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Ranking high in YouTube search results is one of the main sources of traffic to your channel. And there are many factors which contribute to a great ranking. One of the main metrics YouTube’s algorithm considers when ranking videos are the YouTube channel keywords and video keywords.

Yet, many YouTubers don’t take advantage of this opportunity to boost their videos and channel ranking by properly using keywords on their channel and videos.

I’ll guide you through the process of choosing the best keywords to use and how to properly use them on your channel and videos so you can get ahead of your competition.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What are YouTube channel keywords

What are keywords on YouTube and how important are they for SEO?

Keywords refer to the search queries people use when they look for content online. Same as for Google SEO, keywords have great importance for YouTube SEO and the way videos rank on the platform.

Because YouTube can’t understand the topic of your videos, you must give it some help by providing things it can understand. That would be text. YouTube’s algorithm crawls all the text surrounding your channel and videos. Then it decides for which search queries to display your videos in search results based on relevance.

Of course, there is a variety of factors that determine the ranking of a video on YouTube. And some ranking factors like the number of views, subscribers, likes, or comments have a greater influence over ranking than keywords do. But it doesn’t mean you should oversee the boost an optimized channel can bring you. Especially if your channel is new and you don’t have lots of engagement going on yet.

There are two types of keywords on YouTube:

  • YouTube channel keywords
  • The keywords surrounding each video you upload

I’ll get more in depth about how to add keywords for each purpose in the following sections. First, let me guide you through how to conduct a keyword research and how to choose the best keywords for your channel.

How do you find the best keywords to rank for your YouTube channel and videos?

Understand the intent and behavior of your audience

What are the things someone who is interested in the topic of your channel searches for on YouTube? What expressions do they use? Think about how possible followers spend their time on YouTube and what phrases they use when looking for videos related to your channel.

Search in the comments

Usually, the most valuable information comes directly from your audience. If your audience is already engaged and they leave comments to your videos, don’t oversee them. Pay attention to the expressions and phrases they use. They most likely use the same tone when they use the search bar. If you don’t have an audience yet, head over to your competitors’ videos and look through their comments.

Research similar videos and channels and get their keywords

If other videos are ranking high in search it means they are doing something well, right? So why not analyze your competitors’ strategies and steal their keywords? Don’t copy their descriptions as a whole. Just take relevant keywords and adapt them to your own descriptions.

Get keywords from YouTube autosuggest feature

When you start typing in a search query on YouTube search, you’ll see that it automatically suggests other keywords. These are phrases and expressions people use when looking for content on YouTube. They are valuable because you know for sure people use them.

Screenshot of YouTube autosuggest feature

When you start typing a query in YouTube search, it starts suggesting popular keywords.

Keywords tools to help with keyword research

Once you gathered some channel keywords ideas, it’s time to find other phrases people use online when searching for your topic. You need data to back up your choices. Unfortunately, YouTube does not provide their search volume for search queries. But there are keyword generators that give data based on Google searches volume. You can use the data as a guideline when choosing keywords for your channel. They also give you tons of other keywords ideas to consider.

Google Keyword Planner

While Google Keyword Planner is a tool included in Google AdWords designed to help with paid ads on Google, it can be a valuable source of channel keywords ideas.

You can sign up for a free account and start using it right away. Just copy paste your keywords list and hit enter. The tool will display other searches related to the keywords you input. It also shows you a range of monthly searches of those queries on Google. This will give you an idea of how popular certain keywords are.

Screenshot of Google keyword planner

Google Trends

With Google Trends you can see how popular a keyword is over time. You can also compare the interest for more keywords. This will give you a better idea on what keywords can bring the most value for your YouTube channel and videos.

Screenshot of Google Trends

In Google Trends you can compare the interest over time for multiple keywords.

The tool also has a section where it suggests related search queries.

Screenshot of Google Trends suggested keywords feature

Google Trens also has a feature that shows you popular related keywords based on your input query.

 

Ubersuggest

Another amazing tool for keywords is Ubersuggest. You add your main keyword and it will give you tons of related keywords. The results are based on Google suggests feature.

Screenshot of Ubersuggest keyword tool

Keywords Everywhere

Keywords Everywhere is a useful tool to have. It’s an add-on available for Chrome and Firefox which displays the search volume and competition of a keyword right under the search box. And, it also works with YouTube.

Screenshot og Keywords Everywhere tool

The Keywords Everywhere tool displays the search volume of a keyword right under the YouTube search box.

You should have a quite huge list of keywords to optimize your channel and videos around by now, but you only need around 10 of the best.

