YouTube SEO

YouTube is a great way to create brand awareness and reach new customers. But when you make YouTube videos you want people to watch them, right? This YouTube SEO guide will help you to rank your videos higher.

What is YouTube SEO?

When you think of search engines, the first thing that comes into your mind is Google and maybe Bing. Not a lot of people think of YouTube as a search engine. But it is. It’s actually the second most used search engine after Google! That’s why it is smart to upload YouTube videos to reach people and create more traffic to your website. Just like the SEO you use to rank higher in Google, there is also SEO you can apply to rank higher with your videos on YouTube. The first step of YouTube SEO actually starts quite similar to Google SEO.  

Start with YouTube keyword research

Just like you would with ‘normal’ SEO, YouTube SEO also starts with keyword research.

First, think of a video idea. Then write down all keywords that have something to do with that topic. To help you with this you can use the YouTube Search Suggest feature. Let’s say you want to make a video about online marketing.

YouTube Search Suggest

The YouTube suggest feature shows you the most popular keywords/keyword phrases people are searching for on YouTube. This Suggest Feature can help you find relevant keyword phrases for your video.

Another way to search for keywords is to look at videos of competitors in your niche. View their channels and select their “videos”. Then sort them by “most popular”. This will show their most popular and most viewed videos.

Tip: Don't go to channels of competitors who are way bigger than you: you might not be able to rank for the competitive keywords they used.

Now it is time to learn from your competitors! Look at the titles and keywords they used.

Let’s stick with the online marketing video idea. Search for a YouTube channel about online marketing with not too many followers and go to their most popular videos. This channel doesn’t have too many subscribers and has one video with almost 150K views. That's a lot, so this title contains good keywords people are searching for.

Viewing popular videos on YouTube

Now click on that video and look at the description. In the description of the videos, content makers also use keywords that you can use for your own videos.

The title of your video

So now you've chosen your video subject and keywords you have to think of a good title for your video. Let's say you chose the keyword phrase: “Digital marketing for beginners”. The title has to contain the keywords phrase you want people to find your video for. Also, use this keyword phrase at the beginning of your video title.

Good: Digital marketing for beginners: A Complete Guide
Poor: A complete digital marketing guide for beginners.

A good title is very important because good titles get more clicks. Here are a couple of tips to improve your title:

  1. Use numbers.
  2. Make list titles (top 5 SEO tips, top 10 online marketing tricks, etc.)
  3. Use “how-to” titles.
  4. Make your title attractive with questions, emotional words, power words, etc.

Making the video

Now you've chosen your video topic and keywords, and have found a good title, it's time to make the video. How you make the video is totally up to you. But there are some things you have to take into account.

Video length

Video length into account is important to rank high on YouTube. For example, if you make a two-hour long video about cats and the average length of the top five videos about cats are only five minutes, there is a small chance your two-hour long cat video will end up in the top five search results for cats.

YouTube search results

Check out the top five search results for “digital marketing for beginners”. All videos are longer than 15 minutes so a five-minute video wouldn’t rank high for this keyword phrase. A good video length for this topic would be around 15 to 30 minutes. Take this into account when making your video.


Engagement is also a super important factor for YouTube. If your video has more likes and more comments than another video, your video is more likely to end up higher in the search results. So try to make people engage with your video by asking them to like the video, ask to put in a comment on the video, ask to share the video, and ask to subscribe to your channel. This may sound silly, but it really helps to create more engagement on your video.

Watch time

The watch time is important for YouTube to understand if your video is good. If your video watch time gets longer, YouTube will put your video up higher in the search results. There is also something called “audience retention”. This means the average watch time of your video presented in percentages. The higher your audience retention on a video, the better it is for the YouTube algorithm.

Example: if your video is 20 minutes long and on average your video gets watched for 10 minutes, then your audience retention is 50%.

Total watch time and audience retention are important factors. That’s why it is important to keep your video interesting throughout the whole video. This can be hard but it’s not impossible. Structure your video well and keep it interesting for your audience.

Video description

The description of your YouTube video is very important. This is where you describe where your video is about. This is useful for your watchers, but also from a YouTube SEO standpoint. YouTube can tell where your video is about by scanning your video description. YouTube will pick out certain keywords so they know where your video is about. This is why you should write a good video description with your keywords in there.

The length of the description also matters. You are not going to have a good description by just typing in one sentence with your keyword phrase in there. You need a well-written description of around 150 to 200 words so YouTube has enough content to know the topic of your video better.

As you can see, the description underneath the video of this channel has a really good structure and overview.

YouTube SEO video description

Just like with Google SEO, YouTube will also focus on the beginning of your description text. Make sure your keyword phrase is in the first or second sentence of your description.

Pro-tip: add a call to action at the end of the description and add your website and social media underneath it.

Video tags and hashtags

Video tags are tags you add to your video so the YouTube algorithm knows even better where your video is about.

Make sure your first tag is the keyword you want rank for. In this example, we use “digital marketing for beginners”. After the first tag use another important tag like “digital marketing”.

Put in around 5 to 10 tags that are describing your video, but not more. Adding too much video tags will not help you to rank higher and will just work against it. Stick with the 5-10 most important and you’re good to go.

Feel free to add hashtags to your YouTube video. These hashtags will be placed underneath your video so people can see them and click on them. Putting in these hashtags can help you to get more traffic to your video, and the YouTube algorithm will know even better where the video is about.

Upload your video to YouTube

You’ve thought of a video idea, done your keywords research, thought of a good video title, made a great video, put in a good description, tags, and hashtags. Now it’s time to put your video on YouTube!

After you’ve put your video on YouTube it’s time to wait and see how your video is doing. After a couple of weeks, you can go back to that video and analyze it to see what you could have done better so you can improve your next video.