SEO for YouTube: How To Optimize Your Videos

youtubeYouTube videos are one of the most powerful ways to ignite engagement on the Web. Videos are growing in influence over customers in both B2C and B2B markets thanks to leaps in mobile technology and bandwidth that make multimedia accessible virtually anywhere.

Businesses of all sizes can achieve immense ROI through even very brief videos. Just as with other Web content, however, lasting success requires good SEO. Without it, you’ll be challenged to reach your intended audience – on the platform and off.

Let’s take a look at key aspects of SEO for YouTube

Best Practices for YouTube Videos

Videos on YouTube have their own ranking factors, elements that influence their search rank on the platform. A page of text has ranking factors like title and keyword density; video ranking factors are both simpler and more complex. youtube-3As YouTube continues to grow – it has 1 billion monthly active users in 2015 – it becomes vital to ensure videos are optimized.

These factors make YouTube videos more visible and influential:

  • Metadata: The top ranking factors for any video are its title, description, and tags. Without all three, a video is practically invisible. Each of these elements should be keyword-rich, with keywords “front loaded” as the first words of the title when possible. Don’t forget to link to your site and social profiles in the description.
  • Video Quality: High Definition content not only ranks better than the alternative, but also has a graphical element letting users identify it quickly. Although high-def content tends toward a larger file size, most users pick HD over standard definition videos with reduced picture quality.
  • Social Engagement: Videos with more views, likes, shares – and, yes, off-site links – will command higher rankings. Brands should make the sharing of video content a priority – on social profiles, within email newsletters, on blog posts, and through social bookmarking or authority sites.
  • Thumbnails & Annotations: A custom thumbnail increases click-through, driving up viewership and affecting overall search position. Annotations, which highlight specific moments in the video with text, are not yet a ranking factor, but can provide opportunities to drive users to other videos or to your site.
  • Subtitles and Closed Captions: Subtitles not only provide better accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing, but also enhance users’ ability to find your video – search engines crawl subtitles, giving them a clear picture of the video’s content. YouTube’s automatic captioning can be error-prone, so uploading a caption file is best.

How YouTube Videos Appear in Google Search Results

YouTube videos appear in two different major formats on Google search:

  • Web Search: YouTube videos have a powerful presence on the first page of many search results, particularly in “how to” content. Within search, text usually drawn from the “meta description” comes from the video description. The search result also incorporates the thumbnail and the running time.
  • Video Search: The majority of Google video search results come from YouTube itself, not surprising when you consider YouTube is a Google property. Results on Video Search are similar to the results you get when searching YouTube directly, but may vary slightly based on past search history and other user-specific factors.


YouTube and Google search are closely aligned, so most of the work of ranking a video on Google is done right on YouTube. Optimizing key factors, getting the video shared, and building links will increase its Google presence.

Naturally, video content is most powerful when it is informative, engaging, and produced well. On this new frontier, plenty of room still remains to capture customers’ attention by finding compelling ways to express your brand.