This video SEO guide gives you the tools you need to make videos that rank high in search results for your target keywords. When you analyze your results frequently make the necessary changes, you can reach any of your business goals through video optimization.
Video SEO – How to Optimize Your Video for Search
Like it or not, video marketing is here to stay.
While you can pay for traffic and then send that traffic to your videos, the best-case scenario is for search engines to choose to rank your videos high for certain search terms and keywords, without you paying a penny.
This is called generic search traffic.
Here are just a few of the many reasons it makes sense to optimize your video for search engines.
Cisco Systems, Inc. is a technology-based multinational conglomerate headquartered in San Jose, California. Their substantial research and knowledge of computer usage habits leads them to believe that as much as 80% of all internet traffic will be represented by video by the year 2020.
Videos on YouTube, the largest video sharing website in the world by far and the second largest search engine behind Google, can appear on YouTube and Google search engines.
YouTube hosts video content exclusively and boasts 1.4 billion users, roughly 1/3 of the global Internet.
Data from SmallBizTrends shows that companies which have a regular video marketing plan in place receive 41% more web traffic from search engines than companies that don’t use video.
WireBuzz tells us that a web surfer retains just 10% of the text-based content he reads online, as opposed to 95% of the message delivered in a video.
Video marketing seems to be the new blogging.
The early adopters of blogging enjoyed a marketing scenario where they were shooting fish in a barrel. Traffic, sales, and profits were easy to come by because very few people were using blogs to market their products in the early days of the Internet. Today you absolutely must have a blog or website introducing your company to the world.
Accordingly, you must be involved in video marketing to give your company a chance for success in the 21st century. Some online and brick-and-mortar businesses may be able to find a way to succeed without using videos and the Internet to spread their reach, but that is going to be a club with few members.
In the days of the first automobiles, the buggy whip salesman resistant to change that believed cars would be a passing fad saw his business drop every year.
How many buggy whips have you seen for sale in your lifetime?
For some very important reasons, companies big and small and in a wide variety of marketplaces need to have a video marketing plan in place.
Unless that plan involves a budget with deep pockets, learning to optimize videos, so the search engines send you relevant, free traffic is essential.
That is the object of this article.
In it, you will learn what video SEO is. You will discover the difference between text-based and video-based search engines, and why good keyword research is essential for search engine optimization.
After reading, you will understand the video ranking factors YouTube uses, as well as how to use the YouTube search algorithm to rank your videos for your desired search terms.
Since video-exclusive sites like YouTube and Vimeo are not the only way people find your videos, you will also learn exactly how to optimize your videos for traditional search engines like Google.
Finally, we will show you where you should be putting your videos online and share 10 tips proven to optimize your video for search, so you boost your chances of ranking high for your intended keywords. Let’s get started optimizing your videos for search engines by defining video SEO.
What Is Video SEO?
If you have some idea of what SEO means, figuring out video SEO is not too difficult. SEO stands for search engine optimization.
This practice refers to making each of your web pages and every piece of your online content as attractive to Google and other search engines as you possibly can. Some statistics show that the top 3 spots for a Google search get as much as 55% of all the clicks for that search term.
Many times, a web surfer will not look any farther than the first page of Google search results. If your web content is not on page 1 for the keyword or phrase you are targeting, it can be difficult to generate much free, generic traffic.
SEO optimizes your content using what we know about how search engine algorithms work, so you have the best possible chance of ranking high for your target keywords.
Video SEO works the same way.
The goal is to reverse engineer videos that rank well for words and phrases you want to rank for. This gives you a list of ranking factors Google, YouTube, and other text and video-based search engines use when they are deciding how to rank a video.
For instance, one proven video SEO tactic is to include an exact match of the keyword phrase you are targeting in the title of your video.
This is just one of several ranking factors that help search engines understand what your video is about. Then they can compare your video to others with the same keyword phrase in their title, going down their algorithm checklists to see if your content deserves to be ranked higher or lower than those videos.
If you record a video without knowing how to optimize it for search, you are employing a wishful lottery ticket approach to video marketing success.
