I have successfully ranked many of my blog posts for competitive keywords following this step-by-step SEO blueprint.
Today, I will show you how to do the same for YouTube SEO.
In this YouTube guide, I will walk you through examples of optimized videos using various famous YouTubers and their channels.
I will also share with you 2 excellent Chrome plugins that you should install to get more views on YouTube (plus a lot of other useful info).
Best part of all this is that Google’s Rankbrain algorithm loves video.
Ready to go viral on YouTube?
Step 1: Find the right keywords
I spoke about how to do great keyword research before, but now I will dive into how to find the right keywords to target on YouTube.
For this, I present 3 different strategies:
- Coming up with keywords on your own
- Using YouTube Analytics
- Stealing keywords from your competitor
Coming up with keywords on your own
This one is the simplest ways to come up with keywords to target for your YouTube video. The technique is the same as coming up with keywords to target on your blog posts.
Simply list down all the keywords that your video (and channel) is about.
For instance, if you have a fitness YouTube channel and have just produced a video on “ab exercises”, you can create a list of keywords that looks like this:
- Ab workout
- Best ab exercises
- How to do ab exercises
- Simple ab routine
If you type any of these keywords on the YouTube search bar, you will also see other suggestions.
Why are these keywords good?
Because these are keywords that are being searched by real YouTube users.
You can now add the following keywords to your video, such as:
- Ab workout for men (or women)
- Ab workout at home
- Ab workout for beginner
Your can rinse and repeat until you find the keywords that makes the most sense for your content.
Using YouTube Analytics
If you go to your analytics report on YouTube and then click on Traffic Sources > YouTube Search, you will see different keywords that are driving views to your video.
In most cases, the keywords that you are presented with will be ones you already found through other means (such as intuition).
However, sometimes you might find some hidden gems (like “linkedin tricks” for me).
For instance, I recently published the presentation I did for Parent Heart Watch on how to go viral on social media.
This video covers a great amount on going viral on different platforms.
But I never thought of making a standalone video about Linkedin virality, so after checking my YouTube analytics report, I am adding it to my content schedule.
When you find keywords that are driving traffic to your already existing videos, check them against any of these SEO tools and if they look good, re-optimize your video around them.
Stealing keywords from your competitors (aka. favorite YouTube channels)
The best YouTubers are probably spending 50% of their time creating content and the other 50% promoting it (and optimizing it).
This means that they have their keyword targeting down to a T.
Which also means that you don’t have to spend time thinking about which keywords you should target.
Simply look at the most popular videos related to yours and use their keywords.
How can you do this the Alejandro-way?
By installing the vidIQ Vision Chrome plugin (also on Firefox).
After creating a free account and signing up, jump to any popular video and see stats about it (such as amount of subscribers gained from the video, video tags and more).
What you are looking for is the video tags list.
For instance this video on “how to get a six pack”
Has chosen these tags
Most of the tags will be ideal keywords like “how to get a six pack”, so you can add those to your list.
You can add up to 400 characters on your Youtube video tags, so make use of all that space!
Once you have a list, it’s time to pick some keywords
If you followed the last 3 steps you probably have a very extensive and proven list of keywords to target.
To pick the right YouTube keywords, you should look at volume and difficulty.
With the Keywords Everywhere you will see data once you start typing a keyword on the search bar:
I like to pick keywords that have volume over 1000/mo and a difficulty of <0.2.
Additionally, competition can be measured by the amount of videos ranking for a specific keyword.
For instance “how to get a six pack” has 6M videos, while “how to get a six pack at home” has ‘only’ 1M videos.
Try picking easier keywords if you are just getting started. Easier keywords will more likely be long-tail keywords (i.e. 3-6 word searches).
Step 2: Optimize Your Video
Include your keyword in the title and description
Similar to website SEO, using your keyword in your title and video description will help it rank better for your intended keywords.
Try putting your keywords in the title at the beginning of it.
So write: “Ab Workout at home [beginner’s tutorial]” rather than “A beginner’s tutorial to ab workouts at home”
YouTube gives a slight boost to words that come earlier in the title.
For the description, include your keyword a handful of times and try to make your description long so that your keyword doesn’t feel “stuffed” in.
Here’s how Athlean-X does it, for example:
Notice that he also uses several variations of his target keyword such as “training your abs”, “ab exercises” etc.
These are called LSI keywords (latent-semantic index), a fancy acronym for ‘closely related words’.
Pro tip: Although YouTube descriptions can be up to 5000 characters, I suggest you use about 200-300 words to describe your video. You can also add links to products or sites you mention in the video and get some extra web traffic that way.
