YouTube SEO

Even though YouTube is one of the most popular websites globally, it’s often overlooked in regards to digital marketing. The platform can be an excellent resource for expanding your audience, but getting your videos seen requires strategy. There are so many videos being uploaded to YouTube every minute, so beating your competition is brutal.

YouTube Audience
Optimize your videos for YouTube SEO

YouTube is the second largest search engine after Google. Many people disregard SEO for YouTube, possibly because the platform is not primarily text-based. However, SEO is just as crucial for YouTube as other platforms, and it is possible to improve your rankings with an SEO strategy. Whether YouTube is your primary platform or merely an additional social media profile for your brand, SEO is necessary for success. 

The Difference Between Google and YouTube SEO

There are some significant differences between SEO best practices for Google and YouTube. The strategy you use to rank on Google may not work for YouTube, so you should expect to adjust your plan. 

The most significant difference between the two platforms is that Google’s bots crawl and rank countless external websites. YouTube, on the other hand, only ranks content that appears on its site. This ranking means that a number of the technical elements that Google considers, like page speed and internal links, aren’t relevant to YouTube SEO. In some ways, this simplifies your SEO strategy. You don’t have to worry about all of the factors that go into an SEO-friendly website because the website is not your own. However, it also means that you have to put much more effort into the ranking factors that make a difference.

Engagement is another significant difference between Google and YouTube. While the length of time spent on a site is a ranking factor for Google, it’s not their most important consideration. However, engagement is one of the critical factors for YouTube SEO. Videos that get more likes, comments, and shares consistently rank higher than videos with little engagement. 

Understanding Your Audience

Like with all SEO campaigns, you need to know who you’re targeting before you implement any strategies. Understanding your audience will help you determine your keywords and narrow down your content.

To figure out who exactly your target viewer is, create an audience persona. This persona targeting is an in-depth description of your ideal viewer, their demographic information, and the reasons why they’re watching your content. By envisioning a specific person, you can make clear and consistent choices that will help you serve your content to the right audience. 

youtube analytics
YouTube analytics

It would be best to understand what your audience is searching for and what they’re watching. You can learn more about how your target audience engages with YouTube by looking at the likes, comments, and view counts of videos similar to yours. The typical like-to-view ratio for a YouTube video is 4 percent. If a video has far fewer likes, it may be a sign that it was not engaging or helpful for the audience. 

Youtube’s Find My Audience tool can be a great way to start thinking about your target audience. It highlights different types of audiences, which can help you start building an audience persona.

Youtube Comment Search

Another way to understand your audience is through comment analysis. This step allows you to see what people are talking about the most. Comments could be about what they want to see more of, what they are tired of, or even upcoming trends analytics are not yet tracking. The most frequently asked questions I receive are:

Can you search for comments on YouTube?

Yes, you can. Navigate to the video with comments you want to search through, and then hit CTRL + S on your PC (or command + S on a Mac) and type your search term into the gray bar of the window that pops up.

How do you filter words in YouTube comments?

How To Set Up YouTube Comment Filters:

  1. If you’re on any channel on YouTube, you can look top right and see your channel icon. Click it, then click ‘Creator Studio.’
  2. Once in that section, you will see many settings on the left side of your screen. 
  3. Add the words you want to be blocked into the blocked words box.

How do I see YouTube comments by a user?

Enter the username and click “Search comments.” YouTube allows direct username searches to find comments; however, only recent comments in the past few hours come back in the search.

Is there a way I can see a list of all my YouTube comments over time?

Youtube has added the ability to see all your comment history from the History > Comments on the videos history tab.

Keyword Research

To gain new viewers through organic search, you have to know what your audience is searching for. Targeting the most-searched keywords in your niche makes your content available to a broader range of interested viewers. However, this is more difficult for YouTube than for Google as it doesn’t offer search volume data. 

The best way to understand the most popular keywords on YouTube is to assess the search predictions. The site will offer a list of autocomplete suggestions that reflect recent popular search terms as you start typing your search.

Google Trends can be a helpful resource, too, as the service gives you an option to filter topics by YouTube search. Although this may not help you determine specific, long-tail relevant keywords to target, it does allow you to discover trending topics within your niche.

