YouTube Video Ranking: How to Optimize Your Videos in 2019Updated: January 20, 2019
Have you started to promote your business through YouTube videos and wonder how to drive more traffic channel? Or are you a new YouTuber looking to increase your audience and reach more people? Optimizing is key.
I'm here to hand you the guide to YouTube video ranking with actionable tips on YouTube SEO to kill the market in 2019.
YouTube is up and rising
You made the right choice by leveraging YouTube in your marketing strategy because the demand for video content keeps growing. As the statistics suggest “43% of people want to see more video content from marketers.” (HubSpot, 2016)
If you haven't already, you want to add YouTube videos to your content marketing strategy in 2019.
You create videos, that's amazing news. But how do you get people to find your videos and enjoy them? If your videos don't see any growth in views and engagement, it means something is off with your video optimization game.
In this post I'll go over how to properly optimize your videos for SEO, increasing your YouTube video ranking to get the best exposure. You ready?
What's the first step?
You're probably tired of hearing it, but I'll say it anyway: Your videos need quality. Top-notch, I want to see more of this – kind of quality.
It's true that a video's quality doesn't directly influence YouTube video ranking, but it carries a lot of weight.
If the video is bad, no amount of YouTube SEO can make it shine.
Let's say your video ranks high in search results and people click on it. But the video's quality is poor and users click back after a couple of seconds.
Besides not getting the chance to turn viewers into customers, it'll also hurt your ranking badly.
How is that?
One of the main YouTube ranking factors is the Audience Retention.
The longer users watch your videos, the higher the ranking. YouTube wants its users to be held on YouTube for as long as possible, so if you keep the audience entertained and on the platform, you'll be rewarded for it.
As YouTube states in Creators Academy:
“Your goal is to keep audience retention as close to 100% as you can (because this means viewers are watching all the way through your videos). And videos with consistently high audience retention and watch time have the potential to show up more frequently in Search and Suggested locations on YouTube.”
I hope that you're now convinced that you have to put effort into creating engaging content that keeps your audience interest going until the end of the video.
High-quality audio & visuals – The way you deliver your content in terms of audio and video quality plays a huge role in retention. If the sound or image is bad, people won't stay around long enough to find out what they can learn from you.
Let viewers know what they'll learn about in the beginning – Around 20% of viewers will fly off after the first 10 second of the video if they are not certain the video is showing them what they are looking for. Make sure to point out what they will learn in the beginning.
Don't ramble – Especially if you are in the beginning, you'll be tempted to create those long introductions with unnecessary information that tend to put people to sleep. Keep your introduction on point and get down to the main content.
Script your videos – Don't just place yourself in front of the camera and start talking. Plan your videos ahead of time and script them. This will ensure you'll stay on point and cover the most important aspects of the topic without losing your ideas on the way.
Predict audience's questions – One way to trigger viewers' curiosity is to address questions they might have to which you'll be answering later on in the video. Let's say you make a tutorial on how to be more productive and you mention about the Pomodoro technique at some point. Saying something like “You're probably wondering what the Pomodoro technique is. I'll get to it in a minute” will keep the viewers interested to watch the video further.
Put enough thought into video creation as it won't be enough just to have content. You can do as much YouTube SEO as you can for your videos. If the content is bad, your videos won't rank.
When you have high-quality content and do some SEO video optimization, it's almost certain you'll rank YouTube videos on the first page.
It's the same situation like with the written content, both content quality and SEO are important. You need a good mix of both.
So let's jump into SEO for YouTube videos because it's the answer to how to rank videos.
Following Google, YouTube is the second largest search engine, so its main focus is to give the most relevant results to users' search queries. YouTube algorithm uses tons of metrics to decide the ranking of a video in search results, some having a bigger impact than others.
If you want to learn how to rank videos, you gotta know what to optimize.
We already talked about audience retention as being a YouTube ranking factor. What else?
One of the main metrics accounted by the algorithm is the social engagement, together with the video length, and the keywords used in title/description/tags.
YouTube focuses a lot on how viewers interact with the content because, if a video has social validation, this vouches for its quality.
User-generated signals carry more weight over YouTube video ranking that keywords do (except the title), so your videos need to engage people to interact with your content.
The number of views a video has direct influence over a video's ranking, as you've probably guessed already. More views = higher ranking.
This takes us to a never-ending loop of – get views to rank high to get more views.
I can feel the headaches from thinking about it. But don't stress out. You can rely on outside traffic sources until you learn how to optimize your YouTube videos for ranking.
How to get more views on YouTube:
Share on Social Media – Social media marketing is a powerful asset for businesses and can bring in substantial outside traffic to YouTube videos.
Quora – Find questions related to your video, give a helpful answer, and add the link to your video for more insights on the subject in matter.
