Optimize your YouTube videos for SEO

1. Choose a main keyword to focus on for each video by performing YouTube keyword and audience research.

To figure out which topics fit your target audience’s search queries: Ask customer and sales teams for FAQs, look on industry forums or blogs for common questions, or read your social media comments. Use keyword research tools that filter results for YouTube, like Ahref’s Keyword Explorer, TubeBuddy, Hypersuggest, Answer the Public, or Kparser, to find related keywords and view metrics like monthly search volume. Conduct competitive research with tools like TubeBudy or Tags for YouTube to find your competitors’ content gaps and top-performing videos. Look through your general SEO strategy’s keywords to see which topics are best for video. Find long-tail keywords by typing in a keyword from your SEO strategy into a search engine and seeing how the search engine autocompletes the phrase.

2. Create an engaging, high-retention video that includes a verbal mention of your keyword and a call to action.

Start your video with an engaging hook that grabs your viewer’s attention from the beginning. Engagement, like video comments, likes, and shares, show the YouTube algorithm that your video should be recommended to viewers. Include a verbal call to action to subscribe, like the video, or leave a comment. Encourage comments by ending your video with a prompt, asking your audience to leave any questions in the comments, and replying to as many commenters as possible.

3. Rename your video file using your target keyword before uploading it to YouTube, because this helps YouTube know what the video is about.

For example, instead of howto-video-spring-2021.mov, name your video file spring-cleaning-tips.mov.

4. Write a video title that is under 60 characters, compelling, representative of the video, and organically uses your keyword.

Write a title that: Works with the thumbnail to describe the video and spark curiosity. Includes the video’s hook or intriguing information, like Bon Appetit’s Ayesha Curry & Brad Try 7 Kinds Of Tropical Fruit | Taste Buds video title that highlights the celebrity guest, fan-favorite host, point of the video, and the video series name. Includes the most important information at the beginning. Add the series information, like the name and episode number, at the end of the title. Avoids clickbait, because this causes low audience retention and weakens trust.

5. Create and upload a high quality, custom video thumbnail that sparks curiosity, accurately represents the video content, and follows thumbnail best practices.

Follow thumbnail best practices:  16:9 aspect ratio. 1280×720 resolution. Focused on the main video subject. Consider adding text overlay to supplement the video title with more context and to brand the video with your logo, company name, or series name. Use a design tool like Canva’s Thumbnail Creator to help get YouTube’s specifications right and improve the design.

6. Write an optimized video description that includes natural language, keywords, time stamps to video chapters, and call to action links.

Include: Organic use of your main keyword or synonym in the beginning of the description. Natural and concise language that explains what the video is about. Time stamps to video chapters with titles, which improves usability and chances of ranking for Google’s featured snippet. Links to a related video or playlist. Under 15 keyword hashtags to cover video subtopics, guests, or trending topics that are directly related to the video. Preview on a mobile device to make sure the important information is visible at the top.

7. Add closed captions to your video in the YouTube Video Manager or upload an SRT file.

SRT files are readable by Google, which helps the search engine know what the video is about.

8. Add a call to action end screen with cards that promote your related videos, playlists, or subscribe button.

Leave 15-20 seconds blank at the end of your video, so you can add an end screen. Make your own visually-appealing end screen, or use a template from Canva, Placeit, or Snappa. Optimize your end screens by looking at Top end screen element types in YouTube Analytics to see which card type leads to the most conversions by your audience. If you verbally mention another one of your videos or playlists during a video, add a video card that suggests that video, which will display in the top right corner at that time stamp.

9. Drive and retain traffic to your channel by promoting videos to marketing channels and creating playlists on YouTube.

Create YouTube playlists that organize your videos by theme, series, or video type (like how-to or product demo). Playlists help keep viewers on your channel. Promote your YouTube channel, videos, and playlists by: Creating social media posts with a call to action to go to your linked YouTube channel. Linking to your related YouTube video in an email newsletter. Embedding videos on your website that are hosted on YouTube. Embedding a video in a related blog post. Running ads for your channel on YouTube.

10. Measure success by tracking engagement metrics in YouTube Analytics, and make strategy adjustments based on results.