If you spend any time at all searching in Google, you’ve probably noticed YouTube videos dominating the first page.
If you’ve ever wondered how you can get your videos to rank in Google, and within YouTube’s internal search engine, this post is for you.
I’ll show you how to optimize videos to maximize your videos’ search engine visibility.
When was the last time you watched a YouTube video?
If you’re a normal human being with access to the Internet, my guess is you interacted with YouTube in some way in the last 24 hours.
YouTube is one of the most visited websites on the planet, with over 6 billion hours of video streamed monthly from the service.
That, my friends, is insane!
Since YouTube is part of the Google universe (Alphabet Inc.), YouTube videos are integrated into Google search results. If you watch videos on Facebook, there’s a pretty good chance it’s a YouTube video (even though Facebook is fighting back).
YouTube videos are everywhere. And YouTube isn’t shrinking, no matter how popular Facebook Live is, no matter how viral Instagram stories are, and no matter how trendy Snapchat is.
The platform is a gold mine, and popular YouTubers like PewDiePie (whose estimated net worth is around $70 million) are outearning traditional celebrities like Allen Iverson, Meghan Trainor, and Hillary Clinton.
Like with Google, part of being discovered on YouTube is how you optimize for search.
I’ve been spending a lot of time on YouTube recently, and wow—I’m still learning power hacks and insane techniques that are helping my clients blow their revenue sky high.
YouTube isn’t dead. It isn’t old school. It isn’t lame.
YouTube is a red hot tool for search engine power, and you can benefit from using it.
Why would you want to create videos and try to rank them within the YouTube search engine and on Google?
Well, the obvious answer is that it’s very easy to rank YouTube videos in Google and as you can see from this search result for “how to rank YouTube videos,” the top four results are all from YouTube. This is not an isolated keyword. Just one I randomly look for, “best web microphone.” Two here, above the fold, are from YouTube.
I’ve already covered the basics of building a successful YouTube channel. In this article, I want to cover some of the advanced ways to increase your YouTube search visibility.
1. Write long, detailed descriptions for each video
You wanted advanced tips? Okay, so including a detailed video description doesn’t seem that advanced, but I mention it first because it’s absolutely vital.
And you may be missing something.
The longer and more detailed your video description, the better you’ll be able to rank for relevant searches.
Here’s why: contextual keywords. Contextual keywords are at the heart of all Google and YouTube searches.
The concept is simple. You’re not simply trying to rank for a single long-tail keyword. You’re trying to rank for a variety of loosely-related searches, which may or may not include the exact keyword phrase you’re targeting.
What do you do, then? You create a long and detailed video description that will inevitably contain some or all of the relevant keyword verbiage.
The below example of Dove’s video description shows how a hashtag and website link can be used in the video description field to maximize ROI.
Because it hosts user-generated videos, YouTube is often referred to as a social network. Detailed video descriptions are often applauded by the YouTube community and can help you gain followers.
Long-tail keywords are as important on YouTube as any other site as they allow you to provide specific information on five- to seven-word key terms through the usage of contextual information.
Jenna Marbles built a 16+ million following and is the most subscribed-to female user. Marbles uses her video descriptions to disseminate website, blog, and social media information.
2. Carefully research and select the right keywords for each video
Since YouTube’s videos are also searchable through Google, it makes sense to optimize for both search engines.
In fact, YouTube is second only to Google as the most heavily used online search engine. Here’s what video results look like on SERPs:
Search Engine Journal has a great article on optimizing YouTube videos for both YouTube and Google search using long-tail keyword research on Google’s Keyword Planner tool.
Those in-depth instructions explain how to determine which keywords will work best across both platforms.
Know that the devil is in the details. Adding as much text information to a video as possible provides both humans as well as robots (and whatever hybrids, like Stephen Hawking, may exist) with the necessary contextual information.
3. Embed and share videos wherever possible
Direct video SEO for contextual keywords is great (70% of all Google search results in 2012 included video), but where YouTube is very useful in hosting video content is for videos used on social media and the web.
Video embedding and sharing buttons are already included in your default options, so you don’t even have to do anything special as a creator unless you want to limit the distribution in any way.
The more websites, forums, chat rooms, and social networks link to your video, the more likely it is to be found. This is basic SEO backlinking applied to video content.
Adding video content to your blogs and websites increases engagement in a variety of ways I won’t go into too deeply here as I’ve championed the use of video throughout my blogs.
People love watching online videos, and these shares are what will ultimately drive your video’s traffic until it creates organic search traffic.