Reddit – The same as with Quora, find relevant subreddits, help people out, and add links to your videos where it's relevant.
Blog Posts – If you write a blog post that's related to one of your videos, don't forget to embed the YouTube video in the post. This will both help with generating traffic to your YouTube channel and will also add more value to the blog post.
When users leave comments, YouTube sees it as a good thing. If people comment, it means they liked the video or at least they got engaged enough to interact with it.
Make sure you stimulate viewers to leave comments on your videos. One way to generate comments is to ask your audience questions about the subject discussed in the video.
If viewers subscribe to your channel after watching the video, that's a validation that your video is valuable and people enjoy it. How could YouTube algorithm say no to that?
To get more subscribers, ask people to subscribe to your channel at the end of your videos. You want something, ask for it! It works out in the real world, and it works out on YouTube as well.
Another way YouTube decides that a video is worthy of a high ranking is through the number of shares it gets. If you share a video it means you like it and believe more people should watch it, don't you?
Encourage your viewers to share your videos.
Likes and dislikes are seen as an engagement metric so, the more – the better the engagement, resulting in a better ranking.
Dislikes won't necessarily hurt your video ranking, they can actually help. Dislikes are still taken into consideration as an engagement proof.
As with Google, the click-through rate is a huge YouTube ranking factor, too.
If people search for a certain keyword and click on your video from the results page, that's a signal for YouTube that your video is worthy and will reward you with a boost in ranking.
Contrary, if users don't click on your video when they see it in the results, YouTube will lower your ranking. You don't want this to happen.
You can boost your CTR by having compelling titles and thumbnails. Choose something that makes your result stand out from the rest.
Which of the results in the above examples has a more powerful “Click me” vibe? You're right. The first one.
Make sure you choose your thumbnail carefully because it's the first thing people see on the results page (together with the title) and it's your chance to bring them to your video.
Here we stumble upon a somewhat paradox. Everybody says that your videos should be short and nice. I think the same way.
Users don't interact so much with long videos because we live in a fast-forward society with no time to waste. When the videos are short, there are more chances people will watch through all of it.
The thing is, longer videos rank higher on YouTube, probably because they are supposed to be insightful and detailed.
According to a study conducted by Backlinko, “The average length of a first page YouTube video is 14 minutes, 50 seconds.”
If the subject you are talking about in your content calls for a long, insightful video, go for it. But never add content in your video just to make it longer because that's the death of audience retention.
Some topics are fit for longer videos that people will watch, some aren't. The key is to get to know your targeted audience and understand what they want.
Try out a couple of video lengths then go to YouTube Analytics and see how each of them is doing. You'll find the perfect length for you after you'll have some data to analyze and trust.
Same as Google, YouTube needs to understand what your content is about so it knows when to show your videos on the results page.
To rank YouTube videos, you first need to decide what keywords to go after. It's not enough to just pick a random keyword. It must be relevant, searched for, and have low competition.
If you rank for a keyword that no one is searching for, all the work is in vain because it won't generate any traffic to your video. The same with a keyword that has high competition, your video will be buried in the results.
In order to find the keywords, people use when searching on YouTube we'll use the YouTube Search Suggest feature.
Type in keywords related to your topic and see how YouTube autocompletes them. These are actual terms used by people.
Generate a list of keywords based on the suggestions YouTube gives you.
To get more ideas, type a keyword in YouTube and look through the results to see what keywords your competitors use.
Also, look at your competitors' descriptions and title tags so you find even more keywords.
In the example below, we found “marketing tactic” which can be a keyword we can keep for further use.
If you already have videos uploaded to YouTube, you can use the data you have until now to find valuable keywords. Log into your YouTube account, go to Traffic Sources – YouTube Search. There you'll find search queries users typed in when they were searching for your videos.
Not only the popularity of a keyword makes it valuable, but also the competition it has.
If you are in the beginning and don't have lots of subscribers and traffic yet, it will be hard to have a high YouTube video ranking for a super competitive keyword. Once you start getting some traction, you'll be able to compete for more popular keywords but, for now, we'll go with baby steps.
You want to focus on keywords with low competition.
Unlike with Google, you don't have AdWords to help you out with seeing a keyword's search volume and competition on YouTube. But you're can still figure out how much competition you have on a keyword.
To see how fierce the competition is on a certain keyword, add your keyword in YouTube's search bar and see how many results YouTube generates.
As you can guess, the higher the number, the higher the competition.
How many results should there be so the keyword is low-competition, you may ask? There's no exact number. It all depends on your niche.
So you can get a better idea of how you should measure the competition of a keyword, I'll give you an example.
In this instance, for “content marketing” there are more than 2,000,000 results. There's no way for a beginner to compete on this keyword and come out as a winner.
But if we try “marketing tactic” that we found earlier in the competitor's description…
Bingo! Just 41,000 results. We can totally ace it.
