YouTube SEO: How to find the best traffic-generating keywords
Want to increase the chances of your videos showing up in YouTube’s search results? Columnist Sherry Bonelli explains how to glean keyword insights from your competitors.
Video marketing is becoming a digital marketing necessity. (It’s not a “nice-to-have” marketing strategy anymore.) People love to watch videos, and videos can help you sell more products or services. In fact, a study done by Cisco last year predicted that by 2020, video will account for over 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic.
As video consumption increases, consequently so does video’s influence on consumer purchases. According to recent research by Brightcove:
- Almost half (46 percent) of viewers say they’ve actually made a purchase as a result of watching a branded video on social media, and a third (32 percent) say they’ve considered making a purchase as a result of watching a video.
- 81 percent of consumers say they currently interact with brands on social media, and 43 percent say they’ve done so through watching branded social videos.
- When asked for their favorite type of branded content on social networks, video was the most popular answer, with 31 percent of respondents listing it as their number one choice.
YouTube is the second most popular social media platform, based on market share. And you’ll find that most YouTubers are die-hard YouTube viewers. They’re constantly watching videos, searching for videos about everything from how to jimmy your locked door to how to create a Facebook ad — and everything in between.
How to optimize for YouTube’s algorithm
YouTube is essentially a search engine for videos. Not surprisingly, it uses a sophisticated ranking algorithm to surface content to viewers.
If you want to gain a following and rank your videos higher in YouTube search, uploading fresh content is extremely important. Users love new videos! And that fresh, newly uploaded content (as well as the latest actions taken by the users) is taken into consideration by YouTube when ranking videos.
“Watch time” is a very important ranking factor as well. YouTube wants to surface videos that viewers will find enjoyable, so high user engagement is a great signal for the algorithm in identifying such videos.
In addition to user signals, YouTube also relies on input from the video owner to feed their algorithm. That means YouTube is counting on you to tell it what your video is about.
What you do to optimize your video in the first 48 to 72 hours is critical to the success of your video and how it ranks. If you get it right, your video could shoot to the top when people search for your video topic. Get it wrong, and you’ll sink like a rock.
Metadata is important
According to YouTube, metadata includes information about a video such as the title, description, tags and annotations. Metadata can help your video stand out and get found by the algorithm, so content creators should make an effort to optimize metadata to maximize visibility.
Here are some tips for creating effective metadata that can help your videos get found.
Now, this first tip may sound counterintuitive, but you want to research what types of videos your competitors are doing before you create your video. That’s right — the best time to optimize your video for SEO and get more views is before you even record it.
Once you have a feel for what your competitors are doing — the type of videos they’re producing, how engaging they are, how many views they have, what metadata they’re using and so on — it’ll make it easier for you to create a video that “one-ups” them, both in terms of having better content and being better optimized for YouTube’s algorithm.
After you’ve created your video, it’s time to think about uploading and optimizing. Again, the best time to optimize your metadata is before you upload your video — have your keywords, tags, title, description and custom thumbnail ready to go before you press the upload button.
YouTube tags: Doing the keyword research
When doing keyword research on YouTube, you want to try to find keywords that will drive traffic to your video. The best place to look for keywords is on YouTube, but you should also use more traditional keyword research tools (like Google Search Console, SEMrush, SEOProfiler, Moz or others.)
YouTube allows you to include “tags” to help categorize your video by keyword, but it limits the number of tags you can include. You’ll want to look for multiword tags (i.e., long-tail keywords) that specifically relate to your video’s topic. You should also use single-word tags and broad-term tags that relate to your video’s broader topic. (Note: Do not use trademarks or copyrighted material in your metadata unless you have explicit permission from the owner to use it.)
YouTube is effective at semantically understanding your tags. So here’s an example of some tags for a video about “how to ask a boy out on a date”:
- How to ask a boy out on a date
- What to say when you ask a boy out on a date
- How to ask a boy you like out on a date
- Asking out a boy you like
- Meet boys
- Meeting boys
- Talk to boys
One great way to get tag ideas is to look at the top-ranking YouTube videos that directly compete with your video. However, YouTube hides the video tags, which makes it more difficult to “spy” on your competitors and see their keyword/tag secret sauce.