How to get started with YouTube SEO

Videos are a great way to promote your business, brand, stimulate engagement as well as disseminate information in a more visual way. People often find it easier and less draining to watch videos, rather than reading long-form content.

Once you’ve created your videos, to have maximum engagement, they need to be found during search. In case you weren’t aware, YouTube is the second biggest search engine in the world! After Google (who owns YouTube!).

YouTube currently handles over 30 million visitors per day, making it a strategic platform for your business.

From a search engine optimisation perspective, YouTube SEO works very differently to a website. There are no links to build with YouTube, and interaction with your YouTube video is a significant ranking factor.

This blog will show you how to get started with YouTube SEO, and how you can get your videos to rank better.

Keyword research

Keyword research for YouTube is very similar to standard on-page SEO. We’ll use the same approach that I’ve detailed in a previous blog, which can be found here.

Quite simply, what you are looking for, is key words that are high value and low competition. You’re really looking for keywords that have 300+ searches per month. it’s difficult to ascertain exact search numbers, as Google’s Keyword Planner’s figures are notoriously inaccurate, as highlighted here.

Google Ad Words Keyword Planner

Although it has its detractors, this tool is still arguably the most useful keyword research tool for SEO.

To get started, sign up for a free Google AdWords account, if you don’t already have one. You can then use the Keyword Planner tool to get a basic indication of search volumes for your keywords and recommended alternate keywords.

By inputting my service in this example: Veterinary and adding a landing page, Google suggests the following keywords (including average searches):

In this example, we’re looking to SEO a video on dog vaccinations. There are sufficient searches for this keyword (> 1,000) and the competition is medium. To make life easier, most SEO tools have an in-built formula (often known as Keyword Efficiency Index or KEI) to break down searches divided by competition, to see if the keyword is a good target. You can calculate the KEI manually, or use a tool such as SEO Powersuite to calculate it for you:

As you can see above, the KEI for “dog vaccinations” is green and is a strong candidate for a keyword to use to optimise our YouTube video on the topic.

Google Trends

Google Trends is also a valuable tool for keywords. It’s especially useful (if it weren’t obvious!) to identify topics that are trending currently. If we enter Dog Vaccinations, we can see that it provides a similar number to that estimated by SEO Powersuite, around 1800 searches per month.

YouTube auto complete

Just like the feature that’s included in Google search, YouTube has a predictive text field, to display other related and frequently searched keywords. This can be useful for brainstorming and a good starting point for your keyword research.

The video itself

Video length

SEO these days is all about answering the searchers’ question (or “intent”). Google believes the longer the content, the more thoroughly the searcher’s question will be answered. Like textual content, for videos, the longer the video, the better it will rank. Your videos should be at least 5 minutes long.

Video title

The video title should be at least 5 words long. This gives google enough information to accurately categorise the video. You’ll want to include the keyword you want to rank for once in your title. Also, try and make the title attractive and compelling to the searcher, so they click through. In our example, we’ll use: “What you need to know about dog vaccinations

Video description

The description field in YouTube is extremely important. It forms the crux of YouTube SEO. Here are some guidelines for you to populate the description field in YouTube:

  • Include a link to your website at the very top of the description. This assists the click-through rate to your website from YouTube.
  • Include the keyword you want to rank for towards the start of the description. These early words have a particularly high impact on your SEO.
  • The description should be somewhat lengthy. 250+ words (out of the allowable 5,000) should be populated to give Google enough content to decide what your video is about.
  • Repeat your keyword a few times to have a significant keyword density. 3 or 4 times is adequate if you stick to the 250 word guideline.
  • Tags can be used if you feel the need. They aren’t super helpful for SEO, but assist categorisation of videos.


Engagement As always with SEO, it’s a “catch 22”. Your videos will need many views to rank well. This is especially true if you are tying to rank in a high competition nice. So you need many views to rank. Makes sense. Not!

Comments are an important SEO metric for YouTube. Encourage comments in the description, and respond to any comments that have been left.

Subscribers, favourites and thumbs up/down, followers. these metrics are also important for YouTube SEO. The more people want to interact with your videos and like/dislike sends signals to Google, which they use to decide rankings.

Watch time

How long users watch the video, is an important metric for SEO. If most people stop watching your 5 minute videos after 30 seconds, you won’t rank well. The longer users watch, the better. Consider editing your videos if they contain too much “filler”.

Click Through Rate (CTR)

Whether users click the links in the video description to go to your site is a ranking factor for Google. Give users a reason to click the link.

Promoting your video

Social Media & Email

Use social media channels, email newsletters etc to promote the video to your followers. Google+ communities can be useful, as well as the usual social media channels you use that are specific to your demographics.

Web 2.0

Embedding your video in Web 2.0 platforms such as Tumbler and WordPress blogs can assist your SEO greatly. This can drive traffic and send signals to Google to enable you to rank higher. The question and answer site Quora is also a good place to promote your videos.

Forum commenting

Responding to forum comments with a link to your video can be useful for SEO. It promotes your video to expand it’s exposure, and the link from the forum is another signal to Google about the relative importance of your video.


YouTube SEO, is similar to on-page SEO for websites. Keyword research is essential, and you’ll need to spend the time populating title, description, working on interaction and promotion of your videos

Hopefully this introductory guide to YouTube SEO will get you on your way to getting a higher ranking for your videos, more click-through and increased engagement for your YouTube channel.

If you need assistance with SEO on your website, or YouTube channel, contact us today!

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