Now it's time to take all the keywords on your list and roll them through search and see which ones have a decent competition.
You can also take look through the YouTube channels of the highest ranked videos for your keywords and see how many subscribers they have, the view count, and such. Analyze where they stand so you can get a better idea of what your competition is about and if you can top it.
**Extra tip: **You can always use a tool to help you out with the keyword research.
One tool I suggest is the Keywords Everywhere Chrome extension. It's free to install, and it shows you data about the monthly volume search, CPC, and competition on many platforms, YouTube being one of them.
As you can see, it shows the volume search which can be quite useful to get an idea on which keywords you should focus on. It also shows these data for Google searches.
As you've probably seen before, Google gives YouTube videos results for certain search queries.
If you target those keywords that can get your video in Google results, you can increase your views with outside traffic. So why not squeeze out all the traffic you can get?
The types of video keywords are:
How-to (How to tie a tie, How to install Photoshop)
Tutorials (Install Windows 10, Make a circle in Photoshop)
Reviews (iPhone X review)
Sports-related videos (How to dance hip-hop, Yoga for beginners)
Ranking YouTube videos on Google is a great opportunity to generate more traffic to your videos, and it's an opportunity you don't wanna miss out.
Finding keywords to rank in Google
1. The keyword generates video results in Google – Take out your list of keywords and start typing them in Google to see if there are any video results for them. You don't want to work on ranking a keyword that doesn't even spit videos. If there are video results, keep the keyword for the next step.
2. The keyword has decent monthly searches – In order for the keyword to be valuable, people have to search for it. Sweating out to rank for a keyword with 10 monthly searches is not worth it. Take the video keywords found earlier add them to Google Keyword Planner to see the monthly searches. Aim for keywords that have at least 100-1k mo.
Now let's see how to use the keywords you just rooted out.
To get the best results out of your YouTube SEO strategy you have to use the right keywords in the right places.
YouTube algorithm analyzes all the content surrounding a video like the title, description, and tags. The purpose of using keywords is to help YouTube understand what the content is about so it will rank the videos when someone uses a search query related to your video.
You have 55-60 characters for the title.
Writing the title for your videos is a lot like composing headlines for blog posts. It has two purposes: 1) it engages people to click through and 2) is giving YouTube hints on what your video is about.
Use your main keyword without stuffing. Don't forget that your content is made for humans. And so is the title. The usage of keywords is just a mean to reach a broader audience so it shouldn't interfere with the readability.
Adding the keyword at the beginning of the title gives you an extra advantage.
It's a best practice to add the main keyword at the beginning of the title
As you can see in this example, the main keyword “Learn English Online” is added at the beginning of the title.
You'll want to say the keyword out loud in the video. Why's that?
YouTube has a feature that transcribes videos that have closed captioning (CC). This means that YouTube recognizes what you say in the video, and you'll see that it does a pretty good job if you take a look at some transcriptions.
Having the keyword in your content will strengthen YouTube's understanding of what your content is about.
The video's description gives YouTube a better understanding of the context of the video.
It seems that the description doesn't hold much power over YouTube video ranking anymore, but it's still a best practice to write an optimized description.
Even if it doesn't help with ranking, it can help your video pop up in the “suggested videos” area.
Besides, it makes you look professional and a lot more trustworthy.
In order to have an optimized video description:
- Have a minimum of 250 words
- Add your keyword 2-3 times without stuffing
- Use terms related to your main keyword
- Add your social profiles and the link to your website
I can't say that tags have a huge overall impact anymore, but they help boost your YouTube video ranking.
They also help with getting your video in the suggested area when a user watches a video with similar tags.
How to use tags:
- Add your main keyword
- Add keywords related to the topic you're covering in the video
- Look at the tags your competitors use and copy the ones that are relevant to your video
To see the tags of a YouTube video:
Right-click on a video page and hit “View Page Source”.
This will open up a page full of code. Don't get scared, you don't have to spend hours searching around.
Press CTRL + F and type in “keywords”. It will take you directly to the line containing the keywords.
There you have it.
Make sure to take just the keywords that are relevant to your video. Don't just copy-paste everything you can find.
Now that you know which are the most important ranking factors for YouTube video optimization, it's time to get your videos on the first page.
Main YouTube SEO tips to consider:
- Keep your content relevant and on point
- Test with different video lengths to see which one fits better with your audience
- Use compelling thumbnails
- Engage viewers to interact with your content
- Ask viewers for subscribes and shares at the end of the videos
- Stimulate viewers to leave comments by addressing them questions
- Choose your keywords wisely by conducting a thorough keyword research
- Use the main keyword wisely in the video title
- Write detailed video descriptions
I hope this guide helped you out to get a better understanding of YouTube video ranking.