5 YouTube optimization tips to improve your video rankings


Just how big is YouTube these days? According to a really cool infographic that was released earlier in 2017, there are some pretty incredible statistics:

  • YouTube is available and used in 88 countries around the world
  • It is the second largest social media platform with over 1.5 billion monthly users, second only to Facebook (2 billion) and more than twice the number of Instagram (700 million)
  • 500 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute
  • Mobile viewing makes up half of the site’s streaming.

In other words, YouTube is HUGE. Not only has it been steadily growing since its initial launch in 2005, it has become the single biggest and most important video service on the web. While there are others that have come in is wake, none have reached the same level of popularity.

With that it mind, it is no wonder that so many people are looking to boost the effectiveness of their content on the platform. However, with so much use comes other struggles, like being seen in the crowd. If 720,000 hours are uploaded a day, you have to do everything possible to stand out and be noticed.

Here are five optimization tips for your YouTube channel and videos that will help you to start doing better in search, get recommended, and gain more traction.

Find the sweet spot with your video title length

There are several things to consider when coming up with the video title:

  • How engaging and catchy it is for the eye
  • How many important keywords you use within your title (those keywords are going to help you rank that video in both YouTube and Google search)
  • Which part of the title is immediately visible when people search YouTube or see your video thumbnail in YouTube-generated related videos.

Youtube suggested

Taking all of the above in the account, the sweet spot for your video title is going to be around 100 characters. That is enough to give a unique, descriptive title while still showing in search without a cut off.

Make sure that title not only describes what is happening in the video and contains key phrases you have already researched, but it is also attention grabbing enough that people will want to click on it.

When crafting a video title, consider including the following:

  • Include the important names and entities (your interviewee, event name, branded hashtag, featured brand name, etc.)
  • Location (especially if you are targeting a specific locale)
  • Your important keyword you’d like the video to show up for.

To distinguish that important keyword, use keyword clustering technique that allows you to see core phrases behind obscure keyword variations. My own trick is to use Serpstat’s clustering feature that allows you to group keywords by how many identical URLs rank in Google for each specific query:


You can read more on how Serpstat clustering feature works in this guide.

You may also to match each keyword group to appropriate keyword intent to make sure your future video content will cover the immediate need and prompt engagement.

Make your descriptions longer

Video and channel descriptions are another valuable resource for drawing traffic to all of your content. YouTube allows up to 5,000 characters, which is between 500 and 700 words.

The rule of thumb is obvious: The more original content you have below your video, the easier for search engines it is to understand what your video is about and what search queries to rank it for.

Not every description needs to be that long, but aiming for around 2,000 characters for videos and 3,000 for channels is a good place because it gives you the space necessary to optimize your keyword use and give some context to viewers. More is fine, but make sure you aren’t filling it with a lot of pointless fluff.

Make the first 150 characters of a description count

Of the words you write, the first 150 characters are the most important. That is because YouTube cuts it off with a (More) tag after the point, so the viewer has to specifically opt in to reading the rest. Not all of them are going to do that.

You should make sure those first characters tell the viewer what they really need to know in order to connect with what they are reading. From there you can focus more on keywords and the rest of the description, as it will still count the same towards searches.

It is also a great place to link out to other channels, your website, etc. Make sure your call to action (CTA) is in the first words, such as liking, subscribing, learning more, etc.

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Have a good, high-resolution thumbnail

Thumbnails are pretty standard for monetized video channels at this point. You have probably noticed that they follow a certain pattern: silly face, bright colors, something odd in the background, over the top. Sure, it seems annoying. But they follow the formula because the formula works.

Now, you don’t have to do the same thing. You just want to make sure that you have an eye catching, visually stimulating thumbnail in the recommended 1280 x 720 size. There are a few generators out there to help you make one, but my thumbnail maker of choice right now is Adobe Spark.

Adobe Spark

Keep in mind that you want a standard format across all of your thumbnails. For instance, if you do your face on one then you should do them on all. If you use some kind of animation or logo, use that.

You want to be immediately recognizable to anyone who follows your channel right from the suggested videos sidebar, or the search results. If you have old videos, go back and upload thumbnails to each one to start getting some better click results.

Furthermore, make sure your thumbnails are readable: Viewers should be able to easily see what it is about at a glance when seeing it in the right-hand column of the suggested videos or on a small mobile device.

Utilize playlists – I mean it!

Playlists are incredibly helpful. First of all, they help you group together certain videos right on your channel. So let’s say you did a series on how to increase your YouTube views and it was split into ten videos. You would create a playlist on your channel titled “Super YouTube Tips” so that people could find them all in one place. But that has an additional benefit.

Search leans towards introducing playlists right at the top of the results page. It also allows people to specifically search for playlists. That is great because it can introduce viewers to multiple videos instead of one and many will choose to pop on a playlist and watch straight through everything there.

If you do a creative series with a continued plot you will find this is a huge help and makes it a million times easier to sort it out, even if YouTube screws with the order on your channel (an issue more than one content creator has had in the past, take it from me).

To sum that up, YouTube playlists help you:

  • Increase your chances to rank your video content for a wider variety of phrases (which is also helpful for brand-focused results)
  • Improve engagement rate with your videos by giving your audience collections of videos so that they can sit back and watch endlessly. And we know that engagement is the crucial ranking factor when it comes to YouTube rankings.

To illustrate the point, here’s a quick example of how we were able to grab two spots for our show name with the playlist:

Playlist ranking

Bonus tip: Feature your videos on your site

Finally, an obvious but often missed tactic is to increase your YouTube channel performance by prominently displaying your videos on your site. It’s simple: the more people watch your videos (especially if they watch more of each of your videos), the more exposure YouTube offers to your content through suggesting your videos as related.

One of the most effective ways to generate more views for your channel is to promote your videos outside of YouTube, i.e. use your blog and social media channels. There’s a variety of WordPress themes that aim at doing exactly that: promote your YouTube channel prominently on-site.

Furthermore, promote your videos on social media as much as it makes sense for your audience to build additional exposure, links, and re-shares.

Do you have any tips for optimizing YouTube? Let us know in the comments!

Ann Smarty is Brand and Community manager at InternetMarketingNinjas.com and a contributor to Search Engine Watch.

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