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April 22, 2016

6 Ways to Optimize a Video for YouTube Search


By now, you realize that video content is all but necessary if you want to make a positive visibility impact in the online world. In fact, by 2017, it’s estimated that traffic for online videos will account for 69 percent of all Web traffic.

The YouTube Visibility Problem

If you’re going to take advantage of that massive traffic increase, there are many platforms to consider, but only one stands out as the clear frontrunner. With more than one billion users and billions of views per day, YouTube is the indisputable champ in the online video marketing arena. And it’s more than just an external platform—your videos can be found through either YouTube or Google search (thanks to Google’s ownership of the platform), and you can even embed your video on your own site.

But how can you make sure your video is seen when people search for it? You can optimize your YouTube videos just like you would a page of your website for SEO—only these tactics are specific to YouTube-hosted videos:

1. Use target keywords in your video title. Your first job is to title your video appropriately. You’ll want to be descriptive and accurate, but be sure to include keyword phrases a user might include in their search for your content. For example, take this paper plane video, which features phrases like “how to make a paper airplane,” “best paper plane,” and “paper airplanes fly far.” This verges on the border of keyword stuffing, but it shows up for any of these searches. Be careful not to over-stuff your title with too many seemingly unrelated keyword phrases, or you’ll trigger some red flags and you might not show up at all. Keep it to one or two strong, searchable phrases.

2. Write a long video description, rich in detail. You’ve got much more wiggle room on length in your description, and while it won’t be as sensitive to search evaluation as your video’s title, your description is a strategic opportunity to include more details about your content. Write in complete, decipherable sentences here, and use synonyms and alternate descriptions to fully describe your content. As an example, take this Park West Gallery video, which showcases a number of descriptive elements of the video (the artist’s name, moniker, and exhibit title, for example).

3. Choose the right tags and categories. YouTube offers the ability to select a category for your video, as well as choose a number of tags associated with your content. Take advantage of these, and try to select the ones that are most appropriate for your content. It’s tempting to seek out tags you think might be popular, but as a general rule, it’s better to aim for ones that most accurately describe your video—otherwise, viewers may be confused or disappointed. Remember, you’ll be aiming for more views, shares, and engagements, so you want your users to be as satisfied with your content as possible.

4. Earn more views. The number of views a video earns has a major effect on how visible it is in search—this makes it extremely difficult to rank when you first upload a video. You’ll have to fight for your early views through syndication across multiple channels, but once you hit a certain threshold, you’ll be sitting pretty. For example, PSY’s Gangnam style is the most-watched YouTube video of all time, with more than 2.5 billion views as of the writing of this article. You can bet it turns up for searches even peripherally related to its content.

5. Earn more links and shares. Video popularity is a big deal for YouTube search, so just as more views can help you rank higher, more links pointing to your video and more shares of your content can help too. The best way to do this is to make your content compelling from the beginning. Choose topics that are practical, unique and interesting to your target demographics. Then, in the body of your video, show them something surprising. You can also cultivate more links and shares by distributing your video on more channels—including your site and social media profiles.

6. Organize your videos into playlists. Videos are more powerful and more visible in searches when they’re organized into themed playlists. This makes it possible for the videos to rank in searches both as individual entries and as collective playlist “groups.” Just make sure you’re choosing titles for your playlists that accurately reflect the content of the videos, and don’t create playlists just for the sake of creating playlists. For example, thenewboston features dozens of different playlists with videos on coding tutorials. These are especially popular because they’re efficiently organized.

If you’re acquainted with SEO as a general tactic, these strategies might look familiar, such as coming up with descriptive, keyword-rich titles and descriptions, and earning lots of links and shares. That’s no coincidence. The algorithm YouTube search uses does differ significantly from that of a traditional Google web search, but the two systems share the common goal of giving users the highest-quality, most relevant content for their searches. If you can describe your content accurately for potential searches, and make it as high quality as possible, you’ll guarantee yourself far higher search visibility.


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Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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