Pro tip #2: You can also include jump to sections in your description so you make sure people get the most out of your video. (i.e. Oblique exercises at [1:23])
Mention your keyword in your video
Now that YouTube audio transcriptions are highly accurate, it helps a ton for your YT SEO to explicitly state your keyword (ideally at the beginning).
For instance if you are creating a video about “stir-fried noodles”, you can say something like “today, I’ll show you how to make the best stir-fried noodles with tofu”.
That will help YouTube further classify your video.
Just like how people use a ton of hashtags at the end of their Instagram posts to get more exposure, you should also use as many relevant tags as possible in your video.
Here are 2 ways to generate YouTube tags easily:
- Use RapidTags
- Install the VidIQ extension and analyze a competing video to see which tags they are using.
Make sure that the first tag you use is your exact-match keyword i.e. “ab workout”
The best secret about tags? They will help you rank as a related video for anyone that is using similar tags.
For example, all these videos are related to the “rap” tag.
(Yes, I love rap.)
Step 3: Hack the YouTube Algorithm
There are several pieces to the YouTube SEO algorithm such as: amount of minutes watched, audience retention (how many people watch your video in its entirety) and number of comments, likes, dislikes.
In this section, I will show you how to optimize each and every YouTube ranking factor.
Boost Your Audience Retention
The % of people that watch your entire video is known as Audience Retention.
Your goal should be to have that number as close to 100% as possible.
How can you increase your Youtube video completion rate and watch time?
By doing these things:
- Editing your video and removing unnecessary breaks or content that doesn’t add to your video. For instance, doing too much talking during the intro.
- Creating an Open Loop (read below)
- Making it fun or exciting
Why does audience retention matter?
First, because it’s a good metric that helps YouTube figure out whether your content is engaging or not.
Second, because the more engaged your audience the better and higher number of ads that can be served to them.
YouTube is happy when it can show more ads and will reward you for this.
Use the Zeigarnik Effect to boost your retention rate (Open Loops)
The Zeigarnik Effect discovered by the psychologist Bluma Zeigarnik essentially states that we are better equipped to remember uncompleted tasks than ones that have been completed.
It was an observation done after noticing that waiters could remember open table orders for long periods of time but once the tab was closed and paid, the waiters could not recall details on the order.
This can be translated to YouTube quite simply.
By using what’s called an “Open Loop”.
Open Loops are just promises or hooks you introduce at the start of the video (which you close at a later point on the video)
For instance, “today I will share with you how to 3x your views on Youtube”
Then you open the loop.
This gets people hooked and wanting to see more.
Then you deliver on your promise.
Pro tip: the best YouTubers (and bloggers) will open a new loop before closing the first one, to keep you hooked for the next one until the end of the video.
This leads me to my next point… (see what I did there? 😉 )
Dominate YouTube SEO by getting more comments
The amount of comments (and replies by you) has been shown to have a direct correlation to higher rankings.
Encourage viewers to drop a comment by asking something like “which video should I do next?” or like Evan Carmichael does it: “leave a comment with your favorite quote, writing it down will help you remember it better”.
Ask to subscribe after video
When someone subscribes to your channel after watching your video, it usually is because you provided something of value to them (whether informational or entertaining).
The best way to get more YouTube subscribers is to ask them to subscribe at the end of your video.
Another great way to increase your YouTube subscribers is to post regularly no matter what.
People love consistent content.
The most famous bloggers like Casey Neistat or Logan Paul will post vlogs daily even if their content is not 100% perfect.
Increasing the amount of shares your video gets is also important. You can try posting your video link to r/videos on Reddit to get some new followers.
You can also contact other YouTube channels and see if they would be willing to upload your video to their channel, opening a new audience for you.
(Find other hacks later in this post)
Bonus: Get your YouTube video ranking on Google Search
Most of the views on a YouTube video come straight from the YouTube platform.
However, if you are able to get your video on the first page of Google, you will automatically unlock many more potential views (sometimes in the 100,000s).
(side note: I love Yoga with Adriene)
The secret to get your YouTube video on Google is the following:
- Create a video that’s in any of these categories
- Tutorials (“How to get a raise”, “Installing Linux”). Pro tip: Use the words “how to”.
- Reviews (“Unboxing the iPhone X”, “Herbalife review”)
- Fitness or Sports (“yoga for beginners”, “full body crossfit workout”)
- Cute or Funny videos (“soccer bloopers”, “cute cats”)
- Anything that can be best explained in a video (“coachella after movie”, “nightlife in Berlin”)
- Check that the keyword you are targeting does show video results on Google. For instance, in the previous examples, “yoga for beginners” does show videos, while “nightlife in berlin” doesn’t.
