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YouTube SEO: How to find the best traffic-generating keywords
Want to increase the chances of your videos showing up in YouTube’s search results? Columnist Sherry Bonelli explains how to glean keyword insights from your competitors.
Video marketing is becoming a digital marketing necessity. (It’s not a “nice-to-have” marketing strategy anymore.) People love to watch videos, and videos can help you sell more products or services. In fact, a study done by Cisco last year predicted that by 2020, video will account for over 80 percent of all consumer internet traffic.
As video consumption increases, consequently so does video’s influence on consumer purchases. According to recent research by Brightcove:
- Almost half (46 percent) of viewers say they’ve actually made a purchase as a result of watching a branded video on social media, and a third (32 percent) say they’ve considered making a purchase as a result of watching a video.
- 81 percent of consumers say they currently interact with brands on social media, and 43 percent say they’ve done so through watching branded social videos.
- When asked for their favorite type of branded content on social networks, video was the most popular answer, with 31 percent of respondents listing it as their number one choice.
YouTube is the second most popular social media platform, based on market share. And you’ll find that most YouTubers are die-hard YouTube viewers. They’re constantly watching videos, searching for videos about everything from how to jimmy your locked door to how to create a Facebook ad — and everything in between.
How to optimize for YouTube’s algorithm
YouTube is essentially a search engine for videos. Not surprisingly, it uses a sophisticated ranking algorithm to surface content to viewers.
If you want to gain a following and rank your videos higher in YouTube search, uploading fresh content is extremely important. Users love new videos! And that fresh, newly uploaded content (as well as the latest actions taken by the users) is taken into consideration by YouTube when ranking videos.
“Watch time” is a very important ranking factor as well. YouTube wants to surface videos that viewers will find enjoyable, so high user engagement is a great signal for the algorithm in identifying such videos.
In addition to user signals, YouTube also relies on input from the video owner to feed their algorithm. That means YouTube is counting on you to tell it what your video is about.
What you do to optimize your video in the first 48 to 72 hours is critical to the success of your video and how it ranks. If you get it right, your video could shoot to the top when people search for your video topic. Get it wrong, and you’ll sink like a rock.
Metadata is important
According to YouTube, metadata includes information about a video such as the title, description, tags and annotations. Metadata can help your video stand out and get found by the algorithm, so content creators should make an effort to optimize metadata to maximize visibility.
Here are some tips for creating effective metadata that can help your videos get found.
Now, this first tip may sound counterintuitive, but you want to research what types of videos your competitors are doing before you create your video. That’s right — the best time to optimize your video for SEO and get more views is before you even record it.
Once you have a feel for what your competitors are doing — the type of videos they’re producing, how engaging they are, how many views they have, what metadata they’re using and so on — it’ll make it easier for you to create a video that “one-ups” them, both in terms of having better content and being better optimized for YouTube’s algorithm.
After you’ve created your video, it’s time to think about uploading and optimizing. Again, the best time to optimize your metadata is before you upload your video — have your keywords, tags, title, description and custom thumbnail ready to go before you press the upload button.
YouTube tags: Doing the keyword research
When doing keyword research on YouTube, you want to try to find keywords that will drive traffic to your video. The best place to look for keywords is on YouTube, but you should also use more traditional keyword research tools (like Google Search Console, SEMrush, SEOProfiler, Moz or others.)
YouTube allows you to include “tags” to help categorize your video by keyword, but it limits the number of tags you can include. You’ll want to look for multiword tags (i.e., long-tail keywords) that specifically relate to your video’s topic. You should also use single-word tags and broad-term tags that relate to your video’s broader topic. (Note: Do not use trademarks or copyrighted material in your metadata unless you have explicit permission from the owner to use it.)
YouTube is effective at semantically understanding your tags. So here’s an example of some tags for a video about “how to ask a boy out on a date”:
- How to ask a boy out on a date
- What to say when you ask a boy out on a date
- How to ask a boy you like out on a date
- Asking out a boy you like
- Meet boys
- Meeting boys
- Talk to boys
One great way to get tag ideas is to look at the top-ranking YouTube videos that directly compete with your video. However, YouTube hides the video tags, which makes it more difficult to “spy” on your competitors and see their keyword/tag secret sauce.
Luckily, there are tools that allow you to get lots of insights into what your competitors are doing — including letting you see the tags competitors are using to get their videos to rank high.
Two of these video software tools are vidIQ and TubeBuddy. Both programs have a free version and several paid versions, depending on your company’s needs. There are pros and cons to each — so if you can afford it, I’d recommend you use them both.
How YouTube tools like vidIQ and TubeBuddy can help you get more eyeballs
Both vidIQ and TubeBuddy give you information on competitors’ YouTube videos. One of the cool things they show is the tags. So in our “how to ask a boy out” example, you can see the tags being used by the highest-ranking videos for your chosen search terms.
With TubeBuddy, you can even zero in on the most used tags the channel used when setting up the SEO for their YouTube channel:
You can also find out a whole lot of other valuable information from these tools: the number of Facebook likes, their SEO score, how many words are in the description, average view time duration, number of views and so much more. You can consider these two handy tools to be your YouTube competitor spies!
TubeBuddy also has a Tag Explorer feature, which is almost like a traditional SEO keyword finder. Enter the keyword that you’d like to rank your video for, and you’ll get some suggested keywords.
As part of the Tag Explorer, TubeBuddy includes a “Summary” section that shows the search volume, competition and the overall competitiveness of a keyword on a scale from 0 to 100 (where 100 is the easiest to rank for).
If you have a newer YouTube channel, you’ll want to look for keywords that are easier to rank for. Already have a YouTube channel that’s rockin’ it? You can afford to try to get your video ranked for the more competitive keywords.
When planning your YouTube keywords strategy, you want to come up with 10 to 20 single keyword tags that you want to try to rank for. Remember, since YouTube limits the number of tags you can include, add your most important keyword phrases first and then use specific multi-word tags that are easier to rank for. If you have room, also include the single-word tags and broader-term tags.
You want to try to get as many views from as many different (relevant) search results as possible — which is an easier strategy than trying to rank #1 for a single keyword phrase.
By having a metadata strategy in place, you can increase the chances of your videos showing up in YouTube’s search results. And since video marketing will continue to grow and grow, mastering YouTube’s ranking algorithm starting today is a great way to kick your video marketing efforts into high gear.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.