4. Curate themed playlists
In addition to having videos as a way to increase viewership, having playlists (curated lists of videos) also increases channel time, engagement, video length, and other important KPIs that improve your ROI.
Anyone can create a YouTube playlist by clicking this button:
When you’re in a playlist, you’ll see a list of videos in it while watching the current video. You can then navigate through the playlist.
This format provides a more immersive channel experience, and curating great playlists can have a greater impact than creating videos. Spotify built its entire $10 billion brand in the face of stiff competition from Apple, Pandora, and even YouTube because of curated playlists.
Here’s what it looks like:
Playlists are heavily promoted by YouTube, and your video is more likely to be viewed as part of a playlist than on its own in YouTube’s ecosystem of over 1 billion unique monthly users.
However, solo videos show up more often in Google searches, so each provides value.
5. Watch your metrics, and grow your subscribers
On YouTube, having subscribers equals having clout. For brands, businesses, and organizations on YouTube, the key metrics to measure the success of video content marketing campaigns are a bit different. Here’s an idea of key metrics to look for in video SEO:
Subscribers do increase views, which can increase your Adsense affiliate revenue, but that’s just a side project to help the channel pay for itself and sustain itself.
Where your video ranks in YouTube searches, the click-through rate of people who view it, and the bounce rates of people leaving after watching only one video are your true measurements of video content marketing success.
Phil Defranco built his $1 million fortune on the back of 6 million+ YouTube subscribers. Encouraging people to subscribe to your channel can quickly build viewership for new videos and help increase your odds of appearing in YouTube SERPs.
6. Optimize videos for the correct length
People who tell you length doesn’t matter are probably upset about how short their video is.
If you’re creating a video ad, the requirement is less than 1 minute (30 seconds is even better), but for video content, you’ll need videos that are ideally 10 minutes or longer.
The device the video is watched on does make a difference, as does video length. Music videos, for example, are commonly 3-6 minutes, making them ideal for mobile consumption.
Hollywood has taken note, and Dreamworks’ Jeffrey Katzenberg explained during a sit-down discussion at CTIA’s Super Mobility Week that studios are focused on providing 3-5-minute video clips with the Game of Thrones level of production.
Shorter videos are also often preferred when making live clips on other social networks, like Facebook, Vine, or Instagram.
Here’s a list of the average video length of top 10 most shared videos on Facebook as of September 2015:
With mobile video usage on the rise, a 5-10 minute video will suffice, with 20+ minute videos serving as tent poles to draw viewers.
Some podcasts and vlogs stretch longer, but until you get the hang of things, these are the lengths you should focus on.
Remember, quality counts. Most popular videos are shot in at least 1080p, and both 4k and 360-degree videos are on the market, while TVs are reaching beyond 8k as of this year’s CES trade circuit.
Spend the time, money, and resources to professionally shoot, edit, and animate a video to increase the likelihood it will be viewed more widely.
7. Consider crowdsourcing views
Market research is an important part of marketing, but to perform this research with online videos is difficult.
You can solicit views, but you need to keep in mind YouTube’s community guidelines. Some companies have found success using services like Amazon’s Mechanical Turk to crowdsource video views.
Here’s how it works:
Instead of directly buying views, firms hire crowdsourcing platforms to perform market research: “Watch this video and let us know what you think by filling out this survey.” Each person is compensated $.10 to $1.00 for their time.
This market research increases views, which does help your videos rank, and it also provides the extra benefit of giving you hundreds to thousands (however many crowdsourced tasks you pay out on) of surveys about the video’s quality. This feedback can be invaluable in creating more content.
The most important consideration, however, I saved for last.
8. Be thorough
I started this article by mentioning the importance of filling out all fields, and I’m going to end on the same note because it’s that important.
Have you ever noticed how much information is crammed onto the packaging of anything you buy, from candy to electronics?
Businesses succeed by pushing through mounds of paperwork and grinding away at providing the most information possible. There’s no example of a popular YouTuber who doesn’t meticulously label their videos.
Here’s what YouTube’s video upload form looks like, asking for closed captioning, language, category, tags, descriptions, and other information:
Fill it all out every time before publishing to increase visibility.
You can also add filming time and location, enable/disable commenting and ratings, control whether your video can be embedded on external sites, add annotations, and more. Watch a few YouTube videos, and you’ll see how often these features are used.
Having a presence on YouTube is incredibly important, especially with the push for spherical video content and video search results.
Creating professional video content is only the first step.
Making it visible requires meticulous labeling and attention to detail to create a finished product.