’re just getting started with video, we’ve got you covered. Watch and share the course, Video Sales and Marketing Strategy with your entire team to help get you started with what video content to create and how to create it. 

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