How do you pick only the best keywords?

Now that you have a whole list of keywords, it’s time to refine the list to only the best ones. You don’t need tons of keywords to rank your videos high in search. You just need to know how to pick the right ones. And there are two variables that determine if a keyword is worth optimizing for or not.

Competition and demand

The best keywords are in a great balance when it comes to the demand and the level of competition. You want channel keywords you can rank for, so they must not be super competitive. Also, the keywords need to be searched for, else, no one will stumble upon your videos.

If your channel is brand new, you want to target keywords that are low in competitiveness, even though they have a lower number of searches.

I know that aiming for keywords with low demand doesn’t sound tempting. But it’s the best approach for your channel’s growth.

When a keyword is competitive and your channel is new, you pick a fight with the big guys. Established channels that already have a good number of subscribers and views. And you are building your channel from the ground. It will be extremely hard to rank higher than those established channels, hence, people won’t find your videos in the search results.

Example of YouTube keyword with high competition

As you can see, the keyword “hip hop mix” has over 26 million results. Which means it’s highly competitive and it’s extremely difficult for small channels to compete.

Go with low.

If you go after keywords with low competition, even though they also have lower demand, you have bigger chances of ranking high in search results and gaining exposure. You’ll gain traction to your channel and you’ll get to see results. Once your channel starts growing, you can also start targeting more competitive keywords.

The demand for a keyword can be estimated using the keyword tools I mentioned above.

To estimate how competitive a keyword is on YouTube, you’ll have to run each keyword through YouTube search. It will display the number of video results which you’ll use as a guideline. The higher the number, the higher the competitivity.

Unfortunately, I can’t give an exact number to target. It all depends on your niche. While for a specific niche 60k results can suggest high competition, for other niches it may suggest very low competition.

Screenshot showing how to look for YouTube keyword competition

As you can see, this search query has over 30 million results. It’s too competitive for a small channel to compete.

Screenshot showing how to look for YouTube keyword competition

When you refine the search query, the number of results minimize and you will find keywords you can compete for even if your channel is small.

How to use YouTube channel keywords

First, understand how YouTube channel keywords work and what impact they have.

The YouTube channel keywords are used by visitors to understand what your channel is about when they read your description. They are also used by YouTube’s algorithm with the same purpose of better understanding the core of your content and to know where to rank your channel in search.

As you may have guessed, having the right keywords surrounding your channel will tell YouTube your videos are relevant for certain searches. Hence, YouTube will rank your channel higher.

You may have noticed how YouTube also suggests channels in search results. It displays channels that are properly optimized around that keyword because it knows the channel is relevant to the search query.

Example of channel suggested in YouTUbe search

For some keywords, YouTube also displays channels in the search results because they are relevant to the search query.

Channel keywords also improve the chance for your videos to show up in the suggested videos section.

YouTube does not only suggest related videos but also videos from related channels. You can see in the following example how the video suggested is not related to the one playing in terms of video keywords. But it shows in the suggested section because the channel as a whole is relevant to the topic.

Screenshot of suggested videos on YouTube

There are two places where YouTube analyzes keywords: the channel description and the channel keywords. While the channel description is visible for the visitors, the keywords are just meta tags. They are not visible anywhere on your channel besides the page source.

Channel description

The most important thing to keep in mind when you add keywords to your channel description is to not stuff the content with keywords. The description must keep its natural flow and to be readable. Pick a couple of the best keywords you found that best describe the topic of your channel and your videos as a whole and write a description that encompasses them while being relevant.

When you write your description imagine that a possible follower stumbles upon your channel somewhere, clicks on it, and goes to your about page to find out what your channel is about.

  • What would you like that person to see?
  • How can you explain the value you bring to your followers through your videos?
  • What would make him click “subscribe”?

The description must be written for humans, not for SEO.

Here is an example of a channel description where keywords have been used efficiently.

Screenshot of an optimized YouTube channel description

Channel keywords / Tags

Another place to add your channel keywords is in the channel tags. This will higher the chances for your channel and videos to rank higher in search and be displayed more often in the suggested videos section.

You can add both single-word keywords and phrases. Also, it’s a good idea to use the common misspellings of your main keywords (if they are often being made) so you capture more possible searches. The channel tags won’t be displayed on your channel.

Besides researching the best keywords (as shown earlier), you can also find valuable tags on your best performing competitors’ channels.

