YouTube has over 2 billion active users and, while some are just burning time watching funny fail videos, there’s always a ton of valuable traffic to be had from the video giant. (Perspective: YouTube ranks #2 on Alexa for global engagement, second only to Google itself.)

This week, we’ll be learning how to get video content to rank on the Toobz.

Let’s begin with the basics. To get good rankings on YouTube, you’ll want to optimize these four elements of your video:

  • Title. Write a keyword-rich, 65- to 70-character title which concisely describes the video and offers visitors a compelling reason to click.
  • Description. Roughly 300 characters to explain the benefit of the video. Include keywords in the description PLUS at least one link to your website, a relevant YouTube playlist, or a specific video on your YouTube channel.
  • Tags. Use only relevant tags (don’t spam, really). If you want to view the tags being used on any video (like competitors’ videos), view the page’s source code and Ctrl+F search for ‘keywords’.
  • Thumbnail Image. Pick an interesting still shot from the video and overlay a headline on the image (we recommend using one of these fancy Canva templates). Here’s what a good thumbnail looks like:

best thumbnail for youtube seo

Keyword Research

Next, we’ll talk about keyword research on YouTube. After all, if you’re going to optimize the Title, Description, and Tags in a YouTube video for certain keywords, you’ll need good keyword (phrase)s to target in the first place.

You don’t need fancy tools to find great YouTube keywords to target. Just follow this teeny-tiny process:

1. Choose a seed keyword. A seed keyword is usually a highly-competitive 1- to 3-word query. Let’s use the keyword phrase ‘make espresso’ as an example.

2. Type the seed keyword into YouTube. Make note of the keywords that YouTube autosuggests. There’s no need to guess which keywords will be good because YouTube is already telling you what’s popular. Choose one of these autosuggested keywords to target with your video.

how to rank for youtube seo theclikk

3. Use the site: operator to check competition on Google. In Google Search, type site:youtube.com and then the keyword phrase you’ve chosen (with a space between former and latter). Note the number of results that Google returns; this indicates the number of videos that are targeting your keyword phrase. Especially if your YouTube channel is newer, the smart goal is to target the keyword phrases with less competition. Every niche is different but, in our experience, you should aim for phrases which return fewer than 100K results.

best keywords for youtube theclikk

4. Lastly, search your chosen keyword (phrase) on Google. Note whether or not Google is showing video results at or near the top of the results. If they are, this means your YouTube videos will have an opportunity to get traffic not only from YouTube, but also Google itself.

Youtube Engagement Signals

Let’s talk a little bit about what YouTube does and how you should accommodate for it.

YouTube states that they “prioritize three main elements to provide the best search results: relevance, engagement, and quality.”

They go on to say:

“We incorporate aggregate engagement signals from users, i.e. we may look at the watch time of a particular video for a particular query to determine if the video is considered relevant to the query by other users.”

Here’s the tricky thing about YouTube’s search engine: while Google is able to estimate the “quality” of a webpage by its number of inbound links, the same system doesn’t really work for YouTube videos. So instead, YouTube estimates a video’s quality (in large part) by measuring the video’s ability to retain viewers. In other words: it is critically important that, when someone starts watching your video, they keep watching it.

So how can you optimize this “retention rate” for YouTube videos? Here are three elements worth your careful attention:

1. The Opening — Get to the value straight away. Don’t waste time with a lengthy preamble. Instead, state the benefit of the video quickly and move directly into the content. If you want to get a sense of how to do this, start by watching high-performing short-form videos on apps like TikTok, where users will swipe up after a single stray second.

2. Open Loops — Tease the value that will be delivered in your video, but don’t reveal it yet. For example: “In this video, I’ll show you the #1 mistake that gardeners make when growing tomatoes. But before I do that…”

3. Bucket Brigades — Use short, punchy, curiosity-inducing phrases that keep people watching and listening. Never mind that most of these phrases are clichés… they still work well because their larger purpose is to serve as conversational transitions (a common struggle spot).

  • Here’s the deal…
  • Now…
  • What’s the bottom line?…
  • You might be wondering…
  • It gets better…
  • It gets worse…
  • But here’s the kicker…
  • Here’s the best part…

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