SEO for YouTube

Merche Martínez

Written by Merche Martínez

Nowadays, with the technology we have within our reach, many of us make videos quite often. We record home videos of our kids, pets, or simply our daily lives. Thanks to video platforms like YouTube, we can share them with everyone.

So it goes without saying that at this point, almost anyone knows what YouTube is. But are we aware of its real scope? Do we know what we can accomplish by uploading our videos to YouTube? To give you a rough idea, YouTube is the second most-used search engine, right after Google. It has more than a billion users and over 300 hours worth of video are uploaded each minute.

Now, with this context in mind, is it clear that our video can reach a broad group of users, and we want it to have as much visibility as possible. For this to happen, we are going to look into what we can do to improve our video’s rankings on YouTube.

Keyword research

To conduct a thorough keyword research, it’s important to establish who is our target audience and the search queries we want to appear for, basing our selection on search volume. The definition of a keyword list is not the goal of this post, however, so make sure to check that link out.

YouTube SEO


The title of the video is a very important ranking aspect. It should include the previously selected main keyword. It also has to be attractive to catch the user’s attention and get them to click on it. To do this, we can use differentiating elements, such as exclamation marks or emojis.

Video title on YouTube

We must keep in mind that the title doesn’t need to exclusively state what the video is about. My recommendation is to create an eye-catching title, which appropriately describes the video, optimised for getting better rankings.


YouTube allows us to insert a description of the video. It can be seen below the title: a small extract of a couple of lines, that can be seen in full if we click on “Show more”.

Video description on YouTube

This text is our major SEO opportunity. Currently, most of “YouTubers” upload their video with a title only. We can use this opportunity offered to us by YouTube to write an optimised text. A text of at least 500 words, where we’ll describe the video and include the chosen keyword at least two times. It doesn’t have to be a transcription of the video.

It is recommended to include a relevant link within the first lines of the description: it can be your website, or a link that is relevant with the subject of the video. Why within the first lines, specifically? Because these are the lines the users can see, without having to click on “Show more”. Adding a link at the end of the text is also recommended. If the user finds the content interesting, they might want to find out more, which they can do by going to the provided website.


YouTube allows you to create tags for a video. Thanks to these tags, the video is eligible to appear in “Related videos”, bearing similar tags. This way, we could appear as a related video for content posted by our competition.

This is a great chance to make use of the terms we’ve defined as secondary, in addition to the target keyword we’ve used in the title and description. But be careful: don’t overuse these tags. I do not recommend using more than 8-10, even though YouTube allows you to add more. Always stick to the most relevant ones.

Using more tags in your videos won’t improve your rankings.

There’s an interesting plug-in for obtaining information about the video and the tags associated to it: vidIQ. It also provides information on the impact of the video in social media: Facebook shares, as well as other data from YouTube itself: number of likes, number of links in the description, how long it’s been since the video has been published, etc.

plugin vidiq

File name

Just as with Google Image optimisation, appropriate naming of the video file uploaded on YouTube is important. We know there are many factors contributing to better rankings, which is why I recommend to include the target keyword in the name of the video file.


I highly recommend taking some time to generate subtitles for your video, including the keyword, if possible, because this content also counts as a ranking factor.

External links

Once we’ve carried out on-page optimisations on our video: title, description, tags, file name and subtitles; it is time to get some relevant inbound links, from authoritative websites, if possible. For example:

  • Google +: insert the video and include the link to it from the post.
  • Google mymaps: if it applies, we create a map with our places of interest and we include the video.
  • Twitter: post the video with an attractive message that will capture the attention of whoever sees it and clicks on it. The idea is to try and get it shared as much as possible.
  • Facebook: same as Twitter.
  • Websites allowing the upload of videos. For example,, where it’s possible to upload the video to a list of videos concerning the same subject.
  • And of course, link it from your own website or blog.


YouTube provides the possibility to indicate whether you’ve liked a video or not with the following icons, situated below the video.

Likes on YouTube

The more likes a video has, the better it will look to YouTube’s eyes, which will help it go up in the rankings.


YouTube also offers the possibility of sharing the video on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Blogger, Tumblr, Reddit, etc. The more times a video is shared, the better authority this video will have for YouTube.

Sharing videos on YouTube


YouTube provides users with the possibility of posting comments, to participate and interact with the video. As I’ve said before, everything counts, and having a high number of positive comments helps to improve the channel’s authority, and thus, it is good for our video’s rankings on YouTube.

Play count

Another factor to take into account is play count. YouTube regards play count in a positive way. The content of the video is key in getting a high play count. Be careful with trying to fool YouTube. There are fraudulent ways of increasing the play count, but the platform can detect them.

On the other hand, to get users to view our video in full, I recommend to upload short videos, which explore their topic in a concise manner. For example, in the case of a video blog, the user expects to see a video on a subject they are interested in, but if the vlogger digresses a lot, or the video is too long, it’s very likely the user won’t bother to view the whole thing.


I’ve mentioned channel authority on several occasions throughout this post. It’s important to comply with the requirements I talked about, because YouTube values authoritative channels more. To gain authority you need to:

  • Post frequently.
  • Encourage users to share and ‘like’ your video.
  • Optimise the videos published.

HD quality

YouTube gives higher priority to videos with good image quality. Nowadays, we all have a smartphone with a camera, and sometimes these videos are recorded with low quality. As I said, every little counts, which is why we should look after the image quality of our videos.


The age of the video is also taken into account, with regard to the videos of our competition. A video with some level of authority that’s been up for some time will rank better than a newly uploaded one.


And finally, the most important thing is the content. The success of the video relies on the content it provides: it must be attractive, interesting, and even educational, whenever possible. If users enjoy the content, it is much more likely to be shared and “liked”.

No one said this was easy, but the results will finally come.

Merche Martínez
Autor: Merche Martínez
SEO consultant at the Human Level online marketing agency. She's an expert in search engine optimization at both national and international levels. She's also a certified Google AdWords user.

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