When you use the video SEO practices you are about to learn, search engines take notice. Free, generic traffic is the result.
The Difference between Text-Based and Video Search Engines
If you have a video that is doing great on YouTube, will it automatically rank high for your target search words and phrases on Google?
The simple answer is … not necessarily. In a perfect world, you would like to rank #1 for your target keyword or phrase, in both Google and on video-exclusive websites like YouTube.
Even if you do earn a top ranking on one search engine, there is no guarantee you will even be on the first page of another.
This is because search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and Google attempt to index all the web pages on the Internet, no matter what type of content is on those pages and where they may be.
YouTube, Vimeo, and other sites which host and share video exclusively don’t care about indexing and ranking pages or content that are not on their websites. Because of this and for many other reasons, the algorithms and ranking factors used to hit page 1 of different search engines varies.
Search engines like Google index and rank text, images, and video, while the search engine algorithm used over at YouTube ranks video exclusively.
The algorithms may be different, but it is possible to rank well on both universal and video-based search engines using video SEO practices.
Alternate Search Engines
The Google purchase of YouTube means high-quality, engaging and high- value videos on YouTube often rank high in Google generic search results. There is also a Google video search option.
Type your search term into Google, and then click on the videos filter at the top left of your screen. This will show nothing but video content. Those search results will include YouTube videos some of the time, but they could also be videos on other video sharing sites or videos found on any webpage, website, or blog.
Social media is huge these days. Social networks like Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook have their own search engines.
The algorithms used to rank videos on those sites, in Google, and YouTube are different to a small or large degree. One way all search engines are similar, even those that focus exclusively on video content is that you must tell the search algorithm what you want to be found for. You do this with keywords.
Keyword Research is Important for Video SEO
The object of this report is to help boost your search engine visibility for the videos you create. The methods discussed have been proven to boost the performance of videos in universal search engines and video search engines.
Whether you host your videos exclusively on your website or blog or you share them with every possible video sharing site as well, your keyword research efforts are going to dictate how those videos rank.
The above keyword tools do a really good job helping your rank in search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. They tell you what words and phrases people are searching for.
However, people often use different search phrases on YouTube than they do when they are searching in Google. A term like “cheap car insurance” is searched for thousands of times a day on Google, but almost never on YouTube. With many of the tools above, there are filters to choose YouTube results only or videos in general.
Why not let YouTube tell you what words and phrases its users are searching for? The following process is recommended by Brian Dean for optimizing your videos on YouTube. Dean is the founder of BackLinko, a company which stresses a results-driven approach to search engine optimization for content.
- Jot down a list of main keyword ideas you want to rank for.
- Log into your YouTube account.
- Type one or two words into the YouTube search engine and stop.
Google has an autocomplete feature, and so do many other search engines. YouTube has on as well. If the larger focus of your business is men’s shoes, type that into YouTube, without hitting enter or clicking on the magnifying glass icon. YouTube will then make several search suggestions, such as the following.
- Men’s shoes
- Men’s shoes essentials
- Men’s shoes to go with everything Men’s shoes fashion
- Men’s shoes to wear on a cruise
If you are going to market your videos on YouTube, it makes sense for YouTube to tell you exactly what people are looking for in regard to your main keywords.
It is a pretty good bet that you probably were not considering “men’s shoes to go with everything” or “men’s shoes to wear on a cruise” as keyword phrases for YouTube videos.
Using the autocomplete feature of the YouTube search engine can reveal the exact search terms people use every day, and these are often phrases which are seldom used in universal search engines like Google.
These are referred to as video keywords.
Think about your own video surfing behaviour on YouTube. Compare that to the things you type into Google or Bing. Many other video sharing sites and all the major traditional search engines offer autocomplete features.
By using this free keyword research tool on multiple search engines, you can often find identical crossover words and phrases that allow you to rank on different search engines using the same keyword.
Now that you understand the importance of knowing what keywords to target in your videos, let’s look at how the largest video sharing site uses those words and other factors to rank your videos.
How Are YouTube Videos Ranked?