To see what keywords your competitors are using in channel tags, do the following:

  • Go on the channel you want to take keywords from
  • Right-click on the page and click on “View page source”
  • Hit Ctrl + F (Command + F) and search for “Video:tag”
  • It will take you to the section containing all the tags

Screenshot on how cYouTube channel tags display

How to add channel keywords in tags

  • Log in to your channel account
  • Go to Creator Studio
  • In the Channel section on the left click on Advanced
  • There you’ll see the Channel keywords section where you can add your tags

Screenshot of how to add YouTube channel keywords

How to use YouTube video keywords

Another important aspect of YouTube SEO comes with the text surrounding your videos. Each time you upload a new video on your channel, you have to take some time to optimize your YouTube videos. It will make your videos rank high in YouTube search.

Even better, the YouTube SEO strategy is more powerful if you do the video keyword research before jumping into making the video. If your aim is to bring more attention to your channel, the keyword research can give you new profitable video ideas surrounding your niche. Also, knowing beforehand what keywords you’ll target will give you a guideline to follow with your content.

Now let’s see how do you add keywords to your YouTube videos so you get the best out of that SEO juice.

Keywords in the video title

The video keywords with the biggest impact on video ranking are the keywords in the title. And they don’t only influence SEO. Having the main keyword in video title is a great way of boosting your click-through rate (CTR). And a high CTR means a higher ranking. They’re all connected.

The best practice is to take your main keyword and add it at the beginning of the title. Only add more keywords in the video title if it sounds natural and makes sense.

Moreover, keep your title as short as possible. Aim to keep it under 50 characters as shorter titles perform better in terms of ranking.

When you come up with the video title, always keep in mind that the title is one of the first factors that make people check out your video. If you come up with a keywords stuffed title that makes no sense for a human, people won’t click on your video even though it gets to rank high in search. And a low CTR will bury your video where no one will find it.

Here is an example of how Brian Dean uses keywords in his YouTube video titles. He takes his main keyword and adds it at the beginning of the title. And he also uses related keywords like “Rank #1 in YouTube” and “Tips for ranking videos” without being spammy.

Example of optimized YouTube video title

Keywords in description

The description is the place where you are free to add more video keywords in. That’s why it’s best practice to write a long description which explains the purpose and content of your video. Don’t stuff, but use as many keywords as you can.

A good guideline is to have a 3% keyword density in the description. Yet, don’t only repeat the same keyword all over the place as it will easily stuff the content. Instead, use related keywords and phrases, synonyms, and variations.

You want a long enough description, but don’t go overboard. Aim for 300-400 words as an over 400 words description can signal a spammy behavior.

Screenshot of an optimized YouTube video description

Keywords in tags

When it comes to video tags, there’s a bit of controversy around the question “Does video tags actually influence ranking?”.

A resourceful study from Briggsby shows that tags do influence the video ranking. What they found out is that video tags are crucial in the first three months of the video. After that, tags lose their importance as YouTube collects other data like views, CTR, and watch time to take a more informed ranking decision.

So you don’t want to jump over this step when you hit publish on your next video.

The best practice is to use around 300 characters for the whole tag length and aim to target medium length keywords. Videos with 2-3 word keywords perform better than those with many single keywords. Don’t get carried away with tons of single word keywords as a lot of broad keywords will do nothing but minimizing each other’s values.

When you choose the keywords to use in tags think about relevant phrases surrounding your topic and don’t shy away from variations.

Also, you can “steal” valuable tags from well performing relevant videos. To do so, you can install the TubeBuddy extension on your browser and it’ll show you the tags directly on the video page.

Keywords in the video

Brian Dean suggests saying your main keyword out loud in the video.

YouTube crawls all the text surrounding your video. And while it doesn’t understand the audio content, it can read the content if you have closed captions (CC). Having your keyword in the content will help YouTube get a better understanding of what your video is about.

CONCLUSION

I hope you now have a good idea about what keywords are on YouTube, how channel keywords work, and how to optimize your videos before you hit upload.

The most important aspects you should keep in mind:

  • Choose relevant channel keywords that best explain to YouTube what your channel is about.
  • Use channel keywords in description and tags.
  • Research video keywords before you start recording your video.
  • Find relevant, 2-3 words keywords that best describe the topic you’re covering in the video.
  • Don’t go overhead with stuffing keywords, but also don’t oversee the boost keywords can give to your YouTube channel rankings.

While you shouldn’t rely solely on channel and video keywords to rank your videos high in YouTube search, it’s best to get it covered. It’s one of the on-page YouTube SEO steps you can take even from the beginning of your channel.

If you want to find out about other metrics YouTube’s algorithm considers, read our post about YouTube video ranking.


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