There are a number of different criteria the YouTube algorithm looks at when it comes time to rank videos:
- How often the video has been viewed.
- How long the video is viewed.
- How often the video appears in a person’s playlist.
- The number of positive rankings and comments.
- The number of subscribers the creator has.
- How often the video is added to a playlist.
- How often the video was embedded on the web.
In order to create a video that has a good number of these factors, your video must be a quality video that is relevant to your audience, but also optimized for the YouTube bots. Below are a few video optimization tips shared by SEO experts:
This is a great place to start when it comes to optimization. Just as with a traditional piece of content, you want to be able to tell the bots what your content is about, and keywords are a huge part of that. You want to make sure your keywords are natural, but it doesn’t hurt to make it a point to include keywords in your title, description, and tags (discussed below). Of course, part of using keywords for optimization is doing a little bit of keyword research, which you can make happen here. As you might have assumed, you have a better chance of ranking well on a YouTube search; however, it is possible to rank on both YouTube and Google. Certain keywords lend themselves to ranking well on Google, such as the popular example “cute cats.” Google knows that when people type this in they want to see videos as opposed to an article about why cats are cute.
- When you are choosing a keyword that might work well for YouTube, do a quick check to see if Google is putting video results for that keyword on the first page. If so, you’ve picked a good one.
Have a Catchy Title
Of course part of optimizing your video is having a title that will really stand out, but what many people forget is that your title should also include your keyword to cater to the Google bots. The way in which you word your title will also affect your SEO. For example, if you’re trying to rank for the phrase “learn to snowboard,” you would want your title to say something like “Learn to Snowboard in 10 Steps” and not “10 Steps to Learn to Snowboard.” The beginning is always the best place for a keyword, and it has to appear natural.
- Include keyword phrases as close to the front of your title as possible, since front-loaded titles tend to rank well in search.
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- Keep your titles within 70 characters (including spaces). Though YouTube has a 100-character limit for titles, anything longer than 70 will be truncated in most search results.
Create a Thorough Description
It’s important to remember that the YouTube bots cannot actually watch your video, so the content you have on the page is how YouTube determines the contents of your video. Your description is the spot where you can add the most text, so you need to make it count. This is where you should be utilizing your keywords—this will help you rank for those keywords as well as long-tail keywords. David McElveen, Managing Partner of HigherVisibility, explained that he has found success when including a transcript of the video in the description. He says, “putting your transcript in the description is an excellent way to include relevant, keyword-rich content that will help both your viewers and your optimization efforts, particularly if you are discussing a confusing or involved topic. People typically want to be able to refer back to different sections of the video, and a transcription gives them another outlet to do that.” It will also help drive more organic visitors to your site/video as well.
- Include the same keywords targeted in the title of your video within the description field at least once.
- While YouTube gives you 5,000 characters to play with in the Description field, it’s best to keep the first line of your description relatively brief, as no more than the first 157 characters will appear as a snippet in search. In fact, most search engine results will truncate descriptions starting at approximately 100 characters.
- Include a link sending viewers back to your website immediately after the first sentence of your description. This can help ensure the URL does not appear as a rich snippet in search results, but will also not be hidden beneath the “Show More” section of the Description field.
When it comes to video, tags do matter. You want to use important key phrases and keywords as simply another way to let the bots know how your video should be categorized. Think about what your target audience might search for and then use those terms as additional tags for your video.
- You are allowed about 127 characters for your tags, so there is no harm in using as much of this space as possible.
- Only chose tags that are relevant specifically to the video you are posting.
- Include your most important keywords first, followed by secondary phrases and branded terms.
Google has developed “voice-to-text” technology to help its search engines crawl the audio of YouTube video content. Officially this technology is used to transcribe the videos for closed captioning, but it’s believed that the resulting “text” from these transcriptions has SEO value as well.
If the closed captioning feature in YouTube is tried, it can be quickly seen that in most cases, it does a mediocre job of capturing what’s actually being said on the audio track. Fortunately, marketers can take control of this information by uploading their own official scripts or transcriptions.
- Upload an approved and accurate transcript file for your most important YouTube videos.
- For scripted content, make sure target keywords are included in your transcript, as YouTube will use this text to determine the keyword relevancy of your content.
Sitemaps and Schema.org.
Creating a sitemap is the easiest way to let the bots know you have a video on your website; thus helping them index that video. This is the best way to help show people your video on your website as opposed to YouTube (this is the preferable option, it’s just more difficult). Visit this link from Google to learn how to create a video sitemap and more about why it matters.
Finally, schema.org is also a great way to ensure you have an optimized video. This HTML markup offers additional information to the bots (particularly describing your video), and it will no affect any video sitemaps that you’re already using.
A Few Extra Things
Other factors to help spread the word include link building, syndication, and constant social sharing. It works like a domino effect in the same way that it does for traditional content: the more popular your video becomes, the more natural links and embeds will start to pop up across the web, the more natural SEO will come your way. There are also extra things you can do to help make sure your video stands out from the rest including annotations, video rich snippets, and custom thumbnail images.
- Encourage more social engagement from your audience by actively promoting your videos via your own social channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+, etc.).