If you only target YouTube for your video marketing efforts, you can do very well indeed. Since YouTube is owned by Google, videos on that site rank well on Big G. Obviously, YouTube has its own search engine, which is the second largest on the web and Google, as mentioned earlier. Because of these two facts, some companies focus entirely on YouTube when creating videos.
Whether YouTube is the sole focus of your video marketing or not, you should understand what the company considers when it ranks your videos.
In 2020, the following are the most important components of the YouTube ranking algorithm, and therefore they should be the focus of your video SEO efforts.
Frequency and Freshness
Search engines treat blog posts, podcast episodes, videos and just about all content the same regarding how fresh it is. In many cases, they reward fresh, recently made videos with high ranks. This is because they understand many people surfing the web are looking for information that is currently applicable.
If you watch a video on how to build a WordPress blog that was created in 2010, you are getting some old information. While some of that info may still be relevant, much of it will have changed. This is why you want to consistently be adding fresh, new videos to social media sites, your blog or website, and YouTube. The regularity with which you do so is also important. Create and post fresh videos frequently, and YouTube will notice.
You can add a list of relevant keywords you are targeting to each of your YouTube channels. These words and phrases tell YouTube, Google and all search engines what the videos on that channel are about. This is one of the many reasons why doing your keyword research is so important.
What you want to do here is obey the “exact match” rule Google and YouTube want you to follow. If you are trying to rank for the phrase “15-minute dinner recipes”, you want the term “15-minute dinner recipes” listed exactly like that, with the words in that order, in your video title. This means a video title that includes “15 Minute Dinner Recipes with Chicken” is going to rank better for the key phrase “15-minute dinner recipes” than the title “15-Minute Chicken Recipes for Dinner”.
You are exactly matching the keyword phrase you are trying to target.
You have 5,000 characters you can use here. Use them all. However, Google and YouTube will punish you if you stuff your target keywords and phrases in your description so that it does not read naturally. YouTube and the Big G have not reported a specific keyword density they are looking for. This is because, above all else, they want your video descriptions to deliver great content and be relevant to your video.
This means you may end up using a specific keyword or phrase several times. However, overuse of that phrase can deliver the unintended result of low ranking and poor search result placement. Don’t simply stuff multiple keywords and phrases in your description just because you think it is going to help your placement. Make them make sense.
In addition to a title and description, tags are important for ranking purposes. Each video you create should include tags that mirror the keywords of your channel, while also being relevant to that individual video. Tags are one or two-word descriptions (your researched keywords and phrases) that can help optimize your videos for search.
Number of Views
This is the simplest way to determine if your videos are giving YouTube viewers what they want. It is a combination of all the other YouTube ranking factors, and when you get them right, you will be rewarded with viral videos that create thousands or even millions of views. One simple way to improve this metric is to pay for video views.
This is where a lot of beginners miss out on an easy opportunity to tell YouTube exactly what they want to rank their video for. The keyword or phrase you are targeting should be present in your file name. Separate words in a phrase by hyphens, rather than having them run together.
Be careful here, as a dash is not the same thing as a hyphen. The hyphen is shorter than the dash. Hyphens connecting your keyword phrase in your filename are understood and read as blank spaces between words by YouTube and Google search spiders.
The videos that lead to the most subscriptions on your channel are rewarded. YouTube understands that once someone subscribes to your channel, that means they will be coming back for more. YouTube says thank you when this happens by boosting the ranks of your videos that lead to the most subscriptions.
Total number of subscribers
If individual videos that boost subscribers are important, so are the total number of subscribers you have. The more subscribers you can get to your channel, the better it is for video SEO purposes, as YouTube begins to display all the videos on that channel higher in search results because of your growing total number of subscribers.
Simply by recording in high definition (HD) your videos are immediately considered better quality and more relevant for particular search terms than similar videos not recorded in high definition. This is in part because YouTube understands great- looking and sounding videos will keep people watching longer. They reward videos that have higher video watching times and YouTube session times.
There is one study which shows that 68.2% of videos on YouTube’s first page of search results were recorded in the HD format. If you’re going to take the time to make video marketing a part of your business plan, don’t produce low-quality videos. Some cell phones these days offer HD quality cameras, and a standalone digital camera with HD-quality video recording capability can be purchased for under $100.
In the last YouTube ranking factor, video quality was discussed. One way YouTube uses to determine the quality of a video is to see if people click on it and then quickly click away, or hang around and watch a good portion of it. YouTube does this by using a couple of different indicators.
1 – Session Length is a term which describes how long people stay on YouTube after they watch one of your videos. It doesn’t matter if that viewer clicks on other videos relevant to your video or not. Google appreciates the fact that your video generated so much interest that your viewer spent a lot of time watching your videos and those of others.
Obviously, YouTube would prefer someone stay on their site rather than spend time elsewhere on the World Wide Web. If people typically move from your videos or channel to other YouTube destinations and they spend more time on YT them when they view other similar videos, they are going to reward you because of this fact by improving your rankings for the keywords in your description, video title, channel, etc.
2 – Individual Video View Time – This refers to how much of your video a person watches. If viewers consistently watch all or most of your videos, YouTube takes notice. This leads them to believe your videos must be of high quality and deliver valuable content linked to the promise made in your video title. Otherwise, people wouldn’t stay around.
You can discover exactly how much of your videos your viewers are watching in the YouTube Analytics section of your account. This is one of many factors we will discuss later which are driving the trend towards videos longer than 10 minutes, as opposed to shorter videos which have traditionally been preferred by viewers.
(Note: Google purchased YouTube years ago. Google has recently made it clear that they will rank longer videos on YouTube and through generic Google search higher than shorter videos if the quality and content does not suffer. Delivering valuable content should always be your first concern. If you can, try to get your videos up over the 10-minute mark which seems to be the sweet spot for improved ranking.)
Click-Through Rates (CTR)
If no one clicks on your video and watches it, you will never get a single view. That sounds like a no- brainer comment, but it points out one of the important YouTube video ranking factors … click-through rate (CTR).
If your titles, description, thumbnail, video quality and other key video components do not lead to high CTR, your video will not rank well for the intended keywords and phrases.
A simple tip for improving your video views and engagement is to fix ugly thumbnails. Thumbnails are small in stature but big in YouTube’s eyes.
If you have ever been searching or browsing on YouTube, when you saw the list of results, weren’t you more likely to click on a video with a thumbnail that was catchy, interesting, and did a good job of explaining just what the video was about?
YouTube is consistently trying to deliver a great user experience. Comments, likes, and shares are simple ways to tell if a video is being well-received by its viewers. The more likes, comments, and shares your video has, the higher it is going to rank.
Closed Caption Text
This is not the most important ranking factor YouTube considers. However, it is one of many important factors. The large majority of YouTube videos does not contain closed captions. These captions are text-based pieces of content that appear at the bottom of your video box as it plays if your video contains spoken content. It is basically a transcription of what you are saying.
Many YouTube publishers choose not to add closed captions because it takes more time to produce the videos. However, this makes your video appeal to viewers who may be deaf or people who have difficulty understanding your voice or your language.
By the way, videos with closed captions give search engines an additional piece of content to index. If your video has a closed caption and your competitor’s similar video does not, and they are both roughly the same, there is a good chance your video will rank higher.
There are a couple of things you need to know about using closed captions. YouTube offers an option for automatic captioning. If you don’t have the time or resources to create and upload your own captions, click this option.
Just understand that YouTube is in the growing stages of this technology. If you choose this option, work very hard to speak eloquently and try to use words which are easy to understand.
This will improve the odds that the automatic captioning feature offered by YouTube will create text that is as close to your spoken word as possible.
Transcriptions are important for someone who is trying to view your video but can’t access it for some reason. Some operating systems on mobile devices and many workplace regulations block video content.
Attaching a transcript to your videos means you do not lose a viewer because the video is inaccessible. Transcription does not have to be a word for word interpretation of the spoken word content in a video.
Since transcriptions are indexed by search engines, you should include transcriptions and closed captions wherever they make sense.
