The 21 Best YouTube SEO Strategies For Search

YouTube SEO strategies: Principles and Tactics for your next video

Here’s what this article covers

1. Choose a few target keywords

Before filming your video, think about the topic you want to cover. What’s the video about? And what would someone be searching for to land on your video?

Choose keywords for the topic that you want to show in YouTube search.

Your keywords might be similar variations of the same word. For example “how to own a restaurant,” and “start a restaurant” are similar searches based off the same word restaurant.

Or your keywords could be related topics that would be relevant in the same video. Like “starting a restaurant,” and “start a food business” are different topics that are connected. But they’re not the same since restaurant and food business could be synonymous, or different depending on the context.

Pick a few keywords that might be similar or different, and search them on YouTube to see what the currently ranking videos are like. These are the videos doing YouTube SEO well.

If there aren’t many that address the keyword directly, or they’re outdated, or they’re not good quality videos you’re already off to a good start.

2. Match the search intent

Understanding YouTube search intent lets you create the right piece of content with search intent in mind. Search is one of several YouTube traffic sources, but it’s the only one that has intent.

Someone might be looking for answers to basic questions, explanation of solutions, or they might actually be looking to make a purchase for the same search term.

If it’s a short term, search intent is more ambiguous because there’s more possibilities. The longer the search keyword, the more confident you can feel betting on the intent and creating content around it.

Understanding search intent is crucial for YouTube search results. It’s a visual platform, so if people are searching a thing, place, or person, they’ll want to see it in the video.

3. Hook that matches title and thumbnail

Make people not regret clicking on your video.

If you’re optimizing click-through rate with thumbnails, keeping the audience hooked for the first 15 seconds is key. Then you need to hook them for as much of the video as possible.

But let’s focus on those first 15-30 seconds.

Get to the point fast by elaborating on the title and thumbnail. Worry about context and background later.

If you show a process, a result, something interesting, or you use clickbait to some extent, show what’s in the thumbnail again in towards the beginning of your video.

For example, if your video is on how to build a computer, and you have a fully or partially assembled computer shown in the thumbnail, show the completed computer towards the beginning of the video so your audience knows what they have to look forward to.

If you’re showing some kind of progress, transformation, etc. show the end result in the beginning to keep viewers hooked for the rest of the video.

4. Say the keywords in the video

For a better chance at winning at YouTube SEO you want to use your keywords everywhere you can. One way to rank for keywords you’re targeting is saying them in the video out loud.

If you know your target keywords before filming the video, try to say them whenever possible. But do it naturally… Don’t sound like a robot trying to rank on YouTube by repeating the same keywords.

Don’t say more than you need to, and keep the video as short as you can while still being valuable.

5. Relevant Calls to Action

Calls to action are more geared towards promoting yourself than satisfying the YouTube search algorithm. But if your calls to action revolve around engagement, like subscribing, liking, commenting, clicking a card or watching a playlist, it’ll show increased performance on the video where you have that call to action in place.

But don’t make the mistake of starting and ending every video by saying to like and subscribe! Calls to action should be meaningful to when you say them, and relevant to the video. Use a strategic call to action for the video you’re making.

6. Appropriately long videos that keep people engaged

If you can make a video longer without making it boring, do it. Keep people watching by telling stories, jokes, and adding enough b-roll to make the video interesting.

Here are some other ways to make videos longer without being repetitive:

  • Tell stories about yourself, family, clients, past experiences depending on the video
  • Explain the nuances behind a topic
  • Add a b-roll compilation with music in between topics
  • Tell a joke
  • Give an actual example of something you’re explaining – e.g a current event, case studies, or misconception about your video topic

7. Make your video current

Current events and trends-based videos do well both for search and browse traffic. If something is popular already, or it’s on the rise, people will be searching for it.

If YouTube picks up on this, it’ll start suggesting the video and you’ll start to get more views from browse and suggested. This could mean more search rankings with your YouTube videos.

Get your video to pop by making it relevant to a trending topic, growing industry, or some kind of current event or something happening that will generate higher searches leading to your video.

YouTube might put your video all over the browse pages immediately, and those initial views will boost your rankings in search and push your video out to more suggested feeds.

8. Your thumbnail and title should not be the same

The title and thumbnail should complement each other without being an exact replica. Think of them like sisters, not twins. They’re related, but don’t make them too similar.