If you see that a keyword search brings up video results, optimize your video for the best keyword you can find.
An additional secret for a juicier Youtube SEO
Not many people seem to mention this but I figure I should.
Just like how backlinks are super important when it comes to ranking blog posts, backlinks can also help boost your video rank.
Think about it.
If you get a backlink to your YouTube video, it is because someone found it useful and took the time to embed it on their site.
That’s a strong signal that your video is engaging.
How do you get backlinks and embeds of your video? Just the exact same way you would get backlinks to an article of yours, reaching out to bloggers. Here’s how to do it effectively.
2 Additional Tips to Get More YouTube Views
Create a catchy thumbnail and title
Ranking for a keyword is not the end of the battle. After you are ranking high, you also need people to click on your video.
Aim for either funny or curiosity-provoking pictures. Action shots are great too. Sex sells here too. (that’s why you see so many “pick-up artists” go viral by having girls on their videos).
For the title, make it exciting and/or benefit-driven (i.e. “How to make $500 with Shopify [tutorial]”)
Here are the exact guidelines to make a perfect Youtube thumbnail.
Have a closing call to action
At the end of your video, remember to tell people to subscribe and even share your video.
A nice phrase that I like to use is “If you found this to be valuable, share it with a (marketing) friend”
You can tweak this for fitness for instance “share it with a mate that skips leg day” or tweak it for couples “share it with your boyfriend/girlfriend”
Here are a list of CTAs (call to actions) you can use at the end of your YouTube video:
- Like, comment, subscribe
- Visit my website for more info
- Watch the next video
- Support my kickstarter
- Buy my product (i.e. buy the Flux Charger)
Try to include only 1 or 2 call to actions, as too many options will prevent your reader from taking action.
Step 4: How to promote your Youtube Video
Here are some strategies to help you promote your video (and maybe even make it go viral):
First, make content that is good
If you are putting bad content out there, people won’t be inclined to continue viewing which will negatively affect your rankings (as minutes viewed and % completed affect the reach of your video).
Instead, I suggest you focus on creating the best content that you can for your channel. Whether it is tips that are scientifically backed, or the use of better camera equipment or just by having a charming personality, you need to keep people engaged with your content.
If people like what they see, rest assured that they will tell their friends.
Sure, you already know to post your link on Linkedin, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. But what about other sites such as Quora or Reddit?
Quora provides questions and answers for pretty much any topic, so if you link your useful video and provide a thorough response to someone’s question, chances are they will watch it and upvote your answer.
People that are asking questions on Quora are eager for answers so point them in the right direction and provide additional information through your video.
Reddit is also a great place for videos that are funny like bloopers, mashups, Donald Trump or anything like that.
You can also search reddit for your keyword and post in the respective subreddit. “Ab workout” might lead you to r/Fitness for instance.
Third, repurpose that video for Facebook and Instagram
Facebook has a much better viral reach that YouTube, so it is more likely that you become famous on Facebook first rather than YouTube.
I suggest that you also post the video on your alternative social platforms to gain fans that you can later promote your native YouTube video to.
For instance, once you have a decent following on Facebook (built by posting great videos), you can post a status update like: “Hey guys, just posted a new video on my YouTube channel, check it out youtube.com/example”.
Fourth, embed your videos on your own site
If your website is already enjoying some good traffic, this can help you land a few hundred extra views per month.
You can use a plugin like YouTube Embed Plus to easily add video content to your site.
Last but not least, take care of your channel page
Your channel can be a great sales page where you invite people to learn more about you and eventually subscribe.
You can create beautiful YouTube art using Canva templates. Here’s what Adidas Football looks like:
The about section of your channel is another great place to use various keywords that describe your channel.
For a cooking channel, I would use: “cooking”, “healthy”, “recipes”, “chef”, and so on.
Another great way to get more fans is my having an engaging channel trailer where you describe what you do and the type of videos you post.
When someone new lands in your channel page, they might be lost and not know how to navigate your content.
Help them by making a playlist and grouping videos by themes.
A benefit of making playlists is that they will autoplay the next video, helping you reach more views.
In this post I covered all I know about optimizing videos for YouTube and getting as many views as possible.
I hope you enjoyed it. If you did, it would be awesome if you could send this blog post to a friend or tweet it.
You can also post a link to your YouTube channel in the comments so that other readers can check it out.
If you are more visual, this infographic by SEO Hacker that summarizes my post quite well: