Video Marketing Tutorial: How to Optimize YouTube Videos for Search

how to optimize YouTube videos for search

An effective content marketing strategy involves different types of written forms. Here’s a quick look at seven beneficial types of written content, for example. But a truly robust content marketing strategy incorporates other forms and media, too. Custom images and infographics, podcasts, and audio files are just a few possibilities. Video, however, is arguably the most important non-written content format.

And YouTube is the most important video-sharing platform. Consumers go there to learn how to perform tasks, get professional advice, research brands, be entertained, and for plenty more. This makes it a prime place to build your brand awareness and authority. Of course, there are countless videos uploaded on YouTube, so it’s crucial that you learn how to optimize YouTube videos for search.

Just like SEO helps your written content get found organically via Google and other search engines, optimization best practices increase the chances that potential customers or clients will find your videos. If you can answer someone’s question or otherwise provide exactly what they’re looking for, your brand has made a strong brand-building connection.

Optimizing Videos for Search on YouTube

  • Give your YouTube video a strong title. It should be clear and concise, telling people exactly what it provides. It should also be enticing, as it creates the first impression. Try to keep the title to 60 characters or less; longer titles are cut off in search results; if you really can’t keep it that short, at least get the most important words in the first 60 characters. Phrase your title in a way people would be likely to search for the information it contains, using logical keywords.
  • Take the time to write a compelling video description. This is where searchers get information beyond that provided in the title. The official limit is 1,000 characters, but it’s better to keep it shorter. Only about the first 100 characters show up in search results; users have to click “read more” to see anything further. So, fit the most important information within the first two to three lines.
  • Consider including a transcript of the video. While this isn’t believed to help your video rank higher in search results, but it’s a nice touch for the user experience. Some people like to read along, and often people need to watch videos without sound.
  • Use tags to tell viewers—and YouTube—what your video is about. Mix up broad terms and a few long-tail keywords that capture the purpose and content of your video. This helps YouTube contextualize it and suggest it to viewers of other videos—a key part to achieving exponentially greater reach on the site. Don’t use irrelevant terms in an attempt to get more views, though; this can get your video penalized.
  • Put your video into an appropriate category. This is done under “Advanced Settings” and is another aspect of getting your video recommended alongside other relevant uploads. This should be fairly intuitive, but take a little time to look at some of the high-performing videos in the category you’re considering. Does yours fit in well with them?
  • Create a compelling thumbnail for your video. The thumbnail is the visual representation of your video that users see in search results. It has a lot of power to create appeal—or turn people off. While YouTube automatically generates some thumbnails for you to choose from, it also notes in its Creator Academy that “90% of the best-performing videos on YouTube have custom thumbnails.”
  • Add subtitles or closed captioning to your video. Either of these helps optimize your video for search on YouTube, and it’s also a plus for the use experience with your video content. It requires uploading a transcript or timed subtitle file. There are easy-to-follow instructions on adding subtitles or closed captioning on this YouTube Help page.
  • Create cards for your YouTube videos. “Cards” are those pop-up translucent bars of text and that little white circle icon with the “i” in it. You can add up to five cards per video, and there are a number of different calls to action (CTAs) these can advertise. For example, they can direct viewers to another channel, solicit donations, provide an off-site link, and more. Learn how to add cards on this YouTube Help page.

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