Optimizing Metadata

Once you’ve created your target keywords list, it’s time to start incorporating those phrases in your metadata. You should optimize individual YouTube videos as well as your channel itself.

YouTube Metadata
Adding Closed Captions is a great way to boost visibility.

There are plenty of opportunities throughout the site and your content to add keywords and boost your search rankings. First, add keywords to your channel as a whole by going to your channel settings. These keywords will tell YouTube that your content relates to these topics, and it can increase your chances of your channel appearing in organic search results.

You can also select a channel category, which is a broader idea of what content you offer. YouTube only allows you to choose one category, so staying within your niche is essential. 

The “About” page for your channel is another great SEO opportunity. Users don’t often view creators’ “About” pages, but the algorithm uses this information to understand and rank channels. Use your keywords naturally as you explain who you are and what kind of content you create. 

For individual videos, optimizing the title is vital. The title explains your video’s topic, and it’s usually the first thing viewers read as they scroll through search results. Use your target keyword as close to the beginning of the title as possible, and be as specific as you can. 

Don’t worry about including every possible keyword in your title, though. The video description is your opportunity to write a longer and more complete explanation of your content. Use your primary keyword a few times throughout the description, and add other keywords wherever possible. YouTube also allows you to use hashtags but avoid going overboard. Only the first three appear above the title of the video, so choose your hashtags wisely. 

You can add up to 500 characters in video tags, too. To determine the best way to tag your videos, install the Keywords Everywhere extension on Google Chrome to see what tags your competitors use. 

Your video thumbnail needs to be optimized as well. We process images much faster than we process text, so your thumbnail probably gives the first impression of your video. The thumbnail should be relevant to the content topic, and the design should be consistent across all of your videos. You can also put an abbreviated version of your video title in your thumbnail, which reinforces the topic.

Measuring Data

Optimizing your YouTube channel for the search function is not a one-time process. All search engine algorithms change over time, and it’s easy to become overshadowed by new content. To maintain good search rankings, you should continually measure your progress, assess the results, and adjust your content accordingly. 

Fortunately, YouTube provides several helpful reports. Use your watch time report to discover how many minutes people spend on your video on average. If watch-time is low, your video may be appearing for people outside of your target audience, or you may have to change your content to make it more engaging, boosting your audience retention scores. 

User engagement reports are valuable as well. YouTube provides nine different engagement reports with information on subscribers, shares, and other vital data. You can use this information to evaluate the performance of individual videos as well as your overall channel. 

Mistakes to Avoid

Because YouTube is different from Google in so many ways, many creators make some mistakes with their content. One of the biggest mistakes is forgetting the importance of keywords within the video. Keywords in the tags and video description are critical, too, but the spoken words in your video do make a difference in your SEO performance. 

YouTube SEO

Another common mistake is not being specific enough with your content. YouTube users may discover one video with the platform’s search function, but after watching that one video, they’re highly likely to view the creator’s other videos. If your channel covers too many topics, your viewers will quickly lose interest because they can’t easily find the content they’re looking for. It’s better to stay within one niche so that you gain a highly engaged audience who stays on your channel for a long time. 

Not encouraging engagement is a severe mistake to YouTube SEO, too. Engagement is an essential factor for your YouTube search rankings, but your audience may need a reminder to like or comment on a video or subscribe to your channel. Including a call to action in your videos is one of the easiest ways to promote engagement, but many creators forget to do so. 

YouTube is a competitive platform, but it is possible to get your videos served to your target audience. Take advantage of every opportunity to add your keywords to the metadata and improve your content as you learn what works for your channel. If you’re patient and committed to your SEO strategy, you’ll soon see your views and subscribers grow.


  • What is YouTube SEO?

Published on: 2021-03-11
Updated on: 2022-08-11

Avatar for Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands

Isaac Adams-Hands is the SEO Director at SEO North, a company that provides Search Engine Optimization services. As an SEO Professional, Isaac has considerable expertise in On-page SEO, Off-page SEO, and Technical SEO, which gives him a leg up against the competition.