YouTube Optimization: Best Practices

by | Mar 22, 2017

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Everyone hopes their video will go viral on YouTube and rocket their organization to success. But with 300 hours of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, there are a lot of videos gunning for the viewers you want to reach.

To get noticed, you need to use every opportunity to your advantage. We’ve brought together the best practices and tested methods for optimizing your YouTube videos and channel.

Table of Contents:
Setting Up YouTube Videos for Success
Quality, Length, Title, Description, Tags, Thumbnail, Closed Captions
Encourage Interaction to Impact Rankings
Comments, Likes, Shares, Watch Time, Views, Subscriptions
Keyword Research for Video Visibility
Keyword Tools, Competitor Research
YouTube Channel Best Practices

Setting Up YouTube Videos for Success

HD Dominates First Page Search Results

Nearly 70% of videos on the first page of YouTube are in high definition. High quality video makes for a better user experience overall.

Your video quality can also impact rankings through user engagement. If users decide stay to watch a quality video, your video gets higher watch time and more engagement, which impacts rankings. If viewers leave to find higher quality video elsewhere, YouTube takes notice.

Longer Videos Go the Distance

Longer videos perform best. More content means viewers can find everything they need, especially if you include time stamps in your description.

Average video length for YouTube first page results is around 14 minutes and 50 seconds. Longer videos also create more opportunities for interaction that drives rankings.

Video Title Tips

Titles must grab viewer attention. Your video title should draw your audience in and make them want to click. A well-crafted title can increase traffic and views.

Shorter titles are recommended. Shoot for 5 words or less. You can go longer, but there’s no guarantee longer titles will show up on different devices, browsers, or search results. Don’t forget YouTube’s huge mobile user audience!

Your most relevant keyword should go at the front of your title. Research has proven that using a keyword in a title has a slight edge over those that don’t.

Notice we said “keyword,” not “keywords.” If you can mix and match keywords in an engaging short title, great. But don’t sacrifice quality to stuff keywords. If no one clicks, your keywords don’t matter.

Video Thumbnails Designed to Click

Encourage clicks with a great thumbnail. Create a custom thumbnail to help your video stand out in search results and drive clicks.

YouTube video thumbnail specs:
1280 x 720 px resolution | minimum width of 640 pixels | 16:9 aspect ratio.

Video Tags Still Count

Now that YouTube can understand video content without metadata, these appear to be a smaller factor. But don’t miss an opportunity to strengthen your search position.

Video Description Done Right

Go long! At least 250 words. YouTube can hear your video without a transcription, so you do want to say the keyword once or twice if you can work it in naturally. Descriptions have been used in the past to determine whether your video will appear as one of the suggested videos in the sidebar.

More importantly, people still read descriptions. Use this chance to inform readers and drive engagement. Once they get to your video, it is your job to wow them.

Include time stamps for your video. Time stamps help users find the content they’re really looking for. Be helpful, be relevant.

Position your main keywords in the first 25 words of your description. Some studies found no correlation between keywords in descriptions and rankings, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect them. Let viewers know you have what they’re looking for.

Spread the SEO link-love. Link to relevant pages and blogs on your website and your social media channels. Keep it helpful and targeted for best results.

Closed Captions

Add or correct closed captions. If you have voiceovers or anyone talking in your videos, you can add captions, or edit YouTube’s best efforts.

This is time-consuming, but worthwhile, especially if your audience is multi-lingual or has any kind of hearing loss or deafness.

Search engines can also crawl these captions, so you don’t want to leave them out in the cold.

Learn to add YouTube subtitles & closed captions.

Encourage Interaction To Impact Rankings

Video Comments, Views, Shares, Likes

Nothing says success like someone actually doing your advertising for you. It means you have found a need, filled a need, and focused on the right audience to such high level that they want to tell their friends.

Encourage comments. The number of comments you generate is a strong indicator that your video is appealing to YouTubers. Think of ways for your video to include questions or encourage a response from viewers.

Be likeable. Video likes or “thumbs up” demonstrate your ability to satisfy and connect with your target audience. These seem to have lower impact than comments, but they are still a solid indicator for rankings.

Share the good stuff. Develop relationships with blogs and social media influencers who can share your best videos with their fans. Trust takes time to build, but the rewards are great.