Adding both these ranking considerations makes content accessible by just about anyone. Even if someone is blind or deaf, using real-time Braille-enabled devices, transcripts and closed captions get your content consumed.
How to Optimize a YouTube Video
Look at the list of YouTube ranking factors discussed above.
That is a list of action items you should follow or at least consider every time you create a video you’re going to put on YouTube. To make sure you hit as many YouTube algorithm metrics as possible, use the following list of proven practices for optimizing your videos for YouTube.
Type one of your target keywords into the YouTube search box. Click on the videos that show in the top 5 spots for that term. Make a list of the keywords those videos use in their description, tags, and title. When words and phrases appear in multiple high-ranking videos, those are keywords you should be targeting.
Check out a channel in your niche or market. Filter that channel’s videos by choosing the Most Popular option. Note the video lengths, keywords, style and other characteristics of those popular videos on the channel which relate to your niche.
The Traffic Sources section of your YouTube Search Report will display the keywords and search terms used to find your videos. These are the exact phrases people are typing into YouTube that lead them to your videos. Compare this to your keyword research and begin making more videos with those search terms.
Take the list of traffic-driving keywords you just found and search for them on YouTube. Check out the About results number that appears below each keyword. This shows you how many competing videos are targeting that same word. This video SEO tip can reveal low competition keywords and phrases that can drive significant traffic.
Don’t forget Google. You can optimize a YouTube video for search engines such as Google, those that are not video-exclusive. Using the keyword lists you just created, combined with the keyword research you did earlier, plug those words into Google. When videos appear on the first page of Google, note which keywords were used to create those search results.
Log into the Google Keyword Planner section of your AdWords account. Opening an AdWords account is free, and this gives you access to some excellent Google search information. Run your keywords through the keyword planner, and choose those that get at least 500 to 1,000 searches per month. This ensures you don’t spend time creating videos that get little to no traffic.
Make your videos at least 10 minutes long. The trend in the recent past has been that YouTube viewers wanted shorter videos. This has changed appreciably in a short period of time, and as of 2018, videos of 8 to 10 minutes or longer are receiving more ranking attention than shorter videos.
Put the exact match keyword phrase you are targeting at the very beginning of your video title. The title “Top 10 DSLR Cameras for YouTube Videos” is always going to rank higher than “YouTube Video Creation – Top 10 DSLR Cameras” for the term “Top 10 DSLR Cameras”, all other factors being equal.
Make a great video! You can give YouTube exactly what it wants, but if your videos are not engaging, high-quality, with great video and audio, and delivering excellent content, people won’t watch for long. YouTube will notice, and your videos will drop in rank.
Record in HD. This was mentioned a couple of times earlier but bears repeating. One simple video SEO tactic that continues to lead to better rankings in search engines is to record your videos in HD.
Make the first 15 to 20 seconds of your videos spellbinding. YouTube punishes videos that have people clicking away early. Studies show that if you can get someone past the 15-second mark, there is a better chance they will hang around to see most or all of your video.
Respond to comments. YouTube rewards likes, shares, and comments, and you can boost your comments by regularly engaging with your viewers in the comments section below your videos.
Create a great thumbnail. Your video thumbnail should include the keyword you are targeting, and be colourful, memorable and click-worthy.
Speak your target keyword or phrase as early as you can in your video if you are talking. The YouTube search engine hears what is being said in your video. When you mention your keyword clearly a few times, this helps with your ranking.
Include the keyword in your video description in the first 20 to 30 words, the earlier, the better. Your YouTube description can be up to 5,000 characters, and your description should be at least 250 words.
The first line of your video description should be short, creating a one-line paragraph. Search engines will truncate your description to approximately the first 100 to 150 characters, so keep the first line of your description short, and include your keyword.
The tags you choose for your video should include your exact match target keyword. Add a few variations of that main keyword, as well as related words and phrases that make sense for that video. Including 10 relevant tags is better than using 20 broad tags.
Share your YouTube video URL everywhere. Your email list, social media accounts, relevant forums and chat rooms can get YouTube to take notice of your video when they start driving traffic to it.
