Apr 11

SEO for YouTube : The Basics

YouTube SEO is Heavy, Man!

Optimizing for more YouTube views, and building a subscriber base, is something I must admit I have little experience with, but a friend of mine recently asked me for some advice on this, so I’ve done a pretty exhaustive survey of various material and postings. The following ideas look like sensible basic optimization tips.  There were so many ideas I had to break it into three postings – this one, an upcoming “Advanced Tips” posting, and an upcoming “Building Community” one.

1.) Do keyword research using the YouTube keyword research tool

Most people do not realize YouTube has a separate keyword reseach tool from the Adwords one.  You can use it to find high volume topics you can focus your video on.  Unlike the Adwords tool, it does not show competition levels, so you may want to do some searches on YouTube for each keyword you’re considering to see how many videos you will be competing with.  You could also try using the Adwords tool and combining the data, general search statistics may translate well to the video search market.

2.) Put the keyword you’re targeting in the title of your video

Preferably with the targeted keyword left-most and as exact match as possible.

3.) Pick a Category and also Tag the video with relevant tags.

Don’t go crazy with a million tags, the more specific the better.  The right tags should help users find your video; the right tags will help you increase views without purchasing views. I would recommend including stemmed versions of any verbs, i.e. if your title is “How to bake a cake”, good tags would include “bake a cake”, “baking a cake”, and “cake recipe”.  Think about what searches are reasonable for someone to make to find your video and tag accordingly.

4.) Choose a thumbnail that is compelling.

YouTube automatically gives you a choice of a few thumbnails taken from within the video – choose wisely.

5.) Make the video public.

Allow comments and video responses to encourage “community” activity.  If you have a brand worth protecting, then only allow comments after approval – just make sure to go in at least weekly and approve comments.

6.) Add a relevant description

Use the keyword you’re trying to target, and put it as early in the description as possible.  If it’s “Fried green tomatoes” then write a  description like “Fried green tomatoes by Joan Smith – green tomatoes, fried just the way you like them – learn how to fry green tomatoes”.   You can see how  I’ve gotten the keyword in there 2-3 times, both exact match as well as broken up a bit, with some stemmed variations.  Don’t just repeat the keyword three times, that is what’s known as “keyword stuffing” and could hurt your ranking.    The description can be up to 1,000 characters so use as much of it as possible, but only the first 120 characters will show, so make sure you use the targeted keyword somewhere in the first 15-20 words.

7.)  Get a few friends to view the video in its entirety.

Youtube is suspected to use view popularity in its ranking algorithm, so send an email to a few friends to have them view (the entire video – not just the first few seconds), comment, rate, and “Like” it.  Try to mix it up so  it’s not the same friends doing this all the time.  Since evidence suggests that Google counts links from unique domains more heavily in their PageRank calculations than multiple links from the same domain, it makes sense that they would use the same logic from a social standpoint – comments, ratings, and likes from unique “friends” are probably best.

8.)  Update your social channels with links to the video.

Post a link to your video on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.  You can automatically do this using YouTube’s RSS feature and setting up a free Twitterfeed account to monitor your RSS feed.  Once Twitterfeed is set up to automatically tweet from the RSS feed, you can set up LinkedIn to automatically update from your Twitter feed.

If you have the video embedded in a blog posting, a good question is – should you tweet the link to the blog posting, or to your YouTube video itself?  That’s a  tough call – you could simply set up RSS on your blog and tweet it that way.  I suppose the ideal would be to do both – set up both RSS feeds with Twitterfeed, but the  challenge would be putting in some sort of schedule delay on one of them so they don’t appear right after each other, looking unnatural and annoying to your fan base.  I don’t believe Twitterfeed supports delays however – if anyone knows of other services or approaches for doing this please comment below.

9.) Get links to your video.

If you don’t know how, get The Art of SEO 😉

Next week we’ll run though numerous advanced YouTube optimization tricks, so stay tuned!


  1. Richard Pook says:

    Thanks for the info Ted. I’m just about to start SEO’ing by yacht delivery business site and one of the brilliant things about my job is the number of beautiful places I find myself in. I figured having video of some of these places might be a nice touch for the site, but now I know it can bring some SEO value too is great.

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