Increase Video Views

Tell people about your videos! Take the time to promote your videos in blog posts, email, and social media platforms. Relevant forums and Q/A sites like Quora or social bookmarking sites like Reddit can also help drive traffic.

Bonus: If you embed your videos on blogs or video libraries, this can also increase watch time as well. (Though for product pages, we recommend using branded Vimeo videos.)

Encourage Longer Watch Time

Increase time spent watching videos. Watch time is literally one of Google’s patented ranking signals. They pay a lot of attention to the amount of time viewers watch your video. So it pays to maintain and build interest throughout the video.

Check your YouTube Analytics Views and Audience Retention Reports to mine your existing videos for clues. Which videos have the best view times? Which ones make visitors flee? Learn and adapt.

Note that this also applies to the amount of time your video visitors spend in an overall YouTube viewing session, watching *any* videos. (Though obviously, it’s better for you if they are your videos!)

Direct viewers to watch more content. You can achieve this in several ways:

  • Use annotations in your video to link to other videos.
  • Add video links in your description.
  • Use playlists to encourage people to spend more time on the YouTube playground.

“Don’t Forget to Subscribe”

Videos that bring in new subscribers make YouTube take notice. YouTube seems to care more about how many new subscribers each video acquires, rather than just your overall subscriber side. That means even small channels have a chance at high rankings.

Keyword Research for Video Visibility

Help searchers (and search engines) find your videos by using the right keywords for your industry and your brand.

Finding the Right Keywords: Research

Google AdWords Keyword Planner is a great place to start researching.

Take a look at your competition and respected industry knowledge leaders on YouTube. Make notes of the keywords they use in their videos. (This is also a good time to see how many views, likes, and thumbs ups you’ll be competing against).

YouTube search autocomplete is a great place to check your keywords. Just type your keyword in the YouTube search box, and see what autocomplete comes up with. Do the same with Google’s search engine autocomplete.

Hint: use this format to get a broader range of autocomplete results:
_ your keyword

Where should you put your keywords?

  • YouTube Video Audio/Voiceover (use the keyword naturally in context)
  • Video Filename
  • YouTube Video Title
  • YouTube Video Description
  • YouTube Video Transcript
  • YouTube Channel Keywords
  • YouTube Channel Description

YouTube Channel Best Practices

Channel Keywords: Make sure your YouTube Channel Keywords are a good match for the purpose of your channel and the value you bring with your videos. A mismatch here could affect all your videos.

Don’t use more than 10 keywords. You can update your channel keywords here.

Channel Description: Don’t just stuff this with keywords and call it a day. Give visitors a taste of your culture, your values, your benefits, and what makes you unique.

You can go long with this, just make sure to put the important messages items at the top!

Channel Brand Authority

Associated website: Strengthen your brand authority and give your website a little boost as well by entering your website.

Links: Use this section to connect Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, and anywhere you connect with fans. Don’t forget to include your website here.

Custom URL: You need to meet certain criteria to get one of these, but it’s definitely worth it!

Link *To* Your Channel: Leverage more visits, views, and authority for your YouTube channel with links on your website, social media profiles, and emails. Also consider traditional print materials. (This is where a Custom URL really shines.)

Channel Homepage

Featured Video: Use the featured video to welcome visitors, capture their attention, and boost engagement.

Video Playlists: Pull collections of videos together to help your viewers find exactly what they’re looking for. More options here are better, since different viewers are looking for different things!

Lights, Camera, Action!

Yes, there’s a lot of information here, but leverage it well, and your videos can make a mark on YouTube’s massive landscape. And if you aren’t sure where to start? Well, that’s where we come in.

Contact us today to get started talking about your video project. After all, your business is your business, but making you a sensation? That’s ours.


Video Creators – What are Channel Keywords and How Do They Work?
Statistic Brain – YouTube Statistics
Backlinko – YouTube Ranking Factors
Search Engine Land – YouTube Ranking Factors: Getting Ranked In The Second Largest Search Engine
Search Engine People – 10 Crucial YouTube Ranking Factors
YouTube Watch Time Optimization Tips
YouTube Video Thumbnails
YouTube Closed Captions
Tag SEO Infographic

Photo credit:[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]