General SEO Tips for Video Marketing
Buying a high definition camera and a quality microphone are cornerstone SEO tips for any video marketing plan. This means you will probably want to invest in a quality HD camera and standalone microphone rather than relying on your smartphone to create your videos. You should also clean up your background as well if you are shooting from a room in your home, as opposed to a dedicated video recording studio.
Speaking of a dedicated recording spot, test several areas. You will no doubt find one spot that provides better audio, video, and lighting than another, whether that location is in your home or elsewhere.
Consider turning one long video into several short, high-quality videos that work in a series. While YouTube prefers videos to be 8 or 10 minutes or longer, expecting someone to watch a 60 or 80-minute video in one sitting is asking a lot.
When you break an hour-long video into 6 or 8 shorter videos that can be watched successively, you appeal to both YouTube and your viewers.
Another tip is to transcribe your video content. YouTube is not the only search engine that rewards transcriptions and closed captions with a higher ranking. Google and other search engines also appreciate the extra content in closed captions and transcripts that help them understand exactly what your video is about.
When posting your videos on your website or blog, give each video its own dedicated page. Beneath that video should be your transcription, as well as an applicable call to action. Try to narrow down your video title to 55 characters or less and your search results will look better on Google.
A veteran video SEO tip is to create and submit a video sitemap to Google. Search for “how to create a video sitemap” on YouTube for some simple directions. You then submit the sitemap to Google Search Console.
This is additional ranking data Google can use to find your video, and this is an SEO step used by just about nobody.
Where Should You Put Your Videos?
Where you plan to put your videos is up to you. In almost every scenario, you want to have a presence on YouTube. The same is true for your blog or website. The two largest video-exclusive sites by far are YouTube and Vimeo.
A very effective video SEO tactic is to have your content in multiple places. This gives you the opportunity for more clicks and views, metrics which are important to the ranking algorithm of Google.
Top Video Sharing Platforms
- Daily Motion
Other Places for Your Videos
- Daily Motion
- LinkedIn Native Video
- Your site or blog
Top 10 Tips for Optimizing Your Video for Search
Never forget the lesson earlier that you have a couple of different types of search engines you are catering to. There are traditional universal search engines such as Google, which list video, text and image-based content.
Google has said repeatedly that it is their goal to index every single page on the World Wide Web, and this means multiple types of content rather than just video.
As video consumption continues to grow in popularity, you also want to rank for video search engines, like those on YouTube and Vimeo.
The following 10 tips will improve the search engine optimization of your videos, regardless of what market or niche you are trying to target.
- Include your target keyword early in your video title.
- Record your videos in HD (high definition) for better ranking results.
- Performing keyword research is an essential and powerful video SEO practice.
- The autocomplete features of YouTube, Google and other search engines reveal just what people are searching for on those sites.
- The top two video-exclusive websites where you should consider posting your videos are YouTube and Vimeo.
- Longer videos (over 10 minutes) generally rank higher in YouTube search results than shorter videos.
- Your video thumbnail should be attention-worthy and include your target keyword for that video.
- Adding a transcription and/or closed captioning gives search engines more data to index, and can improve your ranking.
- The first 15 to 20 seconds of your video are extremely important. Data shows that when people hang around past the 15-second mark, they are more inclined to watch your entire video.
- YouTube video descriptions can be as many as 5,000 characters. This is an added opportunity to attract the attention of YouTube, Google, and other Internet search engines. Use as much of that character length as you can.
Video SEO doesn’t have to be difficult. First and foremost, make great videos that share important information on the Internet.
Conduct keyword research so you know exactly what people are looking for before you spend time making videos. Use a high definition camera and a quality standalone microphone.
Mention your target keyword early in your title and video description. Create and post videos frequently to capture and keep the attention of YouTube, Google and universal and video-exclusive websites.
Make sure you are learning as you go. This means referring to the analytics available on video sharing sites, as well as the information you can find in your Google Analytics account.
Use this information to improve the SEO quality of your videos in the future. As with any marketing plan, testing and analyzing your results is important for success.