YouTube is a visual platform, and you’ll want to keep this front and center when it comes to creating thumbnails that are clickworthy but not clickbaity. This means taking the time to create thumbnails and come up with ideas for how to win the click.

Your thumbnail should not be a visual replica of the title. The thumbnail and title need to complement each other without saying the same thing.

9. Use a keyword in title

Use your keyword in the title to create interest around the topic. You don’t necessarily need to use the keyword in the thumbnail, but you can. Just do it in a way that preserves the “sisters not twins” philosophy and still adds interest to the video.

10. Use chapters to target Google search

Adding chapter timestamps is how you tell Google what’s going on in your video. If you use an outline or a script to plan your video, write down the timestamps when the video topic changes from one bullet point to the next.

If you live on the edge and film videos without an outline, write down the top 4 or 5 points you make in the video along with the timestamps of when you talk about each one in the video.

Start at 0:00 which will probably be some kind of hook or introduction. Reword this to something like “introduction to …” or “overview of …” followed by the timestamps of the major themes in the video. This does two things for your video:

  1. Chapters organize your video so that viewers can see what is being discussed and rewind to the right moment if they want to hear something again.
  2. If you title your chapter appropriately based off what you discuss in that section, Google will sometimes show this individual part of your video in search results if someone types in the phrase you used as the chapter name.

11. Rename video file for keyword

If you really want to get detail-oriented for YouTube SEO, add the keyword in the name of your video title when uploading to YouTube.

This is because it reads the file of your video when it publishes, so having a keyword will add to your search ranking potential.

12. Use target keywords everywhere else

Add your keyword in a bunch of other places, like:

  • The description
  • Chapters
  • Name of the playlist the video is in
  • Video tags
  • Video hashtags
  • In a pinned comment

13. Organized description with keyword and variations

Include a section of the description that’s a quick paragraph recap of your video, and include the keywords along with variations in this description.

Organized YouTube Description to Optimize SEO rankings and performance on channel

Also keep your description visually organized so it’s clear to see where links, CTAs, summaries, and chapters are throughout the description.

Pro tip: Use emojis to draw attention to specific CTAs in the description

14. Video tags (really?)

It can’t hurt to use video tags, but any rankings you get on YouTube probably won’t be because of video tags.

15. Categorize the video

Again, can’t hurt, but probably won’t do a ton. Just choose an appropriate category for your video when uploading to YouTube.

TL;DR: If you’re making a video on how to start a bakery business, you probably won’t want to make the video category “sports.”

16. Subtitles with keywords 🙂

Double check the auto-generated captions on YouTube to make sure they’re correct. If you’ve done tip #4 saying keywords in the video, they will be in the subtitles for the video!

This makes your video accessible to wider audiences, and adds the keyword in more places to make the video as discoverable as possible.

17. Take advantage of Cards + End screen

This is more for engagement than anything else because remember keeping audience retention high is very good for YouTube rankings. If people engage with your video by clicking a card to another video, or clicking a playlist button on the end screen, it shows your video did a good job keeping people’s attention and watching more videos.

18. Pin your own comment & use keywords in replies

Comment on all your videos, and pin your comment at the top. Even better is if you can use a keyword in your comment when you pin it!

Engaging with everyone who comments on your videos is a great way to build your audience into an engaged group of followers. Every comment boosts your engagement. If you get 10 comments and respond to each one, you just doubled your comments. If each person responds back, you tripled your engagement.

19. Playlist about the topic

The goal on YouTube is not just creating great content. It’s to create content that consistently brings people back to your channel. Making playlists groups content around a topic that makes it easy to watch all at once.

Getting an audience hooked early on is easier if you have multiple videos for them to watch after the first. This is part of the strategy to create a community with your content.

How to build community on YouTube with viewers and audience

Make sure your videos connect to each other based on keywords and topic. Either in an ordered series or in an unordered playlist where someone watching one video will immediately be interested in the next.

20. Use your channel name as a keyword

Whether you name your channel something personal to you or your brand is your call. A strategy I like to use a lot is naming the channel something descriptive, ideally using a keyword in the channel name.

It doesn’t have to be a highly searched keyword, but the goal is to have a channel that could show up in search results too.

21. Channel tags & description

If your channel focuses on the same core topics, then use those in the channel tags and description for search discovery. These are different from video tags and descriptions because your channel tags should connect everything that’s on your channel.

And your channel description should be more of an informational “about” section to set expectations for what kind of content people will see by following your content.